With the top six selected and the base for huge totals built, it’s time to look at a quintet of bowlers who could defend any total or destroy the mojo of even the most confident of batting line-ups. Given the size of T20 squads, I’ve added a handful of other players - the old boys might need a rest!
To recap, the top six batsmen: Roy Fredericks, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Dean Jones, Sir Viv Richards, Mark Waugh and Clive Lloyd (Captain).
7. Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
Matches: 356. Bowling - Wickets: 502, Average: 23.52, Economy Rate: 3.89, Strike Rate: 36.2
Batting - Runs: 3717, Average: 16.52, Strike Rate: 88.33 (all ODI statistics)
With Waqar, Wasim wrecked the confidence of batsmen the world over. One of the greatest left arm quicks of all time, Wasim could swing it both ways, change his pace before it was called a ‘change-up’ and bowl one of the most lethal yorkers in the game. With bat in hand, he wandered between disinterested and sublime, but on his day could change the outcome of any match.
8. Kapil Dev (India)
Matches: 255. Bowling - Wickets: 253, Average: 27.45, Economy Rate: 3.71, Strike Rate: 44.2
Batting - Runs: 3783, Average: 23.79, Strike Rate: 95.07
Kapil broke the mould as an Indian fast bowler - a career of nightmares. He had marvellous control, was as accurate as Scrooge counting his millions and could swing the ball in any conditions. He backed it up with unbridled batting power and a relentless confidence. Eddie Hemmings can vouch for that - Kapil smashed him for four consecutive sixes in a test at Lord’s to avoid the follow-on when India were nine down.
9. Curtly Ambrose (West Indies)
Matches: 176, Wickets: 225, Average: 24.12, Economy Rate: 3.48, Strike Rate: 41.5
A silent assassin, a rare trait in a true quick, Curtly was nothing short of lethal. At 6ft. 7in. and delivering the ball from almost 10ft., Ambrose could get the ball to rise freakishly off a length. He had express pace, was unerringly accurate and seemingly had the ball on a string. He let his bowling do the talking and it could really chatter – ask Dean Jones; he bore the full force after asking Ambrose to remove his trademark wristbands during a WSC match.
10. Dennis Lillee (Australia)
Matches: 63, Wickets: 103, Average: 20.82, Economy Rate: 3.58, Strike Rate: 34.8
The inspiration for another great bowler, Sir Richard Hadlee, Lillee could do it all. Even after remodelling his action, Lillee’s effectiveness was never questioned. When he returned from a back injury that would have ended most careers, he had added to his battery and was seen as the bowler aspiring cricketers should model themselves on. In today’s T20 where bowlers need the ability to bowl six different deliveries an over, he’d need to pick and choose which of his options he should bowl such was his arsenal.
11. Derek Underwood (England)
Matches: 26, Wickets: 32, Average: 22.93, Economy Rate: 3.44, Strike Rate: 39.9
All I know of ‘Deadly’ is what I’ve read and been told. I once questioned England’s ability to produce truly world-class spinners and was told in no uncertain terms I should do my research! Underwood was deadly accurate, as miserly as a pensioner living on an estate, and bowled at a sharp pace for a spinner. In today’s game his ability to change his pace with such well-honed control would make him a handful on any surface.
12th man: Wasim Raja (Pakistan)
Matches: 54. Batting - Runs: 782, Average: 22.34, Strike Rate: 66.95
Bowling - Wickets: 21, Average: 32.71, Economy Rate: 3.97, Strike Rate: 49.3
Wasim was one of the most natural cricketers I have seen, and from all I have read he would have been a mainstay in the Pakistan side had it not been for politics. As it was, he was a batsman who could destroy any attack with nonchalance and was equally proficient against Windies pace or Indian spin. Legend has it that in his late teens he would face his contemporary, Imran Khan, in the nets without batting pads. His underrated leg spin often broke partnerships and he patrolled the covers like a tiger stalking his prey. Only the good die young – in Wasim’s case, truer words were never spoken.
Lance Klusener (South Africa)
‘Zulu’ possessed unrivalled, if unorthodox, batting power – good runs at a very quick clip. As a fast-medium bowler he was handy through the middle with the ability to surprise batsmen with unexpected bursts of genuine pace.
Sir Ian Botham (England)
Sir Ian would have got a lot of wickets with his slow bouncer and his ability to produce a breakthrough when it was most needed. With bat in hand, and when in the mood, no boundary rope would have been a journey too far.
Malcolm Marshall (West Indies)
The thinking man’s fast bowler, Marshall’s arsenal was extensive – all delivered at break neck speed and without an obvious change in his action. He would have run riot in the modern game. His premature passing robbed future generations of a fantastic fast bowling mentor.
Carl Hooper (West Indies)
As laid back as the King of T20, Chris Gayle, Hooper’s footwork to the spinners and ability to play every shot in the book was only rivalled by Mark Waugh. His gentle off spinners would provide captains with another option, rounded out by his immense ability in the field.
Imran Khan (Pakistan)
One of the few all-rounders in world cricket who could have played as either a batsman or a bowler, Khan sits near of the top of the game’s greats. He took Pakistan, a side languishing as an also-ran, all the way to 1992 World Cup victory before signing off as a national hero.
Andy Flower (Zimbabwe)
A world-class batsman who often bore the weight of a nation on his shoulders, the diminutive Zimbabwean ran Kaluwitharana close for the gloves in my starting eleven. He lacked brute strength as a batsman but more than compensated with precision and pure natural talent.
Lance Cairns (New Zealand)
Lance was a legendary figure in New Zealand for his enormous hits with a shoulderless bat, Excalibur. He struck at over 100 and in one memorable innings at the MCG smashed six huge sixes, some with one hand, against a barrage of Aussie quicks. His wrong-footed bowling action and large inswingers would have made him a handful in T20.
Joel Garner (West Indies)
The 6ft. 8in. Barbadian could seemingly bowl yorkers at will, and at a fierce pace. Coupled with an ability to make the ball rare up at a batsman’s throat off a good length, Big Bird would have been an asset to his captain in any era.
Coach: Martin Crowe (New Zealand)
A close run thing to make the playing squad, Crowe was a hands down choice for the coaching role. Cast your mind back to the 1992 World Cup when he lead an aging NZ side, ironically tagged ‘The Young Guns’, to the brink of a semi-final win before a young Inzamam ul-Haq stole the game away. He innovated with an off spinner opening the bowling and an opening batsman walking at the bowlers and crashing it from ball one. If you need more evidence, Google – Cricket Max; the T20 format owes a lot to a Kiwi visionary.
Besides having the opportunity to research some fantastic players, the best part of developing this side? I’m in the enviable position that my team will never take to the field, and hence I’ll never be thrown under the roller as a convenient scapegoat!