Who cares when it’s not The Ashes? Clockwise from top left: Chris Broad, Charlie Barnett, Matthew Elliott, Tip Foster (c), Mark Ramprakash, Ron Archer, Geoff Miller, Jack Richards (wk), Dean Headley, Rodney Hogg, Stuart MacGill, Gary Pratt (12th man) © Getty Images, Ron Archer picture courtesy: eBay
Who cares when it’s not The Ashes? Clockwise from top left: Chris Broad, Charlie Barnett, Matthew Elliott, Tip Foster (c), Mark Ramprakash, Ron Archer, Geoff Miller, Jack Richards (wk), Rodney Hogg, Stuart MacGill, Dean Headley, Gary Pratt (12th man) © Getty Images, Ron Archer picture courtesy: eBay

As Ashes 2015 approaches, it is time to browse through 133 years of history and create multiple XIs. There have been men who have been outstanding in their Ashes quests but have failed to live up to the expectations otherwise. Abhishek Mukherjee creates an XI with a difference.

Who is your favourite Ashes hero? Jack Hobbs? Don Bradman? Harold Larwood? Ian Botham? Keith Miller? Richie Benaud? Glenn McGrath? Shane Warne? If you are a cricket buff, chances are high that you can reel off names from the back of your head.

But then, your Ashes heroes will probably be a legend of the sport itself. Do you have any champion in your mind who had dominated the quest for the urn, but had done little else of note elsewhere? Let us get a list.

1. Chris Broad: 569 runs at 51.72 in Ashes, 1,092 runs at 35.23 otherwise (953 runs at 31.77 if Bicentenary Test is excluded)

Before being a match referee, Broad Sr’s day job involved smashing Ashes hundreds. He hit three in the 1986-87 contest — England’s last Ashes win till 2005. He scored another one in the Bicentenary Test of 1987-88, but that would not count. Unfortunately, though he did well against New Zealand, his records against other oppositions were poor.

2. Charlie Barnett: 624 runs at 39.00 in Ashes, 474 runs at 31.60 otherwise (278 runs at 27.80 if New Zealand is excluded)

Had Barnett’s best years not been taken away by World War II, he might have emerged as an opener who could score runs at a rapid rate at the top. Unfortunately, he did little of note outside The Ashes. An average of 39 seems ordinary, but it was 43.57 before he was recalled at 38, then past his prime, to bat at No. 6 against Bradman’s Invincibles.

3. Matthew Elliott: 556 runs at 55.60 in Ashes, 616 runs at 24.64 otherwise

Elliott made his debut in 1996, and by 1997 he was considered a talented opener before he faded away. However, this phase included Ashes 1997, where he scored 556 (nobody else from either side scored more than 453) runs in a single series including two hundreds and two fifties.

4. Reginald ‘Tip’ Foster (captain): 486 runs at 60.75 in Ashes, 116 runs at 23.20 otherwise

Foster, the only man to have led England in both cricket and football, still holds the record for the highest score on Test debut (287 not out). Till Andy Sandham made his 325, it was also the highest score in Test cricket. He had an excellent Ashes 1903-04, scoring 486. Unfortunately, back home against South Africa he fared miserably, being all at sea against the leg-spinners.

5. Mark Ramprakash: 933 runs at 42.41 in Ashes, 1,417 runs at 22.14 otherwise

Ramprakash may have scored 35,659 runs with 114 hundreds, but his Test average of 27.32 hardly did justice to his talent. Despite everything, he shone against The Old Enemies in an era when England did hardly anything right in their quests for the urn.

6. Ron Archer: 35 wickets at 21.74 (economy 1.87) in Ashes, 13 wickets at 42.85 (economy 2.95) otherwise

This is probably cheating. Archer was essentially a batsman who bowled, but if a fast bowler has taken 255 First-Class wickets, he needs to be taken seriously. Archer was reduced to a containing job, for he was a part of the 1953 team that lost the urn and two subsequent teams that could not retain it. Despite that, he did an excellent job, but went largely unnoticed.

7. Geoff Miller: 39 wickets at 21.95 in Ashes, 21 wickets at 47.76 otherwise

Miller is generally remembered for catching Jeff Thomson to conclude the MCG humdinger of 1982-83, but he was also one of the architects of England’s 5-1 Ashes win of 1978-79 (albeit against a Kerry Packer-hit side), taking 23 wickets at 15.04 and scoring 234 at 23.40. He also did well in 1977 and 1982-83. Unfortunately, he was taken apart by the Indians and West Indians…

8. Jack Richards (wicketkeeper): 264 runs at 37.71, 16 dismissals in Ashes, 21 runs at 3.50, 5 dismissals otherwise

Richards played a solitary Ashes series, but came out all guns blazing, smashing 133 at WACA and making crucial contributions of 46 and 38 at SCG. Unfortunately, his career ended after a string of 6, 2, 2, 8, 0, and 3 after his return home.

9. Dean Headley: 35 wickets at 24.77 in Ashes, 25 wickets at 32.16 otherwise

Headley is best known for his spectacular 6 for 60 at MCG in 1997-98, but it cannot be overlooked that he claimed six other four-wicket hauls against Australia from 11 innings. Though he had a good fortnight in West Indies in February 1998, he seldom scaled the Ashes heights.

10. Rodney Hogg: 56 wickets at 17.00 in Ashes, 67 wickets at 38.07 otherwise

Hogg’s Ashes achievements went beyond his comment on Queen Elizabeth II’s legs. Unfortunately for Hogg, his best performance came in 1978-79 (41 wickets at 12.85), a series Australia lost 1-5 at home despite Hogg taking five five-fors from his first six innings. Other sides, India and West Indies in particular, have treated him rather disdainfully.

11. Stuart MacGill: 39 wickets at 24.72 in Ashes, 169 wickets at 30.02 otherwise (136 wickets at 33.49 if Bangladesh is excluded)

For a man who had lived in the shadows of probably the greatest leg-spinner of all time, MacGill had done a tremendous job, picking up 208 wickets. Unfortunately, he took serious pasting from both India (14 wickets at 50.78) and Sri Lanka (10 wickets at 55.80). Ashes, however, was another story: he played 6 Tests and took at least 4 wickets in each of them, the finest among which was undoubtedly SCG 1998-99 — where he outshone Warne with 5 for 57 and 7 for 50.

Gary Pratt (12th man): 1 run out in Ashes (but what a run out!), nothing otherwise

Be honest: if he had not run Ricky Ponting out, would you have heard of Pratt of Durham — a man who averaged 25.91 with the bat in First-Class cricket and was a non-bowler?

Final team (in batting order): Chris Broad, Charlie Barnett, Matthew Elliott, Tip Foster (c), Mark Ramprakash, Ron Archer, Geoff Miller, Jack Richards (wk), Dean Headley, Rodney Hogg, Stuart MacGill, Gary Pratt (12th man).

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