North versus South: the northern hemisphere's Kevin Pietersen and the southern hemisphere's Graeme Smith prepare to do battle
Ever been discussing who the best players in the world are and then decided to construct a global XI from those stars?
Well, if you found that hard to finalise, then how about selecting a Northern Hemisphere XI to take on a Southern Hemisphere XI?
The rules are that those chosen must still be playing international cricket, while each side has been picked with an ability to play in all three forms of the game if necessary, as well as in any conditions.
So, tell us what you think of the two final XIs and whether you agree or disagree with our selections…
The England skipper just gets the nod to open the batting, despite his indifferent form of the past summer, owing to his sheer weight of runs for his country since 2010, calm head and ability to bat for long periods in all forms of the game.
Again, another close call, but in the end the big-hitting opening batsman edges out compatriot Shivnarine Chanderpaul due to his greater versatility, youth and ability to bowl some useful left-arm tweakers.
Sanga is held in such high regard that not only will the 35-year-old Sri Lankan be keeping wicket for this team, but he will also be its captain and key No. 3 batsman. He has fulfilled all three roles for a number of years for his country, so nothing new there.
All teams need a maverick in their lineup. On his day KP is also one of the most destructive and feared batsmen in world cricket, and that is in all three formats of the game to boot. Impossible to leave out and chosen ahead of compatriot Ian Bell for the No. 5 berth in the team.
Much like Kevin Pietersen, another man who just demanded inclusion in the side, even at the grand old age of 36, due to his undeniable world-class abilities in the Test match, one-day international and Twenty20 arenas. He also brings with him a bucketload of experience from 16 years of international cricket.
The in-form, middle-order strokemaker narrowly edges out Pakistan’s Younis Khan for the final batting berth in this XI, due to the sensational form he has shown for his country for more than a year now, especially in the limited-overs game.
In the end, it came down to a straight fight between the India off spinner and Sri Lankan left-arm tweaker Rangana Herath, both of whom are currently ranked amongst the top 10 Test bowlers in the world.
However, Ashwin’s superior ability with the bat and also his greater height when it comes to his bowling sees the 27-year-old get the nod over his diminutive Sri Lankan rival.
A tough call this one, but the Nottinghamshire seamer sneaks in by virtue of his outstanding summer against both New Zealand and Australia, in particular his match-winning spell in the second innings of the fourth Ashes Test at Durham.
The blond-haired paceman is also one of the 10 best Test match bowlers in the world on current form, according to the International Cricket Council (ICC) player rankings.
Joining Ashwin as the team’s second off-spinner is the 34-year-old who just loves bowling to left-handed batsmen, while he also has the rather useful habit of picking up a wicket in his first over of a spell. And do not forget either his penchant for clubbing late-order runs at No. 8 when his side usually needs them the most.
England’s Mr. Reliable will open the bowling with his fellow countryman Broad in this lineup. While the non-smiling Lancastrian may have disappointed during last summer’s Ashes, everything is relative and he still remains the most consistent and effective fast bowler on show in the northern hemisphere.
Not hard selecting the world’s best tweaker (whatever the ICC rankings may say) and the Pakistani off spinner will be the one handed the ball first by his skipper after the seamers have done their work with the new nut.
And while it has been some time since we last saw three genuine spin bowlers operating in tandem (perhaps Anil Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan on England’s tour of India in 1992-93?), when you have a trio of this quality, then it is virtually impossible not to pick them all.
One of the first names down on the team-sheet for his thou-shall-not-pass batting style and especially when it comes to nominating who should lead the side— no player has captained their country on more occasions than the Proteas skipper has.
Tough call this one, but the Aussie just gets the nod to open the batting here, his under-rated abilities with the ball helping to swing things in Watson’s favour, as did his status as one of the premier all-rounders in world cricket when it comes to the shorter forms of the game.
Without doubt, on current form the world’s best batsman across all three forms of the game and someone who can usually only be dislodged from the crease using a stick of dynamite, as Pakistan have just discovered in the UAE.
It is hard to think of a more impressive all-rounder in the history of the game and even at the age of 37, the Proteas star walks into this side with his eyes closed.
On his day, the Aussie captain is perhaps the best batsman in the world, especially when down to bat in his favoured No. 5 berth, while the 32-year-old—back permitting, of course—can also be relied upon to send down some more-than-useful, slow left-armers, too, if necessary.
The Kiwi skipper may have given up the gloves for the Black Cats recently due to his dodgy back. However, for this one-off occasion—and in order to balance the lineup—the 32-year-old will once again be keeping wicket, while McCullum will also be a more-than-dangerous middle-order batsman coming in at No. 6.
The veteran New Zealand left-arm spinner may not have played a Test match for his country in more than a year due to a series of niggling injuries, but he comes straight into this XI as the pre-eminent tweaker in the southern hemisphere.
And do not forget either that this is a player with six Test centuries to his name and a batting average of more than 30, so he will also have a crucial role to play as a provider of late-order runs.
The Proteas seamer recently became the fastest bowler ever to capture 50 Test wickets and, as such, his consistency and genuine wicket-taking abilities see the 28-year-old edge out Australia’s Peter Siddle for one of the four fast-bowling spots in the team.
On current form, according to the ICC player rankings, the South African paceman is the world’s best Test bowler and there can be few arguments on that score, with the Proteas seamer being handed the responsibility of opening the bowling for the southern hemisphere.
The Aussie quick bowler will open the bowling in this team in a fearsome-looking new-ball partnership with Steyn. And if the injury-prone paceman shows the eye-catching form that he displayed throughout the last Ashes series in England, then the northern hemisphere top order are going to be in for a tough challenge facing that new cherry.
Another tight call this one, given the endless fast-bowling options available in the southern hemisphere at present, but the Proteas beanpole gets the nod due to his extra height and his unrivalled abilities when bowling to left-handers.