Almanac Novelty Teams: The Cricket Playing Martians are Coming

by Roger Lowery

 

 

“Hey Rog.

 

“Yeah Macca.

 

“Wasn’t it your old lefty mate Pete Steedman who once said Australia stays drunk between Christmas and Australia Day?

 

“Yeah. And?

 

“Well, since yet again no foreign power walked into the country on 29 December and took over the keys to the joint unnoticed, suppose the Martians do next Christmas and then take over the world. To win back control of planet earth again, you and I have to nominate the best notional cricket team on earth (that you and I have ever seen) to play against them in a winner-take-all stand alone Test match. So, who are your eleven best players?

 

“Are you on drugs?

 

“No.

 

“Did you spend Christmas at Kevin Sheedy’s?

 

“Nah go on mate. You’re good at this sort of stuff.

 

“Alright. Get me a can.

 

Short break.

 

Sound of can of beer opening.

 

“There you go Rog. Go for it mate.

 

“OK then. From the backline, Nankervis, Scarlett, Malarkey. Half backs, Enright, …

 

“No no no horror head. Cricket. Not footy.

 

“Eh?

 

“The best world team since you started watching cricket.

 

“Ah that would be starting with Ian Redpath being bowled in his first Test by Joe Partridge for 97 during the South African tour in January 1963. But I’ll start more arguments than I solve Macca. This sort of stuff is so subjective particularly since, to my mind there are only three non-negotiables.

 

“Who are?

 

“Garfield Sobers, Viv Richards and Warney.

 

“Yep. Good start but come on comrade. Australia Day is a long way away and there is a heap of beer in the fridge. Give me your other eight.

 

“Very well. But you answer all the know alls who write in to complain. I mean just for starters, I have picked three West Indians, three Australians, two Indians, one South African, one Sri Lankan and one Pom with a Pakistani as twelfth man. That’s bound to upset those who miss out.

 

“Not at all. That just reflects the dominance of the West Indies during the seventies and eighties, the dominance of our blokes during the nineties and noughties and the emergence of India as a power over the past two decades.

 

“Righto. In batting order, number one is Kumar Sangakarra. Honourable mentions to Graeme Gooch, Bill Lawry, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Virenda Sehwag, Alistair Cook and Graeme Smith however Sangakarra’s Test average of 57 is about ten higher than all those others while 12,400 runs over 134 Tests speaks volumes for his longevity and consistency. So thumper stumper gets the nod.

 

“Go on.

 

“This is the first controversial one mate because he is not an opener – number two is Jacques Kallis. Yes I know he is normally a number three but my number three selects himself and I just have to have this bloke in the team somewhere because he is so bloody good. Besides, number threes are de facto openers anyway. I mean, 13,289 Test runs with 45 centuries at an average of 55 sort of proves the point I reckon. So he can open. I’m sure he won’t mind as he can bat anywhere.

 

“I can hear the disputes starting already Rog.

 

“Hey this isn’t evidence given under oath grasshopper. Besides, this is all your idea, remember.

 

“Number three is Viv Richards. An imperious, intimidating brutal axe murderer thug of a batsman. The Martians don’t even have to catch him in a bad mood. His happy mood was bad enough to scare bowlers. Probably no need for apologies but, for the record, honourable mentions to Graham Pollock, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Sunil Gavaskar and Kane Williamson. Besides, if you want to make a case to leave him out you tell him. I’m certainly not!

 

“Bay 13 has gone quiet again mate. I think they agree with you.

 

“On a roll then, number four is the second of my controversial ones, David Gower. If Viv was an axe murderer this bloke was a surgeon. He could silently guide, cajole, flick and caress the ball to all parts of the ground and take his score from 17 to 84 before you started to realise you had a problem. Yes, Gower’s Test average of 44 is the only one lower than 50 among my other specialist batsmen but averages don’t always tell the full story. You have to take into account that, unlike all other specialist batsmen in this side, he had regular exposure to that potent West Indian bowling attack in the 1980s. And back then, pitches weren’t all batting highways like they subsequently became, bats were smaller and boundaries were longer.

 

Gower was so graceful to watch that I’ll use my Captain’s pick to include him in my team. Honourable mentions to similar wristy stroke players Zaheer Abbas, VVS Laxman and Stephen Fleming.

 

“Hmm, I sense they are getting restless again. And hey, you know how well Captain’s picks went over with Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott don’t you?

 

“I’ll need another can then.

 

Short beer break.

 

“That’s better. At number five we have Virat Kohli. Probably just squeaks in ahead of Steve Smith. On current form he doesn’t but I’m taking a longer term view. Bay 13 will hate this but I did warn them about the ridiculous subjectivity of an exercise like this didn’t I? In addition to Smith, you could also apologise on my behalf to Greg Chappell, AB de Villiers, Martin Crowe and Javed Miandad. Mind you, ask me next year and Smith may replace him especially if the latter maintains his current form.

 

“Hey Rog, I can see a protest sign outside that says ‘Lowrey is an Aussie hater!

 

“Tell them to have a cold shower sunshine. Three of our boys feature a bit later.

