In the second instalment of a two-part series, SA Cricket magazine’s writers pick their best international Test XI of the past 30 years.
Over the past few weeks, our magazine writers have picked their best Proteas side of the post-isolation era. That process got us thinking – how many of those South African stars would crack the nod in a best international XI selected in the same era (1992 to 2020)?
Over the next few days, we’ll be selecting our best international Test and ODI combinations. Let us know what you think of the selections and what changes you’d make.
JON CARDINELLI: I left Kumar Sangakkara out of my top six so that he could serve as a wicketkeeper-batsman in the No 7 slot. I was tempted to pick the hard-hitting Adam Gilchrist in this position, but found it impossible to ignore the fact that the Sri Lankan was a world-class batsman in his own right. Sangakkara finished sixth on the all-time run-scorers list and averaged over 50 home and away.
I like the balance of an attack that includes four seamers and an attacking spinner. If it’s a choice between Muttiah Muralitharan – who took 493 of his 800 wickets in Sri Lanka – and Shane Warne, I’m going with the Australian who troubled top batsmen with his leg-spin on just about every surface.
Few exploited the swing-friendly conditions in England better than Jimmy Anderson, and yet his average away from home – 32.05 – points to his limitations. I can’t see a reason to pick Anderson ahead of Dale Steyn, Courtney Walsh and Glenn McGrath. Steyn is the only bowler in this group that had a strike rate under 50 (42.3)
I’d toss the new ball to Steyn and Walsh. Both had the ability to bowl quickly, yet both were very different in terms of their build and approach. Steyn thrashed the ball through at a relatively low trajectory, while the West Indian had the means to cramp batsmen with a well-directed bouncer.
Speed isn’t everything, though. Only two seamers feature in the top five on the all-time wicket-takers list, and yet Anderson and McGrath are often celebrated for their accuracy and control. I’d bring McGrath and Jacques Kallis into the attack after a short opening spell by Steyn and Walsh. Warne, a terrific competitor who was known for his variety and innovation as much as his control, would follow.
CARDINELLI’S WORLD TEST XI – 1 Matthew Hayden (Australia), 2 Graeme Smith (c, South Africa), 3 Sachin Tendulkar (India), 4 Brian Lara (West Indies), 5 Jacques Kallis (South Africa), 6 Ricky Ponting (Australia), 7 Kumar Sangakkara (wk, Sri Lanka), 8 Shane Warne (Australia), 9 Dale Steyn (South Africa), 10 Glenn McGrath (Australia), 11 Courtney Walsh (West Indies).
WADE PRETORIUS: With Kumar Sangakkara in as a specialist batsman – I could be wrong but I think he made his runs without the glove duty – the obvious choice is to go for Adam Gilchrist at No 7. Gilly changed the game and upped the ante when it came to wicketkeepers no longer booking their place in the side on glovemanship alone. His countryman Shane Warne remains the most feared spinner of modern times, if not all time, and is handy with the bat – so he is in at eight.
Remembering that I’m going without South Africans – this World side will face my Proteas XI for bragging rights – leaves me looking to fill the gaps left by Dale Steyn and Allan Donald.
No world side would be complete with Glenn McGrath, who is fifth on the all-time wickets list at a staggering average of 21.64. To add variety, I will also include Wasim Akram who shone for Pakistan for so many years.
To open the bowling alongside McGrath is West Indies great and another seamer who ended his career with over 500 wickets – Courtney Walsh.
PRETORIUS’ WORLD TEST XI – 1 Matthew Hayden (Australia), 2 Sachin Tendulkar (India), 3 Ricky Ponting (c, Australia), 4 Brian Lara (West Indies), 5 Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka), 6 Steve Smith (Australia), 7 Adam Gilchrist (wk, Australia), 8 Shane Warne (Australia), 9 Wasim Akram (Pakistan), 10 Courtney Walsh (West Indies), 11 Glenn McGrath (Australia).
CRAIG LEWIS: Kumar Sangakkara had a crazy Test batting average of 57, so he simply has to be included at 7 as my keeper.
There’s also no way I’m not picking Shane Warne as my spinner. As South Africans we may have loved to hate him but, damn, he was good.
I’ve got Jacques Kallis serving as my all-rounder, so it means I can bank on a seam attack of Glenn McGrath, who boasted a miserly average of 21.64 with the ball from 124 Tests, as well as the enforcer Allan Donald. I’ll round off my XI with the skill, guile and variety of a left-arm, fast-bowling great: Wasim Akram.
LEWIS’ WORLD TEST XI – 1 Matthew Hayden (Australia), 2 Rahul Dravid (India), 3 Jacques Kallis (South Africa), 4 Sachin Tendulkar (India), 5 Ricky Ponting (c, Australia), 6 Brian Lara (West Indies), 7 Kumar Sangakkara (wk, Sri Lanka), 8 Shane Warne (Australia), 9 Wasim Akram (Pakistan), 10 Allan Donald (South Africa), 11 Glenn McGrath (Australia).
JONHENRY WILSON: The presence of wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara in the top six has left space for two genuine all-rounders and three specialist bowlers in the bottom five. India’s Kapil Dev and England’s Ian Botham are the two all-rounders, while Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan cracks the nod ahead of Australian Shane Warne. Australian Glenn McGrath and West Indian Courtney Walsh share the new ball.
WILSON’S WORLD TEST XI – 1 Alastair Cook (England), 2 Sachin Tendulkar (India), 3 Ricky Ponting (c, Australia), 4 Rahul Dravid (India), 5 Jacques Kallis (South Africa), 6 Kumar Sangakkara (wk, Sri Lanka), 7 Ian Botham (England), 8 Kapil Dev (India), 9 Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka), 10 Glenn McGrath (Australia), 11 Courtney Walsh (West Indies).
ANDRE HUISAMEN: My wicketkeeper in this Test XI will be Australia’s Adam Gilchrist, who will also bat at No 7. Gilchrist was lethal down the order and capable of producing a late flurry, which could really take matches away from opposition teams. His fastest-ever Test century against England at the WACA during the 2005-06 Ashes series is the perfect example of that.
His former teammate, Shane Warne, also makes my team as the spinner. Warne’s stats are the best there is and his wicket-taking ability was probably the best there’s ever been to date. The pressure he put batsmen under helped Australia ensure dominance over opposition teams during a significant era of Test cricket.
In terms of fast bowlers, South Africa’s Dale Steyn, Australia’s Glenn McGrath and Pakistan’s Wasim Akram, who were all brilliant in all aspects of pace bowling. McGrath’s consistent line and length was vital for Australia over the years, while Steyn had the excellent ability to swing the ball both ways. With 104 Test matches to his name, Akram offered something different with his left-handed seam bowling.
HUISAMEN’S TEST XI – 1 Graeme Smith (c, South Africa), 2 Sachin Tendulkar (India), 3 Rahul Dravid (India), 4 Ricky Ponting (Australia), 5 Jacques Kallis (South Africa), 6 Brian Lara (West Indies), 7 Adam Gilchrist (Australia), 8 Shane Warne (Australia), 9 Wasim Akram (Pakistan), 10 Dale Steyn (South Africa), 11 Glenn McGrath (Australia).