Benaud's all-time team opens up a can of worms, but imagine watching them play

Richie Benaud chose his all-time fantasy Test cricket XI this week. This was significant because the great man had previously always eschewed the exercise. I know this because more than once he politely declined my own invitation to indulge, leaving me in no doubt that he thought best-ever XIs a frippery with which a good conversation on cricket could happily do without. So what has made the difference? Commerce, I suppose. A DVD,
Richie Benaud's Greatest XI, was released on Tuesday by Fremantle Home Entertainment, priced £19.99.

Richie Benaud chose his all-time fantasy Test cricket XI this week. This was significant because the great man had previously always eschewed the exercise. I know this because more than once he politely declined my own invitation to indulge, leaving me in no doubt that he thought best-ever XIs a frippery with which a good conversation on cricket could happily do without. So what has made the difference? Commerce, I suppose. A DVD, Richie Benaud's Greatest XI, was released on Tuesday by Fremantle Home Entertainment, priced £19.99.

I first met Benaud at the 1986 US Masters at the Augusta National. As I recall, England were then playing a series in the Caribbean, and I asked him whether he had heard the latest score. With his gimlet stare he fixed me to the trunk of a Georgia dogwood tree and proceeded to give me a forensic account of the previous day's play. It was one of the more surreal experiences of my sporting life; being treated, one-on-one, to a Benaud monologue while American golf fans waddled obliviously by in all directions.

Anyway, I'm glad that the doyen has finally succumbed to the insatiable appetite that cricket-lovers have for compiling all-time XIs, whittling his team from a shortlist of 33. It is worth noting, however, that a broadcaster of scrupulous fairness, whose nationality would be unclear were you to read a transcript of his commentary during an Ashes Test, has chosen a disproportionately high number of his fellow Australians.

Of Benaud's 33, 14 are Aussies, six West Indian, six English, three Indian and two Pakistani, with one South African and one New Zealander. Of the final XI, five are Aussies (Don Bradman, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Sydney Barnes and Dennis Lillee), two are West Indian (Viv Richards and Gary Sobers) and two are Indian (Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar). England is represented only by Jack Hobbs, Pakistan by Imran Khan. So no Ian Botham, Brian Lara, Wally Hammond, Barry Richards, Jim Laker, Harold Larwood or Michael Holding, no Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath or Rodney Marsh.

Marsh does figure among the three wicket-keepers in the 33, along with Ian Healy. That's three Aussies out of three, perhaps Benaud's most controversial judgement of all, in a position in which Englishmen have excelled. A list of the world's 33 greatest cricketers without an English wickie is like a list of the 33 greatest footballers without an English goalie: if not unthinkable, then certainly provocative. Alan Knott, for instance, made two important centuries against Australia, and six overall in Test matches, and is surely without compare as a technician behind the stumps. Equally, how can Benaud pick Lillee but not Marsh, thus splitting up the Morecambe and Wise, the Tate & Lyle, the Latchford and McKenzie of Test cricket? In fairness, it is impossible to compile such a list without provocation.

That's the whole point. And Benaud's XI is pretty formidable. I would have chosen Botham over Imran Khan, but then Botham was a batting and Imran a bowling all-rounder, and arguably Imran provides better ballast for Sobers, who is undroppable. I would also have found room for a West Indian fast bowler, either Holding or Curtly Ambrose. But only because I don't know too much about old Sydney Barnes.

Whatever, it seems appropriate to introduce an extra dimension: if Benaud's indubitably fine side, captained by Bradman, were playing another team of all-time greats - let's say Len Hutton, Gordon Greenidge, Wally Hammond, Brian Lara, Graeme Pollock, Keith Miller, Ian Botham, Alan Knott, Fred Trueman, Michael Holding and Muttiah Muralitharan, captained by anyone but Lara - who would you want in the commentary box? We'll assume a shortlist of John Arlott, Brian Johnston, Geoff Boycott (who would doubtless rather be playing), Henry Blofeld, Mark Nicholas and Benaud himself, and I think even Benaud would concede that it would have to be Arlott, perhaps with Boycott as a sidekick. Arlott was the supreme wordsmith. His line about Ernie Toshack's batting, that his tentative dabbles outside off-stump evoked an old lady poking at a wasps' nest with her umbrella, is commentary's equivalent of one of Bradman's cover drives: incomparable.

Finally, for this fantasy cricket match, we need a scribe, someone who can write about it with matchless flair. My colleague Angus Fraser will forgive me if I don't include him just yet in the pantheon of all-time greats, although he's well on the way. I suppose the short-list would be led by Neville Cardus, although I like what I have read of "Crusoe" Robertson-Glasgow of the long-defunct Morning Post. And what a cracking by-line.

Suggested Topics
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Voices
Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré deliver an anti-fracking letter to No 10 last week
voicesThe great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick