The old weird T20 XI

Looking at how players from years earlier who aren't natural T20 guys would have fitted into the format.

Jim Foat had some hair. Like even for the 70s, he was a man with hair. It's a mop, clearly from another time, as are his glasses. It's not that modern players don't wear them, but no one is doing out on the field with these frames now. And players like Jim Foat don't exist anymore.

Foat played 129 domestic one dayers; he made 1352 runs with a top score of 73*. He averaged 15. If you're waiting for his bowling record, there is none; he never bowled. He was a professional batter who played for eight seasons and didn't make runs. Oh, and he averaged 18 in first class cricket, so there is no "they played him because he already had a contract." Jim Foat made no runs, and did so for 220 games.

And it gets better, because of course it does. After a slow start where he didn't average ten in either form of cricket, he actually finally worked out batting at the end of his career. He averaged a respectable 30 in his last two years of first class cricket, so he was fired and never played again.

And, if you're like, oh, cricket was different back then, and he was only playing for Gloucestershire in the 70s. Well, so were a few other guys.

Foat played with Mike Procter, Zaheer Abbas, Sadiq Mohammad, David Graveney, and Brian Brain, Foat was different then. He was a cult figure, not in the way we throw that term around, he was something that people actually obsessed over.

There was a fan club. That isn't that normal for cricketers, especially you know, guys who can't make a run. But that's not even the weirdest thing about Foat.

One of his fan club members named a cellular metabolism after him. Like there is someone out there now that has Foat. Sachin Tendulkar gets things named after, not guys like Jim Foat.

At this point, you're probably screaming because I've told you so much, and yet, I have actually told you why this bloke who couldn't bat was so loved, or why he kept getting a game. It's actually quite simple, Foat was such a good fielder that Glostershire kept him on their books. And imagine how good a fielder you need to be to overcome an average of 15. Like a bionic Jonty Rhodes with octopus tentacles. They say his run out of Tony Greig won Gloucestershire a Gillette Cup final, and it was that skill made him a pro cricketer and part of the scientific lexicon. Jim Foat was the complete package; none of that package included bowling or batting. It was all hair, glasses, fielding.

So why am I talking about Foat? Well I got to thinking that in a T20 squad, you often don't use your last local player that much. And in a squad of 16 people, you could probably have one great fielder.

And if Foat was good enough at cover to overcome three career 50s in 101 innings, maybe he would have been handy in T20. Not as a batsman, the dude proved that wasn't his thing, but pick him as your 16th man in your squad and field him in all the most important positions when other players are injured. You could actually hire a beefy hitter, and get him to pull a hamstring every game and use Foat in his place.

And it's not just Foat; once I got this idea, it led me to think about how a bunch of old cricketers would have played T20. And no, not the obvious olden days guys.

Victor Trumper

Keith Stackpole

Roy Fredericks

Garfield Sobers

Jimmy Sinclair

Gilbert Jessop

Keith Miller

Farokh Engineer

Learie Constantine

Alan Davidson

Richie Benaud

Or even the ODI guys

Kris Srikkanth

Romesh Kaluwitharana

Viv Richards

Mark Waugh

Michael Bevan

Aravinda de Silva

Kapil Dev

Lance Cairns

Wasim Akram

Waqar Younis

Mushtaq Ahmed

These guys all would have worked it out, but I was more interested in exactly what kind of player the far more dull, forgotten and just weird guys would have been. We know that players who played in cross-over eras often didn't take either ODI or T20 seriously. Who can forget Sunil Gavkasar's stoic 36* from 174 balls.

People think that these players were such red ball specialists no matter the money they would never have played T20. This reminds me of the time I met a young writer and she told me that she hand wrote all her work, because that is what Shakespeare did. I nodded and then said, but he'd probably use a laptop if he was coming through now.

And the idea that the old guys wouldn't have chased the money is nonsense. Victor Trumper went on strike and Learie Constantine played for the West Indies to get a pro deal.

And let's look at Gavaskar for a moment; he opened the batting for India from 1974 to 1987 in ODI cricket. And he wasn't that bad, and it was probably worth it for him to keep getting paid per one dayer.

So even the bloke who once protested the format mid-innings was good at it. So this is part fantasy but also based on roles as a T20 analyst for teams.

Welcome to my weird historical T20 XI.

How much I'd love to see Geoff Boycott him putting in his all to T20, it's clear he was built to be patient, but he was a much better player than his reputation of being boring and selfish. He worked out mystery bowlers and did everything he could to make runs. But he'd work out how to be an above-average guy.

