A 1990s World Test XI

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We’re going to play a Sim Series between a 1990s World Test XI and a Current World Test XI. Let’s pick our first team.

After we announced that this particular Sim Series Test was going to take place, there was quite a lot of discussion about who should be in the teams. If we can make one observation/criticism about those comments, a number of you appear to be treating this the same way you would a Wisden- or ICC-selected World XI.

Let us tell you that this is a very different realm. Here at King Cricket we do not seek to be authoritative or fair. Here at King Cricket we pick the players that we want to pick and then we try and camouflage the true nature of those selections with a gossamer thin layer of reason.

(1) Graham Gooch

When outlining our (admittedly amorphous) selection criteria for this team, we said that it didn’t matter what you did in adjacent decades; you were eligible so long as you were one of the big players during the qualification period.

Graham Gooch played 45 Tests in the 90s and scored over 4,000 runs at an average of 51.55. (It’s worth pointing out that of the batsmen who scored more than 2,000 runs during the 90s, only four averaged over 50.)

In 1990, Gooch made 456 runs in a single Test match. No-one has ever scored more.

A year later he made 154 not out against a West Indies attack comprising Curtly Ambrose, Patrick Patterson, Malcolm Marshall and Courtney Walsh. The next highest score was 27. It was England’s first home win against the Windies for 22 years.

Of course Gooch is in.

(2) Saeed Anwar

As we’ve established, batting was tough in the 90s and opening was tougher still. People don’t talk about Saeed Anwar all that much, but playing as an opener, he scored over 3,000 runs in that decade at an average of 48.

That’s tidy.

(3) Rahul Dravid

Rahul Dravid, the barometer of class. Averaged a snip under 50.

Throughout the match, we will be referring to Dravid only as The Wall.

The Wall was a great nickname. It summed up his strength and resilience perfectly, but also… The Wall? A wall is just about the most static, unremarkable thing there is.

What a fantastic sport where being likened to something so fundamentally motionless as a wall is considered a massive compliment.

(4) Sachin Tendulkar

The only real question in the middle order relates to batting order. Sachin first seems to make more sense to us.

Tendulkar played 69 Tests in the 90s – a mere fraction of his career. In this period he hit 22 hundreds and averaged 58, which was five runs more than anyone else.

A decent bat, Sachin.

(5) Brian Lara

Hey, here’s a thing that some of you know but some of you don’t: When we started the first incarnation of this website back in 2006, we kicked off with a top ten of players of that time and the winner – Brian Lara – was crowned ‘King Cricket’.

We specifically used the term ‘King Cricket’ because we thought it was a really dumb, stupid title and we thought that was funny. Then that post scrolled off the front page and everyone arriving at the site from that moment on started calling us King Cricket and now apparently that’s our name and we just to have to put up with it forever.

No-one has ever batted quite like Lara at his best.

(6) Jacques Kallis

One of the more contentious selections here.

If you’re going to pick an all-rounder (and we weren’t quite satisfied with the part-timers in this team, which is why we have) then you only really have four credible options who played any meaningful volume of international cricket during the qualification period.

Turns out the 90s was pretty shit for all-rounders.

The options are:

  1. Jacques Kallis
  2. Brian McMillan
  3. Shaun Pollock
  4. Chris Cairns

No enormous surprise that three of them should be South Africans, given how they selected their team back then.

McMillan didn’t ever take a five-for, so let’s rule him out; while Pollock didn’t get to three figures with the bat until the following decade, so let’s rule him out too.

Chris Cairns is… let’s just say we’re not comfortable selecting Chris Cairns any more.

So that leaves us with Kallis. During the 90s, he scored 1,849 runs at 41.08 and took 53 wickets at 28.45.

His selection isn’t immediately very satisfying because of course he was way better and played a lot more in the following decade. But that doesn’t change the fact that he was the best all-rounder in the 90s.

Sorry, but he was…

(7) Andy Flower

… unless you’re one of those ‘wicketkeepers are all-rounders’ people, in which case Andy Flower was the best all-rounder in the 90s.

Flower’s overall 90s record is 2,580 runs at 44.48, but in the 12 matches where he also captained *and* kept wicket, he averaged over 50.

