This is a perfectly balanced team that is geared to win in all continents and on all types of wickets.
It has three unquestioned ATG fast bowlers who can bowl with extreme accuracy, and in the case of Holding with extreme aggression. It has one of England's greatest left-arm spinners and one of Pakistan's greatest allrounders bowling leg-spin googlies. They are backed up by a superb slips cordon in the form of Knott, Taylor, Simpson, and Chappell.
Both openers are orthodox and tough. The No.3 and No.4 positions are filled by arguably the greatest batsman in those positions bar Bradman himself.
Hassett and Taylor and tactically brilliant and will bring out the best in this team by their happy and good nature.
Because of it's balanced bowling attack, contrasting batting styles, brilliant fielding, and superb leadership this team will be very very difficult to beat on any type of wicket in any country.
First Pick: Glenn McGrath
Batting Average: 7.36
Highest Score: 61
Bowling Average: 21.64
Bowling Strike Rate: 51.9
5 Wickets/Innings: 29
10 Wickets/Match: 3
First choice should be a great pace bowler with superb figures and proven to be excellent on all types of wickets.
Glenn McGrath is one of Australia’s greatest bowlers with a tally of no less than 563 Test wickets. His average and strike rate suggests that he is both accurate and lethal. From 1995 to his retirement he was arguably crickets most dominant and influential pace bowler.
Second Pick: Michael Holding
Highest Score: 73
Bowling Average: 23.68
Bowling Strike Rate: 50.9
5 Wickets/Innings: 13
10 Wickets/Match: 2
Glen McGrath was not a bowler of express pace. Therefore a new ball partner that can intimidate the batsman with fast bouncers is highly desirable.
At The Oval in 1976 he created a West Indian record by capturing 14 wickets for 179 runs on a flat unresponsive pitch. His infamous battery of Brian Close in the preceding match underscores his ability to terrorise batsman as this video suggests;
Fire in Babylon - Michael Holding vs Brian Close - YouTube
Justifiably nicknamed ‘Whispering Death’ due to his soundless approach to the wicket. As Dickie Bird describes it in his autobiography (page 334);
Third Pick: Andy Roberts
With other fast bowlers I was always aware of them pounding up behind me, getting closer and closer, until they exploded into action by my side. With Holding it was different. It was so quiet. Just like the calm before the storm. He would glide over the ground, smoothlessly and noiselessly, until whoosh, he rocketed past me at the point of delivery, and the ball arrowed its way through the air at a frightening pace.
Highest Score: 68
Bowling Average: 25.61
Bowling Strike Rate: 55.1
5 Wickets/Innings: 11
10 Wickets/Match: 2
Deferred selecting a specialist batsman as Andy Roberts is unlikely to be still available in the next round. A logical choice due to his proven partnership with Michael Holding. The natural outswing of his action complements both Holding and McGrath who bowled very straight.
Assessed by some experts to be the greatest West Indian fast bowler of all time. According to Mike Selvey;
Fourth Pick: Greg Chappell
His bouncer was regarded as one of the most dangerous. He varied its pace, often setting batsmen up with a slower one and then poleaxing them when they were late on the quickie.
Batting Average: 53.86
Highest Score: 247
Bowling Average: 40.7
Bowling Strike Rate: 113.3
5 Wickets/Innings: 1
New ball attack chosen. Therefore it is now necessary to select a pivotal middle-order batsman who is capable of batting in a first or second XI ATG team.
In his autobiography (page 242-43) Jeff Thomson states that Greg Chappell was the best batsman of his era and slightly better than even Viv Richards;
Viv Richards was another fabulous player. You always thought you had a chance with Viv and that’s why I rated Greg just above him.
Chappell’s overall average against the West Indies in an era of ATG fast bowlers was 56.00.This would imply that Greg Chappell was one of the greatest players of fast bowling in the history of Test cricket.
Fifth Pick: Alan Knott
Batting Average: 32.75
Highest Score: 135
Unlikely to be able to pick a front-line spin bowler with significant batting skills at this point in the draft. Therefore a wicket-keeper who has a 30 plus batting average is vital to the balance of the team. Did not want to miss out on a ‘marquee’ batsman-keeper. Therefore Alan Knott selected relatively early in the draft.
