Top, from left: Graeme Smith, Alastair Cook, Brian Lara, Kumar Sangakkara, Andy Flower, Adam Gilchrist, Ben Stokes, Richard Hadlee, Bill O   Reilly, Curtly Ambrose, Brian Statham    Getty Images
Top, from left: Graeme Smith, Alastair Cook, Brian Lara, Kumar Sangakkara, Andy Flower, Adam Gilchrist, Ben Stokes, Richard Hadlee, Bill O Reilly, Curtly Ambrose, Brian Statham Getty Images

We are done with the two XIs of left-handed bowlers one whose members bowl with their left hands, the other consisting of right-handed bowlers. Let us now move on to the more conventional half: men who bowl with their right hands. Of them, let us begin with men who batted left-handed.

Openers: Graeme Smith and Alastair Cook

Unlike the left-handed bowlers, this offers a richer assortment of cricketers. The first part is easy: put a 2,000-run cut-off, and only two openers in history average more than 45 away from home and both of them have met even the 5,000-run criterion. Of them, Smith (5,253 runs at 55.88) has phenomenal numbers, but Cook (5,505 at 47.86) is not too bad either.

Middle-order: Brian Lara, Kumar Sangakkara, and Andy Flower

Lara and Sangakkara, contenders for an all-time World XI, are no-brainers. Flower had to fight for a spot with Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Flower won because he averaged 51.26 overseas (Chanderpaul had 45.44) and did that without facing Zimbabwe. Flower will also keep wickets if necessary, as he averages a whopping 53.70 while donning the big gloves (compared to Sanga s 40.48 and even Adam Gilchrist s 47.60).

Wicketkeeper: Adam Gilchrist

Rod Marsh and Jack Russell were probably as good as Gilchrist with the big gloves. They could even have been superior. Unfortunately for them, Gilchrist is a batsman so superior (average 47.60, strike rate 82) that he gets picked ahead of even Chanderpaul. The idea of making Flower keep and having Chanderpaul bat at six does not even occur.

Bowlers: Richard Hadlee, Bill O Reilly, Curtly Ambrose, and Brian Statham

How do you argue with an attack like this? Hadlee, Ambrose, and Statham were all seriously quick and impossible to hit because of their accuracy. Add to that the variations in their armoury. There is no respite once they are through: O Reilly is among the greatest leg-spinners in history, perhaps the greatest till Shane Warne came along.

Who miss out? The current England new-ball pair of James Anderson and Stuart Broad; three other contemporary new-ball stars, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, and Josh Hazlewood; Chris Old, that Yorkshireman who took wickets and hit sixes at will; and the English trio of Graham Dilley, Richard Ellison, and Simon Jones.

The biggest of all was probably Mohammad Asif, a fast bowler inexplicably forgotten after the 2010 spot-fixing scandal. Asif s 106 wickets came at 24.36; 96 of these came away from home, at 22.50, in a mere 19 Tests (that is over 5 wickets a Test). Unfortunately, ours is too formidable an attack to break through.

As mentioned, Rabada misses out as well (his numbers compare well to Asif s). He has been brilliant, but it will take serious effort to displace one of the three legends that form the pace attack. Bob Massie played only 6 Tests.

The 11th man:

There are quite a few contenders for the all-rounder s spot. Only one cricketer has scored a hundred and taken a five-wicket haul on Test debut. Despite being a swing bowler, Bruce Taylor mysteriously failed in England (35.17) and New Zealand (33.38) and succeeded in the subcontinent (21.03) and West Indies (17.70). With bat, too, he had similar numbers: 38 in West Indies and 26.07 in the subcontinent in contrast with 21.06 at home and under 10 in New Zealand.

Moeen Ali has picked up wickets at regular intervals and has made crucial contributions down the order. We do not have a finger-spinner (unless you count Smith), but that bowling average (37.32 at the time of writing) is not good enough. Lance Klusener was not a champion in this format either.

Talking about conquering West Indies, nobody had done that better than Wasim Raja. The most successful batsman against the West Indian pacers at their prime, Raja got 402 runs at 57.42 at home and 517 at 57.44 at West Indies den. Seldom has a batsman been this consistent against the strongest team of his times which also happened to be one of the greatest teams of all time. Surprisingly, he scored his runs at 30.68 against other oppositions. Perhaps weaker oppositions did not stimulate him enough.

But the team structure is relevant here. The side already has six excellent batsmen. We need a fifth bowler. Raja s 57 Tests fetched him only 51 wickets. Bob Cowper and Ken Mackay miss out for the same reason.

Jacob Oram averaged over 30 with bat everywhere except India, where he played a solitary Test. Unfortunately, Oram went for 63.89 a wicket away from home. No, Oram is not our man either.

It eventually comes down to two men.

Jack Gregory formed a new-ball pair with Ted McDonald that left England traumatised in the early years after The Great War. However, when McDonald did not play, Gregory s bowling average of 31.15 rose to 35.30. Gregory also holds the record of the fastest Test hundred (in 70 minutes), but he averaged of 22.91 with bat in England.

Talking of blasting the opposition, Ben Stokes smashed a double-hundred in 163 balls, falling just short of Nathan Astle s 153. He has 6 hundreds and 4 five-wicket hauls in 39 Tests at the point of writing (that is one significant contribution in about 4 Tests), but he has been inconsistent.

Stokes numbers (35.72 with bat, 33.93 with ball) are not excellent by any standard. The bowling average is particularly ordinary. However, let us examine his career in a bit more details.

The first three years of Stokes career (2013 to 2015) fetched him 998 runs at 27.72 and 46 wickets at 40.67. Since then the numbers have almost swapped: 1,431 runs at 44.72 and 49 wickets at 27.61.

Barring South Africa, Stokes has never really failed with ball. He had done very well against them at home, and has more than made up for it with bat. He failed in India and UAE (where he did not bowl a lot), but did brilliantly on rank turners in Bangladesh. A bowling average of 27.75 in the subcontinent reads 27.75 is impressive.

Yes, it has to be Stokes. As for the 12th man, one cannot really think beyond Clive Lloyd.

The XI (in batting order): Graeme Smith (c), Alastair Cook, Brian Lara, Kumar Sangakkara, Andy Flower, Adam Gilchrist (wk), Ben Stokes, Richard Hadlee, Bill O Reilly, Curtly Ambrose, Brian Statham, Clive Lloyd (12th man)