Help us select the greatest ever all-rounder and wicketkeeper
The shortlist for our all-time World Test XI has been picked by Scyld Berry, our chief cricket writer. Now we are asking you, the readers, to pick the players who should make the final team. We have divided our nominees into six categories:
Openers (pick two)
Middle-order batsmen (pick three)
All-rounders (pick one below)
Wicketkeepers (pick one below)
Spinners (voting on Thursday)
Seamers (voting on Thursday)
Think we've missed an obvious candidate? Let us know in the comments. Want to justify your selections? Likewise, let us know.
Voting below is for the all-rounder and the wicket-keeper. Voting for the openers and middle-order batsmen is still open and you can return on Thursday to vote for the spinners and seamers. The readers' team, alongside Scyld Berry's preferred XI, will be announced on Friday.
Keith Miller (Australia)
Debut: 1946. 55 matches; 2,958 runs @ 36.97 (7 hundreds); wickets 170 @ 22.97
He walked into Australia’s post-war side as a batsman and as a bowler, except when Sir Donald Bradman was chairman of selectors, disapproved of Miller’s flamboyance and dropped him: that was also why he was never appointed Australia’s captain.
Miller was a magnificent driver off the front foot, and might have scored more than 3000 Test runs if the Second World War had not delayed the start of his Test career until he was 26.
He hit three hundreds in his only Test series in the West Indies. As a quick bowler, he was such an athlete that he could turn round anywhere during his walk back to his mark, run in and deliver his trademark bouncer - or else keep walking back to the top of his mark while combing his mane with the comb he kept in his pocket. To stop getting bored, he would throw in - or rather bowl - all sorts of variations, commonplace now but extraordinary in his day.
Sir Garfield Sobers (West Indies)
Debut: 1954. 93 matches; 8,032 runs @ 57.78 (26 hundreds); wickets 235 @ 34.03
Never was such a cricketer: the complete allrounder in that there was nothing he could not do on a cricket field, except keep wicket, and probably only because he did not try it.
He entered the West Indies Test side aged 17 as a left-arm orthodox spinner; developed his pace bowling and batting while a league pro in Lancashire (county cricket demanding years of residence and not playing for your country); and was soon setting a world record for the highest Test innings, his 365* against Pakistan. Then came perhaps the most astonishing phase of all.
He played for South Australia for two seasons, and in both of them did the Australian double of 1000 runs and 50 wickets in a first-class season - once in ten games, the second time in only nine - which nobody has done before or since, even though the Sheffield Shield has expanded; and most of the time he was bowling left-arm wrist-spin. Mortals have batted well, bowled quick and purveyed some finger-spin, but nobody has done it all like Sobers.
Michael Procter (South Africa)
Debut: 1967. 7 matches; 226 runs @ 25.11; 41 wickets @ 15.02
It is arguable that no country has produced so many world-class pace-bowling allrounders as South Africa, and that Procter was the finest of them, but he had scant chance to prove it internationally.
He played seven Tests, all against Australia at home, before South Africa were suspended. Only a handful of the greatest bowlers have averaged five wickets per Test, and Procter was one wicket away from averaging six.
His strike-rate of one wicket every 36.9 balls has been bettered by only two Test bowlers of note, just as his average of 15.02 has been bettered by only two. It was thrilling theatre too as Procter pounded in at full tilt, whirling his arms, like a storm approaching.
After South Africa were banned from 1970, his batting grew until he could control a Gloucestershire innings from number five, or even make six consecutive first-class centuries in South African domestic cricket, equalling the record held by Don Bradman and CB Fry. He added some offbreaks too, and lead-by-example captaincy, to a glittering allround package.
Imran Khan (Pakistan)
Debut: 1971. 88 matches; 3807 runs @ 37.69 (6 hundreds); wickets 362 @ 22.81
Talk about raising the bar. The Pakistan bowler to have taken the highest number of Test wickets had been Sarfraz Nawaz with 177. Imran Khan more than doubled that number to 362, assisted by the input of Sarfraz in telling him how to reverse-swing.
