The only criteria for selection is you have had to have seen the player live in any format or level of cricket!
Alastair Cook – simply demands inclusion based on his volume of runs and 766 runs at 127 in the 2010/11 Ashes to stick it to the Aussies will last forever. What a great player over a long time.
Graham Gooch – someone who made the absolute most of his ability and played forever. He never left you feeling he had left something out on the pitch. Master of the daddy hundreds but he played one of the best innings I have ever seen against the Windies at Headingley in 1991. Carried his bat for 154 not out in a low scoring game when the next highest score was 27 and set up a rare win against a top Windies side. Brilliantly boring match.
David Gower – mesmerising and frustrating in equal measure but you couldn’t be angry with him for long as he would smile then score a glorious century in the next innings. So effortless and enhanced his reputation with the Tiger Moth episode.
Kevin Pietersen – first time I saw him live he was out first ball at Old Trafford in 2005 and I seemed to jinx him as I never saw a big innings live. Without a doubt though the best batsman ever. The way he could dominate and change a match in the blink of an eye and seemingly do it at will was amazing. His sheer self believe and confidence took him where other players feared to tread. Having said this I have no idea how he even got into the thinking of those picking the England captain. He shouldn’t have been anywhere near it as he is too divisive, shows no empathy and clearly not loved in the squad after text gate. I still think he manufactured his own exit from England for IPL riches but he was a joy to watch.
Ben Stokes – Cape Town, Lords, Headingley. Need I say more? His century in Perth was in only his second test was a brilliant insight into him. The Aussies tried to intimidate but he wasn’t having any of it.
Ian Botham – my absolute sporting hero growing up. I even had a Duncan Fearnley attack bat and pretended I was Beefy. They say don’t meet your heroes though which proved true. His sheer swagger & confidence would make opponents wilt and how he turned things around in ’81 through sheer bloody mindedness was a sight to behold. On the front pages more often than the back but the country loved him. Such a shame he’s turned into brexshiteer and become Lord Bollocks.
Jack Russell – mad as a box of frogs but a brilliantly underrated keeper and as a batsman must have been frustrating to bowlers when he deliberately played down the wrong line. His 29 no in Joburg 1995 to support Atherton was test cricket at it’s best. Got through his tours through a weird combination of beans and painting. Imagine that now.
Phil Tufnell – couldn’t bat, couldn’t catch and couldn’t field (imagine him being picked these days?) and seemed to have a huge self confidence problem at times but boy could he bowl and when the conditions were right he got his gander up. Subject to one of the best sledges ever from Ian Healey ‘Tuffers, can you lend me your brain, I’m building an idiot’. Priceless.
Darren Gough – If he’d kept fit he would have gotten 500 test wickets. His self-belief was amazing and he gave it his all every game. His joy at playing shone through. Played in an era when we were poor but you could rely on Goughie to give his all. One incident always comes to mind. He got a wicket with a no ball, demanded the ball back, smiled and went back to his mark and bowled him next ball. Imagine having the confidence to do that?
Jimmy Anderson – 600 wickets as a fast bowler. More wickets than McGrath and if someone would have said that 15 years ago no one would have believed it. I think this record will stand for a long, long time. He’s just got better and better every year and has added more guile with age and experience. Don’t think England fans know how lucky we are to have the top run scorer and the wicket taker at the same time.
Bob Willis – a sight to behold in 81. Never to be forgotten and it ended up Botham’s Ashes but without Willis’s 8-43 at Headingley it wouldn’t have happened. Became a commentator after retiring with a unique, critical style which divided opinion but summed him up perfectly.