If you believe the hype, England’s current ODI team is the best we’ve ever had. It plays with aggression and vim, is packed with match-winners, and has finally catapulted England’s limited overs cricket into the modern era.
However an interesting thought crossed my mind when I was in the bath the other day (please excuse the hideous image). As I rubbed soap into my beer belly (again apologies) it occurred to me that very few players in the current XI would make my all time England ODI XI. In fact, very few of them would even make my squad of sixteen.
Here’s what I think England’s best limited overs team since 1985 (approximately the time I started watching cricket) would look like. Subjectivity always plays a part in these debates, and I accept some of these players are personal favourites, but nevertheless I still think you can make a compelling case for every single one …
1. Graham Gooch
2. Joe Root
3. Allan Lamb
4 Neil Fairbrother
5. Kevin Pietersen
6. Jos Buttler
7. Ian Botham
8. Andrew Flintoff
9. Darren Gough
10. Graeme Swann
11. Bob Willis
The other 5 players in my squad of 16 would be Marcus Trescothick, Graeme Hick, Alec Stewart, Phil DeFreitas and John Emburey.
I think the above XI basically picks itself. We’ve got England’s best two all-round batsmen of the last thirty years at the top (I’ve got Root in the Tendulkar opening role), followed by the guts and dashing stroke play of Lamb. Who can forget that time when Lamby took Bruce Reid to the cleaners in the final over in Sydney in 1987?
The middle-order consists of the improvisation, quick running (and left-handedness!) of Fairbrother, the flamboyance of KP, and the sheer talent of Jos Buttler. It’s a pretty formidable engine room I think you’ll agree.
When it comes to the all-rounders, Botham and Freddy are streets ahead of everyone else. I guess you can make a case for Ben Stokes but the two I’ve picked are better bowlers. Imagine his Beefiness and Flintoff batting together at the end of an innings. Things could get very messy very quickly for the opposition.
The new ball is taken by Willis and Gough, two genuine quicks with contrasting styles who would complement each other beautifully. I wish I could have seen these two bowling together. The lone spinner is obviously Swann, who had less competition for his place than any other player.
My reserves are a little controversial but they were all very good ODI players. Tresco is our second best pure opener and unlucky not to make the final team. Hick was a superb limited overs batsman and brilliant fielder who made a crucial 80-odd in our 1991 World Cup semi final. People remember Hick for his test failures but always forget how good he was in pyjamas.
Alec Stewart is the natural reserve keeper-batsman and John Emburey is the only other spinner worth considering. Phil DeFreitas is the reserve seamer-batsman because (a) he’s one of the best fielders I’ve ever seen (b) he was a good bowler with a decent record, and (c) he whacked the ball absolutely miles when he batted. Plus Daffy did everything with a certain nonchalant flair that was hugely entertaining.
The only controversial omission, unless I’m forgetting anyone, is David Gower. I left Lubo out because his ODI career average was a disappointing 30. That’s a lot less than the other guys who made the final cut. Interestingly enough, Ian Bell is England’s all-time leading run scorer in 50 over cricket, but I doubt many will be clamouring for his inclusion in the above XI.
I’d love to know what you think about my team and what changes you’d make. I’d also be interested to know if you’d include more current England players in your XI. After all, if the current team is supposed to be our best ever, why do only two of them make the final cut?
Perhaps our current team isn’t that great after all? It’s something chew over … whether you’re in the bath or not.