As part of Wisden’s 1990s in Review series, a select panel picked Wisden’s Test team of the 1990s on the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast.
The panel consisted of Wisden Cricket Monthly editor-in-chief Phil Walker, editor-at-large John Stern and former England batsman Graham Thorpe, with regular WCW host Yas Rana chairing proceedings. You can listen to the debate below.
Here’s the XI they ended up with – Wisden’s Test team of the 1990s:
Stats in bold refer to the period between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1999
Alec Stewart (England)
93 matches, 6,407 runs @ 40.80, 12 100s, HS: 190
GT: Alec in that period, when he opened the batting, he was someone who if you bowled a bad ball to him it would go to the boundary. He was highly respected playing against fast bowling through his career, and his record would say in that period he was highly successful. I’ve taken the gloves away from him, I’ve put him at the top, because generally that’s where I saw him as the world class batsman that he was for England.
PW: I can absolutely see the case for Alec Stewart opening the batting in this world XI. As you said, Yas, he scored more runs in this decade than any other player. If he hadn’t been, in some respects, a victim of his own brilliance and versatility in taking the gloves on, he could have been one of England’s all-time great opening batsmen. The twin hundreds in Barbados, he showed against the greats that he could pull it off.
Saeed Anwar (Pakistan)
44 matches, 3,366 runs @ 46.10, 9 100s, HS: 188*
JS: Other than Jayasuriya, Saeed scored quicker than any opener in the Nineties [from a minimum of 14 innings]. He played a belting innings at The Oval in ’96, and in Kolkata, February 1999, which was basically the third Test of a series but it was actually part of the Asian Test Championship. Pakistan hadn’t played on Indian soil for 13 years, and he carried his bat for 188 out of 316 in a game where no one else scored more than 79. Pakistan were 26-6 on the opening morning, all out for 185, His second innings score was more than their entire first innings score. According to Wisden, it was the best attended Test match in history.
PW: Anwar became an irresistible choice for me really. I was at that game at The Oval as a kid, I remember watching that innings and it was a staggering piece of work really. His record stands up, he averaged 46 during that decade, and it was the manner in which he got those runs as well.
Brian Lara (West Indies)
65 matches, 5,573 runs @ 51.60, 13 100s, HS: 375
GT: Angus Fraser and our bowlers would say ‘That wasn’t a bad delivery I bowled to him’ and he’d slice it through point for four, because of his high bat lift, his foot movement, and if you bowled short he’d hit it off his hip, and if you pitched it up he drove it down. He’d probably be, of all the players I played against, the No.1 batsman.
Sachin Tendulkar (India)
69 matches, 5,626 runs @ 58.00, 22 100s, HS: 217
GT: I thought ‘I have to get Sachin into my team’, because he was a brilliant technician. The five best players who I played against in my era were Lara, Tendulkar, Ponting, Kallis, and Steve Waugh, so that’s why, within my team selection, I’ve looked at the stats and then tried to apply what I saw on the cricket field.
YR: Sachin’s record was absolutely incredible over the Nineties.
Steve Waugh (Australia) – (c)
89 matches, 6,213 runs @ 53.10, 18 100s, HS: 200
GT: He was very different to Mark Waugh. I knew his character quite well. Once he got a hundred, he’d be, ‘Well, what else is there to do?’ Whereas Steve Waugh and Jacques Kallis’ view would be, ‘We’ll make sure we grind the opposition in’. Being on the park with them, you knew, once these guys got in, Kallis and Steve Waugh, these guys were going to change this Test match and make life hell for you.
Aravinda de Silva (Sri Lanka)
62 matches, 4,448 runs @ 46.82, 14 100s, HS: 267
PW: Four and a half feet, no more than that, and he could pull and hook good length balls wherever he went. Aravinda made [eight Test] hundreds against Pakistan and five hundreds against India. We didn’t really play Sri Lanka, such was our attitude, or the administrators’ attitudes at the time to Sri Lankan cricket. He did it with a unique kind of technique and a unique style. He’d hold the bat with a massive gap between the hands, the pickup would be perpendicular to the body, he was just a phenomenal player to watch, a unique player to watch, and the numbers are also there.
GT: A brilliant player of a spin and a very good player of fast bowling.