 

“At number six we have Sachin Tendulkar. The little master deserves a spot purely on class apart from statistics or anything else although a Test average of 53 certainly helps. A gifted stroke maker of the highest order, he could deflate any attack on home soil or away games. Apologies here to Steve Waugh, Richie Richardson, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Sourav Ganguly.

 

Garfield Sobers is captain and he bats at seven. When I die I can happily say I was lucky enough to see all four great champions, Gary Ablett senior, Kingston Town and Winks. In all four cases, it was like tasting the air at the top of the mountain. Sobers had a Test batting average of 58 and took 235 Test wickets. He could take the new ball then come on later with both wrist and finger spin. In between, he would field in that mongrel position called gully – or anywhere else if he had to. He wasn’t a batting all rounder or bowling all rounder, he was just the best at everything – by a country mile. I was one of the lucky ones who saw his majestic 254 at the MCG for the Rest of the World eleven in January 1972 against a handy Australian attack led by Dennis Lillee. In the words of the Monty Python boys, “say no more!”

 

“My first Aussie, Ian Healy, comes in at number eight. There have been heaps of good `keepers – Mark Boucher (probably next best), Adam Gilchrist, Jeffrey Dujon, Bob Taylor (who was a better technician than his countryman Alan Knott but the latter batted better), MS Dhoni, Denis Lindsay and Andy Flower. But I have gone with Healy because I think the quality of his work standing up to the stumps was better than the others, especially his work with Warney.

 

“Speaking of which number nine sees another one of our boys, Shane Warne. The Test wicket taking record holder of those who bowled legitimate deliveries and a leggie who gave it plenty of rip, had more variety in his panoply of tricks than Maurie Fields had one liners and could land the ball on a sixpence from ball number one. Moreover, apart from his technical strengths, he was the most aggressive attacking bowler I have ever seen. He would play tricks with your mind. That’s why he was so lethal. No serious challengers here but for the record, honourable mentions to Anil Kumble, Bhagwat Chandraseker, Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Mohammed.

 

Another short beer break.

 

Malcolm Marshall bats at ten with a highest Test score of 92 and ten scores over 50 so he eclipses the batting talent of the bloke at eleven. But his 376 wickets at an average of 21 get him into the team in the first place. Imagine the Martians have somehow or another dismissed us twelve minutes before stumps on day one and there is time for one over at them. You chuck the red Kookaburra to Marshall, get the keeper and slips to form a wall about forty metres back with the principle purpose of stopping byes and sit back and wait for what transpires especially if he starts with one of those heat seeking throat high bouncers that just keeps following you. Good luck with that you pesky Martians! Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh (channelling Elmer Fudd.)

 

“Honourable mentions to a lot of very good quicks who miss out on both this spot and the next one including any one of half a dozen of Marshall’s team mates, DK Lillee, John Snow, Mike Procter, Bob Willis and Wasim Akram who Dean Jones once said ‘skids on to you much quicker than you’d think’.

 

“And coming from the other end we have the Narromine kid, Glenn McGrath, Test cricket’s most prolific wicket taking fast bowler. Mike Atherton was once gracious enough to say that the overpowering feeling he had when facing a McGrath spell was to blurt out “for God’s sake just go away and leave me alone will you!” Like Warney his attacking attitude, impeccable direction and relentless pursuit of batsmen meant you were history the nanosecond you let down your guard the slightest bit.

 

“And twelfth man?

 

Imran Khan. Third best allrounder I’ve seen (see two and seven above) and, since he is a teetollater, unlikely to fall for any pranks with the drinks that Warney might get up to with Dougy Walters providing tactical advice.

 

“And some emergency allrounders as back ups in case of injury?

 

Kapil Dev, Mike Procter, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee while for completeness sake, the earth’s umpire would be Steve Bucknor. The Martians will take a good while getting used to his laid back habits such as giving a decision he has thought about since the previous invasion of earth two light years ago from a galaxy far far away. Like me, they will also be distracted by the near certainty that he is really Clive Lloyd in disguise.

 

“And the venue?

 

“Either Newlands Capetown or Queens Park Geelong but certainly nothing with a drop in wicket.

 

“Queens Park Geelong?

 

“Don’t worry. I know the curator. Trust me.

 

“I dunno Rog. I reckon I can spot a few weaknesses there.

 

“Really?

 

“Yeah, I reckon I’d like a second opinion from Pete Steedman.

 

Comments

  1. Peter Warrington says

    how grand to see Denis Lindsay get a mention. If I read one more muppet talking about how Gilchrist revolutionised wicket keeping batspersons, I will do a Terry Wallace and spew.

    I think you have to find a place for Wasim Akram. A miracle worker.

    Imran ahead of Kallis for mine, prefer the guy who gets 22 with the ball and 37 with the bat – Keith Miller territory.

    pretty good team, though, and I support your choice of Healy. Handy bat for a coupla years, too.

    (Redders’ debut was Jan 64, but I wasn’t born so I will shut my whippersnapping mouth!)

  2. Roger Lowrey says

    Thank you Peter. Yeah I really did feel a bit uncomfortable leaving both Akram and DK Lillee out but that’s part of the problem with only having eleven spots I suppose. And you’re quite right to rate Denis Lindsay who could hurt you with the bat too of course.

Leave a Comment

*