Dickie Bird says it all in his autobiography (page 323);
Without doubt, England’s Alan Knott is the doyen of them all. I am a great believer in picking your best wicket-keeper, whatever else he may or may not be able to do. He can be a piano player, a butcher, a labourer, or a candlestick maker, but as far as I’m concerned as long as he can keep wicket he should be in the team. People argue with me that times have changed. They claim that in this day and age a wicket-keeper has to be able to bat well. I disagree, but, in Knott’s case, that does not matter anyway. I have seen England reeling at 80 odd for 5 and Knotty has come fidgeting in to score a magnificent century which has saved a Test match.
The match Dickie Bird is referring to was against Australia at Nottingham, 1977.
3rd Test: England v Australia at Nottingham, Jul 28-Aug 2, 1977 | Cricket Scorecard | ESPN Cricinfo
Sixth Pick: Hedly Verity
Batting Average: 20.90
Highest Score: 66
Bowling Strike Rate: 77.5
5 Wickets/Innings: 5
10 Wickets/Match: 2
Left-arm pace bowler not selected. Therefore, a front-line left-arm spinner is preferred to give the attack variety. A 20 plus batting average is also preferred for the No.8 batting position.
Bradman’s autobiographer Roland Perry records in ‘Bradman’s Best Ashes Teams’ (pages 10, 447-48);
Bradman’s selection of Verity in his ideal of the best-ever England team had much to do with his own experience of facing him. He made the observation: ‘I could never claim to have completely fathomed Hedley’s strategy, for it was never static or mechanical.’
Verity, Bradman added, ‘did not have a breaking point’ like other great bowlers had. This meant, no matter how much punishment Verity took, he still came back with line and length. His left-arm spinners were always a threat. The Don could not break him. In the mind games of cricket, where dominance of one champion over another is paramount, the world’s greatest batsman ever was never confident that he had the Yorkshirman’s measure. No finer compliment could ever have been paid to a bowler.
Bradman rated Verity’s 15 for 104 at Lords in 1934 as the best Ashes bowling performance he had ever witnessed. If we compare Verity to his predecessor Wilfred Rhodes we have a classic case of the apprentice finally becoming the master.
Seventh Pick: Bob Simpson
Batting Average: 46.81
Highest Score: 311
Bowling Strike Rate: 96.9
5 Wickets/Innings: 2
Front-line bowling attack and ‘marquee’ middle-order batsman selected. Therefore, the No.1 batting position is the next most important position. The best opening batsman still available should be selected at this point in the draft.
In the following analysis the author ranks Bob Simpson as the third greatest opening batsman;
It Figures | Cricket Blogs | ESPN Cricinfo
During the analysis he admits that;
Bobby Simpson is the surprise package. The main reason is that his overall batting average is only 46.82. However his opening average is 55.52, that too, 52.55 at home and 58.48 away. His opening partnerships, mostly with Lawry, averaged 68 and he faced good quality pace bowling almost always.
Due to his inate courage and adversion to the hook shot, Bob Simpson is the openers’ equivalent to Steve Waugh.
Eighth Pick: Rohan Kanhai
Batting Average: 47.53
Highest Score: 256
The No.3 batting position is the next most important position. The best No.3 batsman still available should be selected at this point in the draft.
Geoff Armstrong in his book ‘The 100 Greatest Cricketers’ writes;
Rohan Kanhai was one of the finest No.3 batsman of them all. Of all cricketers to play Test cricket in the 1960s, only three – Ken Barrington from England, Garry Sobers from the West Indies, Graeme Pollock from South Africa – averaged more than 50 for their career. Kanhai played most of his Test cricket during the ‘60s, almost always batting at the fall of the first wicket . As a Test No.3 Test, the position that for most of the first 100 years of Test cricket was considered to be where a captain always put his best batsman, Kanhai averaged 52.69.
In 1966 the historian CLR James wrote an essay about Rohan Kanhai. In the essay he describes an innings made by Kanhai against an England XI at Edgbaston in 1964. He had scored 170 in under 3 hours;
Next day, Brian Johnson in the Daily Mail, Crawford White in the Daily Express, John Woodcock in The Times—three men who have watched critically all the great players of the last thirty years—made no effort to contain themselves: they had never seen such batting. Here and there some showed that in their minds the Everest conquered by Bradman had been once again scaled.
They were wrong. Kanhai had found his way into regions Bradman never knew. It was not only the technical skill and strategic generalship that made the innings the most noteworthy I have seen. There was more to it, to be seen as well as felt. Bradman was a ruthless executioner of bowlers. All through this demanding innings Kanhai grinned with a grin that could be seen a mile away.
