An All Time XI, Myth Or Reality

By Najum Latif - April 18, 2020

As already stated in the first part of the article, there is no doubt about the fact that every era has its own great players and it is unfair to compare players of one era to another. Every great player has his own uniqueness and therefore is unforgettable and irreplaceable.

The cricket enthusiasts who select their own All Time XI teams cannot make up their minds about whom to drop and whom to select. Every few years they change their selections.

The playing life of a player is usually between 10 to 15 years. In this span of time he has to perform to achieve fame and possible greatness. I feel comparisons of the players should only be made decade-wise rather then selecting a team of All Time XI from 5 to 10 decades, especially when the playing conditions and rules are constantly changing.

In part one of this article, selections of All Time XI teams of A. H. Kardar and Fazal Mahmood were mentioned. Imtiaz Ahmed, Pakistan’s third test cricket captain, made his choice as follows:

1. Hanif Muhammed

2. Majid Khan

3. Zaheer Abbas

4. Javed Miandad

5. Mushtaq Muhammed

6. Asif Iqbal

7. Imtiaz Ahmed

8. Imran Khan

9. A. H. Kardar (Capt)

10. Abdul Qadir

11. Fazal Mahmood

Reserves: 12. Intikhab Alam, 13.Waseem Bari, 14. Mudassar Nazar, 15. Wasim Akram.

Imtiaz was much influenced and over awed by Kardar who was not only his neigbour in Bhati Gate Lahore but had also played most of his cricket with him during school days. The choice of Imtiaz for making Kardar the captain of his team is debatable because Imran Khan too is in the team who was a greater risk taker than Kardar.

Imran Khan played aggressive cricket and never feared defeat. He was result oriented, whereas Kardar would rather go for a draw than defeat. Nevertheless Kardar’s services to cricket remain unmatched. He did everything for the welfare of the cricketers and arranged jobs for them in banks and other departments and was instrumental in bringing the players initial prosperity.

Although Fazal Mahmood had made a selection of his choice in 2004 but he had also selected his All Time Unassailable National XI in June 1998 as well which read as:

1. Nazar Muhammed

2. Imtiaz Ahmed

3. Saeed Ahmed

4. Javed Miandad

5. Salim Malik

6. Asif Iqbal

7. Mushtaq Muhammed

8. Fazal Mahmood (Capt.)

9. Imran Khan

10. Wasim Akram

11. Hasib Ahsan

Fazal’s 1998 choice did not have Hanif Muhammed because he considered him to be a weak batsman against fast bowling despite his 337 against the West Indies in 1957-58. I think this is not fair because Hanif had played many great innings against the world’s fastest bowlers without a helmet or a chest guard.

His marathon 337 and his 160 at Bombay in 1960-61 and the unbeaten 187 at Lord’s in 1967 are unforgettable masterpieces of courage and concentration. Similarly he did not select Zaheer Abbas here because Fazal thought the Asian Bradman was afraid to hook fast bowlers. This again is not entirely correct because the debut innings of Zaheer Abbas at Edgbaston in England was a classic knock against pace and spin.

Zaheer Abbas played many great innings against the formidable bowlers of his time to become one of the greatest batsmen of the world. Why Fazal chose Hasib Ahsan instead of Abdul Qadir is perhaps because he had Mushtaq Muhammed in the team who could effectively bowl leg spinners and googlies. Hasib Ahsan was a very good off break bowler who bowled superbly in the West Indies in 1957-58 and India 1960-61.

However his action became doubtful on England tour of 1962 and he faded away from test cricket. Even former Indian captain Nari Contractor told me that the Indian players had found Hasib Ahsan very difficult to play. Fazal chose himself the captain of both of his selected teams of 1998 and 2004. Fazal was undoubtedly a great bowler but being a defensive captain his record is not very impressive.