Yet it was the spectacle as much as anything: Imran, calling on his inner tiger, sprinting to the bowling crease and putting on a show which captivated his country as no cricketer before: an inspiring role-model too as Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis quickly followed in his wake.
Factor in that Imran was probably at his fastest in his World Series years of 1977-78, when he could reverse his yorker the best part of a yard. If he was born a bowler, he made himself into the steadiest of batsmen and guided Pakistan with a lordly hand.
Lord Botham (England)
Debut: 1977. 102 matches; 5200 runs @ 30.71 (14 hundreds); wickets 383 @ 28.30
Ian Botham, as he was then, was the quickest to do the Test double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets, achieving it in only 21 Tests, ahead of Vinoo Mankad who reached it in 23.
Even the most patriotic England supporter would concede that Botham was helped by two opponents, Australia and Pakistan, being seriously depleted by defections to World Series Cricket; but still, there was an inspiring zest as he led England’s batting and bowling, Peter Pan-like, out of trouble.
Seldom did his outswinger re-surface after a back injury in 1980, and soon it looked as though he might be become a number five batsman who bowled: his 208 in the Oval Test against India in 1982 was a perfect example of batsmanship, a stage of evolution beyond the brilliant centuries he hit at Headingley and Old Trafford to turn the 1981 Ashes.
Yet, ready to do anything to defeat Australia, he rolled back the years, extended his run-up, and blew away the 1985 Australians. All before he was 30.
Kapil Dev (India)
Debut: 1978. 131 matches; 5248 runs @ 31.05 (8 hundreds); wickets 434 @ 29.64
The sobriquet “Haryana Hurricane” was always hyperbole. It was not a reflection of Kapil Dev’s pace so much as India’s yearning for a fast bowler to set against the rest of the world, especially Imran Khan next door.
Like Richard Hadlee, and unlike Imran and Ian Botham who could be outright fast, Kapil was never more than fast-medium.
But the outswinger in his youth, released from a leaping side-on action, swung beautifully late and in most conditions, even in India, hitherto renowned as “the fast bowler’s graveyard.”
His batting was electric at best. He used “the long handle” and his own long levers to hit sixes with overtly minimal effort. If the finest of all his hours was when he captained India to the 1983 World Cup, it was still an immense achievement to claim the world record for most Test wickets from Hadlee and up it to 434, with more than half taken in India.
Jacques Kallis (South Africa)
Debut: 1996. 166 matches; 13,289 runs @ 55.37 (45 hundreds); wickets 292 @ 32.65
Player of the match awards only began in Test cricket in the 1980s. Still, to have won more than anybody else, 23, as Kallis did, when nobody else has won 20, is a significant testimonial.
More eloquent still: of those who have piled up 10,000 Test runs, Steve Waugh trundled a bit in his youth, Allan Border and Joe Root have twirled a few spinners, while Sachin Tendulkar tried his hand at everything with no great success, yet Kallis took almost 300 Test wickets in addition to being a master-batsman.
Tending to the slow side at 46 per 100 balls, a bit too one-paced, seldom taking attacks apart, but still a master-batsman - as well as the perfect fourth seamer. Having done so much bowling, indeed, it would be churlish to make much of his bread-dipping against Zimbabwe, when he hit three hundreds in his four Test innings against them and averaged 503!
Andrew Flintoff (England)
Debut: 1998. 79 matches; 3845 runs @ 31.77 (5 hundreds); wickets 226 @ 32.78
If we judge, and select, cricketers by the impact they make at their peak - and by this criterion alone - then nobody could improve upon what Andrew Flintoff accomplished in the Ashes of 2005.
Ian Botham in 1981 had been another giant unshackled, but he did not have to overcome Australia’s psychological hold of 16 years which Flintoff had to break in 2005, and did.