A batting genius worthy to have along-side Greg Chappell in the middle-order.
Ninth Pick: Mushtaq Mohammad
Batting Average: 39.17
Highest Score: 201
Bowling Average: 29.22
Bowling Strike Rate: 66.5
5 Wickets/Innings: 3
A batsman with a good batting average who is also capable of taking regular wickets is desirable. The right-arm leg-spin of Mushtaq complements the left-arm orthodox spin of Verity and gives the bowling attack added variety and balance. Must be a significant improvement on the bowling skills of both Simpson and Chappell otherwise the subsequent slight drop in batting average becomes pointless.
One of only four men in Test history - Jacques Kallis, Sobers and Botham are the others - to have scored a hundred and taken five wickets in an innings more than once. Arguably Pakistan’s best allrounder pre-Imran.
Mushtaq’s greatest game happened against the West Indies at the Port of Spain in 1977 when a total of 177 runs against Roberts, Garner and Croft, plus 8 wickets at 12.13 runs a piece catapulted Pakistan to a 266 run victory. The final turning point of the game was the wicket of Vivian Richards in the second innings. Stumped Bari, bowled Mushtaq.
4th Test: West Indies v Pakistan at Port of Spain, Apr 1-6, 1977 | Cricket Scorecard | ESPN Cricinfo
Tenth Pick: Lindsay Hassett
Batting Average: 46.56
Highest Score: 198no
Due to an allrounder occupying the No.5 batting position it becomes vital to select a reliable batsman capable of both attacking or defending from the No.6 batting spot. Good leadership skills desirable as Greg Chappell and Bob Simpson were adequate but not great captains.
Lindsay Hassett was Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1949. Wisden explains;
Although ARTHUR LINDSAY HASSETT finished second to Bradman in the Australian averages, statistics convey but an inadequate impression of his true value to the 1948 side. In addition to his playing ability Hassett's cheerfulness and leadership, which extended to off-the-field relaxation as well as in the more exacting part of the programme, combined to make him an ideal vice-captain able to lift a considerable load off Bradman's busy shoulders...
Hassett eventually become Australia’s captain after Bradman’s retirement and led his team to 14 victories and 4 defeats. Few captains have been more liked or respected;
Richie Benaud (1994 Obituary):
There are others who have made more runs and taken more wickets, but very few have ever got more out of a lifetime.
Chris Harte, historian (1950):
Hassett’s captaincy impressed from the start. His warmth of personality and sense of fun contrasted with Bradman’s efficient but cold methods. It was a happy tour with the players remembering particularly the hospitality offered to them.
As well as being a fine captain Hasset was an ‘artful strokemaker’ who was renowned for attacking the bowling of Bill O’Reilly before the Second World War. After 1948 his skills became more pragmatic but he lost none of his ‘lightness of touch’. Lindsay Hassett is therefore the ideal No.6 who is able to both defend or attack according to circumstance.
Eleventh Pick: Mark Taylor
Batting Average: 43.49
Highest Score: 334
Should be left-handed to upset the rhythmn of the new ball bowlers. Should also be orthodox and reliable to balance the attacking middle-order batsman as well as an allrounder occupying the No.5 batting position. Unfortunate that the second opening batsman is selected last in the draft but achieving overall team balance was more important than picking another ‘marquee’ batsman in the No.2 batting position.
Mark Taylors greatest batting feats were before 1991 when he averaged 97.50 in a home series against Imran, Waqar, and Wasim, and then 49.00 in the West Indies against Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh and Patterson.
A superb tactician and one of Australia’s best and most successful Captains means that he will be an excellent deputy to Lindsay Hassett.
Twelfth Pick: Tony Grieg
Batting Average: 40.43
Highest Score: 148
Bowling Strike Rate: 69.5
5 Wickets/Innings: 6
Should be a good allrounder capable of replacing Mushtaq Mohammad if the pitch has bounce and seam. Should be a good fieldsman and a nice bloke to have around carrying the drinks.
Powerful centuries against Lillee and Thomson in 1975, and then Holding and Roberts in 1976 imply both talent and resilience. Add six 5 wicket hauls, excellent slip fielding, plus good tactical awareness, and Tony Grieg is a very valuable 12th man.