Cricket dream team a joke

NORM DA COSTA, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:41 PM ET

TORONTO - There have been heated arguments whether Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player ever. Likewise, there have been intense discussions over who was the best soccer player — Pele or Maradona — although, in my humble opinion, Argentina’s Lionel Messi has surpassed both.

Cricket fans, too, have been embroiled in fiery debates on their favourite batsmen and bowlers over the years. It was revived again last week when the International Cricket Council announced its all-time Dream Test XI, chosen through an online poll that brought in 250,000 responses and, as expected, opened up a can of worms. Experts dubbed the selection of four Australians, four Indians, two West Indians and a Pakistani a joke. ICC gave voters a short list to pick their leading 11 players with space for five bowlers, including an all-rounder.

Those voted in were Virender Sehwag, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev (all India), Donald Bradman, Shane Warne, wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath (Australia); Brian Lara and Curtly Ambrose (West Indies) and Wasim Akram (Pakistan).

It is hard to fathom the cricketing intelligence of the “fans” for missing out on the giants of the game. How could any world list be complete without the incomparable Garfield Sobers, the greatest all-rounder ever? The fact that Dev was preferred to Sobers and opening bat Sehwag was given the nod ahead of say Jack Hobbs, the only Englishman good enough to make any world X1, was proof enough that the ballot box was stuffed by voters from the subcontinent. Don’t get me wrong. If there were a survey conducted for the best present-day opening batsman, Sehwag would walk in uncontested.

Other greats left out included Viv Richards of the West Indies, Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan and opening bowlers Dennis Lillee of Australia and Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding of the West Indies. Here is a chance for Canadian fans to email me with their selections.

If nothing else the poll, controversial to say the least, has injected life in Test cricket and left fans debating the merits of the players who made it or those who were omitted. The ICC launched the poll to celebrate the current 2,000th Test match being played at Lord’s between world champion India and third-ranked England.

Although it also marks the 100th Test match between the two countries all eyes were on batting maestro Tendulkar, who is aiming to become the first batsman to score an unprecedented 100th century. But it was England’s Kevin Pietersen and Tendulkar’s teammate Rahul Dravid who stole the show. Pietersen hammered an unbeaten 202 in England’s first innings total of 474 for eight declared and Dravid made 103 not out as India was all out for 286 in its first knock. Seamer Praveen Kumar was the pick of the Indian bowlers with a haul of five wickets for 106 runs, while Chris Broad captured four for 37 for the home team. After three days of play it makes one wonder how India achieved its lofty status of No. 1 Test team in the world. Its bowling attack borders on mediocrity without left-hander Zaheer Khan. The wily paceman had the outstanding analysis of 13.3-8-18-2 before hobbling off with a leg injury. The Indian press vilified Khan for not being in tip-top shape and, without him, India will have an uphill task of saving this match. Thankfully for India, Kumar did step up but the rest of the bowling has been so abysmal that wicketkeeper and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was forced to discard his pads and bowl. He was impressive, allowing just 23 runs off his eight overs and, in fact, had Pietersen caught for 49 but the umpire missed the call. Dhoni, though, came under a blistering attack from former captain Dev.

“Dhoni has made a mockery of Test cricket by bowling (himself),’’ thundered Dev in a news release. “This is not acceptable that on the second day of the Test match, you can’t do this.”

Come on Kapil, take a pill and settle down as no rules were broken.

Tendulkar, meanwhile, will have to wait to reach the landmark until the second innings or later in this four-match series after he was dismissed by Broad for 34.

WOT WAS THAT, MATE?

Pietersen came under attack before the Test for apparently refusing to acknowledge England as his own country. In a diary published in the Daily Mail, Aussie Ed Cowan wrote about an incident at a lunch buffet during which Pietersen “was heard to exclaim, as he cast his eye over the lunch buffet: ‘What the f--- is this?’ ”

Cowan told him that, being English, he should recognize bread-and-butter pudding. To this, Cowan writes, Pietersen replied, “I’m not f---ing English, Eddie. I just work here!” Skipper Andrew Strauss laughed off the story, saying: “If he did say that, I’m sure he said it in jest.”

Pietersen happens to be one of four South Africans on the England team. The others are Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior. Eoin Morgan dumped Ireland to join England. England must thank its South African corps for it first innings contributions. Apart from Pietersen’s double century, Trott hammered 70 and Prior 71.

CANADA ON TOP

Canada’s young experimental team finished on top of the ICC Americas Region Division 1 Twenty20 tournament after defeating its main rival the United States by 10 runs to run its record to 4-0 in Miami, Fla. Canada piled on 131 and then restricted the U.S. to 121. Jason Sandher (23) and Khusroo Wadia (56) gave Canada a flying start by putting up 76 for the first wicket before the rest of the batting crumbled. The only two World Cup players on this squad are Jimmy Hansra and Hamza Tariq.

“Our goal is to stay undefeated,” said skipper Hansra prior to taking on Suriname in the final game today.


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