The famous cricket commentator, poet, wine connoisseur and author John Arlott also named an All Time Pakistan XI which was:

Hanif Muhammed (Capt.)
Majid Khan
Zaheer Abbas
Mushtaq Muhammed
Asif Iqbal
Saeed Ahmed
Javed Miandad
Imtiaz Ahmed
Imran Khan
Intikhab Alam
Fazal Mahmood
Sarfraz Nawaz
John Arlott thought Fazal Mahmood to be the most devastating bowler in the line-up and Hanif Muhammed was a batsman who carried a weak batting side on his shoulders throughout his career.

According to him, Majid Khan who started off as a genuine fast bowler, changed his bowling style several times which caused back injuries, who then concentrated his attention on batting and became one of the greatest batsmen of the world. He also thought that after Hanif only Saeed Ahmed was a cricketer to reckon with in that era. Not even Imtiaz, Maqsood, or Wazir Muhammed could be at par with Saeed during his several courageous innings.

The great English bowler Sir Alec Bedser who has the distinction of dismissing Sir Don Bradman six times in test cricket also nominated an All Time Pakistan XI in 1981. His selection was:

Hanif Muhammed
Majid Jahangir Khan (Capt.)
Zaheer Abbas
Mushtaq Muhammed
Saeed Ahmed
Asif Iqbal
Imtiaz Ahmed
Imran Khan
Intikhab Alam
Sarfraz Nawaz
Fazal Mahmood
Javed Miandad
Sir Alec Bedser thought that Pakistan team was always unpredictable. He chose Imtiaz Ahmed over Wasim Bari because of his superior batting. He selected Majid Khan as captain because he thought Majid was a dashing opener who would be least bogged down with the preoccupation of a possible defeat. Fazal Mahmood was called the Alec Bedser of Pakistan because of his similarity to the great Bedser who was a giant among bowlers. Fazal’s only everlasting regret was that he did not tour Australia in 1947, because he was certain he would have had the wicket of Sir Donald Bradman at least once or twice. He used to say if Syed Nazir Ali and Vijay Hazare could dismiss Bradman, why not Fazal Mahmood?

Fazal considered his most prized wicket of his 139 test victims, that of Sir Len Hutton whom he dismissed twice at the Oval test of 1954. Cricketer Wazir Mohammed maintains that Fazal Mahmood was a better bowler than Alec Bedser because he was quicker and more accurate especially on favourable wickets.

Tony Greig, cricketer and commentator, who along with Kerry Packer, was instrumental in revolutionising and changing the face of cricket made a choice of two World XIs in 1976. His first was:

Barry Richards
Geoff Boycott
Clive Lloyd
Garry Sobers (Capt.)
Graeme Pollock
M. Procter
Allan Knott
John Snow
Andy Roberts
Bishen Bedi
V.B. Chandrasekar
And Tony Grieg’s 2nd World XI of 1976 was:

Eddie Barlow
Colin Cowdrey
Ian Chappell (Capt.)
Greg Chappell
Rohan Kanhai
B. D’Oliviera
Rodney Marsh
Intikhab Alam
Jeff Thomson
Dennis Lillee
Lance Gibbs
D. Underwood
Mushtaq Muhammed
Tom Graveney, one of the greats of English cricket who also had been the President of the M.C.C., chose his All Time Great England XI in 1984 as:

1. Len Hutton

2. Geoff Boycott

3. Peter May

4. Denis Compton

5. David Gower

6. Ian Botham

7. Godfrey Evans

8. Jim Laker

9. Fred Trueman

10. D. Underwood

11. Bob Willis

Tom Graveney did not choose a captain for his All Time World XI in 1984, which was:

1. Sunil Gavaskar

2. Bobby Simpson

3. D. Vengsarkar

4. Kim Hughes

5. Imran Khan

6. Farokh Engineer

7. Ray Lindwall

8. Rodney Marsh

9. Dennis Lillee

10. Michael Holding

11. Lance Gibbs

Sir Geoffrey Boycott also made a choice of his all-time best Pakistan team as:

Hanif Muhammed
Saeed Anwar
Majid Khan
Muhammed Yousuf
Inzamam-ul-Haq
Javed Miandad
Imran Khan (Capt.)
Wasim Akram
Fazal Mahmood
Wasim Bari
Waqar Younis
He kept Asif Iqbal, Zaheer Abbas and Shoaib Akhtar as reserves.

