Yesterday, a few fans on twitter were debating on Ian Chappell's all time entertainers team, but as I am not keen on picking all time teams I gave it a miss. Today though, I just had a glance at the team and straightaway I almost fell from my chair as I didn't see Wasim Akram's name. Old timers may have their views and the general feeling I get is, the older generation always think that cricketers during their time were better, but that is natural as they all grew up seeing those great players in action. The non inclusion of Akram is bewildering though, as I can't believe there was a cricketer who had more natural talent than the great man from Pakistan. Swing or seam, bowling from around the wicket and vicious bouncers, he was a master at everything. When Akram bowled, it was pure magic and in the 90's, he was one of the few players, who I would pay to watch. I am sure at least those fans who grew up watching Akram bowl would share my views.
Maybe IM Chappell should go back in time and watch the you tube video of Lamb and Lewis being dismissed in the 92 world cup, the dismissal of Healy in a WSC game in 96/97, when both Healy and Akram didn't realise that Healy was bowled by a beauty from Akram, or even better, the ball he bowled to Robert Croft in a test match in England in 96.
I think most fans have watched those two magical deliveries he bowled to Lamb and Lewis in the 92 world cup, but what about the delivery he bowled to Robert Croft in a test match in England? Let us just have a look at it.
Unfortunately, I didn't see the above mentioned ball live, so I would like to quote what Mike Selvey says about that incredible delivery,
"Halfway down the pitch towards the right-hander, the delivery seemed innocuous. Delivered left-arm from round the wicket by Wasim Akram, it had the usual slithery speed, and was up there in length - an attempted yorker probably, but too full. It began to angle down the leg side, a low full-toss just ripe for Robert Croft, the England offspinner, to flick away to fine leg for an easy boundary. Croft planted his front foot and began the process of turning the ball away. He missed, the ball thudded into his pad, and Wasim roared his appeal. Negative, said the umpire, and we in the press box nodded knowingly: missing leg by miles.
Then came the replay, in super slow motion, and it was so astounding it left mouths gaping. For in the last 10 feet or so, the ball ceased angling down the leg side and instead swung back the other way, eluding Croft's bat by six inches. Unquestionably it would have hit middle stump, but it all happened so fast and late that it deceived the eye of everyone, not least the umpire. The single most astonishing delivery that I have witnessed failed to produce a wicket" - Mike Selvey in the magazine Wisden Asia Cricket March 2003
I don't think Mike Selvey is exaggerating either as after seeing the ball, I felt the same as it was a jaw-dropping delivery. In my humble opinion, Akram could swing both the new and the old ball, he swung them both ways and with a barely perceptible change in action. Even on wickets with which gave him no assistance, he could be given the ball at any moment of the game and be expected to take a wicket. At his best, he could make even a classy batsmen look bad and it is no surprise that he ran through the the tail time and again.So, dear Ian Chappell, it would be better if you brush up your memory and remember there was a bowler called Akram.
Anyway, I am not a great believer in picking all time teams as I have only watched cricket for the last eighteen years, but if I have to pick one among the players I have watched, it would be as follows
Sehwag- He may play silly shots and his second innings record, when the pitch deteriorates and batting becomes more difficult is nothing to write home about, but in full flow he is a pleasure to watch for any cricket fan, though the bowlers may not agree. It is almost like the bowlers have to wear a helmet to protect themselves from the butcher called Sehwag.
Gilchrist- He may have technical flaws against the new ball, but wait this is an entertainers X1, so I won't mind seeing him opening the batting. I haven't seen Colin Miburn bat, but among the players I have watched, he is the cleanest striker I have seen. Let it be Gilly facing a fast bowler or a spinner, it rained sixes from his bat. One has to also remember that he played some great knocks under pressure like at Hobart against Pakistan in 99/00.
Lara- Lara was perhaps the last of the calypso kings and when in mood, no bowler would have liked to bowl to the great man from the Caribbean islands. His timing and placement through the off-side can't be described in just words as it was that good. His knock at Barbados against Australia would be etched in every cricket fan's memory and let us not forget his exceptional knocks in the Emerald Islands either. In simple words, Brian Charles Lara was the prince of Trinidad.
Tendulkar- I am sure about billion pages have been written about the little master from India as India is a cricket mad nation. I don't think I need to say much about this all time great player, but if I have to say anything, I would just say that at his peak, he was a complete batsman as he could thrill a cricket connoisseur with superbly timed shots and at the same-time, he has a rock solid technique. Yes nowadays, he may not exhibit the flair that we used to see in the 90's yet, at the age of 37 he is making runs for fun and continues to be a scourge for the men from down under.
Mark Waugh- He was the king of lazy elegance. Let it be his batting, fielding in the slips or backward point( early in his career) he was pure class. The only time he looked ugly was when he tried to reverse sweep Tufnell and got bowled. It is said that even now his teammates joke about that shot. Sorry Mark, reverse sweeps aren't for you! If that was an ugly shot what about Mark Waugh's six of Vettori at Perth in 97? I can't remember a shot which was more graceful to watch and if not the biggest, it would surely go down as one of the biggest sixes ever hit in a game.
Laxman- Now if Afghan was the king of lazy elegance what about Laxman? In simple words, he is known as Very Very Special Laxman and that is an apt description of Laxman. His wrists are like a magic wand as he can flick deliveries which are wide of off stump through the on-side and play shots through the off-side when there doesn't seem to be any room to play a shot. One team that would like to see him retire soon is Australia as it seems like even if he fails in ten consecutive innings against say Bangladesh, he would still score a hundred if the next series is against Australia.
Cairns- I know that there would be many fans who would clamour for the inclusion of Freddie Flintoff, but in my humble opinion, whatever Freddie did in his career, Cairns did it better, but as he played for a lightweight team, he doesn't get the recognition he deserves.
Akram- I think I have said enough of this great man from Pakistan lol.
Warne(c)- He is another cricketer on whom about billion pages have been written. The Sheik of tweak could turn the ball on a glass and was a purists delight. He entered cricket folklore when he ripped a leg-break, the width of a Gatting and bamboozled Gatting by getting him clean bowled. In a unreal world, I would make him the captain of the team as he always looks for wickets and even makes a cricket fan think of what maybe his next move.
Donald- Among the bowlers I have seen, he had the smoothest action for a fast bowler. At his peak, it was like watching a Rolls-Royce bowl. The white lightning could bowl as fast as anyone and not a single batsman liked to face the fearsome pace bowler from the Safferland.
Schultz- The final player I would pick is the most controversial one and his name is Brett Nolan Schultz. Yes, he played just nine tests, but at his best, the wild man, who actually wanted to play rugby as he thought that cricket was boring got my pulse racing. With his catapult like action, the left armer could bowl at the pace of wind and no batsmen liked to face him. I do remember the story of how the Lankan batsmen were said to be frightened to death in their own backyard on those barren tracks by the pace of not Donald but Schultz! Most of them were said to have given up their wickets instead of being hit on their helmet. It is very unfortunate that the amount of strain he put on his body resulted in horrific knee injuries which ended his career. The fact is, even at the end of his career, he blasted a formidable Aussie batting line-up in 97 on a flat deck like Capetown by taking eight wickets. In the 90's, Donald and Schultz could have been the re-incarnation of Lillee and Thomson, but it wasn't to be.
The one player I would liked to have gone for is the Rawalpindi express Akthar, but somehow I can't leave out the wild man from the Safferland. Maybe I have a soft corner for him as a player as talented as Schultz only played nine tests.
Finally, it is just a team that I have picked from the players I have seen, so many great names are missing from the line-up, but I would no doubt pay to watch that line-up play in Mars.