Ian Healy (Australia) – (wk)
102 matches, 3,949 runs @ 28.61, 4 100s, HS: 161* | 354 dismissals
GT: His two best stumpings were both off me when I was batting. One was at Edgbaston when I was a bit of a greenhorn, and actually the story behind that was, Steve Waugh was at silly point, and it’s the only time I’ve been out sledged on a cricket pitch. I said to myself as I walked off ‘that’s never going to happen again’. We were eight down, I was 60 not out, and Ian Healy turned round to Steve Waugh who was standing at silly point, and he said, ‘Watch this little prick play for a red inker’.
And I charged out of my crease trying to hit Warne for six, and obviously I missed it, it hit the rough, and it was a great take. The other one might have been at Perth when I was trying to hit Warne out of Perth. I was having my Mark Waugh moment, I’d got 120-odd on the board and I thought ‘Right, now’s the time to take the blonde lad down’. It was a very similar thing, massive bounce on the ball and Healy took two great stumpings. As a selector I’ve just gone for the out-and-out wicketkeeper in that generation.
Shaun Pollock (South Africa)
38 matches, 161 wickets @ 20.45, 10 five-fors, BBI: 7-87 | 1,404 runs @ 31.90, HS: 92
GT: Shaun Pollock for me, being a left-hander, he got very close to the stumps, had the ability to swing the ball, probably more than McGrath, and he was equally as smart as McGrath in terms of working his batsmen out.
PW: I always remember what Athers [Michael Atherton] used to say: Pollock’s bouncer was the toughest to face, because it kind of came out of nowhere. He’s not necessarily associated with being quick quick, but he was clearly quick enough.
GT: He hit a lot of people, and when I talk to Ath I sometimes say [the same thing] about Archer. [He gets] very close to the stumps at times, straight over the top, and there’s very little indicator that it’s going to be a bouncer. And when Pollock started his career he was fast. I can remember his debut Test match, I think I was his first wicket, but he hit Robin Smith on the head three times. And Robin didn’t get hit that much. He came in at lunch time and said ‘How’s this little so-and-so hit me three times?’
Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
62 matches, 289 wickets @ 21.45, 17 five-fors, BBI: 7-119 | 1,956 runs @ 22.74, 2 100s, HS: 257*
GT: His action wasn’t straightforward to pick up, and that made him a little bit harder. Someone like Allan Donald was fast, but actually his action to pick up was easier than others. Whereas Akram would scuttle up to the crease, very fast arm. He was good with the new ball, he could hit you on the head, hit you on the toe, and knock your poles over as well. And if the ball reversed he was a lethal bowler. Around or over the wicket, he could change his angles. I tried many different things against him, but I never felt comfortable at the crease against him.
Shane Warne (Australia)
80 matches, 351 wickets @ 25.66, 16 five-fors, BBI: 8-71
GT: When I first played against him I just thought, ‘Who’s this bloke with blonde hair? Got a lot of gob on him’. But he could land the ball consistently in the same place and do it from a different angle on the crease. He had variations, a top-spinner, never a great googly but he could lower his arm. And he could keep delivering the ball into an area where he didn’t give you a lot to hit.
If there was one Australian we could have taken during that period, it would have been Shane Warne, though if the Aussies had played against him they might have played him different. I come back to his accuracy. I can probably count the amount of long-hops he bowled me in four or five series, and I reckon there were two or three.
Curtly Ambrose (West Indies)
71 matches, 309 wickets @ 20.14, 21 five-fors, BBI: 8-45
GT: At times, between Ambrose and Walsh, I felt I could line Ambrose up but he gave you very very little. If there was anything in the surface, he would get it out of the surface, and he just had the ability from a back of a length. I played five series with Curtly Ambrose and I reckon he bowled three half-volleys in that time. I can remember all the drives down the ground off him and there were only three.
You had to make that decision as a batsman. ‘Am I going to drop and run, or can I pull him?’ And you were occasionally having to make a premeditated decision against him that I’m going to go deeper in my crease, pull him, and see if I can knock him off his guard a little bit. But he was very hard to knock off his guard.
Wisden’s Test team of the 1990s
1. Alec Stewart
2. Saeed Anwar
3. Brian Lara
4. Sachin Tendulkar
5. Steve Waugh (c)
6. Aravinda de Silva
7. Ian Healy (wk)
8. Shaun Pollock
9. Wasim Akram
10. Shane Warne
11. Curtly Ambrose