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Team of the Month: an April-born World Cricket XI

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Roar Guru
4th April, 2024
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This month’s team, the penultimate one in the series, is above-average in quality.

Wisden named four of its members in its all-time World XI in 2013. Its best three bowlers, as well as its wicketkeeper, are among the very best of all time.

The side is certainly far stronger than the Team of the Month: a March-born World Cricket XI.

1. CB Fry (England, born 25 April 1872, captain)
26 Tests, 1896-1912, 1223 runs at 32.18, two centuries

Fry was the greatest all-rounder of his generation. He was a brilliant scholar, played football for England and in an FA Cup final, held the world long jump record for 21 years, was offered the throne of Albania, and served on the League of Nations.

As a cricketer, he captained England, batted superbly off the back foot, scored centuries in six successive first-class innings, and formed a legendary combination at Sussex with KS Ranjitsinhji.

His centuries were 144 against Australia in 1905, and 129 against South Africa in 1907, both at the Oval.

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2. Arthur Shrewsbury (England, born 11 April 1856)
23 Tests, 1882-1893, 1277 runs at 35.47, three centuries

Shrewsbury was arguably the world’s finest batsman during the late 1880s and early ‘90s, especially on bowlers’ pitches. Whenever WG Grace was a selector, his first words were “Give me Arthur.” His defensive pad play prompted a change in the LBW law.

His Ashes highlights included 105 not out at the MCG in 1884/85, 164 at Lord’s in 1886, and 106 and 81 at Lord’s in 1893. He took his own life at the age of 47, wrongly believing that he had an incurable disease.

3. David Gower (England, born 1 April 1957)
117 Tests, 1978-1992, 8231 runs at 44.25, 18 centuries

Gower was a graceful left-hander who debuted at the age of 21 and hooked for four the first ball that he faced. The following year, he scored 200 not out against India at Edgbaston. No other batsman has bettered his record of 119 consecutive innings without a duck.

He enjoyed some of his greatest successes against Australia, averaging 44.78 with nine centuries. As captain in 1985, he amassed 732 runs at 81.33 including innings of 166 at Trent Bridge, 215 at Edgbaston, and 157 at The Oval.

Other career highlights included three undefeated centuries, namely 154 in Jamaica in 1980/81, and 173 in Lahore in 1983/84, and 157 against India at The Oval in 1990.

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4. Sachin Tendulkar (India, born 24 April 1973)
200 Tests, 1989-2013, 15,921 runs at 53.78, 51 centuries

Tendulkar is acknowledged as one of the greatest batsmen of all time. He debuted at age 16 and played until he was 40. No other Test cricketer has played more games and scored more runs, centuries, nineties or half-centuries.

Cricinfo named him in its all-time India XI in 2010. Both it and Wisden named him in their all-time World XIs, in 2010 and 2013 respectively. Cricinfo also recently rated his innings of 136 against Pakistan in Chennai in 1999 among the best 100 ever played.

His batting average exceeded 40.00 against each of his nine opponents, and in all ten countries in which he played.

It was higher away from home at 54.74, and with seven more centuries, than in India. He scored 11 centuries against Australia.

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5. Michael Clarke (Australia, born 2 April 1981, vice-captain)
115 Tests, 2004-2015, 8643 runs at 49.10, 28 centuries

Clarke was a middle-order batsman, and useful infielder and left-arm orthodox spinner.

At his peak, he was the world’s best batsman. Australia regained the ICC’s number-one ranking under his aggressive leadership.

Between the captaincy highlights of an ICC World Cup 2015 title and an Ashes clean sweep in 2013/14 were memories of homework-gate and two away Ashes series losses.

In 2012 he scored 1595 runs at 106.33, including innings at home of 329 not out and 210 against India, and 259 not out and 230 against South Africa.

6. Andy Flower (Zimbabwe, born 28 April 1968)
63 Tests, 1992-2002, 4794 runs at 51.54, 12 centuries, 151 catches, 9 stumpings

Flower is his nation’s finest cricketer and enjoyed great personal success in a weak side. In Zimbabwe’s mere seven victories in which he participated, he averaged 84.50.

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Those wins featured innings of 156 when it defeated Pakistan in Harare in 1994/95, and 114 not out when it was victorious in Chattogram in 2000/01.

His innings of 232 not out in Nagpur in 2000/01 is a record for a ‘keeper. His aggregate of 540 runs at 270.00 in the same series has been exceeded just once by a gloveman.

Only one player has scored more runs in a losing side, than his 142 and 199 not out against South Africa in Harare in 2001/02.

Against New Zealand in Harare in 1997/98, he scored 104 and 151.

7. Alan Knott (England, born 9 April 1946)
95 Tests, 1967-1981, 4389 runs at 32.75, five centuries, 250 catches, 19 stumpings

Knott is arguably England’s greatest-ever wicketkeeper, and very rarely missed a chance.

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Cricinfo named him in its all-time England XI in 2010, while Wisden named him in its all-time World XI in 2013. He formed an especially effective partnership with Derek Underwood for both Kent and England.

His batting made him a genuine all-rounder, and he had a liking for fast bowling and the sweep shot.

He averaged 42.26 away from home, and 41.00 when batting at number seven.

In Australia in 1970/71, he took 21 catches and three stumpings.

In Auckland on the same tour, he played innings of 101 and 96 – and in Australia in 1974/75, he scored 364 runs at 36.40, as well as claiming 22 catches and one stumping.

8. Malcolm Marshall (West Indies, born 18 April 1958)
81 Tests, 1978-1991, 1810 runs at 18.85, 376 wickets at 20.94

Marshall is one of cricket’s finest-ever pace bowlers. He swung the ball in either direction, as well as possessing a leg-cutter and lethal bouncer.

