The Generational Gap: Cricket Edition

We as a society have a tendency to become nostalgic. We don’t live in the present; we contemplate the greatness (often without context) of the past. There is reassurance about the past. Our principles were upheld by more (or so we believe) honourable men/women. The future is full of uncertainty, and that uncertainty evolves into pessimism. This concept is certainly prevalent throughout the landscape of sports.

Although at TWCT we pride ourselves on pragmatism and progressiveness, there is benefit to writing about sports nostalgia. I mean how can we move forward without knowing where we have been, right? We can identify problems by looking back, thus progress forward.

For example if you and I were to discuss what South African cricket is lacking right now, we both might say, “a Jacques Kallis figure” correct? What South Africa lack is an all-rounder which balances out the team, and although Kallis is arguably the greatest player ever, the notion is correct.

This begs the question: if you could choose one player from the past – to make your team better- who would it be, and why?

In this article we will explore that question in depth. We will investigate the fundamental flaws of current Test cricket teams, examine which former player would have the greatest impact and teleport them into the line-up. There will be no generational gaps. However we will not put in former legends if they hinder developing talent. For example Sir Don Bradman will not replace Usman Khawaja (even though he is a higher calibre player) because Khawaja is excelling in Test cricket right now. The former player will be an emergency signing, so to speak, because of the lack of depth at that specific position. Got it? Great!

Australia

After using that Khawaja example, I think it is best that we start with Australia. Also we are going alphabetical order, but I digress. I think the weakest position in the current Australian team, not just in Test cricket but in ODI and T20, is the wicketkeeper-batsman position.

Gone are the days of Jack Russell, where wicket-keeping was an art in itself. In the modern day the wicketkeeper must be an excellent batsman. This creates a longer and more dynamic batting line-up.

Since Brad Haddin’s retirement, Australia have struggled to fill that void. Peter Nevill’s wicket-keeping skills need to honed, and Matthew Wade’s batting has deteriorated to the point of embarrassment. Enter Adam Gilchrist.

One of the most destructive players in the history of Test cricket, he would add impetus at the back end of a Test innings, and obliterate bowlers as an opener in ODIs. He was also one of the greatest gloveman in the history of the game. Not only does he balance the team out, but adds another inspirational leader in the dressing room. What more could you ask for?

Bangladesh

Seeing as how this article explores the teleportation of former players from past generations into current teams, does scientific logic  need to be sustained? Because I want to invest all of Bangladesh’s future revenue into a rejuvenation machine for Shakib Al Hasan.

It’s not often we can witness the greatest cricket player in an entire nation’s history. Shakib holds so many of the countries records in bowling, and batting. He is a idolise figure in Bangladesh, and has helped a nation dream of success.

When he retires, Bangladeshi cricket will suffer, and for that reason we wish to prolong his longevity in the game. The painful truth is that Bangladesh will never produce another all-rounder like Shakib.

England

England have a plethora of nuisances attached to them for a team rated so highly in the Test match arena. They have not replaced Andrew Strauss as an opener, they have problems at the 3 and they have a very similar pace attack that lacks variety. Not to mention an all-rounder who has put his team’s success in the Ashes at peril. However I believe the biggest problem England need to address is at the number 5 batting position.

I believe the number 5 batting position is the most versatile in Test cricket. Your number 5 needs to be able to adapt to the match situation, but also have the instinct and tenacity to progress to game along. AB De Villiers is a prime example of a player that bats at 5 and can read match situations, however he‘s an explosive batsman that dictates the tempo and over-rate.

The perfect man to transition into this England team would be Grahame Thorpe.

The art of routing the strike is slowly fading in international cricket, and a man like Thorpe could frustrate bowling attacks by building solid partnerships. He has a solid technique but his temperament and cricketing IQ is far superior to most cricketers. Thorpe’s grittiness would be a welcomed addition into England’s fragile middle-order.

India

Although historically India struggle away from the sub-continent in Test cricket, they may have the most complete starting 11 in their entire history. Not only have they produced elegant and transformative Test batsman in Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara but they have not lost any of their explosiveness either with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. Even their pace bowling is half decent with Bhuvi Kumar leading the way as a premier swing bowler. India have also produced what seems like their first legit fast bowling all-rounder since Kapil Dev, in Hardik Pandya. The prospect of him becoming a talisman for India is extremely fascinating.

The one area which they need to address is the wicket-keeping position. Since MS Dhoni has retired, no wicketkeeper has been able to solidify a spot in the team. For that reason we will ask MS Dhoni to come out of retirement and help India to dominate in the Test match arena again.

But Indian fans should be very happy with their team’s progress. I think they will challenge in every format of the game for years to come.

New Zealand

New Zealand cricket is in a precarious position right now. They have a team that’s half filled with star players such as Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Trent Boult and Cory Anderson. However they have not progressed at the accelerated rate we were expecting. Maybe this is because of the retirement of captain Brendon McCullum? But even though New Zealand has the talent, it has not quite clicked yet.

