Let me just make it very clear before I start, this XI has been compiled not by favoritism but on a combination of statistics and reputations, reading this it is inevitable that you will not agree with several of my choices and frankly I'm not going to argue!! The true World XI will probably never be known but this is my stab at being world cricket's most controversial selector...
The biggest problem I faced was the actual composition of the team. After much deliberation I have decided that the team in question would be composed of:
5 batsmen, 1 all-rounder, 1 wicket-keeper, 2 spin-bowlers & 2 fast-bowlers
1. Sir Len Hutton - Tests: 79 Runs: 6971 Average: 56.67 Hundreds: 19
His average and run tally speak for themselves. He was a class act and holds England's highest Test score of 364. He also went through his career plagued by many serious injuries which many agree 'hampered' his ability, otherwise he would have undoubtedly been even more prolific.
A complete player, an aggressor and a great accumulator who was the rock of the English batting lineup at a time where the exploits of the 'Don' were stealing the limelight.
2. Herbert Sutcliffe - Tests: 54 Runs: 4555 Average: 60.73 Hundreds: 16
Many people will debate furiously that Jack Hobbs should open the batting for World XI and believe me it was a tight call. But statistically in Test cricket Sutcliffe averaged more and scored one more century than Hobbs in less tests (seven). His Test career was also shortened later in life due to his fighting efforts in WWI so his career could have been even more illustrious.
He ended his Test career in 1935 with an average that has since only been bettered by Bradman, Headley and Graeme Pollock.
3. Sir Donald Bradman - Tests: 52 Runs: 6996 Average: 99.94 Hundreds: 29
'The Don' is unquestionably the greatest batsman whoever lived and arguably the greatest cricketer ever, end of. His average is 40 runs greater than anybody who has ever played the game and his innings to century ratio is absolutely outstanding (one ton every 2.7 innings).
In my opinion his stats will never be bettered due to the demands of the modern game, but even more so by the fact that they are so much of an anomaly in cricketing history. He would also be the captain of the World XI.
4. Sir Vivian Richards - Tests: 121 Runs: 8540 Average: 50.23 Hundreds: 24
Since the days of Bradman no batsman could dismantle a bowling attack quite like Richards. Whilst batting he treated everyone with contempt, strutting to the crease with the aura of a king he batted like no other. From the lowly medium-pacer to the all time greats of the 1970/80s, everybody felt the brunt of the 'Master Blaster'.
You can argue that his batting average for the calibre of this team is "average" and he didn't score enough hundreds but it was the limitless ability he exerted that made him one of the greatest destroyers in cricketing history.
5. Ricky Ponting, Brain Lara or Sachin Tendulkar
Trying to pick between these three modern masters was impossible from a neutral's perspective so I've left it up to the reader to decide! All three played with differing styles but all have dominated the game for either India, Australia or the W.Indies.
Tendulkar or the 'little master' is aggressive technical batting perfected, a great accumulator who has achieved so much arguably carrying the hopes of a nation on his back.
Ponting is technically a joy to watch, with a balanced back-lift and punching follow-through he is arguably Australia's greatest batsman since Bradman.
Lara is one of crickets most exhilarating players ever. A sweeping back-lift and full blooded commitment has seen him rise to the pinnacle of international cricket in a severely underachieving period for W.Indies cricket. He also holds the Test record for the highest score - 400*
6. Sir Garfield Sobers -
Tests: 93 Runs: 8032 Average: 57.78 Hundreds: 26 Wickets: 235 Average: 34.03
Sobers combined powerful silky batting with a great ability to bowl world class left-arm spin, medium-pace or medium-fast. His average for a true all-rounder is only equalled by that of Jaques Kallis of South Africa, his bowling was undoubtedly his second skill but he could have starred in many teams as solely a bowler.
As I've said the only real competitor to the post of all-rounder in this team is Jaques Kallis but I have chosen Sobers on the grounds that he in my opinion boasted greater natural cricketing talent.
7. Adam Gilchrist (Wicket-Keeper)
Tests: 96 Runs: 5570 Average: 47.60 Hundreds: 17 Dismissals: 416
'Gilly' has taken more dismissals per innings than any 'keeper with over 200 to their name. He may not have the pure keeping ability of say an Alan Knott or Rod Marsh but his batting is miles ahead of any other keeper to have played in the Test arena.
He could easily have played as a top-class destructive batsman for any team in the world. A true wicket-keeping great who doesn't get the plaudits he deserves sometimes, an honestly top-class batsman and fine 'stumper' to boot.
8. Shane Warne - Tests: 145 Wickets: 708 Average: 25.41 5w*: 37 10w*: 10
5w* - Five-wicket hauls 10w* Ten-wicket hauls
Shane Warne revolutionised spin-bowling in the 1990s. His ripping leg-breaks were almost sheer perfection. A master of deception he is regarded as the worlds greatest spin-bowler and arguably one of the greatest cricketers to have ever played the game.
His combination of leggies, googlies, flippers, toppers etc made him an unstoppable force who along with Glen McGrath made the Australian team in the 1990s one of, if no the greatest side to play Test cricket.
9. Wasim Akram - Tests: 104 Wickets: 414 Average: 23.62 5w: 25 10w: 5
The left-arm pace of Wasim Akram may be a surprise inclusion on this list but my thinking is that variation in a bowling attack is key. He is a phenomenal bowler in Test history anyway but he is the best left-arm quick to have ever played the game.
His dynamic swing and pace made him a real handful for batsmen around the world throughout the 1990's, one of Imran Khan's so-called apprentices along with Waqar Younis he was simply brilliant. If you can think of a better pace-bowler who can bring as much to the table as Akram I'd love to hear it...
To sumarise, the greatest left-armer, with a great average, a banana like swinger of a cricket ball and mountains of worldclass wickets.
10. Dennis Lillee - Tests: 70 Wickets: 355 Average: 23.92 5w: 23 10w: 7
Like Akram, Lillee will probably be another debatable choice. But of all the fast bowlers who have ever played Test cricket Lillee has earn't the most plaudits. A smooth rhythmical action combined with effortless pace and outstanding accuracy puts him right at the top of the list when you're considering the greatest quicks of all time.
Unlike the W.Indian bowling battery of the 1980s he didn't have constant support (Jeff Thompson though on his day could easily match Lillee) three towering fast bowlers charging in with him so his job was in my opinion more difficult in comparison to the likes of Marshall, Garner, Roberts and Holding etc.
11. Muttiah Muralitharran - Tests: 127 Wickets: 770 Average: 22.18 5w: 66 10w: 22
Murali, like Bradman in some respects is a statistical phenomenon in cricket. With his strange bent-arm action he has racked up more wickets in Tests than anybody else by over 60, more 5 and 10 wicket-hauls as well as doing all this in 20 less tests than his closest rival Warne.
His big-turning off-breaks and mesmerising doosra's are still making the worlds best look foolish. When he finally calls it a day his record like Bradman's is likely never to be bettered. (My only reservation about Murali is the legality of his action, even though he has been cleared twice it still looks like a 'chuck' to me!)
Players that fell by my selection wayside:
- George Headley, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Glen McGrath, Wally Hammond, Jack Hobbs, Jaques Kallis, Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee, Steve Waugh, Allan Border, Neil Harvey, Fred Trueman, Imran Khan, Geoff Boycott, Courtney Walsh, S.Gavaskar, Graeme Pollock(He would've been included if it hadn't been for the small number of tests he played)... etc...
You may have noticed that throughout I have refered to statistics a fair bit, this is because I think its impossible to make this selection without using them in great depth, even though I personally think that stats are in many cases misrepresentations of real ability...