(Clockwise from top-left): Colin Milburn, Jesse Ryder, Colin Cowdrey, Inzamam ul-Haq, Arjuna Ranatunga, Mike Gatting, Warwick Armstrong (c), Tahir Iqbal, Merv Hughes, Ian Austin, Dwayne Leverock, David Shepherd (umpire). Photo Courtesy: Getty Image, Kingston Historical Website, Wikimedia Commons
(Clockwise from top-left): Colin Milburn, Jesse Ryder, Colin Cowdrey, Inzamam ul-Haq, Arjuna Ranatunga (vc), Mike Gatting, Warwick Armstrong (c), Tahir Iqbal (wk), Merv Hughes, Ian Austin, Dwayne Leverock, David Shepherd (umpire). Photo Courtesy: Getty Image, Kingston Historical Website, Wikimedia Commons

Sport is not for people who weigh (literally) more than they should. Despite that, body mass has not proved a hindrance for several champions of the sport. An overweight himself, Abhishek Mukherjee attempts to make an XI of cricketers with appreciable girth.

There are not many sports where you can reach the top without being the most athletic of men, but cricket is certainly one of them. A Mohammad Yousuf or an Anil Kumble, for example, would probably not have been legends of football or hockey, given their fitness levels.

This, however, is not a list of merely the unfit. This is an XI that can really throw their weight around. They may turn out to be weapons of mass destruction, so take them lightly at your peril. Imposing in presence and substantial in stature, these men are certainly not pushovers.

Yes, this is a team of the overweight, of men who have overcome the hindrance of lack of fitness, of men who have been, in all probability, reluctant to go to the gym. They have been the motivation of many a rotund individual (myself included) that cricket is not just a sport for the lean and the fit.

Who would these men be? WG Grace was quite lean in his early days (do not be fooled by his photographs; they were photographed at a later age. Bishan Bedi and EAS Prasanna gained weight at a later age as well. We will be considerate enough to leave them out. Shane Warne and David Boon miss out as borderline candidates: neither was exactly slim, but they do not really make the cut.

1. Colin Milburn

If Wisden, despite its seriousness, mocks anyone by saying that he “had been marking each passing birthday by adding a stone in weight,” one cannot ignore him. Despite his girth, Milburn could have become one of the finest strokeplayers in the history of the sport for his spectacular batsmanship.

Unfortunately, after scoring 654 runs from nine Tests at 46.71, Milburn lost his left eye in a car crash, which brought his career to a premature end. He will face the first ball for our side.

2. Jesse Ryder

If raw talent was the yardstick instead of runs, Ryder would probably have finished as one of the premium (if not the best) batsmen in New Zealand cricket. Ryder’s career fluctuated between glorious highs and inexplicable lows. On the field he can tear any bowling apart; off it he struggles to keep a rein on himself.

A handy change bowler and a deceptively sharp fielder, Ryder will partner Milburn at the top. There will not be a lot of singles, but the pair is enough to shred any attack to ribbons.

3. Colin Cowdrey

In his early days Cowdrey was a slightly overweight child prodigy. He finished as a rotund (an understatement) great of the sport. One of the finest batsmen England had produced, Cowdrey was equally proficient against pace and spin. The stories of him flying down to Australia four years after retirement to face Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson have attained cult status in English cricket.

4. Inzamam-ul-Haq

The sheer presence of Inzamam makes him a certainty in this side. There will be people in Pakistan who will rate him as the country’s greatest middle-order batsman. Scandals and bowlers have come and gone, but seldom could Inzamam be replaced from centrestage. He stood there, his head held high, his bat ready for carnage at any time.

One must remember that he was also a very good slip fielder (and a terrible bowler). One should simply keep an eye on the fielders around, and make sure there is not a bat around if anyone calls him “aaloo” or anything similar.

5. Mike Gatting

A belligerent strokeplayer who could biff the ball seriously hard, Gatting was one of the most destructive batsmen in the mid-1980s. His deceptively good footwork meant that he could achieve what few Englishmen did — dominate Indian spinners at their den.