I bet he's the sort of guy who gets to 30 off 15 in the powerplay only to slow down just after to protect his average a bit. I think he'd make himself good enough that he played in all leagues. But I just don't think he'd ever be free enough to really dominate, just a solid pair of hands from a pro you could trust.

I also think if he knew there was more cash on hand, he'd bowl as well. And he's not the only one, really good batters through history have sometimes been ambivalent about bowling, and having toured with England recently, I now see Joe Root practicing his carrom and knuckleballs. It is now worth cash money to bowl, and Boycott liked cash money, which is why he went on a Rebel Tour to South Africa.

Projected stats

35 Average

135 Strike rate

Nearest neighbours

Bill Lawry, 40/120

Sunil Gavaskar 35/125

Sorry, but I am about to say Mankad. If this triggers you into a self-serving rage, then that's your own fault for not understanding that batters can be run out if they leave the crease when the ball is live.

But let's look at Vinoo Mankad for a minute, who rightfully will always be remembered for running out the cheating Bill Brown twice. But what is forgotten is that Vinoo Mankad could play. He opened the batting and bowling once for India. Do you know who does that? Under 14 cricketers and almost no one else.

Mankad was a steady bat, who occasionally made double centuries, but he was a quality bowler, taking 162 Test wickets at 32. He was a genuine allrounder, not someone we classify as one, but really mean he'll bowl the overs between 70 and 80. So much so that he's on this list that is only full of the best all rounders our game has known.

So Vinoo Mankad could bowl quality left-arm spin, he was thought to be as a good as any lefty finger spinner in his time. And he once bowled wrist spin, my guess is as a T20 player, he would have found more use for that. As a batter he was known for his patience, but he once at Lord's he hit a massive six at the Nursery end. And if you read his Wisden obit, it states that he would play whatever role his team needs. I need him to open the bowling, come back later and bowl an over of wrist spin, and whack balls out of the ground.

Projected numbers

Batting average 25/140sr

Bowling ave 35/7.1 econ

Nearest neighbours

Aubrey Faulkner

Batting 35/125

Bowling 24/7.9

Wilfred Rhodes



Batting at number four is a terrible thing to do if you want to have pretty batting figures, but if you want to make a lot of money and travel the world, being a top-level number four is a lucrative place to play.

It also takes singlemindedness and the ability to adapt to many situations. Also Turner was frail and thin, but he once made 300 runs in a day and could play pretty much every shot that existed. He also averaged 47 in ODIS, so we know he had a white ball game. And he could score fast all around the wicket, which really is what a number four needs to do.

Before Glenn Turner turned up, New Zealand cricketers were amateurs, they enjoyed the game, they weren't particularly good at it. But Turner was different; he took the game seriously, he was like a tennis player working alone to better himself. and rebuilt his technique to make it good enough to end up with 100 first class 100s. When Turner made that landmark, New Zealand as a Test nation had only made 76 Test centuries, of which he had the equal highest of 7. And so he didn't really respect the authorities in New Zealand and their amateur nonsense, meaning he missed out on six years of Test cricket, all the while smashing the ball everywhere in county cricket. That my friend is a freelance cricketer, even if we didn't call players like that.

Now he would have left New Zealand cricket and just gone from league to league cashing in.

Projected stats


Nearest Neighbours

Neil Harvey


Arjuna Ranatunga


I need to fit a wicketkeeper in soon, but this is T20, so why don't I take a very part-time wicket keeper in because he can do other things. In this case I am picking one of the most all-round players in the game's history. Richard Austin is not a well-known player, he never got to play much, because he chose not one, but two rebel leagues. First signing up with Kerry Packer's league before playing cricket in South Africa.

So even before we go into what he could do on a cricket field, I think it's pretty clear that this was a guy who was willing to put his paycheque over his patriotism. Of course when Packer signed him for 20,000USD, he was getting 74USD a Test. And he was offered 100k by the SA authorities. So we'd know he'd up for for T20 league offers.

So Austin was primarily an all rounder, he opened the batting in first class circket and usually bowled seam. He did both to pretty good levels. He also once took 12 wickets in a match bowling spin. Yeah, and then he became the limited overs keeper for the Packer West Indies side as well. He could do it all, but we never saw it, because the only chance for fringe West Indies player like him to make that kind of money back then was to take rebel offers.

Even if you are morally against what he did, if Richard Austin were playing today, he'd be in every league, batting middle order, bowling seam in England, spin in the PSL, and keeping wicket when his team needed that.