While playing for Zimbabwe.

Bonkers.

(8) Wasim Akram

This whole thing is basically just a way for us to have Wasim and Waqar on our team for once.

(9) Anil Kumble

This is the other big contentious selection, we reckon.

Here’s a thing though.

As we’ve written before, Murali went up a level in around 1998. Before that his record was a little less jaw-dropping.

Even though the Sri Lankan still averaged a smidge less than Anil Kumble during the 90s, the latter took a few more wickets (264 at 27.80).

And there were literally no other spin bowling options worthy of consideration.

Not one.

Not a single one.

(10) Waqar Younis

See the Wasim section.

Here’s the thing we wrote for The Wisden Cricketer’s ‘My Favourite Cricketer’ section back in 2010.

When we play this match, we’re having Waqar bowl nothing but yorkers.

(11) Curtly Ambrose

There are lots of possible right answers when it comes to filling the fast bowling slots in this team, but 309 wickets at 20.14 feels about as right as right can be.

Plus Curtly tessellates well with Wasim and Waqar in our opinion. Left arm, right arm; new ball, old ball; tall and slingy – boxes are being ticked with this fast bowling attack.

Bring it on, Current World Test XI.

Bring. It. On.


Here’s what happened on day one.


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42 comments

  1. A nice list, interesting to see how your middle order (3-6) is made up of batsman who dominated both the 1990’s and 2000’s. Will be fun to see if Smith, Kohli, Root and Williamson can dominate the 2020’s.

      1. I remain hopeful in Root, no matter how stupid that seems, I hope he can get out of his funk, though I fear that just like Cook his batting is forever damaged by the captaincy.

      2. Root at 5, coming in after four great batsmen, attacking tired bowlers, playing till he’s forty five, the little wizard, face like a bronzed ballbag, cracking open to reveal a shy smile. Like a 21st century Jack Hobbs. Marvellous.

  2. ‘ Let us tell you that this is a very different realm. Here at King Cricket we do not seek to be authoritative or fair. Here at King Cricket we pick the players that we want to pick and then we try and camouflage the true nature of those selections with a gossamer thin layer of reason.’

    Very true, but short of dropping Warner for anyone (and he’s probably irritatingly the best proven opener in the world) or Smith for anyone (lol) I didn’t have many options. If I really squint I could justify dropping Rabada for Mark Wood.

  3. Was Peter Such ruled out of contention for some reason? What about Dipak Patel? Or Paul Strang? Those are some pretty Nineties spinners. I believe some other spinners may have played in the Nineties too but have suffered a most fortuitous memory glitch following my spell in the detraumatising bay.

      1. Nicely done! Probably easier than a Dipak Patel gag. I’ll leave Paul Strang for the real experts. Got to be some good material in a surname like that.

  4. When I was at school they taught us about tessellation all the time, over and over again. This is the first time in the thirty years since that I have heard it used.

    Meanwhile, this team has sheep burying covered. (Good grief, that was 11 1/2 years ago.)

      1. I would like to see some in detail stats about who has commented for longest, the most etc. Some nice graphs, pie charts, venn diagrams, that sort of thing.

        Then we can track when Ceci stopped visiting the site… Amongst other things.

        Ged would clearly win on most comment related stats.

  5. Hey, Cairns was definitely sort of found innocent.

    Kallis’ bowling in the 90s wasn’t massively less part-time than your significant omission (or his brother). Or Klusener, sadly missing from your list of SA all-rounders. He was about half a Mullally (although a tad better with the bat, I’ll grudingly admit – statistically, at least – he was nothing like as entertaining).

    One might conclude you were specifically avoiding picking players from one particular team, but surely not.

    I’m going to remain grumpy about Dravid over de Silva, but at least there’s no Ganguly.

  6. Feel I should point out that my fierce opposition to Kallis wasn’t based on him being better in the 2000s. It was based on blind, instinctual revulsion.

  7. I hate to disagree with you, KC, but you have been peddling this “Brian Lara was King Cricket” myth for years.

    The incontrovertible truth of the matter is that neither Brian Lara nor you are/were King Cricket.

    Garfield Sobers is King Cricket.