Firstly it was his onslaught on Shane Warne at Edgbaston - Botham had no spinner of note to slaughter in 1981 - which invigorated England, then his ferociously fast bowling blended with reverse-swing.
Cometh the hour, cometh the champion. It seems churlish to dwell on how unfulfilled the first and last thirds of Flintoff’s career were, by comparison with this peak, but the bald stat is that his Test batting average overall was not so high as his bowling, 31-32, and that has to be a criterion for selection too.
Shakib al-Hasan (Bangladesh)
Debut: 2007. 65 matches; 4367 runs @ 38.64 (5 hundreds); wickets 231 @ 31.18
Not the best-behaved cricketer of his time on or off the field (he was banned for two years, with one suspended, by the Anti-Corruption Unit), Shakib has however had to deal with an unprecedented burden.
Bangladesh only ceased to be the weakest Test team when Zimbabwe fell apart, and while Shakib has had a couple of teammates who could bat as well as him - Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim - he has had minimal support as their chief bowler.
Yet he has steadily carried on spinning, using the crease and varying his release-points, as a stock bowler who can take advantage of rare openings.
No wonder, perhaps, he had to be a bit spikey in his youth, in order to survive and prosper. A little like a modern-day Mankad, bowling 40 overs in a day and tremendous heat, without quite so much controversy.
Ben Stokes (England)
Debut: 2013. 91 matches; 5712 runs @ 35.92 (12 hundreds); wickets 194 @ 32.10
“Recency bias” is a phenomenon known to occur in the making of judgments, but Ben Stokes is going to be renowned for as long as red-ball cricket is played, for his batting and captaincy, ahead of his bowling.
His 258 off only 198 balls in Cape Town was the first indication that he was going to re-shape Test batting personally when his time to captain came; the second half of his 135* at Headingley when he shredded Australia was another; then his career-long assault on Brendon McCullum’s record for the most Test sixes culminated when Stokes broke it in New Zealand earlier this year.
If his bowling became a bouncer-barrage at tailenders, after his left knee worsened, he could still be a skilled out- and in-swinging fourth seamer. Would the captaincy of this World XI help to win him the allrounder’s slot? Maybe, but as we all agree, the Ashes this summer will be the acid test.
'Take a bow Ben Stokes'
England win by one wicket and level the series 1-1! What a day 🤯
Follow our over-by-over commentary and in-play video clips from Headingley. Watch live on Sky Sports The Ashes 👉 https://t.co/vQR0JjlNPz pic.twitter.com/H0PW8eWaOK
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) August 25, 2019
Voting is now closed
Bert Oldfield (Australia)
Debut: 1920. 54 matches; 73 catches, 52 stumpings; 1,427 runs @ 22.65; wickets 194 @ 32.10 (12 hundreds)
Wicketkeepers, before the First World War, effected about two dismissals per Test. What raised the standard was equipment.
Bert Oldfield designed a new kind of gloves, wore them from the 1920s, and sold them in his sports shop in Sydney. To the traditional leather gloves, which became polished and slippery with use, Oldfield added a rubber coating on the palm, extended them from below to above the wrist, and made them much looser.
He also wore two pairs of chamois leather “inners” and stalls on the top joint of his fingers. Must have known what he was talking about because nobody to this day has made more Test stumpings than his 52. And he took one of the famous catches, off a Jack Hobbs leg-glance, when he “made five or six yards of ground like a kangaroo on the leap”, according to Hobbs, who added that Oldfield was “an artist in everything he did behind the wicket.”
A solid temperament, too, given that he had been knocked unconscious and shell-shocked in the Great War. One of Oldfield’s tips to young keepers: “it is not advisable to leave the wicket even if the ball is returned wide.” Guess that soon made the standard of throwing improve.