Projected stats



Nearest neighbours

Seymour Clarke

Bat 0/00

Ted Pooley


It's a miracle that none of these team owners worldwide have picked themselves to play yet. Not for the major leagues; that would be crazy, but further down the chain. You can see some truly weird owners out there, and surely they, or at least their chosen sons, could slip into a lineup for a chance to prove what they could have been if they hadn't spent so much of their youth modelling Gucci glasses on insta and hoovering up charlie.

And there are modern precedents here. Anurag Thakur played a first class match in 2000 after not playing any top-level cricket since he represented them at underage level 7 years prior. He did take two wickets in the first innings, but um, perhaps it was clear he shouldn't have played in the second knock. Oh, and old rich guys did this all the time, entire cricket teams were invented around guys who couldn't play but would pay.

But Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram did it in Tests. And it was every bit as wonderful as You'd think. In three Tests he averaged 8 as a specialist batter, is supposed to have tried to bribe one player to run another out, and there is this photo from the tour.

That is Les Ames keeping, Les Ames was the first great wicket keeper batter; he averaged 40 in Tests as a wicketkeeper, meaning he was making 25% more runs than his nearest keeper. Tich freeman was the bowler, he took 3776 first class wickets. And sandwiched between these two incredible players is a man who appears to have walked on the field, assuming a free lunch was being served. Look how he is standing, no cricketer stands like this, and why on earth is he that far down the wicket, was he attempting a single before the ball was bowled. And the ball has only just hit the stumps; we can tell that because the bail is still moving, and yet he's in the least athletic-looking position possible. this is a man who has lost his car keys, not an international sportsman. And the mother fucker is doing all this with a cravat on.

Anyway, all this makes a terrible egomaniac who embarrassed Indian cricket, so he'd ideal to be a T20 franchise owner.

Projected stats


Nearest Neighbours

Major Bennet


Lord Hawke


Trevor Bailey played 61 Test matches while never truly being a frontline batter or bowler. He wasn't just a bits and pieces player; he was the gold standard bits and pieces player. He took two wickets a Test and batted every position from 1 through to 9. If England needed something, he had a go at it. He wasn't great at any of it. Oh, and he was famous for being one of the most boring, slow, patient, turgid batsmen of all time.

Generally players like Bailey play for developing Test nations, or they disappear. As all Test all rounders fall somewhere on the Pringle Botham continuum, they're either Botham, and good enough at one skill to get picked, and good enough at the other to be an all rounder. Or they're Pringle, very talented cricketers who don't have one banker Test cricket skill, but they keep getting picked because they're all rounders.

But that's Test cricket, in white-ball cricket what with our unnecessary fifth bowler restrictions, bits and pieces all rounders are still around. Every team in the world has used these kinds of cricketers, and often they get paid good money to not quite be good enough to bat or bowl, but do both ok. I think Trevor Bailey is their totem. There are other important facets to Bailey though, he was a great fielder as well, and he was known for bowling defensively. But he was dour with the bat, like, really dour. I think he would have come around a bit, but I'm not sure where you'd bat him. And while he could bow defensively, the fact he was part-time in Tests makes me wonder if he'd get through his four overs regularly. So in other words, a perfect T20 all rounder to be picked in every league.

Projected stats

Trevor Bailey





Nearest Neighbour

Intikhab Alam



Vic Pollard

Bat 23/118

Ball 48/7.8

The ability to spin the ball both ways is very valuable in t20, hence all the leggies around. But I thought I'd look for something more creative in my spinner, adding a little bit of mystery on it.

John Gleeson was not the first mystery spinner, nor the best. That was Jack Iverson, who played in 5 tests, averaged 15, and left us with this kaiju hand picture. Oh, and he left us with Gleeson, who copied Iverson's technique.

Gleeson was never as good, but he was clearly more interested in sticking around than Iverson. But in Tests, you got to face him a lot, learn how he spun the ball and wait for the bad balls. The thing is we now know in T20, he would have been far different what with all the slogging. And because we've seen it with other two-way spinners. Here are two that really struggled in Tests, but became world big daddy supremes in T20.

Oh, and Gleeson did actually play five white ball games, And averaged 16 in then. Small sample size but I have strong feelings this dude was just born too early. And he might get worked out, like he did in Test cricket, but in T20 cricket, you don't face the same players over and over again, and even if you do, there aren't many balls. He could have played for a good few years and made a lot of money.

Projected numbers


Nearest Neighbours

Jack Pollard


Bernard Bosanquet


By deciding Alan Davidson was too obvious ass he could hit and swing the ball, I really limited the amount of left-arm seamers left in the pool, because pre-Wasim there basically weren't any.

