Top, from left: Sanath Jayasuriya, Archie Jackson, Douglas Jardine, Mahela Jayawardene, Dean Jones, Stanley Jackson Bottom, from left: Prasanna Jayawardene, Ravindra Jadeja, Mitchell Johnson, Bill Johnston, Ernie Jones © Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
Top, from left: Sanath Jayasuriya, Archie Jackson, Douglas Jardine, Mahela Jayawardene, Dean Jones, Stanley Jackson
Bottom, from left: Prasanna Jayawardene, Ravindra Jadeja, Mitchell Johnson, Bill Johnston, Ernie Jones © Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons

Alphabetical All Time XIs are great fun. Composing one from the cricketers with their last names starting with J, Arunabha Sengupta finds quality players led by one diabolical mind.

The J’s are an interesting lot.

Perhaps not a talent pool bubbling with bona-fide all-time greats. However, they do have a number of very good cricketers. And some very exciting ones.

The letter starts off the Johnsons, Jacksons and Jones, as well as some indigenous Sri Lankan surnames. So, that combination does get us quite a few of our stalwarts.

In the batting pool we have the electrifying Sanath Jayasuriya as one definite opening batsman. The dasher that he was, slam-bang methods did not stop him from scoring 340 in an innings. Besides, he was a handy left-arm spinner as well.

The choice of the other opener is a bit of a problem. The strongest claims are of Archie Jackson, although his tragic early death limited his number of Tests to 8. However, given that the only other serious contender for the opening slot is Wasim Jaffer and his runs have come at an average of 34, we are inclined to nod towards the eternal youth of Jackson. Ephemera comes with some mythical halos, and therefore a fair number of commentators maintain he could have been as good as Bradman, but that does not hold up to scrutiny of his First-Class or Test careers. But, Jackson was a very good batsman and a stylish one.

The middle order that follows is an impressive array of names.

Douglas Jardine courted infamy as the brain behind Bodyline, but we cannot deny that he was both a brilliant captain and a very good batsman. A diabolical mind leading the side can convert this team into a winning one.

Mahela Jayawardene is a modern-day great and the class of the man is well-known. He may not have travelled very well, but his extraordinary overall record makes him walk into the side.

The fifth position was a toss-up between the Joneses. The Australian Dean edges out the Kiwi Andrew because of a longer career, better stroke-making ability and slightly better numbers.

However, perhaps the best batsman of the side is the one who fills the slot of the all-rounder. Hon. Francis Stanley Jackson played 20 Tests for 1,415 runs at 48.79 in the first decade of the 20th century, an era when Victor Trumper’s average of 39-odd was considered to be extraordinary. That he also captured 24 wickets at 33 and was a capable enough bowler to take the new ball is an added bonus.

It is Stanley Jackson’s all-round abilities that nullify the claims of two exciting all-rounders. One is the great hitter in the form of Gilbert Jessop, who was also a quick bowler of considerable ability and one of the greatest fielders of all time. And down the line we did have Bernard Julien, the flamboyant West Indian, who could be a very good batsman and a reasonably decent medium-fast bowler.

However, Stanley Jackson is not the only all-rounder in the side. After the last few years, we can no longer ignore the claims of a certain Ravindra Jadeja. Scrupulously accurate and at times incisive, he is always a potent weapon in any side. His batting has been improving by leaps and bounds to translate at least a fraction of his First-Class feats into Test cricket. And finally, he is a terrific all-round fielder.

To choose the man to stand behind the wicket was a three-fold quandary. There were Ridley Jacobs, Geraint Jones and Prasanna Jayawardene. With question marks about the surety of Jones behind the stumps, it had perhaps boiled down to Jacobs and Jayawardene, two seasoned, proven contenders. I would opt for Jayawardene because of the bowling attack which contains a fair amount of spin.

Finally, we get down to the bowlers.

We have already covered Jadeja along with the abilities of Stanley Jackson and Jayasuriya. Now we come to the pacemen.

Mitchell Johnson does get in with his 300-plus wickets at a very decent average of 28. He was no mug with the bat either.

One option was to pair Mitchell Johnson with Bill Johnston and use Jackson as the third seamer, while opting for the off-breaks of Ian Johnson. However, I decided to add firepower in the form of Ernie Jones with the new ball. A man who put one through the beard of WG Grace does deserve a look in. Johnston can run in as the great first-change bowler that he was, handed the ball after Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller had rattled the opposition. Here the task of rattling is up to Mitchell Johnson and Ernie Jones.

And of course, Jardine can get some rather interesting ideas with Mitchell Johnson and Ernie Jones in the team.

It is a good, well-balanced team, with quality cricketers and at least two great ones in the form of Stanley Jackson and Johnston. It may not be able to challenge the might of the B’s or the H’s or the W’s, but will be a very difficult side to beat.

Hence the team:

Name Runs Ave W Ave
Sanath Jayasuriya 6,973 40.07 98 34.34
Archie Jackson 474 47.40
Douglas Jardine (c) 1,296 48.00
Mahela Jayawardene 11,814 49.84 6 51.66
Dean Jones 3,631 46.55 1 64.00
Stanley Jackson 1,415 48.79 24 33.29
Prasanna Jayawardene (wk) 2,124 29.50 C 124 St 32
Ravindra Jadeja 1,051 28.40 142 23.12
Mitchell Johnson 2,065 22.20 313 28.40
Bill Johnston 273 11.37 160 23.91
Ernie Jones 126 5.04 64 29.01

12th Man: Gilbert Jessop

Manager: ML Jaisimha