Les Ames (England)
Debut: 1929. 47 matches; 72 catches, 23 stumpings; 2,434 runs @ 40.56 (8 hundreds)
He was the first wicketkeeper to peel off centuries in Test cricket, eight of them in his 44 Tests as keeper, during which he averaged 43.
All subsequent wicketkeepers have had this batting standard to live up to, and it has been mighty hard for those who have to crouch down every ball in the field (Brendon McCullum averaged no more than 34 as New Zealand’s keeper, and Clyde Walcott 40 as West Indies’).
Ames was so good at batting that he scored 102 first-class centuries and played three Tests as a specialist batsman. He kept well to Harold Larwood during the Bodyline series; and he was excellent at keeping to spinners because he grew up taking Tich Freeman at Kent, and made more stumpings than anyone in first-class cricket, 418. Of his 97 Test dismissals, 23 were stumped, a proportion unknown today.
Alan Knott (England)
Debut: 1967. 95 matches; 250 catches, 19 stumpings; 4389 runs @ 32.75 (5 hundreds)
He and Bob Taylor simultaneously raised the standard of English wicketkeeping during the 1960s to the point where it was the best in domestic cricket anywhere in the world, if it was not so already, and there it remains today.
Both were so spring-heeled, so quick on their feet, that they seldom had to dive for edges, they just glided into position.
The same qualities of immaculate footwork and glovework enabled them to make messy throw-ins look tidy and thereby gave the fielding side a face-lift.
Where Knott always scored over Taylor was in being able to score Test centuries, marshall a tail, and even to bat as high as number six. In his best position of number seven, he averaged 41 and scored all of his five Test hundreds.
Ian Healy (Australia)
Debut:1988. 119 matches; 366 catches, 29 stumpings; 4356 runs @ 27.39 (4 hundreds)
Picked on potential, and thrown in at the deep end on a tour of Pakistan, he worked so hard that he became recognised as Australia’s best wicketkeeper to that point - and maybe, simply as a keeper, he still is.
He popularised the style of taking the ball by his left side, around waist-level, to maximise the amount of give, which is necessary on bouncy pitches - rather than keeping his eyes behind the line of the ball in case it swings late as English keepers have to do.
At number seven he always looked as solid as he did behind the stumps, capable of a Test hundred, even if he made only four.
Andy Flower (Zimbabwe)
Debut: 1992. 55 matches; 142 catches, 9 stumpings; 4794 runs @ 51.54 (12 hundreds)
He reached number one in the ICC Test batting rankings as a batsman. Playing as a wicketkeeper, his Test batting average was 55, and it was actually his few Tests as a non-keeper - he started as a specialist batsman - that took it down to 51 (which he averaged at home and away).
His batting speciality was in facing spin: he averaged 117 in ten Test innings in India, while he swept and reverse-swept to distraction the leading Test wicket-taker of all time, Muttiah Muralitharan.
A shame that Australia disdained Zimbabwe so much that he never played a Test there, and only one in South Africa. As a keeper, to a weak attack apart from Heath Streak, the challenge was maintaining concentration but he accomplished that, even if keeping remained secondary to his ascent to number one.
Mark Boucher (South Africa)
Debut: 1997. 147 matches; 532 catches, 23 stumpings; 5515 runs @ 30.30 (5 hundreds)
Anyone who keeps wicket to Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis is going to have a lot of edges coming his way, but still: 532 catches, and 555 Test dismissals in all, is an enormous amount (including more than 50 catches off each of those five bowlers).
Boucher stands top of the alltime leader-board and there he is liable to reign forever as nobody keeping wicket today comes within 300 dismissals, and the amount of Test cricket is diminishing.
What Boucher did to to maximise the opportunities that came his way was to increase the wicketkeeper’s wing-span, by practising his leaps and dives: as Warwickshire’s coach Bob Woolmer had worked out what keepers needed to take Donald. As a batsman, Boucher was a typical number seven, cutting and counterattacking in the rare crises that South Africa faced.
