Top, from left: Stewie Dempster, Rahul Dravid, Ted Dexter, KS Duleepsinhji, Aravinda de Silva, AB de Villiers Bottom, from left: Alan Davidson, Fanie de Villiers, Allan Donald, Wayne Daniel, Dilip Doshi © Getty Images
Top, from left: Stewie Dempster, Rahul Dravid, Ted Dexter, KS Duleepsinhji, Aravinda de Silva, AB de Villiers
Bottom, from left: Alan Davidson, Fanie de Villiers, Allan Donald, Wayne Daniel, Dilip Doshi © Getty Images

Alphabetical All Time XIs are great fun. Composing one from the cricketers with their last names starting with D, Arunabha Sengupta finds himself choosing from a number of splendid cricketers who had very short careers.

So, after the A’s, B’s and C’s we take a saunter through the lexicographic ordering and come across the diverse and dynamic brigade of the Ds.

And thereby we find ourselves wading through a number of redoubtable names, some with plenty of Test matches characterised by excellence, and a group of superb cricketers with very short careers.

When we look at the batting pool, it is an interesting mix of stalwarts from all eras. From the early era’s Joe Darling and Reggie Duff to the modern masters in Rahul Dravid and AB de Villiers, encompassing men ranging from Ted Dexter to Aravinda de Silva on the way.

Apart from these weighty names, we do have a number of cricketers who were pure unadulterated class, however with careers resembling masterpieces in miniature.

KS Duleepsinhji blazed briefly through the Test world while making tons of runs for Sussex, before his cricketing life was truncated by a failing constitution. But a Test average of 58 for nearly 1,000 runs does lend a lot of arguments for his inclusion.

And then there is the fascinating Kiwi duo of Stewie Dempster and Martin Donnelly.

Dempster played just 3 years and 10 Tests, but his average of 65.72 is second only to Don Bradman’s 99.94 if we opt for a 10-innings cut off. Too bad he gave up international cricket to work for the cricket-minded eccentric millionaire Julian Cahn. However, the amount of runs he scored for Leicestershire and the numbers he had for the county vouch heavily for his indisputable quality.

Donnelly’s average of 52.90 is second only to Dempster’s but he played only 7 Tests, his career cruelly interrupted by the Second World War. But the permanence of his class was in evidence on both sides of the atrocities.

With Darling and Duff having decent enough numbers when viewed in context of their era, with the clutch of middle-order men Dexter, de Silva, and de Villiers, along with the above mentioned names, making it a formidable array of batting talent, the choice of the line-up becomes a problem of plenty.

I would go with Dempster as one of the opening batsmen, with his astounding record at the top of the order. And with plenty of names to choose from down the list, I would not like to opt for a Darling or a Duff to open with him at the expense of some great cricketer.

Hence, my solution would be to select Dravid as the man to partner Dempster. With an average over 40 in 23 innings as opener including 4 hundreds, he is sure to do the job with characteristic diligence.

With the middle order a dilemma of riches, I would have AB de Villiers don the wicketkeeping gloves. Unlike other batsman-keepers like Kumar Sangakkara, Alec Stewart and Clyde Walcott, de Villiers does have better numbers while playing as keeper than as a genuine batsman.

Hence the stupendous names of MS Dhoni and Jeff Dujon will not make the team list.

I do confess having a certain fondness and sympathy for Donnelly’s curtailed career, but since he played only 7 Tests I will need to overlook him. Given a choice of short Test careers in the middle order, I would opt for Duleep, the man with a slightly longer career and considerably better numbers. Duleep, Dexter and de Silva should form one of the most formidable middle orders.

A longer career and his splendid deeds during the early years of Sri Lankan Test cricket puts de Silva just ahead of the South African duo of Faf du Plessis and Quentin de Kock.

One may argue that de Kock’s 19 Tests and a 50-plus average is consistent with Dempster and Duleep, and therefore he merits selection before de Silva. However, both Dempster and Duleep maintained their brilliance in First-Class cricket through their full careers, even though the number of Tests they played remained limited. From that point of view, perhaps it is still early days for de Kock.

The brilliant Sri Lankan batting duo of Roy Dias and Tillakaratne Dilshan also misses out because of this abundance of talent in the middle.

The one certainty in this line-up is that of the all-rounder — the one and only Alan Davidson. He is also, along with Wasim Akram, perhaps the best left-arm fast bowler the world has ever seen.

Men like Basil D’Oliveira, Philip DeFreitas and Salim Durani, able players in their own rights, do not really come close when we decide about the all-rounder in the line up.

The new ball partner of Davidson has to be Allan Donald. And that pairing will be rather hard to beat.

Among the bowlers, there is yet another name with very few Tests under his belt but a quality that cannot really be contested. Wayne Daniel was a hell of a fast bowler, and did enough in his 10 Tests to underline his merit. Too bad that he played in an era of Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Malcolm Marshall.

If we consider Fanie de Villiers coming in first-change and Daniel after that, there will hardly be any opportunity for the batsmen to breathe easy.

I would pick these four pacemen ahead of Winston Davis, Graham Dilley and Simon Doull.

And if there is the need for a bit of spin, Dilip Doshi is the best man to have in the side, ahead of Durrani and Somachandra de Silva.

Given the occasion, Dexter can bowl a few seamers and Aravinda can try out his off-breaks. However, with such a bowling attack that will not really be necessary. In any case, Dexter will be busy with captaincy duties as well.

Hence the team:

Name R Ave W Ave
Stewie Dempster 723 65.32    
Rahul Dravid 13,288 52.31 1 39.00
Ted Dexter (c) 4,502 47.89 66 34.93
KS Duleepsinhji 995 58.52    
Aravinda de Silva 6,361 42.97 29 41.65
AB de Villiers (wk) 8,074 50.46 C 197 St 5
Alan Davidson 1,328 24.59 186 20.53
Fanie de Villiers 359 18.89 85 24.27
Allan Donald 652 10.68 330 22.25
Wayne Daniel 46 6.57 36 25.27
Dilip Doshi 129 4.60 114 30.71

12th Man: Quentin de Kock

Manager: Joe Darling