Add to that his medium-paced bowling, especially in English conditions, and you come across few men as competitive. Just keep him off the pizza or burger. Or Shakoor Rana.

6. Arjuna Ranatunga (vice-captain)

When he got going, Arjuna was almost impossible to dismiss. When he wanted to explode, Arjuna could thwart any attack. More than everything, he brought in a sense of calm to the side with his Buddha-like presence, despite his ferocity. No target was impossible with Arjuna around, as he alternated between casual strolls for singles and the most outrageous of boundaries.

A medium-pacer with a penchant to break partnerships, Arjuna could have been the captain of the side, but he will have to be content with the deputy’s slot.

7. Warwick Armstrong (captain)

Armstrong was 6 feet 3 inches tall; wore shoes of dimension 13 inches x 7 inches; and at 133 kg was the heaviest known international cricket. There was a reason they called him The Big Ship.

But the numbers do not stop there: Armstrong’s First-Class tally read 16,158 runs at 46.83 and 832 wickets at 19.71. At Test level he scored 2,863 runs at 38.68 and claimed 87 wickets at 33.59. He was one of the greatest all-rounders Australia had produced

Armstrong was the first captain to lead his side to an Ashes whitewash. He never lost a Test as captain. He was an innovator, often a bully, left no stone unturned to pursue a victory, had little respect for the opposition. It is for a reason that Arjuna had to be relegated as deputy.

8. Tariq Iqbal (wicket-keeper)

Finding a corpulent gloveman is not the easiest of tasks, but Tariq Iqbal and his double chin walk through to the sign. Apart from being overweight, Tariq also adorned glasses, and his claim to fame lies in catching Brian Lara with his “nether regions.” He was no pushover with the bat either.

9. Ian Austin

It will not be an exaggeration to say that Austin walked in to bowl his military-medium, but his extremely slow yorkers seldom missed the target, and were endorsed by Wasim Akram, no less. His slow deliveries often moved enough to induce edges.

10. Merv Hughes

Despite his prominent paunch, Hughes’ pace, heart, aggression, and persistence made him one of the most feared fast bowlers of the era. Though our side will certainly not be short on entertainment quotient, Hughes will take things to another echelon.

11. Dwayne Leverock

Even if there is doubt over Leverock’s stature as the greatest Bermudan cricketer, there will not be many to challenge him as the most iconic. Despite being an excellent left-arm spinner, Leverock is unfortunately remembered as the man who took “the catch that shook the world.” Once Hughes and Austin have a go (followed by Ranatunga, Ryder, and Gatting), Armstrong and Leverock will bowl in tandem to clean up line-ups.

12. David Shepherd (team umpire)

Like the days of yore, our side will travel with an umpire as well. Though Swaroop Kishen may throw up a feeble challenge of sorts, Shepherd is an obvious choice. Shepherd was fitter than what it met the eye, and his concentration was unwavering. Just keep him away from food, do not make him run a lot, and stop anyone from uttering multiples of 111 to him. He will be fine.

Reserves:

Unfortunately, fitness will be one of the primary concerns of the side, which means that “too many reserves” will not be a phrase applicable to them. It will be an illustrious list, consisting of Lionel Tennyson, Duleep Mendis, Ramesh Powar, Samit Patel, Mark Cosgrove, Arshad Ayub, James Ormond, Akram Khan, John Jameson, and Bharat Arun. Despite the presence of Indians in the primary XI, do note their dominance among the reserves.

Final team:

Colin Milburn
Jesse Ryder
Colin Cowdrey
Inzamam-ul-Haq
Arjuna Ranatunga (vice-captain)
Mike Gatting
Warwick Armstrong (captain)
Tariq Iqbal (wicket-keeper)
Merv Hughes
Ian Austin
Dwayne Leverock
David Shepherd (team umpire)

 (Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)