Although Sir Geoff Boycott is one of the best and great openers of England but when he was awarded the knighthood, many Women’s Rights Organisations objected to it because of his 1998 conviction in France for assaulting his former girlfriend Margaret Moore. He was fined five thousand Pounds with a suspended jail sentence.

One of the greatest cricket Umpires Dickie Bird also made his All Time Greats XI selection twice. The first in 1995 which read as:

Barry Richards
Sunil Gavaskar
Viv Richards
Greg Chappell
G. Pollock
G. Sobers
A. Knott
R. Hadlee
Michael Holding
Dennis Lillee
Lance Gibbs
Andy Roberts
Abdul Qadir
He named his Greatest XI again in 2013 which was:

1. Barry Richards
2. Sunil Gavaskar
3. Viv Richards
4. Greg Chappell
5. Garry Sobers
6. Graeme Pollock
7. Alan Knott
8. Imran Khan
9. Dennis Lillee
10. Shane Warne
11. Lance Gibbs

Both his selections were without naming a captain.

Sir Donald Bradman made the choice of his All Time Greats XI as:

Barry Richards
Arthur Morris
Don Bradman (Capt.)
Sachin Tendulkar
Garry Sobers
Don Tallon
Ray Lindwall
Dennis Lillee
Alec Bedser
Bill O’Reilly
C. Grimmett
Wally Hammond
In the late 1970s Sir Don also chose ‘The Don’s Dozen’. It was his all-star team from Australia’s best Test cricketers since World War II. The Bradman team’s names were locked in an ANZ Bank vault while thousands from the public sent coupon enteries in a contest to match Sir Don’s list exactly. Sir Don made a preliminary choice of 39 players for his final selection of eleven, which was:

Bobby Simpson
Arthur Morris
Don Bradman (Capt.)
Neil Harvey
Ian Chappell
Greg Chappell
Keith Miller
Richie Benaud (V. Capt.)
Allan Davidson
Ray Lindwall
Don Tallon
Lindsay Hassett

Lastly, Richie Benaud made a choice of his Greatest Test XI again in 2004 which differed from his previous choice. It read as:

1. Jack Hobbs
2. Sunil Gavaskar
3. Don Bradman
4. S. Tendulkar
5. Viv Richards
6. Imran Khan
7. Garry Sobers
8. Adam Gilchrist
9. Shane Warne
10. Sid Barnes
11. Dennis Lillee

Although Richie Benaud excluded Brian Lara, Wally Hammond, Barry Richards, Jim Laker, H. Larwood, Malcolm Marshall, Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Rodney Marsh and M. Muralitharan, from his choice but he made it clear that this was the side he would have most liked to represent him.

It may seem interesting to make one’s own choices of different teams but they are not entirely the final word. Such choices are more or less flights of imagination. Cricketer Nazar Muhammed had heard a dialogue in a movie, “see Naples and die”, which he often quoted. It meant that after seeing the beauty of Naples there was nothing else left in the world to see. This dialogue was not the ultimate pointer, it was only a personal choice based on a personal liking because the world is full of many beautiful places and people. There is no ultimate beauty because there is always something better. Such is the rule of nature.

Similarly talented and exceptional cricketers will keep on emerging in every era but only very few great and extra ordinary cricketers will be remembered for all times. Sometimes the Hundred All Time Great Movies are named but again they are a personal selection of an individual. As human beings are different from each other, so are their choices. Such selections may be kept on personal level to be enjoyed. They can not be a final word.

By Najum Latif

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