The only criteria for selection is you have had to have seen the player live in any format or level of cricket!
These all-time teams are often based on looking at stats. That’s not for me. I look for the characters and those selections (or omissions) that will wind up Midnight to the maximum. I’ve been present at international cricket matches since 1974, so I’ve got quite a few players to choose from.
John Edrich – a man with a lot of bottle and always stood up to the Convicts with great determination. Lillee broke his hand and then his ribs in the Ashes in H M Penal Colony, but that did not stop him going out and facing the enemy. Nice batting average in Tests of just over 43.
Graham Gooch – the greatest West Ham fan to play cricket for England. Goochie is the second highest scorer in Test cricket and you have to give him maximum respect for the fact that he was often up against the most lethal Windies bowling attack in history.
David Gower – in all sports there are those that turn playing into an art form. Many a time I sat watching Lord Gower just in awe of his beautiful stroke play. Obviously very posh and didn’t exchange Xmas cards with Gooch, but he’s in because of his stunning technique and 44.25 average in Tests.
Mike Gatting – solid performer and decent captain. Who can forget the ball he got on the schnozzle from Malcolm Marshall against the West Indies? With a splattered nose he got asked at the press conference, “Where did it hit you Mike?” Imagine going out to bat on that 1986 tour to the Windies knowing you were going to get terrorised by Marshall, Walsh, Patterson and Garner.
Graham Thorpe – a man who had his problems in his personal life but had pure grit and could be relied to ‘drop anchor’ when the going got tough coming in at 5. Awesome record against the Convicts, averaged over 49 and was harshly dropped in favour of Pietersen in 2005.
Ben Stokes – the fact is this. I had never seen an England batsman score 200+ on tour until I turned up to Newlands. A double century in 163 balls. Simply sensational, will never forget it.
Mike Brearley (Captain) – an absolute gentleman and a brilliant captain. Super intelligent. You forgave him his unspectacular batting averages (never scored a century in Test cricket) because he was the supreme tactician and people person. Only lost 4 Test matches out of 31 when he was captain. Who can forget him having a row with Lillee over his metal bat?
Alan Knott (WK) – 95 appearances, 250 catches and 19 stumpings in Tests. Another great character who was instantly recognisable with his collar up and sleeves down. Decent batsman too, knocked a fantastic 135 back in 1977 at 82-5 to save England after typically super-selfish Boycott ran out Derek Randall.
Stuart Broad – who doesn’t like Broady? Well, apart from Midnight. Amongst a very elite crew to pass more than 500 Test wickets and a more than decent batsman. Supports the best football club in the East Midlands as well.
Bob Willis – 325 Test wickets at an average of 25.20 is a great bowling record. I will never forget what he did at Headingley in 1981 when we were basically dead and buried in the Ashes. Yes, Botham was outstanding in that match but it was the pure hostility of Whispering Bob that turned it around when the Convicts were 56/1 chasing a target of 130. 8/43, what a spell! I’m ignoring the fact that he was probably the most mind-numbing TV pundit ever.
Phil ‘The Cat’ Tufnell – an unconventional, awkward looking cricketer that always made you smile. Possibly one of the worst fielders I have ever seen, could hardly hold a bat, but a more than decent left arm orthodox spinner (121 Test wickets). Pretty sure I saw him enjoying something mind-altering sitting in the crowd at the Kensington Oval, Barbados when the AA was there. Legend.
12th Man – I know this is not allowed and I’m choosing a cricketer that I never saw play, but I’m going for Harold Larwood. How I would have loved to have got on a boat to Convict Colony in the 1930’s (not for horse stealing like the inhabitants of that territory) to see his awesome pace (recognised to be 95 – 100 mph) and unbridled aggression in the bodyline series. I’m with Douglas Jardine 100% when he was told during that famous series that the Australian crowd didn’t like him – his reply, “It’s f**king mutual”.