Nasser Hussain recently made a few shocking choices for his Ultimate Test XI – it has been Don Bradman who has always made it to all experts’ teamsIndian batsman turned commentator turned Politician turned TV personality, Navjot Singh Sidhu had famously said, “Statistics are like mini-skirts, they hide more than they reveal.” Thus, beliefs are often based on cricket experts’ opinions than on the numbers.After the Ashes series ended this year, one such cricket expert – former English skipper Nasser Hussain – stuck his neck out and picked the Ultimate Test XI with present day players. Always interested in such exercises, I checked out what Nasser had put together.To my great amazement, Nasser’s batting line-up had Hashim Amla as an opener and AB de Villiers as a wicket-keeper at No. 7. The choices were absolutely ridiculous considering the fact that Amla has only opened twice in Test cricket and de Villiers has batted at No. 5 even when he has donned the wicket-keeping gloves. To highlight the level of absurdity in this team, de Villiers and Joe Root (also a part of Nasser’s team) have opened more often than Amla.To further astonishment, this is not the first time Nasser has made such bizarre selections. While choosing the best Test team of the 2000s, he picked Rahul Dravid as his opener and Jacques Kallis as his No. 6.And he is not alone. Surprisingly, Sir Ian Botham, David Gower and Shaun Pollock all picked Kallis as a No. 6 and either Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara as a No. 5 in the same discussion. Despite all three of them being outstanding batsmen, the fact is that they never batted at those numbers.In this article, let’s see how much simple stats agree with cricket pundits (individually and collectively).The criteria for selection here is purely statistics i.e. only batting average.The cut-off is set at 5000 runs for the openers, 4000 for Nos. 3 and 4, 3000 for No. 5 and 2000 for Nos. 6 and 7.The cut-off criteria is decided to ensure there is sufficient participation in each category and also to (very unfortunately) exclude brief careers such as that of Graeme Pollock and Barry Richards or to (very rationally) exclude brief spikes in careers such as that of Joe Root and Steven Smith.
#1 The openers: Len Hutton and Jack Hobbs
24 openers – from Jack Hobbs of the early 1900s to England’s current skipper Alastair Cook – meet the criteria. A very healthy number to pick from.
The two players on top of the chart are the English duo of Sir Len Hutton (6721 runs at 56.47) and Sir Jack Hobbs (5130 runs at 56.37).
The next few names in the list are Mathew Hayden (50.73), Sunil Gavaskar (50.29), Virender Sehwag (50.04) and Graeme Smith (49.07). Herbert Sutcliffe (4522 runs at 61.10) deserves a mention as well.
Experts would probably choose two from Hutton, Hobbs, Gavaskar and Sutcliffe while modern day cricket fans certainly won’t think beyond Hayden, Sehwag and Smith. Stats vindicate you, Sirs.