The choice of Dr WG Grace as Sir Jack Hobbs’ opening partner in Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack’s all-time Test World XI sure is odd considering far better opening batsmen have graced Test cricket since 1876-77 when it all began for the traditional form of the international game.
Wisden’s choice is surprising to cricket pundits because England itself have produced some great opening batsmen like Geoff Boycott and Sir Len Hutton, two Yorkshiremen, who have 15,000-plus Test runs between them.
And although cricketers should not be judged by statistics alone, the fact is that Grace scored 1098 in 22 Tests. The bearded doctor may have been an influential figure in English cricket - a great character (master at gamesmanship including) - but to fit him into an all-time XI based on performance and longevity does provide an example of ‘extraordinary’ selection.
There is only one Indian in the XI and Sachin Tendulkar deserves to be there as Test cricket’s highest run-getter and century-maker.
Sunil Gavaskar deserves a place as well on the sheer weight of his run-making ability against some of the best attacks in the history of the game. What’s the best way to find out how good a player was? In Gavaskar’s case, one has to only ask the mighty West Indies of the 1970s and 1980s. Every bowler in that Caribbean pace attack which many a time comprised the feared Andy Roberts and Michael Holding will vouch for the little Indian’s greatness. After all, he took 13 Test hundreds off the West Indies from the time he made his debut on India’s 1971 Caribbean tour. There wasn’t a series in the West Indies in which Gavaskar didn’t score a hundred. Not to forget that he scored all those hundreds against the pace battery of the West Indies, and England and Australia’s menacing fast bowlers, without ever wearing a helmet.
It would probably be over the top to suggest that this all-time XI has an element of British bias, but logic is surely an issue when it comes to the opening position.
It only proves that wisdom and the bible of cricket don’t exactly go hand in hand.