I was reading an old footie magazine the other day (please forgive my sins). There was a feature discussing the ten best players in the world. It included the likes of Roberto Baggio and Paulo Maldini, the glamour boys of world soccer in the early 90s. They had the (naff) hair, the looks … you know, all the stuff that girls love that winds up us ordinary blokes.
Being a cricket nut, I immediately thought about doing a similar article on TFT. However, the task was complicated by the fact that cricket now has three different formats. There are some big T20 stars who can’t be bothered with test cricket < cough > Chris Gayle < cough >.
Consequently I’ve decided to compile a list of cricketers who generally excel in all formats. They’re not necessarily the most marketable players (although some of them certainly are) but they’re what I would call the ten best overall cricketers in the world.
Basically they’re the players who make middle-aged men purr. Technique, not firm buttocks, is generally what turns on us grumpy old men.
So here goes … in no particular order.
Virat Kohli – Surely nobody is going to disagree with this one? His Viratness is one of the most entertaining players around. He has a very good test record, he’s one of the best white ball finishers in the world (if not the best), and the entire population of India would come down on me like a ton of social media bricks if I ignored him.
Joe Root – He’s a top five player in both the test and ODI rankings. He’s also bloody good … probably the best English batsman for thirty years in my humble opinion. Because I’m completely biased, Joe was actually going to be top of my list. Unfortunately though, despite going off like a train, the idea suddenly got out of my head before reaching three figures.
Steve Smith – Much as it pains me to write this, the Australia skipper is the No.1 ranked test batsman in the world; therefore leaving him out would’ve made no sense. I can’t very well go on about how important test cricket is ad nauseum and then leave out Smith for, say, Babar Azam.
David Warner – And you thought the Smith selection hurt … Much as I’d like to forget that Davey ‘Rocky’ Warner exists, he’s bound to score five successive second innings hundreds in the Ashes. You know it; I know it; and the cricket betting markets know it too. And when that happens the bloke with the most annoying grin in world cricket is going to be pretty hard to ignore.
Kane Williamson – He’s just pure class this bloke. If I could be any batsman in the world I might well choose the Kiwi skipper. He’s orthodox, pretty stylish, and can play any type of innings. I better stop talking about him now before I go all weak at the knees like a teenaged girl at a Paulo Maldini autograph signing session.
AB DeVilliers – Now that he’s decided to play test cricket again, I’m back in love with Abraham Benjamin. He’s an entertainer, an improviser, and one of the sport’s brightest lights. If I had to convert an American to cricket, and prove that it’s far better than baseball, I might well tell him to watch de Villiers for half an hour.
Ben Stokes – This might be a somewhat controversial pick but the fact remains that Stokes is currently the world’s most marketable all-rounder. The IPL auction doesn’t lie. He’s also a highly respected and feared opponent. Go and ask an Aussie which England player they fear most in the upcoming Ashes.
Shakib Al Hasan – I love this pick. In fact, I pretty much love Shakib. He’s the No.1 ranked all rounder in tests, ODIs and T20s. He also plays for a team that traditionally struggles, yet he manages to excel all the same. He also had a stint at Worcestershire (so I’m a bit biased).
Ravi Ashwin – I wanted a spinner to make this list and now I’ve got two! I don’t think too many will argue with Ashwin’s inclusion. He’s probably the best spinner in the world and he can bat rather well too. Obviously the fact he’s currently playing for Worcestershire had nothing to do with his inclusion. Ahem.
Jimmy Anderson – He’s the No.1 ranked test bowler in the world. He’s also the top test wicket taker currently still playing. Nobody else comes close. Dale Steyn (who might never play for South Africa again) is almost a hundred wickets behind him. There’s no better seam bowler in world cricket at the moment. A few are just as good as Jimmy, but nobody is better.
So what do you think? Any glaring omissions? Any inclusions that made you spit your crisps into your beer? I guess the one thing that surprised me is the amount of batsmen in this list. We’ve got six batsmen, three all-rounders, and just the one specialist bowler. Perhaps this says something about the modern era? It’s a good time to be alive if you’re a run plunderer.
At this point perhaps it’s prudent to pick an additional player (preferably a seam bowler). If I do this then we’ll have something that resembles a world XI to represent Earth in an interstellar super series.
Hmmm. It’s not an easy choice. But what about …
Josh Hazlewood – This one might be slightly controversial. Is Hazlewood even that good? He’s not particularly quick; he’s not Glenn McGrath either. But if you look at his career stats they’re spectacularly good in all forms of the game. He’s ranked fifth in tests and number one in ODIs. Although I think Kagiso Rabada is a more talented bowler, Hazlewood is probably more consistent … so I’ve reluctantly decided to give him the nod.
If we rearrange the above eleven players we can establish some kind of batting order for our world XI. We’ll also have to have words with AB about taking the gloves. I bet he didn’t realise he’d have to keep on his return to test cricket. Oh, and Joe Root might not want to bat as high as 3 for England, but he’ll have open if he wants to make his interplanetary debut.
Earth team to play Alpha Centauri Invitational XI: Warner, Root, Williamson (capt), Kohli, Smith, de Villiers (wkt), Stokes, Shakib, Ashwin, Anderson, Hazlewood.
Let me know what you think. And who would win the Hale-Bopp Cup? I’m sure atmospheric conditions will be absolutely key.
Written in association with Betfair