One day several years ago, like any other cricket aficionado, I eagerly glanced through the sports section of my newspaper, with great enthusiasm and excitement, having heard about a dream team having been chosen by Don Bradman -needless to mention that I practically worship the Don and regard him as the greatest sportsman of all time i.e. not just as a cricketer but greater than Nadal in Tennis, Pele in football, and Michael Jordan in Basket ball, notwithstanding the fact that such comparisons are considered irrational.
But I was not only not prepared for the great anticlimax that greeted my eyes but was quite surprised and even shocked to notice the composition of the team. The great man seemed to have committed only two great blunders in his entire career as cricketer and cricket administrator.
His first mistake was to have been bowled by Hollies for a zero, when he had needed just 4 runs to get an average of one hundred in test cricket (being a great sportsman and thorough gentleman he abided by his decision to retire after that match- something many other batsmen would not have done). I can think of at least one batsman whose obsession for scoring records was so great that he would not have retired and continued to play till he got those runs. It is not difficult to guess whom I am referring to!
Now let us look at the flaws that have crept into Bradman’s selection, partly because no one, not even the Don can just pick eleven stars in a galaxy, partly because of certain personal prejudices, which even he himself had not been free from and partly because of his sense of misplaced generosity due to his advanced age.
Let’s have a look at the great man’s choice for the dream team.
The dream team consists of (in batting order with twelfth man)–Barry Richards (South Africa), Arthur Morris (Australia), Don Bradman (Australia), Sachin Tendulkar (India), Garry Sobers (West Indies), Don Tallon (Australia), Ray Lindwall (Australia), Dennis Lillee (Australia), Alec Bedser (England), Bill O’Reilly (Australia), Clarrie Grimmett (Australia) and Wally Hammond (England)(12th man).
How can Bradman justify the exclusion of Walter Hammond (naming him as twelfth man is adding insult to injury), Jack Hobbs (who scored 197 centuries in First class cricket), and Len Hutton? In a Test match Hutton scored 364 runs against Australia a milestone that stood for nearly 20 years (and remains an England Test record)
Many people may not be aware that Bradman and Hammond had no love for each other as clearly outlined by Simon Wilde in his book ” Number One”. All lovers of cricket are aware that Hammond is one of the greatest batsmen that England has ever produced. Hammond ought to have been included. Even though the Don was keen about including Morris he could have chosen one or two from the several other gifted batsmen of Australia–Neil Harvey, Bill Ponsford, and Greg Chappell to name three. The omission of Larwood cannot be justified as Bradman himself held the opinion that Larwood was the fastest bowler in cricket history. Bradman apparently never forgave the man who had developed “body line” to cause him physical harm and limit his scores. Bradman is supposed to have once told Pelham Warner” there are two teams out there. Only one team is playing cricket – the other team is playing playing something else” meaning that only Australia was playing cricket whereas Jardine’s English team was playing another game-” body line”. How else would he justify choosing Denis Lillee in favour of Larwood ! In addition, he also chose Ray Lindwall of Australia, no doubt because he one of his favourites and in addition was an Australian.
How could the Don exclude Jim Laker of Surrey who took 19 Australian wickets in a test match at Old Trafford and is still regarded as the greatest spin bowler of all time? This feat can never be equalled as long as cricket is played just as Bradman’s average of 99.94. Choosing O’Rielly and Grimmet , who no doubt are good spin bowlers, does not undo the damage.
The choice of Garfield Sobers, the greatest all-rounder of all time cannot be questioned. Everton Weekes is another great batsman from the West Indies who should have been included. This short man from the Caribbean taught a whole generation of English bowlers what ” cutting” was all about. So also in one era Viv Richards tore apart all the opposition bowling with ease, piling up runs with amazing power and speed. The skill, power and range of strokes of Barry Richards had no doubt impressed the Don. Similarly the inclusion of Sachin Tendulkar who holds several batting records and combined technique, and mastery over stroke play, justifies the selection though his batting lacked aggression.
(Bradman reportedly told his wife that Tendulkar’s technique reminded him of his own style). However Neil Harvey whose aggression, and elegant strokes produced great scores should have been included. So also the exclusion of Brian Lara who holds the highest scores in Test cricket as well as First class cricket is unpardonable. In fact for sheer aggression, rate of scoring and thirst for great scores, Brian Lara is superior to Tendulkar
Either Lesley Ames or Godfrey Evans could have been chosen as a wicket keeper instead of Don Tallon
So what do we conclude? It is impossible to pick just eleven names in a sport that has so many great players who have left their footprints on the sands of many cricket fields. Nor can we pick a team of fifty players for obvious reasons. So should we have a team of twenty two–Don Bradman, Walter Hammond, Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Garfield Sobers, Everton Weekes, Bill Ponsford , Ray Lindwall, Ian Botham, Harold Larwood Bill O’Reilly, Jim Laker, Viv Richards, Denise Lille, Alec Bedser, Godfrey Evans, Lesley Ames, Neil Harvey, Sachin Tendulkar, and Keith Miller?.
But then Cricket is a game in which a side can have only 11 players. So then there cannot be a team consisting of 22 players. It is felt that such an exercise is not desirable, and no useful purpose is served is constituting such a team.
Why then did the Don carry out an exercise of selecting a “dream team” of eleven. Perhaps he conceived of such an exercise as an indoor game for private entertainment of a few intimate friends. Some enterprising publisher, who had access to the private discussion decided to publish it having been convinced that there would be wide publicity leading to the book becoming a best seller. The publisher seems to have made a right decision !