Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The best of the rest

One of the fun exercises in the wake of the World Cup is to pick a Best of World XI. These are fantasy jousts – designed for fans and critics alike to remember which players left them with the best cricketing memories.

Recently reader Cyrus Poncha left me a comment asking if an entire XI could be picked from the Rest of World that could challenge Australia. The answer of course is no. But seriously, this piqued my interest – selecting a team is a much more pointed exercise if you know the opposition and the conditions. So if the opposition can be nailed down, a team can be selected.



I mined my most recent data bank for information – the World Cup itself. And I picked a combination that I think gives me the best chance of being entertained and also beating Australia. My first priority makes this a rather personal selection – so keep that in mind.

Sanath Jayasurya’s ability to explode and swell a total in a blink is hard to ignore. And he is a genuine slow bowling option.

I need another opener who can take the game to the Aussies, and the only one who succeeded momentarily was AB DeVilliers. He was also a lot of fun to watch – aggressive, inventive and charged.

Chances are the Aussie new ball pair of Nathan Bracken and Shaun Tait will strike at least once. So I need steadying hands at No. 3. I give the responsibility of guiding the innings to Jacques Kallis. Of all the players in this line up, he has the best ability to stay at the crease and deny Australia further inroads.

The middle overs against Australia demand players who possess fine technique and robust mental strength. You need the ability to run singles and twos and bring out the big shots if required. The Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene and England’s Kevin Pietersen are master hustlers. I fancy their chances of scoring against Shane Watson, Glenn McGrath and Brad Hogg.

It’s not enough that Kumar Sangakkara is a terrific batsman – the one I enjoy watching the most in the Sri Lankan lineup. He was also the best wicketkeeper in the tournament. He innately understands that the wicketkeeper needs to be the engine that keeps the team’s motor running.

The No. 7 slot I gave to Scott Styris. An artisan rather than an artist, he has that magical ability to assess the conditions, tie it in with the situation and do what it takes to bring the boat home. He also gives you a bowling option who can take you in and out of Power Plays elegantly.

Now its time to pick a bowling attack that can challenge the intimidating Australian batting line up. If Makhaya Ntini had been in better form I would have picked him for his ability to angle it across Hayden and Gilchrist from wide of the crease in a flash. But since he had such a poor tournament I need to look elsewhere to restrict the Aussie openers’ booming leg-side shots.

The best chance I have of doing that is to use genuine pace and an ability to hit a coin on the pitch. The two bowlers who did that in the World Cup and who were an absolute pleasure to watch were Shane Bond and Daren Powell.

Our team needs a third seamer who can stand up to persistent bullying. Lasith Malinga has pace, a whippy bowling action that is still hard to pick and the ability to perform under pressure.

This leaves a slot open for a genuine spinner. And despite Muralidharan’s disappointing performance (by his own standards), you’d be nuts not to back him. If we can dig our way through the first three Australian wickets, Murali can make life difficult for the rest.

Not to dis all this talent, but Australia carries such an aura of invincibility these days, that we’ll still need some help. We’ll need Tom Moody to play Big Daddy. We’ll need a good, hard pitch with carry that slows down later in the day. We’ll need to win the toss, in which case we bat first. And then we’ll need some luck.

The Team: (1) Sanath Jayasurya (2) AB DeVilliers (3) Jacques Kallis (4) Mahela Jayawardene (5) Kevin Pietersen (6) Kumar Sangakkara (7) Scott Styris (8) Muralidharan (9) Daren Powell (10) Lasith Malinga (11) Shane Bond

5 comments:

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Kalyan said...

I think we should have World XX to beat Australia and even World20 we need McGrath as he is out of Aussies official team any way to have any chances to beat Aussies team.

Anonymous said...

WHAT??? No Tendulkar? You gotta be kidding.

NevYas said...

Cyrus' list is pretty similar to yours
http://coachcyrus.wordpress.com/2007/05/01/rest-of-the-world-cricket-xi/

Aspi said...

Yes, a couple of important differences. But most of the side picks itself really.