The phrase ” if I had to choose someone to bat/bowl or play for my life…” or similar is used as a compliment to any sportsman / woman who seems to have not only supreme talent but also can handle almost any situation or pressure and still triumph.
Here are eleven guys picked from across time and the globe who I would select to defend my mortal soul. Bearing in mind that the team would also have to win I have tried to select a balanced and hungry outfit.
As its my existence we are playing for the match would take place in England over a five day test containing all the variety of English summer weather , pitches and other conditions.
1 – Gordon Greenidge – The amazing West Indian opener was a phenomenon in normal times. But should he arrive at the crease injured or limping then he was even more lethal, no running just boundaries! Would have included his partner Desmond Haynes but if playing for my life the next guy has to be in.
2 – Geoffrey Boycott – A remarkable compiler of hundreds and vital scores. The pace might be questionable but the others in the team are strong enough to deal with Geoffrey.
3 – Vivian Richards – If the opposing side happen, eventually, to get one of the above openers out (not an easy job) imagine how disheartened they will be to see Sir Viv march down the pavillion steps. Chewing his gum, helmetless and swinging his bat around like a broadsword. Its enough to make the bowling attack consider going home. Master blaster was well named and could take any game away from any opposition.
4 – Robin Smith – As this game is in England I shall next call for “The Judge” Smith was a superb players of pace bowling in England and was as brave and aggressive a player as there has been. My Captain will bat at five and thus I have stacked places one to four in order that he will be able to concentrate on Captaincy rather than batting.
5 – Mike Brearley – Captain – The man with “a degree in people” was a remarkable captain winning series home and away with a side lacking in world class players. His skill in getting the very best out of the most unpredictable players, together with a tactical and cricketing knowledge way ahead of his time, places him above all others. Clive Lloyd was a very close second. His skill in uniting players from differing backgrounds, and with differing cultures and temperaments, is unsurpassed.
6- Adam Gilchrist – Wicket Keeper – having grown up with great English keepers, such as Alan Knott & Bob Taylor, I find myself with no choice but to pick and Australian. Gilchrist has changed the role permanently and great test sides of the future will need a keeper in his mould. Ability to take the game away from the opposition in a single session, from any game situation was unprecedented. In addition, his attitude to walking, if out, was outstanding in the modern age and a true nod to the Spirit of Cricket.
7 – Ian Botham – There is little or nothing more to be said about this sporting collosus. Still the record English wicket taker and the only player to have a test series named after him! Indeed the combination of Botham & Brearley in the 1981 Ashes series ensures both their place here.
8 – Malcolm Marshall – Following the initial barrage of superb and skillful pace bowling would come another master of the art. The batsman might see off my opening pair but only to meet the inimitable Malcolm Marshall. Pace a superb slow ball and the ability to swing it both ways saw Marshall become the complete bowler. I could have picked anyone or more of Holding, Roberts, Garner, Ambrose or Walsh. But I think most of them would agree that Malcolm was as close to perfect as a pace bowler can be.
9 – Shane Warne – Warne was a truly remarkable cricketer, it can be argued that he almost single handedly managed to reverse the direction cricket was taking. fast bowling had dominated for over a decade, yet the brash young Aussie brough leg spin back to the big time and caught out a generation of batsmen in the meantime.
10 – Waqar Younis – One of a wonderful pair of Pakistani openers from the 1980’s & 90’s. In the side for pace, guile and probably the best yorkers ever bowled in test cricket. A nightmare combination with Larwood for the new ball.
11- Harold Larwood – A member of the all time speed gallery greats. Despite the bodyline controversy Larwood was and is thought of as a genuinely great fast bowler. He would be my opening bowler being lethal with the new ball. It is always a risk comparing those from vastly different eras. However Larwood statistics are truly incredible and viewing his action even from this distance in time, it is not hard to believe he was truly exceptional and would have triumphed in any era.
12 th Man – Andrew Freddie Flintoff.
In a game of this magnitude anything could happen, thus the twelfth man could be called upon for a piece of magic at any time. In addition to his many other exploits his superb unchanged spell and sharp run out in the 2009 Ashes when he was a physical wreck means I shall need to keep him on hand, just in case!
The umpires would need to be firm and respected thus Dickie Bird & David Shepherd would be called to action.
In case of any serious disputes, bearing in mind the importance of the game, the match referee and ultimate arbitor would be the immortal D R Jardine.
This superb game would obviously result in a tremendous victory against any side. Thus being quite relaxed, about my immediate well being, I could grab a slice of cake and listening to John Arlott, Richie Benaud, Brian Johnston & Micheal Holding commentate.
Match report to be written by Neville Cardus & Micheal Parkinson
I would thoroughly enjoy watching this match, regardless of the opposition, safe in the knowledge that my life and soul were in capable and determined hands.