With the conclusion of the first World Test Championship and a brief respite before the next Test series between India and England commences on August 4, I have put together an all-time Test XI with a slight twist.
For this XI only one player from each nation can be used.
This will create some interesting balancing acts and of course a number of players that arguably should be selected will miss out when one of their countrymen gets selected.
Sir Jack Hobbs (England)
Test batting average 56.94
Regarded by many as the greatest batsman of all time, Hobbs is the leading run scorer and century maker in first class cricket with 61,760 runs and 199 centuries. Hobbs played 61 Tests for England as an opening batsman with an average of nearly 57 and 15 centuries, which is all the more impressive when you consider that he played on uncovered English pitches.
Sunil Gavaskar (India)
Test batting average 51.12
The plucky Indian opener was the first player to crack the 10,000-run barrier in Test cricket. With a career average over 50, it was against fast bowling that Gavaskar really shone. A career average of 65 against the might of the West Indies highlights the tenacity and sublime technique that allowed him to be very successful.
Sir Donald Bradman (Australia)
Test batting average 99.94
Not much needs to be said here. The Australian goliath of cricket stands head and shoulders above everyone else with his career average. The Don’s exploits are the stuff of legend, scoring a hundred every 2.7 innings throughout his career. When it comes to run-scoring records modern players have been battling it out for second place.
Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)
Test batting average 57.40
Starting his prolific career as a wicketkeeper, Sangakkara and his picturesque technique amassed over 12,000 Test runs. However it is post-2006 when he demands the most attention, averaging 64 as a specialist batsman, which is right up there with the very best of all time. He had an enormous appetite for runs, going past the double-century mark 11 times during his 15-year career.
Sir Garfield Sobers (West Indies)
Test batting average 57.78, Test bowling average 34.03
He is the greatest all-rounder in history. Some would argue his proficiency with bat, ball and fielding means he would take the mantle as best cricketer in history. Sobers held the record for highest individual score of 365* from 1958 until Brian Lara eclipsed it in 1994.
Going along with his prolific run-scoring, Sobers was also an incredibly skilled bowler in both fast-medium bowling and wrist spin. Also a tremendous fielder, he certainly personifies the moniker all-rounder.
Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)
Test batting average 39.70, Test bowling average 29.20
Long regarded as one of the best all-rounders in the world, Shakib has been one of the more consistent performers for Bangladesh. With nearly 4000 runs and 210 wickets in his career, his solid batting and left-arm orthodox spin make him a valuable addition to any team.
Andy Flower (Zimbabwe)
Test batting average 51.54
Easily the best batsman to come from Zimbabwe, Flower helped give his struggling nation relevance on the international stage. At the peak of his powers he held the number one ranking for Test batsmen. He is the only Zimbabwean to be included in the ICC’s top 100 all-time batting rankings. At 31 he is equal with Steve Waugh and is ahead of Indian legend Rahul Dravid.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
Test bowling average 22.35
It is only a small sample size for the Afghan spin maestro but there is no doubting his quality with four five-wicket hauls in his five matches. His short-form career has a much larger sample size where Khan’s bowling average is under 20 in both the ODI and T20 formats.
Sir Richard Hadlee (New Zealand)
Test bowling average 22.29
One of the finest bowlers in history and New Zealand’s greatest cricket export, the Kiwi firebrand was one of the most damaging bowlers and finished his career as the all-time leading wicket taker. Hadlee was also a talented batsman with an average of 27 and two Test hundreds to his name. Considered one of the best bowlers with the new ball, he was dubbed the ‘Sultan of Swing’.
Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
Test bowling average 23.62
Widely regarded as the best left-arm bowler in history, Akram was one of the great proponents of swing and reverse-swing bowling. Some 414 wickets at an average of 23 has Akram at the pointy end of the very best bowlers to play. With a quick arm action and his ability to hide the ball, he could do damage with the new ball and the old one. That will make him an invaluable part of the attack.
Dale Steyn (South Africa)
Test bowling average 22.95
Unquestionably the best modern fast bowler, his career numbers stack up against anyone from any era. A bowler with a seemingly endless arsenal, he had pace and bounce, the ability to swing the ball, the ability to use the seam and most importantly he had a serious mean streak to help him find an extra gear when he needed it.
His ability to pick up wickets on subcontinent pitches where so many fast bowlers struggle was tremendous. The only thing that stopped him from adding to his impressive 439 wickets was that his body started to let him down.
This is a very balanced side, with numerous spin options in Khan, Shakib and even Sobers, plus fast bowlers who not only can take wickets in all conditions but also hold their own with the bat. There is an incredibly talented batting line-up who have excelled in various conditions.
The ‘one from every country’ criteria allows for many permutations of this side and the beautiful thing about cricket is that it has such a rich history with plenty of superstars that could make this side.