Picking an All-Conquering XI of Recently-Retired Cricketers
Sachin Tendulkar, Graeme Swann and Ricky Ponting were just some of the top cricketers who called time on illustrious careers in 2013.
They joined the likes of Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Michael Hussey who said farewell to the international arena a year earlier.
The list of recently retired players boasts thousands of runs and hundreds of wickets but who makes the cut in our All-Conquering Test XI?
The only criteria for selection is that the player has retired from some form of cricket since 1 January 2012.
1. Tillakaratne Dilshan
Runs: 5,492 @ 40.98
Wickets: 39 @ 43.87
Retired from Test cricket in October 2013
How many players are inventive enough to have a shot named after them? Tillakaratne Dilshan is one of that select band courtesy of the outrageous "Dilscoop". The Sri Lankan opener was much more than a one-trick pony though and was a prolific scorer in all formats of the game.
His Test match strike rate of 65.54 runs per hundred balls is second only to India's Virender Sehwag in terms of opening batsman and he'd have a licence to attack in our stacked retired XI.
2. Andrew Strauss
Runs: 7,037 @ 40.91
Retired from all forms of cricket in August 2012
Strauss may not be the most naturally gifted stroke maker in our XI but what he lacked in flair he made up for with oodles of grit and determination.
An excellent puller and cutter, Strauss was a dependable presence at the top of the England order and went on to become an accomplished skipper.
The former Middlesex man has been tipped as a potential parliamentary candidate and like his politics, Strauss's captaincy was essentially conservative. It was highly successful though with England enjoying home and away Ashes victories and rising to top spot in the Test rankings with Strauss in charge.
He'll be the skipper of the retirement XI.
3. Ricky Ponting
Runs: 13,378 @ 51.85
Wickets: 5 @ 55.20
Retired from all forms of cricket in October 2013
Losing three Ashes series may have taken a little shine off Ricky Ponting's captaincy record but his batting remained supreme throughout a 17-year career. Australia's leading Test scorer passed 1,000 runs in a calendar year on five occasions and could destroy even the best attacks when in the mood.
Ponting's aggressive style produced 41 Test centuries, good enough for third on the all-time list and with strokes all around the wicket he was one of the most watchable batsmen of his era.
4. Sachin Tendulkar
Runs: 15,921 @ 53.78
Wickets: 46 @ 54.17
Retired from international cricket November 2013
During a Test career that spanned 24 years (24!) Sachin Tendulkar amassed a mind-boggling 51 centuries and passed 50 on 68 more occasions.
A stylish stroke player blessed with a wonderful temperament, Tendulkar saved much of his finest work for the best opposition. "The Little Master" scored more Test centuries against Australia than against any other nation. Writing in the Daily Telegraph Shane Warne described Tendulkar as “the best batsman of my generation”. Who are we to argue with the greatest spinner that ever lived?
5. Rahul Dravid
Runs: 13,288 @ 52.31
Wickets: 1 @ 39
Retired from international cricket in 2012
Batting in the shadow of Sachin Tendulkar, it's easy to overlook the many achievements of Rahul Dravid.
A rock solid technique against both pace and spin combined with an unflappable temperament to help Dravid to 36 centuries and over 13,000 Test runs.
Unfussy in both style and character, Dravid was the ultimate solid citizen. Calm in a crisis but able to grab a game by the scruff of the neck when needed, "The Wall" is a middle order must.
He could even don the wicketkeeping gloves in times of emergency.
6. Jacques Kallis
Runs: 13,289 @ 55.37
Wickets: 292 @ 32.65
Retired from Test cricket in December 2013
Kallis' position as the third-highest run scorer in Test history would be reason enough to select him in this 11. Throw in his slippery swing bowling, which was good enough for him to become South Africa's fifth-leading Test wicket taker, and he becomes an automatic selection.
A fixture in the South African slip cordon for the bulk of his 18-year Test career, Kallis was one of the all-round greats.
7. Mark Boucher
Runs: 5,515 @ 30.30
Wickets: 1 @ 6.00
Retired from cricket in June 2012
After an unsteady start behind the stumps, Boucher went on to become an accomplished gloveman and an integral part of the South African team for almost 15 years.
A gutsy and dangerous hitter down the order, Boucher was always up for a scrap and happy to go toe-to-toe with anyone.
8. Graeme Swann
Runs: 1,370 @ 22.09
Wickets: 255 @ 29.96
Retired from all forms of cricket in December 2013
Graeme Swann was that rarest of creatures—an attacking English finger spinner who gave the ball a real rip.
The Nottinghamshire offie was a late developer, not making his Test debut until he was 29. He seized his chance in the big time though, taking more Test wickets than any other bowler in 2010.
Arguably no bowler benefited more from the Decision Review System and when facing left-handers he could be deadly.
A clean striker of the ball, Swann boasts one of the best strike rates of any batsman with more than 1,000 Test runs.
He will leave a huge gap in the England XI following his mid-Ashes departure.
9. Brett Lee
Runs: 1,451 @ 20.15
Wickets: 310 @ 30.81
Retired from One Day Internationals and T20s in July 2012
As Mitchell Johnson showed in the recent Ashes series, there's nothing like pure, unadulterated pace to terrify an opposition batting line up. Which is just what Brett Lee did at the height of his career.
Regularly topping 90mph on the speed gun, Lee ended his Test career as Australia's fourth-highest wicket taker, needing just 76 matches to claim 310 victims. He was no mug with the bat either, notching up five half-centuries from the lower reaches of the order.
Even at the age of 37, Lee can still send it down at a fair lick as Piers Morgan will testify.
10. Simon Jones
Runs: 205 @ 15.76
Wickets: 59 @ 28.23
Retired from First Class Cricket in September 2013
Ah, Simon Jones—the great if only of English cricket. By 2005, the muscular Welshman had developed into a truly threatening bowler, one blessed with genuine pace and the ability to bowl devastating reverse swing. The only England bowler to take two five-wicket hauls during that historic Ashes series, the Glamorgan man's international future seemed assured. Then within a blink of an eye it was all over.
Serious injury followed serious injury and despite a number of attempted comebacks and a few tantalising cameos he could never stay fit for long.
It was great while it lasted, though.
11. Steve Harmison
Runs: 743 @ 11.79
Wickets: 226 @ 31.82
Retired from all forms of cricket in October 2013.
Steve Harmison was the cricketing equivalent of American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Little Girl With a Curl. When he was good he was very, very good but when bad he was horrid.
He had a happy knack for taking big wickets though and on a pitch that offered pace and bounce he could be an extremely dangerous proposition.
With Strauss the only left-hander in the top order there is certainly a case for picking Michael Hussey. "Mr Cricket" was 30 when he made his Test debut yet still managed to score over 6,000 runs at an average in excess of 50.
The other notable absentees who didn't quite make the cut but were knocking on the door were England's king of the swingers Matthew Hoggard and the very, very special VVS Laxman.