Alex Massie

The Greatest Englishmen XI

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17th September 1932: Members of the MCC cricket team aboard the liner 'Orontes' at Tilbury, en route for Australia (left to right) Walter Hammond, Douglas Jardine (captain), Brown, Bowes, Duckworth (head turned), Harold Larwood, Leyland, Mitchell, Paynter, Herbert Sutcliffe, Verity, Voce and Wyatt. Photo by H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

No, not this lot - though they were so good they might have beaten Bradman and Australia in 1932-33 bowling to "ordinary" fields. At the start of the tour, however, Jardine's men travelled from Perth to Adelaide by train across the Nullarbor Plain. It was a long, often tedious trip. To while away the time they picked various All-Time XIs. This was their Greatest Englishmen XI:

Nelson (Captain), Wellington, Lister, Rhodes (Cecil, not Wilfred), Kelvin, Simpson, Gladstone, Shaftesbury, Dickens, Shaw, Watt, Disraeli.

You will have noticed that nearly half the side, strictly speaking, aren't English at all. Then again, Jardine and Pataudi weren't either. Note too the emphasis on science and medicine, testimony to a sense of wonder (and transformation of knowledge, health and opportunity) that we now, perhaps, take for granted. It seems rum that Shaw wins a place ahead of Shakespeare but there you have it.

It would be interesting and amusing to ask the current England side to make their own such selection. One fancies that few of those selected by Jardine's squad would make the team - a reflection of changing views of greatness - and that many of andrew Strauss's men would not have heard of some of those chosen by their predecessors.

That shouldn't be too surprising. Moreover, Jardine's side was more academic than Strauss's. Jardine, the ghastly Gubby Allen, Pataudi, Brown and Wyatt were all Oxford or Cambridge; of the present crop I think only Strauss, Trott, Pietersen and Shazhad are university men. Cook (Bedford) and Bell (Rugby) went straight from public school to first-class cricket.

Still, readers are invited to name their own XI of Greatest Englishmen and to suggest an XI that might be selected by the current England team...

UPDATE: And, just for fun, who would make a Greatest Australians XI? An easier selection, surely, the field being so much smaller...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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