Top row, from left: Arthur Morris, Archie MacLaren, Charlie Macartney, Javed Miandad (c), Damien Martyn Bottom row, from left: Keith Miller, Rod Marsh (wk), Malcolm Marshall, Muttiah Muralitharan, Stuart MacGill, Glenn McGrath © Getty Images
Top row, from left: Arthur Morris, Archie MacLaren, Charlie Macartney, Javed Miandad (c), Damien Martyn
Bottom row, from left: Keith Miller, Rod Marsh (wk), Malcolm Marshall, Muttiah Muralitharan, Stuart MacGill, Glenn McGrath © Getty Images

Alphabetical All Time XIs are great fun. Composing one from the cricketers with their last names starting with M, Arunabha Sengupta finds plenty of big names, with a magnificent bowling attack.

The first thing that strikes one when the M’s are up for selection is the profusion of bowling riches.

Glenn McGrath and Malcolm Marshall. Can one dream of a better opening bowling duo? We did have Ray Lindwall and Harold Larwood followed by Dennis Lillee for the L’s and wondered if such a pace attack could be bettered. But now we have McGrath and Marshall, and Keith Miller as first change.

And of course we can picture the mischievous smile and the gleaming eye of Muttiah Muralitharan in the outfield as he prepares himself to come on with his curious off-spin.

These men just walk into the side, no questions asked. However, there are a number of contenders for the fifth bowling spot. And with Keith Miller in the side we do have the luxury of going in with five bowlers. Because of Keith Miller we have to leave out the very worthy Vinoo Mankad.

Mind you, in Mushtaq Mohammad and Brian McMillan, there were other contenders for the all-rounder’s spot. There was Charlie Macartney too, if we wanted to consider him as an all-rounder. He became one of the best batsmen of Australia and seldom bowled after the Great War, but he was a canny left-arm spinner as well. However, Miller emerges head and shoulders above the rest in that department.

For the fifth bowling slot, Craig McDermott is a strong contender as is Graham McKenzie. We also find Morne Morkel staking his claim.

Turning to spin we have to overlook Ashley Mallett as also Saqlain Mushtaq, mainly because Murali is already in the side. But there are some very good leg-spinners who catch the eye. Stuart MacGill would have been walked into most sides of the world, and had to play a limited number of matches because sharing land and era with a genius called Shane Warne. Yet, he managed 208 wickets in 44 Tests at 29. His numbers are rather better than Mushtaq Ahmed’s 185 at 33 and Arthur Mailey’s 99 wickets at 34.

I would go for the variation in the attack, and opt for MacGill ahead of another pace bowler.

This is perhaps the only side where the bowlers can be more easily picked than the batsmen.

When we look at the batting we have several solid contenders for the opener’s slot.

The Australian Arthur Morris and the South African Bruce Mitchell are perhaps the most accomplished, both with nearly three-and-a-half thousand Test runs with averages in the high forties. Two other brilliant opening batsmen suffer from having played very few Tests — Vijay Merchant (10 Tests for 859 runs at 47.72) and Alan Melville (11 for 894 runs at 52.58). Brilliant as they were, I will have to leave them out because of small sample.

The problem I have with Mitchell is not a lack of quality, but his rate of making runs. During the years he played for a near-minnow South Africa, perhaps the strike rate of 31-32 stood them in good stead. However, this is a team that has to play to win. It has a frightening and versatile bowling attack.

Hence, the man I would pick to partner Arthur Morris is someone aggressive, with the ability to dominate attacks. Hence I go for Archie MacLaren. He played 35 Tests, and his 1,931 runs came at 34. In that era, 1894-1909, those were brilliant numbers.

The middle-order men are plenty, but the spots left are just three. Of them Javed Miandad picks himself. I don’t think there can be much discussion about that.

Who are the others?

The candidates are plenty. Peter May, Damien Martyn, Stan McCabe, Macartney. Worthy names all. There is also the august name of Billy Murdoch, whose average of 31.22 is near stratospheric for the first 15 years of Test cricket. And of course, there is the Pakistan duo of Saleem Malik and the recently retired Misbah-ul-Haq.

However, if we look closely, we find May failed rather disastrously in South Africa against Peter Heine and Neil Adcock, and had ordinary numbers in Australia and West Indies. Yes, he averages 15.30 in South Africa, 39.78 in Australia and 35.50 in West Indies.

McCabe did have three great innings, but if we take away his tour of South Africa the numbers look at least a wee bit less impressive.

There are similar holes in the career of Malik and Misbah. And Murdoch, even with the first double-hundred in Test cricket, managed to go past 50 only thrice in his 34 innings, which seems a bit low.

Macartney, on the other hand, played much of his cricket in the pre-World War One pitches of dubious quality. Once he returned on more standardised pitches after the War, he scored 1,252 runs in 14 Tests with 6 hundreds and an average of 69.55. That of course included a century before lunch. And when he played against the most difficult opponent of his era, his numbers improved. It is the Governor General, therefore, who will come in one-drop for me. Miandad at four and Martyn at five. If the wicket is taking spin, or is wet for some reason, Macartney’s left-arm spin will come in handy as well.

The wicketkeeping pool for the M’s is perhaps the strongest among the alphabets. There is the diminutive Kiran More, the chirpy Nayan Mongia, the ebullient Moin Khan, a horde of Murray’s, Deryck, David, Junior of West Indies and John of England. And we must not forget the modern sensation of Brendon McCullum as well. However, ultimately I will go for Rod Marsh, if only for the long years of service that proved his worth.

There is high quality pace and swing and spin of three varieties, batsmen with style, aggression and class. And a champion ’keeper. It is one of the great sides in the Alphabetic series.

Hence the team:

Name R Ave W Ave
Arthur Morris 3,533 46.48 2 25
Archie MacLaren 1,931 33.87
Charlie Macartney 2,131 41.78 45 27.55
Javed Miandad (c) 8,832 52.57 17 40.11
Damien Martyn 4,406 46.37 2 84
Keith Miller 2,958 36.97 170 22.97
Rod Marsh (wk) 3,633 26.51 343  (c) 12 (st)
Malcolm Marshall 1,810 18.85 376 20.94
Muttiah Muralitharan 1,261 11.67 800 22.72
Stuart MacGill 349 9.69 208 29.02
Glenn McGrath 641 7.36 563 21.64

12th Man: Jackie McGlew

Manager: Arthur Mailey