Would anyone argue with the fact that Nottinghamshire and West Indies legendary all-rounder Sir Garfield Sobers is not only West Indies’ best-ever, Notts’ best-ever, but in fact the best cricketer of all-time - full stop?
Well, if the opinions of some of the greatest cricketers of the last 100 years are anything to go by, there would be little debate to the above statement.
My recently published book ‘In A League Of Their Own – 100 Cricket Legends Select Their World XI’ – had global interest with its various contributors and subject matter from all over the world of Test cricket. However, as a region, Nottinghamshire has more reason than most to claim some local pride from its findings.
From the 100 great cricketers who offered their World XIs (and prising this kind of awkward information from these greats was akin to a visit to the dentist for most of them!), Sobers polled 73 votes, making him comfortably the most voted-for player in the book; ahead of Viv Richards (64 votes) and Shane Warne (61 votes).
"Others Notts players involved saw the former wicket-keeper Deryck Murray pick his team, as did Hadlee. While probably the most striking of all selections was that of leg-spinner Bruce Dooland, whose only vote saw him make Sir Alec Bedser’s line-up."
The great Sir Donald Bradman, for the record, managed to make just 53 teams in the book, as many players of various eras took the opinion that they could not select players they had not actually seen. My own feeling is that how could anyone with a Test average of 99.94 not make your World XI, whether you have seen him or not? But mine is not an opinion that matters here.
A typical comment on Sobers was similar to this statement from another Notts legend Sir Richard Hadlee, who said in the book when selecting his side: “Sir Garfield would have to be the best all-rounder in the history of the game and his left-handed batting would give the line-up something different.
“He was a natural timer of the ball with all the shots: cuts, pulls, hooks and had the ability to be dynamic and explosive with sheer brilliance. He was a lively new ball swing bowler and if conditions suited, he could bowl left arm orthodox spin. Add his athletic fielding and superb close-in catching, is there anyone better?”
The 100 legends all picked their World XI, and the weight of votes culminated in ‘the’ Greatest Test XI of All-Time. Greatest XIs are also included for Australia, England, India, Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies. Hadlee was New Zealand’s only selected player.
As far as other Nottinghamshire interest goes, Sobers did not pick an XI but, probably better than that, he agreed to contribute the most interesting, educational and thought-provoking foreword I could have wished for.
An excerpt from that Sobers foreword includes this spiky observation of Warne’s ability: “Someone who is called ‘great’ from today’s game is Shane Warne, but I have got my reservations about Shane. I think he is a great bowler, but I’m not sure how well he compares with spinners overall.
“I think people get carried away with this man’s ability as he hardly ever bowled a good googly. To me Shane Warne is a great turner of the ball, I like his aggressive attitude, I love the way he attacks batsmen and I give him one hundred percent for that as not enough spinners bowl with that approach, but in my estimation (India’s) Subhash Gupte was a better leg-spinner.”
Others Notts players involved saw the former wicket-keeper Deryck Murray pick his team, as did Hadlee. While probably the most striking of all selections was that of leg-spinner Bruce Dooland, whose only vote saw him make Sir Alec Bedser’s line-up.
Dooland beat off competition from the most popular spin bowling selections of his countryman Shane Warne (61 votes), England off-spinner Jim Laker (12), West Indies’ Lance Gibbs (11), Muttiah Muralitharan (7) and Bishan Bedi (5).
Dooland, who managed just three Tests and lost out to regular Australian leggie Richie Benuad through his career, was one of a few talented Australians who came to play in England because of a lack of opportunities back home. George Tribe (Northants), Colin McCool and Bill Alley (both Somerset) were others. Dooland played at Trent Bridge from 1953 to 1957 and in total managed 1016 first-class wickets at an average of just 21.98 with a best of 8-20.
Nottinghamshire fast bowling great Harold Larwood polled three votes, from Danish Kaneria, Graham McKenzie and the late Alf Valentine. Gordon Greenidge, who lived in Nottingham for a spell after his career, made the All-Time World XI and also contributed his own team.
Richard Sydenham’s ‘In A League Of Their Own – 100 Cricket Legends Select Their World XI’ (DB Publishing) is priced at £9.99 and is available now. Forewords are supplied by Sir Garfield Sobers and Dickie Bird.