Adam Gilchrist (Australia)
Debut: 1999. 96 matches; 379 catches, 37 stumpings; 5570 runs @ 47.60 (17 hundreds)
If you select your wicketkeeper to read and complement your spin-bowler, and you select Shane Warne, then Adam Gilchrist is your man. Gilchrist did not make quite so many dismissals off Warne as you might expect - in 70 Tests together Gilchrist made 39 catches and 20 stumpings - but they still formed a most potent pair. Standing back, Gilchrist picked up even more catches off Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee.
But it was his lefthanded batting which set Gilchrist apart, as arguably the most destructive hitter there had been to that point. He grew up with a training routine of holding a bucket in each hand with the arms stretched out horizontally.
From this strength flowed 100 Test sixes - he was first to this landmark - and a strike-rate of 82, with 17 hundreds. Not so difficult for the number seven in the world champion team, which Australia were, as for Zimbabwe’s number five, for example, but even so.
AB de Villiers (South Africa)
Debut: 2004. 114 matches; 222 catches, 5 stumpings; 8765 runs @ 50.66 (22 hundreds)
In 24 Tests as the designated wicketkeeper, apart from doing his basic job most capably, “AB” averaged nothing less than 57 with the bat; and in those 39 innings he was dismissed in single figures only three times, a grand testimony to his fitness and all-round athleticism, as keepers have been known to flag by the time they bat in their second innings.
It might seem counter-intuitive that he averaged less as a specialist batsman, a tad under 49, but that is the way it was: he scored more when keeping wicket.
He did not have a mystery spinner to keep to, but he was always steady enough (he equalled the record of 11 dismissals in a Test), until he preferred out-field gymnastics to keeping.
The audacity of his white-ball hitting - he and Virender Sehwag are the only two specialist batsmen to have scored at more than a run a ball in ODIs, while his average of 53 is second only to Virat Kohli (57) in this format - should not obscure his red-ball brilliance.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India)
Debut: 2005. 90 matches; 256 catches, 38 stumpings; 4876 runs @ 38.09 (6 hundreds)
White-ball cricket was even more of a forte - he captained India to a 20-over and 50-over World Cup, and in ODIs as a keeper/batsman averaged 50! - but he is a strong candidate for this team too.
Has any top wicketkeeper practised so little? Dhoni would put his keeping pads on ten minutes before the start, walk out and start keeping, and often captaining too.
Yet he was such an athlete, brought up on hockey, that he could get away without training, scooping up edges or errant throw-ins with natural dexterity.
As the most flamboyant of batsmen, who patented the “helicopter” shot, he was much more effective in Asia - scoring all six of his Test centuries there - than elsewhere, and averaged 45 at home, 32 away.
Rishabh Pant (India)
Debut: 2018. 33 matches; 119 catches, 14 stumpings; 2271 runs @ 43.67 (5 hundreds)
If he does not command the keeping spot in this team yet, so early in his career, the time might well come. Apart from becoming a competent keeper, nobody - not Ian Botham, not Adam Gilchrist, not Ben Stokes - has caused quite so much chaos and disruption to the fielding side as soon as he has gone in as the lefthanded Pant.
Before a serious car accident earlier this year, he had come to master the unexpected, like reverse-scooping James Anderson armed with a new ball, never mind running almost into the bowler’s half of the pitch to slog spinners.
Yet it was always done with far more calculation than impetuosity. Given that he is only 25, and has five Test hundreds already, he looks set to beat Adam Gilchrist’s 17 centuries as the most by a wicketkeeper (Kumar Sangakkara scored seven hundreds while keeping wicket).
Voting is now closed
Voting for the opening batsmen and middle order is still open. You can return on Thursday to vote for the spinners and seamers. The readers' team, alongside Scyld Berry's preferred XI, will be announced on Friday. Voting in all polls closes on Thursday at 8pm.