They basically didn't exist, but you can't have a t20 team without a left-arm seamer. Richard Collinge was a hero for NZ when they didn't have many. Karsan Ghavrie could bowl pace and spin, and not the worst with the bat. And Goddard is a real all rounder, with a quality record, but I also just put in Trevor Bailey, and you never go double Trevor.

I also wanted a bit more firepower, so I've gone with Bill Voce. If you're good enough for a bodyline you can bowl four overs of quick stuff for me. He was 6'4 as well; there is a belief that bowlers who can extra bounce - and Voce was reportedly one of those - are really handy at the start of T20 games, when batters quite often have to swing across the line and the new ball bounces that little bit more. His bodyline partner Larwood probably would have been more effective at the end with his slingy short action. But I want new ball wickets and the left arm And that's Voce.



Nearest neighbours

Bruce Reid


George Hirst


Honestly I think people have forgotten how good Lance Gibbs was. And I am not talking about the fact his name was actually Lancelot and this is one of the best photos in cricket history. When he retired, he did so with the most wickets in Test history, despite playing at a time people were phasing out spinners. And I know that spinners who turn it one way only aren't great T20 prospects now, but offspin can still be hard to get away. (Slow zoom into his fingers) And if you are like Gibbs and have kind freakish long fingers, spin the ball massively and get bounce, that's causing a lot of troubles out there.

And good offspin still just works. And I'm not talking the spin in both ways, guys, but there are plenty of spinners who bowl boring offspin and have an outstanding record. Gibbs wasn't an ordinary off-spinner, he was absolutely magnificent, and so you could see how that would work for him. Also he went at under two runs an over in Tests, he was frugal before they paid you millions for it.

Projected stats


Hugh Tayfield


Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan


Thank you for reading Jarrod Kimber's Sports Almanac. This post is public so feel free to share it.

Fazal Mahmood was a wicket-taker who didn't go for runs. And yes, he was also super cool, and one of the many cricketers to be the hair of Brylcreem. He was the first bowler to take 12 wicket hauls against four countries. In the first seven wins of Pakistan's Test life, he took 65 wickets. He took 40% of Pakistan's wickets when he played. No country had ever started Test cricket with a weapon anywhere near as good.

When Fazal retired, he had more than double the wickets of any Pakistani bowler. Oh, and he did all this while going at barely two an over and averaging 24. And there was all those bags of wickets. That's what I want from him, bags of wickets, because when Fazal took wickets, his team won. That seems like a pretty cool skill.

Projected stats


Nearest Neighbours

Mohammad Nissar


Fred Trueman


I am pretty happy with the team so far, I've got a lot of bowling options, even my keeper bowls, I have a weak middle order, too many openers, three obvious new ball bowlers, and so the team is now as shabby as most franchise teams. By now you might have noticed that we have every spot in the lineup taken except the number three. So let's get this out of the way, you can't have a fantasy cricket team and not pick cricket's biggest ever star.

In 1871 Grace scored ten first-class hundreds. The rest of cricket in England - county, university, Gentlemen v Players, and whatever other nonsense games had first-class status that summer, 52 of them in all - produced only seven more. He didn't outscore other batsmen, he outscored all of cricket.

He also played a draw shot through his legs, so he was open to innovation. And he bowled, he took 2809 wickets at 18, now even accounting for the batmen of his time, that's not a bad record.

He was also the man who conquered modern cricket first, his career overlapped with overarm and underarm bowling, so a new format is hardly a blip for him.

But he is not here because he can bowl, or even bat, he's here as my franchise player because he's really famous, and I as a T20 guy, know that every team must have just someone quite famous. Now he did play as an amateur, but he also got paid more than the professionals.

There is a precedent for this in modern T20 leagues even if many of them have salary caps. Players get paid promotional fees, often dwarfing their actual playing fees, to sign up. Plus other deals can be worked in, and oh yeah, many teams just cheat the salary cap and no one cares.

WG would be up for all of this, and not only that, he was essentially the first sporting brand, and so I expect he would have had the league's name shaved into his beard. WG Grace played cricket to be a legend, turned up in random places because they paid him, received extra money under the table, wasn't available for England selection at all times, and was usually a bigger draw than the match he was in. He was T20 cricket.

Geoffrey Boycott

Vinoo Mankad

WG Grace

Glenn Turner

Maharaj Kumar of Vizianagram

Richard Austin

Trevor Bailey

John Gleeson

Bill Voce

Lance Gibbs

Fazal Mahmood

Jim Foat