    How do I know? Because Cy Grant said so, in 1966.

    https://youtu.be/ZVo9vt89LZg

    The King Cricket side of the record starts at c2’30” on the above YouTube. It is clear and unambiguous:

    King Cricket, King Cricket, Garfield Sobers is his name,
    King Cricket, King Cricket, Sobers is his name.

  8. Gonna call it now. This team is gonna crush the Current XI. Though I’m unhappy with the Kallis inclusion – purely because I dislike Kallis

  9. You could make a case for Akram to be your allrounder with Flower at 6 and him at 7, he scrapes past the “batting average higher than bowling average” test which seems to be the basic test for allrounder competence. Then you don’t have to foul up this otherwise fine team selection with Kallis and could go for another bowler like Donald.

  10. Kallis was a great player. Excluding him just because you don’t like him would be irrational, like excluding Warne just because…

    …oh, hold on.

    The absence of any Aussie does allow the mouth watering prospect of a match between “90s Aussies XI” and the “Rest of the World 90s XI”, which this 90s side actually is. Mouth-watering not least because Rest of the World is about the only 90s side that would stand a decent chance of giving that 90s Aussies XI a thrashing.

    1. That’s… not the worst idea in the world. Although we’d prefer them to play Peak Oz which was probably, what, 2003, something like that?

      1. In the period between Australia taking over as the best team in the world in ’95 and Steve Waugh’s retirement their record against India was played 5 series, won one, drawn one, lost three. If that had been their record against England we might not even say they were the best team in the world (they were). Think they were better with Hussey, Clarke and Clark in 06-07.

      2. Peak Oz XI an even better idea than 90s Oz XI. Good thinking.

        I also agree it needs to be around the turn of the century, which I guess means 1996-2005.

        But before that, you need to come up with a “Now XI” that stands a snowballs against that formidable 1990s XI.

        Fun, this.

    2. West Indies in Pakistan, 1990: Haynes, Greenidge, Richardson, Lara, Hooper, Logie, Dijon, Marshall, Ambrose, Bishop, Walsh. Genuinely think that’s a better team than any that Australia put out in the 90s. Doesn’t feel like a 90s team, but if it means Steve Waugh losing I’m happy to go with it.

      1. That’s a mighty strong even if not very Nineties team. Think you might well be right about any particular 90s Aussie line-up versus this one. Perhaps this is heresy, but I do think that if you could pick a combined team from THIS Windies side (and to be fair you could open it out to any Nineties Windies player without changing very much) plus ANY Nineties Aussie players, you might still end up with a fair few antipodeans sneaking in. And definitely if you let that window extend out to, say, 2003ish.

  11. I’m really looking forward to seeing who’s in the modern day side pitched against this one, and then following the match as it progre… oh, this one won.

  12. The Now side will have neither of the Messers Sandpaper. Especially since someone has to go from Kohli, Williamson and Smith to make room for Root 🙂

    Two things about the 1990’s XI:
    1. There’s no appointed captain (not sure if that’s by design)
    2. There’s no way Waugh could make this team (even if you selected it like ICC or Wisden might)

    1. Is there a spot for Root? Middle order (3-6) I would choose is Williamson, Kohli, Azam, Stokes. Root’s current form is just not that great.

      1. There is an argument, I suppose, that if you took the captaincy off Root and pushed him down the order he might go back to the days when he was scoring stupid amounts of runs – which wouldn’t be ‘current’, of course.

      2. There isn’t a spot for Root, not based on his current form (whatever current is). However, to quote KC, ” Here at King Cricket we do not seek to be authoritative or fair. Here at King Cricket we pick the players that we want to pick and then we try and camouflage the true nature of those selections with a gossamer thin layer of reason.”

  13. 90’s was never really big on all-rounders, so I don’t understand your compulsion to pick one. The whole all-rounders-are-essential-match-winners thing really started after the SL ’96 world cup win. I agree with Nick here – if it’s a choice between picking Kallis and losing, a gentleman should choose losing.

    Otherwise, a great team. Should win hands down.

    1. The compulsion to pick an all-rounder essentially amounts to one of the gossamer thin layers of reason.

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