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His strike-rate was a superb wicket for each 46 deliveries. No other bowler with 200 wickets has a lower average. Only three other bowlers took 300 wickets in fewer games.

Cricinfo named him in its all-time West Indies XI and World XI in 2010. Wisden named him in its all-time World XI in 2013. His ICC bowling ranking peaked in 1988 as the eleventh highest of all time.

He claimed 35 wickets at 12.65 in England in 1988, and 33 victims at 18.81 in India in 1983/84. He took seven wickets in an innings three times, including 7/22 at Old Trafford in 1988.

He claimed ten wickets in a game four times, headlined by 11/89 against India in Trinidad in 1988/89.

9. Craig McDermott (Australia, born 14 April 1965)
71 Tests, 1984-1996, 291 wickets at 28.63

McDermott was a fast swing bowler who debuted aged 20.

He excelled in Ashes contests, with 84 wickets at 26.30 from 17 games. In his first full series, in England in 1985, he took 30 wickets including 8/141 at Old Trafford.

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Then at home in 1990/91, he took 8/97 and 3/60 at the WACA. At home again in 1994/95, he claimed 3/72 and 5/42 at the MCG, in a series haul of 32 wickets at 21.09.

Highlights against other opponents included 31 wickets at 21.61 against India in 1991/92, which featured returns of 5/96 and 5/72 in Adelaide.

His most well-known innings were 29 not out when Australia lost to South Africa by five runs at the SCG in 1993/94, and being the last batsman dismissed for 18 when it lost to the West Indies by one run in Adelaide in 1992/93.

10. SF Barnes (England, born 19 April 1873)
27 Tests, 1901-1914, 189 wickets at 16.43

Barnes was medium-fast in pace with commanding control of spin, drift, bounce and drop, and of changes of pace.

Many experts who faced or saw him considered him the greatest bowler ever. His collective career averages of seven wickets and 292 deliveries per match, and 16.43 runs and 41 deliveries per wicket, will never be approached.

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His ICC bowling ranking peaked in 1914 as the highest of all time. Wisden named him its all-time World XI in 2013. Cricinfo named him in its all-time England XI in 2010, and also recently ranked his haul of 5/44 at the MCG in 1911/12 among the 50 best bowling performances of all time.

In his second game, at the MCG in 1901/02, he took 6/42 and 7/121. At the same ground in 1911/12, his opening spell on the match’s first morning was 4/1 from five overs.

In that series, he claimed 34 wickets at 22.88. In South Africa in 1913/14, his final series, he took 49 wickets at 10.93 in four matches, including 8/56 and 9/103 in Johannesburg, and 7/56 and 7/88 in Durban.

The mercenary Barnes played only when it suited him, and when the payment reflected his worth.

As a result, he appeared in just 27 of England’s last 59 matches before WWI, and in England, he played just 89 first-class matches spread over 38 seasons (including home Tests), the last when he was aged 57.

11. Muthiah Muralidaran (Sri Lanka, born 17 April 1972)
133 Tests, 1992-2010, 800 wickets at 22.72

Muralidaran is the game’s most prolific bowler, an off-spinner with a dangerous doosra who could turn the ball sharply on almost any surface.

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He took ten wickets in a game on 22 occasions, including in four consecutive matches at home in 2001.

His home record was an outstanding 493 wickets at 19.56 from 73 games. No other cricketer has exceeded his 11 player-of-the-series awards.

His ICC bowling ranking peaked in 2007 as the fourth highest of all time. Cricinfo named him in its all-time Sri Lanka XI in 2010. It also recently ranked his haul of 8/70 at Trent Bridge in 2006 among the ten best bowling performances of all time.

At The Oval in 1998, he took a match-winning 7/155 and 9/65.

Honourable mentions: Charlie Kelleway, Jack Fingleton, Jason Gillespie, Ian Healy, Paul Reiffel (Aus), Dennis Amiss, Ian Bell, John Murray, Steven Finn, Monty Panesar, Alec Stewart, Jonathan Trott, Phil Tufnell (Eng), Vinoo Mankad, Rohit Sharma, Dilip Vengsarkar, Srinivas Venkataraghavan (Ind), Richard Collinge, Stephen Fleming (NZ), Saleem Malik, Mudassar Nazar (Pak), Dimuth Karunaratne (SL), Alf Valentine (WI).

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Fry will captain the side, with Clarke as his deputy. Other national skippers Flower, Gower, Shrewsbury and Tendulkar will add useful leadership experience.

Shrewsbury will join Fry at the top of the order. The only other genuine candidate for an opening batting position was their more contemporary compatriot Dennis Amiss.

The middle-order has a modern feel, and should generally ensure that the team’s bowlers are defending reasonable totals. Gower will bat at number three, and possibly remind Fry of his similarly-graceful team-mate Ranjitsinhji. He will be followed by Tendulkar, Clarke and Flower, each of whom regularly played long innings.

Knott will don the ‘keeping gloves ahead of Ian Healy and Alec Stewart. His inclusion will allow Flower to play as a specialist batsman.

This side is the only one in the series to feature just four bowlers. The champion trio of Marshall, Barnes and Muralidaran has enough stamina and penetration to enable this unique strategy.

McDermott claimed the fourth spot ahead of Jason Gillespie, in a photo finish. Skipper Fry has the advantage of having previously captained the difficult-to-manage Barnes.

If absolutely necessary, Clarke could deliver a few overs, and should conditions ever necessitate a fifth genuine bowler, then all-rounder Vinoo Mankad could play at the expense of Gower.

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Alternatively, Mankad could instead replace Knott, with Flower taking the ‘keeping gloves.

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Next month’s team will be the last of the series. It boasts a top-order with a Caribbean feel, and the most dominant- and arguably most domineering- captain of all time.

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