Until recently, we really only had eight Test cricketing teams, with Test cricket increasingly becoming a niche format for the genuine purists.
With the conferring of Test status to Ireland and Afghanistan, we now have 12 nations with Test status and elegantly this opens up the opportunity to deliberately create controversy and select the best Test XI by selecting the best possible player from each team from the last three decades.
The challenge with this one is that we are trying to pick the best player from each team, but we also have to fully assemble a balanced side – two openers, three genuine middle order batters, a wicketkeeper, an all-rounder, two spinners, one right-arm pacer and one left-arm pacer.
Alastair Cook (England) and Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)
I have selected the fifth and sixth highest scorers in Test cricket as my openers – with Sangakkara slightly out of place here as opener.
Neither of these players are arguably the best from their nation, with Muttiah Muralitharan probably taking that mantle for Sri Lanka (although, we’ll come to spinners later) and Cook potentially behind Joe Root, Andrew Flintoff, and maybe James Anderson (the English bowling equivalent of Cook).
Cook isn’t out of place here, he’s a genuine opener with a huge appetite for runs and a great record against both spin and pace. He deserves to be opening here with Sangakkara, a man who astonishingly amassed 38 tons at an average of 57.40, with his 195 in Hobart sticking out as one of his best knocks.
Sachin Tendulkar (India)
Not a lot to say here, as the most prolific batter in history – most Test runs, most hundreds, most matches and god-like status in his home nation. His longevity, stroke play and runs all over the world make him India’s greatest and the No.3 in this side.
Brian Lara (West Indies)
Started his career in a powerful West Indies side, he barely tasted team success after 1995 but captured everyone’s imagination across a 16-year Test career and as West Indies’ highest ever run scorer.
A popular and swashbuckling strokemaker, he’s most famous for his booming cover drive and his ability to turn a start into huge knocks, holding the record twice for highest Test score (375, 400 not out), and the highest first class score (501 not out).
Jacques Kallis (South Africa)
Such is the class of Kallis, he is being picked in this side in the middle order and not in the all-rounders slot. Arguably the greatest cricketer who ever lived, Kallis amassed 13,289 Test runs at 55.37, to go with 292 wickets at 32.65 with his fas- mediums, and has therefore etched himself as easily the greatest produced by South Africa, let alone this generation.
Kallis will also be the third pacer in this side.
Andy Flower (Zimbabwe)
A close call with Adam Gilchrist, but no doubt here that Flower is the greatest cricket ever produced by Zimbabwe. Flower played the majority of his career for the weakest team in the Test arena until the introduction of Bangladesh in 2000, however, this didn’t stop him from being one of Zimbabwe’s only world-class cricketers throughout his career.
He holds all the big records for Zimbabwe – most Test runs, highest Test average, most stumpings and most catches. He is the first and only keeper-bbatsman to average 50 in Test cricket (although, Gilchrist did this for a long time), and has the highest individual score by a keeper/ batter (232 not out).
Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
For the sake of balance, it’s an even better looking XI if we include a left-arm pacer. Wasim Akram terrorised batters in the ’90s and early ’00s with his fearsome left-arm swing off a short run, bowling in tandem with his pace bowling contemporary Waqar Younis.
A prolific record, which would have been even better if his team could hang on to all their catches, Wasim alongside the likes of Inzamam, Waqar, Yousuf and Younis Khan is one of Pakistan’s greatest cricketers of the last 30 years.
Shane Keith Warne (Australia)
As one of the great cricketing nations, Australia has produced a long line of great cricketers in the last 30 years. Named as one of the five greatest cricketers of the 20th century by Wisden, Warne is probably Australia’s second greatest after Bradman. Not much else to say here, he’s the king of spin.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
From the newest cricketing nation, the mature looking 23-year old leggie from Afghanistan has been making huge waves in the global T20 circuit for years now, with his unique style of at the stumps quick leg spin and an outstanding googly bamboozling batters worldwide.
He already has an astonishing two 10-wicket match hauls to his name in his short five-Test career.
Shane Bond (New Zealand)
A career curtailed by injury, his emergence on the cricket scene in ’01-’02 versus Australia caught everybody’s attention with his leaping action and express pace.
Bond owns the second highest strike rate ever in Test cricket and always left his best for the better sides around the world. Pound for pound on talent, he’s one of New Zealand’s greatest ever, with only contemporaries Cairns, Williamson, Daniel Vettori and perhaps Taylor matching him on ability.
Kevin O’Brien (Ireland)
O’Brien unlocked his dream of representing his nation in Test cricket when they were conferred Test status in 2018 and he didn’t disappoint, scoring the first Test century for his nation.
A dynamic all-rounder, O’Brien couples his aggressive batting (he scored a century in 50 balls at the 2011 World Cup against in England) with accurate stump to stump medium-pace.
Curiously, of all the players I have picked, a few have been Test captain, but none have truly impressed or finished the game with a strong captaincy record.
Who would you pick as captain?