With rain washing out the fourth day’s play of the third England-West Indies Test, the Sky Sports Cricket Debate team discussed who would make their all-time combined XI from the 57-year history of the Wisden Trophy.
The panel consisted of former England players Dominic Cork and Lydia Greenway, former West Indies fast bowling great Courtney Walsh and host and former England batsman Mark Butcher.
They each had to pick a spinner, a wicketkeeper, and at least four players from each side.
Cork: Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Lara, Lamb, Sobers, Botham, Russell, Ambrose, Anderson, Walsh.
“Perhaps I could have got Gooch in ahead of Haynes, but when you look at what they did, seven Test centuries for Greenidge, five for Haynes. Vivian Richards gets in any side he’s got eight tons, Lara eight.
“Allan Lamb might be a surprise for some people but, going back to when England first started showing Test cricket in the West Indies, I’ll always remember him as a gritty little player in that middle order. Garfield Sobers with seven [hundreds] and that’s 40 Test hundreds in that top five.
“Botham we know didn’t get a Test hundred but obviously [took] 61 wickets. Jack Russell might be a surprise for people but I think Jack had the best gloves of all the people I saw in my career. Maybe people might have gone Alec Stewart. If anyone complains about Walsh and Ambrose then seriously you need to look in the mirror.
“Maybe I should have gone Malcolm Marshall but I have to get Jimmy Anderson in there based on his performance over time. If you look at Ambrose and Walsh it’s 309 wickets between them in the 35 Test matches shared so they have to be there. And I think that’s a decent side. I’d like to coach that side I think it might have a chance!”
Walsh: Cook, Greenidge, Richards, Lara, Thorpe, Sobers, Russell, Marshall, Holding, Ambrose, Anderson
“It was very tough to leave out Desmond Haynes, but Alastair Cook gets in for his consistency and high average, and for the left-hand-right-hand combination. Lara and Richards pick themselves, but Graham Thorpe, as a player that I competed against I always had a lot of respect for him for the fight he showed.
“Sir Garfield Sobers is my spinner and I think he picks himself in any team. Jack Russell, not because I played with him at Gloucester as a teammate, but I played youth cricket against Jack and saw no one else better in terms of consistency of glovework.
“I always said that Malcolm Marshall was the complete fast bowler so I’m not going to pick a team without him. Michael Holding was one of my heroes. I think him and Andy Roberts sort of revolutionised West Indian fast bowling.
“And then my mate Curtly Ambrose, of course, I had to get him in. And Jimmy Anderson for what he has done and what he has achieved, it’s very hard to not have him in the team.”
Greenway: Cook, Greenidge, Richards, Lara, Pietersen, Sobers, Russell, Marshall, Ambrose, Anderson, Walsh
“I’d like to think the top four picks themselves, the only battle I had was between Cook and Gooch, but as Courtney said I think Cook’s consistency is something that would put his name in the hat for any team. I think No.3 and No.4, Richards and Lara certainly pick themselves.
“I’ve snuck Kevin Pietersen in there. I think because of Kevin Pietersen’s stats and the type of player that he is he’s managed to nail down that No.5 spot.
“I think Garfield Sobers at No.6 is fairly self-explanatory. Jack Russell, again it’s been brilliant watching the battles that he’s had over the years I think again his glovework is good and he’s got a brilliant presence about him behind the stumps. Again I think those seam bowlers, Marshall, Walsh, Ambrose, and Anderson more than deserve their place.
“It was hard to leave out some huge names like Michael Holding, Ian Botham, David Gower. You’d think they’d get in any sort of world XI team but I guess that just shows how strong the teams have been over the years.”
Overall Sky Sports Cricket all-time England-West Indies Test XI: