The A-team of All Time: Dream Team versus ‘Dreamy’ Team | Pakistan Today

The A-team of All Time: Dream Team versus ‘Dreamy’ Team

Who the heck was it coined the hackneyed and now almost meaningless term, ‘Dream Team’? Was the delinquent an American media whiz kid predicting a particular presidential/vice presidential candidate’s duo as the ideal one, a certain winning combination at the next elections? Or did the phrase crop up around Millennium time, when comparisons, far from being odious, were something to delight in, of the best and the worst of the years gone by and in somewhat optimistic scenarios for the future. Or was it the work of a poor overworked sports hack, trying to earn a miserable living, who suddenly realised that ‘dream’ rhymed with ‘team’?
Whatever the truth of the matter, hundred of millions of cricket fans around the world are now in a state of bewilderment, if not shock, after the release of the ICC’s latest ‘Dream Eleven’, which is actually the very stuff of nightmares, ‘of witch and demon and large coffin worm’, in Coleridge’s words.
The team comprises four Indians (Virender Sehwag, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar), an equal number of Aussies ( Donald Bradman, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath ), two Caribbean cavaliers (Curtley Ambrose and Brian Lara), and Pakistan’s ‘sultan of swing’ Wasim Akram. The country where it all started, the ‘Mecca of cricket’, surprisingly does not merit even a single inclusion.
The team pompously labelled by the ICC on its website as the ‘Greatest Team of All Time’ was selected through online voting by 250,000 cricket lovers ostensibly from all over the cricketing world in a period of one month. Despite these slender gleanings and extremely limited parameters, the team was dubbed as the ‘People’s Dream X1’.
Actually, the basic flaws in the survey are apparent from the previous statement. The figure of a quarter of a million is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the number of fans in the cricket fraternity, which must be in the realm of hundreds of millions. Second, the time frame of one month in which to select the Greatest Dream X1 of All Time is woefully insufficient to do justice to about 130 years of cricket history and the difficult, sometimes sentimental nature of the task. As regards the number of the Indian representation (four!) in the Nightmare X1 (formerly the Dream X1), one is surprised that it was not double that or even a hundred per cent, considering the sheer number of cricket fans (crazy or otherwise) in that country of 1.2 billion, with the vast majority proud mobile-and-internet users. The exercise was timed to coincide with the celebrations of international cricket’s 2000th Test match, between England and, no surprises there, India.
However, apart from this aberration, there are other notable inclusions but, above all, omissions, that are moot and highly debatable. The poll result completely ignores the early pioneers and the men of the Golden Age (1890-1914, ‘the age of gods’) many of whom are still rated as all-time greats by the pundits.
The ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat somewhat sheepishly attempted to defend the bizarre team chosen by the online voters in these words: ‘Selecting from such greats is no easy job and not surprisingly, the selection mainly reflects modern players seen by present day supporters. There are many greats from the past who would have easily merited selection in the team but it is nevertheless interesting to see the fans view on their greatest X1 of all time’.
These are just honeyed words uttered to appease Corporate India, with its vice-like control and influence over nearly seventy per cent of world cricket.
So, as a outraged reaction, here is a ‘Dreamy’ Test team, selected on the basis of outstanding cricketing skills (not necessarily translated into batting or bowling averages), but also reflecting a few extraneous factors: a romantic vision of cricket as expounded by Sir Neville Cardus, the ‘patron saint’ of cricket writing, sportsmanship and chivalry, comedy and character, shrewdness and understanding of the game, a partiality to cricket’s Golden Age (1890-1914) and consideration of the facts that a) pitches in the early days were primitive and left uncovered to the mercy of the elements b) only basic protective gear was used, there were no ‘knights in shining armour’ like one sees nowadays, so smugly immune to the hazards of fast bowling, helmet et al c) There was only a fraction of the cricket that is played seemingly unendingly nowadays (with Sundays a strict Sabbatical) d) No one involved in unethical acts, like match –fixing, or with even a whiff of a chucking action can make the grade, whatever his statistical achievements.
A ‘gamesters’ reputation and a bent elbow were frowned upon both by the cricket administrators and umpires as well as contemporary players throughout the game’s early history.
Though most of these names will appear unfamiliar to those not well versed in the history and romance of cricket, they in fact include a few from an earlier age who were universally bracketed in the ‘demi-gods’ category, ‘a law unto themselves and seemingly not encased in mortal fallibility’, as in the case of ‘The Doctor’, considered the founder of modern batsmanship: ‘he belonged to only one place – the head of the batting averages (‘he blocked the shooters of the fast bowlers, but he blocked them for four’), or the great Victor Trumper, a master of ‘evil, rain affected pitches’ and ‘a human being without a blemish’(other than scoring centuries against opponents with frequency and effortless ease), or Fred Spofforth (nicknamed the Demon) who took Test cricket’s first ever hat-trick (also 7/46 and 7/44 in the famous ‘Ashes’ Test of August 1882 at the Oval), and ‘struck terror in batsman’s hearts… with his speed and accuracy even on ‘bald-headed pitches’, his stamina and fiery temperament, and his craftiness with a well concealed slower ball’, or the languid and enchanting Jam Sahib of Nawanagar (Ranjitsinhji), he of the fluttering silk sleeves, in whose hands (or wrists) the cricket bat became a magic wand ( it is famously recorded that he glanced the fast bowlers ‘off his eyebrows’, so late could this innately gifted genius play, or the evergreen Wilfred Rhodes, a scheming slow left-arm spinner, ‘who lured 4,187 batsmen to their doom and moved from number eleven to opening the Test batting with Jack Hobbs’, but one can go on and on…
Then there is a glittering galaxy of medium-pacers, the honest workhorses of bowling, to choose from – George Lohmann, ‘a genius among medium pacers’ (England, 112 wickets in 18 Tests, average 10.00), C.T.B Turner ‘well-controlled medium pace off-cutters’(Australia, 101 wickets in 17 Tests, average 16.53), J.T Hearne ‘the complete medium-pacer’ (England, over 3,000 first-class wickets), Alec Bedser (England, 236 wickets in 51 Tests, average 24.89) and Fazal Mahmood ‘a talented fast medium bowler, fit to be ranked with the likes of (Alec) Bedser and (Maurice) Tate’ according to Robin Marlar, in ‘The Story of Cricket’ (Pakistan, 139 wickets in 34 Tests, average 24.72), but if Sydney Barnes can be included in the list (‘he spun the ball at the top side of medium-pace’ (England, 189 wickets in 27 Tests, average 16.43), he is an automatic choice as one of the all-time greats, ‘no batsman felt himself safe when he held the ball in his large hands’.
Apart from their legendary exploits on the cricket field, these larger than life figures also contributed no end to the growth, spread and popularity of the game. However, one confesses to being able to conjure up only an expanded ‘touring fifteen’ side instead of the playing eleven, as was the format in the ICC poll.
The team
Dr. W.G Grace, England (Captain), Fred (The Demon) Spofforth – Australia, Victor Trumper – Australia, Wilfred Rhodes – England, Shri Kumar Ranjitsinhji – England, Jack Hobbs – England, Sir Donald Bradman – Australia, Sir Garfield Sobers – West Indies, Dennis Lillee – Australia, Sir Vivian Richards – West Indies, Imran Khan – Pakistan, Sachin Tendulkar – India, Alan Knott – England, wicket keeper, Shane Warne – Australia, Sidney Barnes – England.

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