I would transfer Daniel Vettori from the past into this New Zealand team for two reasons:

The first reason is because New Zealand are exceptionally depleted in the spinning bowling department. Adding a Vettori, who can play as an economical or an attacking bowler, adds experience and quality into the bowling attack.

The second reason is because of his leadership qualities. Vettori had been the New Zealand captain in all formats of the game from 2007 until 2013. He is held in high esteem by New Zealand cricketers, and had it not been for injury, he would have been one of the greatest all-rounders in cricketing history. Having such a character in the dressing room could galvanise the team and help them reach their undoubted potential.

Pakistan

Is there a more controversial cricket playing nation then Pakistan? Constantly embroiled in drama and unethical behaviour; the fact that they are a superior Test match team is nothing short of miraculous. But with the retirement of Younis Khan and Misbah Ul-Haq, they are lacking in the batting department. I decided to teleport a figure from Pakistan’s past which exemplifies the qualities of a Test batsman, but that also epitomises the qualities of principled man. That man is Hanif Mohammad.

Although Hanif’s style of cricket is antithetical to the current trajectory of modern cricket, (he holds the record for slowest Test innings – 20 runs off 223 balls) he was a sophisticated batsman who played the game with sportsmanship and grace. His Test average of 43.98 indicates a batsman filled with grit and obstinacy, but his first class record (an average of 52.32 and 17,059 runs scored) signifies a refined batsman.

Pakistan would be lucky to have a batsman of Hanif’s excellence, but he was also a man who played the game of cricket in a respectful way. Something that Pakistan have lacked over the past decade or so.

South Africa

Although we discussed earlier that South Africa are lacking a ‘Jacques Kallis’ figure in the current Test team, I have decided to choose a different all-rounder. Kallis, arguably one of the 5 greatest batsman ever, would have to bat in either the 3,4 or 5 batting positions. This would mean demotions for Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis or AB de Villiers, which goes against our rule of hindering current talent. Also I believe there needs to be more variety in South Africa’s pace attack, even though it may the greatest in history (if Dale Steyn is fit). The man I have decided to extract from the past is Trevor Goddard.

Trevor Goddard was an all-rounder of the uppermost proficiency. His first class batting average of 40.57 (11,279 runs) signals his calibre with the bat, but it was his lethal swing balling that captivated the cricketing world.

A left-arm medium fast bowler, Goddard produced devastating swing-bowling spells which hypnotised batting line-ups. This left-arm bowling option would be a crucial element to the current bowling line-up. With Kasio Rabada and Dale Steyn producing hostile fast bowling spells, players like Goddard and Vernon Phillander would perplex sides with their ability to subtly swing the ball in both directions. His left-arm bowling would also create a different angle for batsman too.

Sri Lanka

What doesn’t Sri Lanka need? They have problems with their openers, their middle-order and pace bowling attack. Honestly Sri Lanka may need to obtain four or five former players to become a competitive nation again. I don’t care about how they dismantled Australia at home, or how the beat Pakistan a few days ago. Rangana Herath can’t be expected to take 20 wickets every match for Sri Lanka to be a sustainable cricket team.

This proved to be a contentious choice because of all the holes in the current team. I believe the team would benefit from a multifaceted player, but one who could be a menace on the fast bowling end. For that reason I have decided to select Chaminda Vaas.

In this batting line-up Vaas might bat as high as 6 but now lower than 8, boosting a Test average of 24.32 with 1 Test century and 12 Test half-centuries. He would also be a devastating bowler in all conditions, have taking 355 Test wickets when he was in a team with a guy who bagged 10 wickets every game like it was nothing!

Sure Kumar Sangakara would help this team immensely; however you need to take 20 wickets to win a match. And with Sri Lanka’s over reliance on Herath, they need another wicket taking bowler; Vaas is by far the greatest fast bowler in their history.

West Indies

The West Indies are one batsman and one bowler away from being a truly competitive side in the Test arena. I truly believe that. With Shai Hope, Carlos Braithwaite, Evan Lewis and Shannon Gabriel, there is much optimism for their future. If they could bring back a few of their T20i and ODI players (mainly Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo) back into the Test fold; this could be a destructive team. So who do I bring back from their illustrious past?

It was a difficult deliberation between Sir Viv Richards or Malcom Marshall. I decided to let substance to prevail over style, and choose Malcolm Marshall. Tflamboyance that exuberated from Viv was contagious. The bravery to play without a helmet, in era of true fast-bowling giants, is still astonishing.

However you still need 20 wickets to win a match, and Malcolm Marshall might be able to get 10 of those each game so you’re halfway home. Marshall’s express pace, which Brian Lara described as “scary”, would rattle some of the batsman in this generation. A true match winner, and someone who could be transformative to this current West Indian team.

Zimbabwe

Heath Streak. He is one the greatest player in their history. Along with his impeccable bowling and admirable batting, he possessed a bullet throw from the boundary. Something I’d pay to see.

 

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