(Video Courtesy: Lord‘s Cricket Ground‘s Official Youtube)
Jumping into the bandwagon of past and present cricketers selecting all-time XIs, England’s latest Test debutant Zafar Ansari has picked his own dream team for Lord’s Cricket Ground. According to the selection criteria, the player must have played with, against or been influenced by the names listed. The Surrey spinner’s lineup is a combination of a few celebrated international icons and numerous domestic stalwarts.
Making his Test debut in the ongoing match against Bangladesh at Mirpur, Ansari holds 66 first-class caps to his name. The left-hander has scored over 2900 runs at an average of 31.26 including three centuries aside from picking up 122 wickets at an average of 34.45 with six five-wicket hauls. A handy all round option, the 24-year old played an ODI against Ireland at Dublin which was abandoned after only 18 overs.
He replaced the 39-year old Gareth Batty who had picked up four wickets in the opening Test at Chittagong. A highly-rated performer in the domestic circuit, his initiation to the international arena did not go too well after conceding 36 runs from six overs without picking up a wicket in the first innings. Not surprisingly, his all-time XI sports a left-handed feel to it.
Ansari opens the proceedings with the attacking duo of Chris Gayle and Marcus Trescothick. While the Jamaican is a proven commodity in the shorter formats, his Test record does not look too shabby either with more than 7000 runs coming from his broad blade at a healthy average of 42.18. At the other end, Trescothick can also cause significant dents to even accomplished bowling attacks through his vast array of shots.
At the particularly important number three position, South African batsman Hashim Amla provides a calming influence and should hold the lineup together. Somerset veteran James Hildreth follows him in the middle-order by bringing with him over 14,000 first-class runs at an average of 44.32. Steven Davies, who has played 8 ODIs and 5 T20Is for England, dons the gloves.
Among the greatest cricketers to ever play the game, Sir Garfield Sobers takes up one of the all-rounder slots. Needless to say, the legendary southpaw lends balance to any side with his versatile bowling skills complementing an eminently watchable brand of batting. Ansari gushes, “I always dreamed of being like him – being able to bat, bowl and field and do everything on a cricket field. He inspired me as I was growing up.”
One for the family
Zafar pulls a rabbit out of the hat by including his brother Akbar Ansari in the team. Aside from playing for Cambridge MCCU and Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), he also turned out Surrey 2nd XI as well as Worcestershire 2nd XI. However, the right-hander was unable to make it to the professional level. His younger brother adds, “(Akbar) will be glad to bat at seven so he does not have to face the new ball and he also bowls a bit of part time leg-spin.”
Wasim Akram leads the bowling attack with his magical repertoire and unprecedented use of the crease. The Pakistani icon can also bolster the total by adding handy runs from lower down the order. Akram’s compatriot Yasir Arafat comes in due to his canny ability to bowl at various stages of the innings, especially at the death overs. Domestic veteran Tim Linley slots in as the third seamer.
An under-rated left-arm spinner, Pragyan Ojha gets the nod for his County exploits. Ansari explains, “(Ojha) played four games for us at Surrey in 2011 and got us promoted (to the first division) by taking 24 wickets.” Though the team possesses adequate batting depth with Arafat coming in at nine, the bowling attack looks too dependent on a Wasim special or a Sobers spell to make a mark. Curiously, Sri Lankan great Kumar Sangakkara, who has also lent his services to Surrey, does not find a place in Ansari’s side.
Zafar Ansari’s all-time XI: Chris Gayle, Marcus Trescothick (c), Hashim Amla, James Hildreth, Sir Garfield Sobers, Steven Davies (wk), Akbar Ansari, Wasim Akram, Yasir Arafat, Tim Linley and Pragyan Ojha