Don’t be misled by my (admittedly misleading) headline. Unlike some writers I’m not about to argue that the current England ODI team is our best ever. Indeed, I’ve heard some argue that it’s the greatest ODI side in history (out of every nation) full stop. This seems more than a little silly to me. They’ve got potential but thus far they’ve achieved very little in major tournaments.

Instead I’d like to start a debate similar to the one we had a few weeks ago about England’s best ever Test team. It would be great to discuss England’s best ever ODI players and then compile an all-time great England ODI  XI – a team who might then challenge other countries’ best XIs in the cricket fields of our imaginations! Forgive me for sounding all Field Of Dreams for a second.

I’ll kick off the debate by naming my greatest England ODI XI. You’ll notice it’s a blend of old and new – with perhaps more emphasis on the old. I don’t buy the argument that modern is always better. I reckon guys like Ian Botham would’ve been pretty destructive with modern bats and short modern boundaries.

So here we go. The TFT all-time England ODI XI:

Marcus Trescothick

Alec Stewart (capt)

Joe Root

Kevin Pietersen

Neil Fairbrother

Jos Buttler (wkt)

Ian Botham

Andrew Flintoff

Phil DeFreitas

Graeme Swann

Darren Gough

Although it was tempting to pick guys like Roy and Bairstow at the top of the order, I just couldn’t leave Tresco out. He was simply dominant at times, and I also think he somewhat revolutionised England’s top order batting. We’d never had a pugnacious left handed opener who attacked the bowling from the outset before.

Some might disagree with the inclusion of Sir Alec, but it’s important to remember that his overall statistics were affected by his keeping duties and the fact he was moved around the order. As an opener Stewart was excellent, and I have fond memories of him taking apart some incredibly high class attacks: the likes of Ambrose / Walsh, and Donald / Pollock spring to mind. Stewart’s timing was effortless and his stoke-play extremely graceful.

Although I gave the likes of Robin Smith, Allan Lamb, and also Graeme Hick (who was an excellent ODI player), due consideration, I think it’s impossible to argue against the inclusion of Root, Pietersen, and Fairbrother in the middle-order. Joe is having something of a lean spell at the moment – please give him a rest! – but he’s still a class act with a brilliant record. And KP is KP. He was the original improviser and probably the most exciting batsman we’ve ever had. Remember his debut series in South Africa when the crowds turned their back on him? He was irresistible.

As for Fairbrother, I think he’s probably the best ‘specialist’ white ball batsman we’ve ever had. He was brilliant between the wickets, incredibly difficult to restrict, and always seemed to score boundaries when he needed to. Of course, his left-handedness complements the other batsmen beautifully, and he was a panther in the field.

When it comes to the all-rounders and bowlers, I think they more or less pick themselves (although Ben Stokes fans might disagree). Stokes might develop into a better all-round batsman than Freddie and Beefy in time, but my two picks were superb white ball hitters in their era. What’s more, their bowling is superior to Stokes’s. And wickets are probably needed slightly more than runs in my lineup.

Flintoff was an excellent ODI bowlers at every stage of an innings. You could chuck him the ball any time and he’d do a great job. As for his Beefiness he was aggressive, swung the ball, and also had a bit of a golden arm. Nothing slows the run-rate down like picking up wickets.

I doubt many will argue with Gough’s inclusion. Dazzler was both a wicket-taker and a containing bowler in his prime. He was dangerous with the new ball and his in-swinging yorkers made him excellent at the death. As for the specialist spinner I think Swann is a more reliable option than Adil Rashid (although the latter has come a long way).

My most contentious selection is probably that of Phil DeFreitas. However, I wanted an all-rounder cricketer who was a valuable bowler (particularly in home conditions), a dangerous batsman, and also one hell of a fielder. Daffy was a natural athlete and possibly even better than Jimmy Anderson both in the circle or in the deep. He’d certainly get into England’s current ODI side.

I’d love to know what your greatest England ODI XI is. Perhaps I’ve missed someone obvious out? Maybe you think Gooch should be in there, or perhaps even Ian Bell (who until last week was England’s leading run scorer in history)? One could make a very strong case for Eoin Morgan (the man who replaced Bell at the top of the list) and perhaps even Paul Collingwood who was a top class white ball player.

When it comes to the bowlers I think there will be less debate. After all, Jimmy Anderson is still our leading wicket taker of all time and he can’t get into the current XI! I doubt many would like to see the inclusion of Broad either.

When you look at the list of all-time England wicket-takers there’s a general lack of match-winners. For example, did you know that the aforementioned Collingwood has the seventh most wickets of any England ODI bowler ? I love Colly as much as the next England fan but this statistic does say quite a lot.

We often talk about the current England side having brilliant batting strength (and depth) whilst somewhat bemoaning the lack of bowling quality. Just looking at the record books this seems to be a long-term trend. Plus ça change.

James Morgan