Fantasy Head-to-Head: All-Rounders XI vs. Pure Batsmen/Bowlers XI
The word "all-rounder" is somewhat debatable. According the ICC's ranking system, Ravi Ashwin, Vernon Philander, Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad are classed as all-rounders. While all these players certainly have performed in all aspects of the game, you wouldn't trust any of those players to open the batting for you.
Philander, however, has two Test fifties to his name in 18 Tests. Broad has 10 fifties and a Test match hundred, Ashwin has three fifties and two hundreds. You get the idea—there is a certain line that is blurred with some players, thus being classed as "all-rounders" even if they veer more towards one discipline.
Therefore, there is no set criteria for this selection other than that players need to be currently playing. Another point is that this should open debate about all-rounder roles and who can be classed as such. The teams are divided into three sections, openers, middle-order batsmen and the all-round bowlers.
Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.
All-Rounders XI Top Order: Shane Watson, Kane Williamson and Jacques Kallis
The problem when it comes to all-rounders is that very few can actually open the batting. That leaves a limited selection pool.
Shane Watson gets the nod despite his dodgy form with the bat, while Kane Williamson's penchant for turning his arm over gets him in the side. Jacques Kallis walks into any team, and no all-round side would be complete without him.
The question remains of who would keep wicket? Williamson could do it if push came to shove. If Mark Boucher were still playing, he'd get the gig. Alas, there is one wicketkeeper who seemingly can do no wrong. Although he is yet to pick up a wicket in Tests, he does have three wickets in other formats. Find him in the next slide.
All-Rounders XI Middle Order: JP Duminy, MS Dhoni, Shakib Al Hasan, Darren Sammy
MS Dhoni takes both the gloves and the captaincy, as well as the honour of being a wicketkeeper who sometimes bowls. He has one wicket in one-day internationals and two in List As. The purpose of his inclusion is less about his actual bowling ability and more about the fact that he can do very little wrong.
JP Duminy is a solid middle-order player, while both Shakib Al Hasan and Darren Sammy have showed they've got some serious grit to bat lower down the order. Sammy averages just 22.00 with the bat though, and will have to be relied upon for his bowling far more.
Al Hasan has a tidy average of 36.92 with 14 fifties and two hundreds next to his name in 32 Tests. He is probably one of the most under-celebrated cricketers of his generation and earns a deserved nod into the All-Rounders XI.
All-Rounders XI Spin Bowlers: Daniel Vettori and Ravi Ashwin
Ravi Ashwin will be the main spinner of the attack while Daniel Vettori slots in to try and hold up an end. Vettori has not played a Test since 2012, but being the eighth player in the history of the game to take 300 wickets and score 3,000 runs does certainly earn him a hat tip.
Ashwin has had a bustling career thus far and more things are expected of him. He's only 27, plenty left in the tank for a spinner. His average in Test cricket is an almighty 41.11 with the bat, and he has raced to 97 wickets in 17 Tests.
All Rounders XI Fast Bowlers: Stuart Broad and Vernon Philander
Stuart Broad and Vernon Philander are tasked with the fast-bowling duties of the team. While Broad certainly is stronger in terms of his batting, Philander is no mug—he knows how to hold his own as long as there is somebody alongside him to shepherd him through tricky patches.
They have the luxury of calling on both Kallis, Watson and Sammy to help out with the seam-bowling duties, thus limiting the risks of any sort of injury of running for no reward all day.
Pure XI Top Order: Hashim Amla, Che Pujara, Ian Bell
Few Test players are better than Hashim Amla, and although he doesn't open in Tests, he does a fine job doing so in the one-day format. There's no reason why he should not shift up the order in the Test format when selecting a"pure" team.
Joining him are Che Pujara and Ian Bell. Pujara cracks the nod because the side needs some youngsters to give it some oomph and he has shown he's got the goods to make it big. Bell, meanwhile, has had a stellar year with the bat and will provide some structure if the top order wobbles.
Pure XI Middle Order: Misbah Ul Haq, AB de Villiers, Kevin Pietersen
AB de Villiers takes the gloves for the team, while Misbah Ul Haq slots in to play the role of knuckling down when the going gets tough. The two are completey contrasting players, making for an interesting dynamic depending on the situation.
Joining them in the middle order is Kevin Pietersen, because every side needs a player that can create some controversy. Pietersen isn't the worst batsman to have in your team either.
Pure XI Fast Bowlers: Dale Steyn, James Anderson, Mohammed Shami, Peter Siddle
Pace is power, and between Dale Steyn, James Anderson, Mohammed Shami and Peter Siddle, any lineup will be quivering in their boots. Between Steyn's accuracy, Anderson's swing, Siddle's resilience and Shami's promise, the lineup is pretty brutal.
Shami might have only played one Test, but he has shown some immense promise. For a one-off Test, it's worth trying him out to see how he performs when he can just go out there and express himself.
Pure XI Spinner: Saeed Ajmal
There aren't really any spinners better than Saeed Ajmal at the moment. His ability to deceive batsmen is incredible. Rangana Herath from Sri Lanka comes close, but Ajmal does have the added advantage of getting away with an action which is rather unorthodox.
With a pace-packed lineup, the side only really needs one spinner.