1. Frank Iredale (AUS)
2. KC Ibrahim (IND)
3. Ijaz Ahmed (PAK)
4. Inzamam-ul-Haq (PAK)
5. Asif Iqbal (PAK)
6. Imran Khan (PAK) (Capt)
7. Imtiaz Ahmed (PAK) (Wkt)
8. Ray Illingworth (ENG)
9. David Ironside (SA)
10. Jack Iverson (AUS)
11. Bert Ironmonger (AUS)
Country representation in the series so far: England 35, Australia 19, West Indies 12, Pakistan 10, India 9, South Africa 8, New Zealand 5, Zimbabwe 1.
No New Zealanders or Sri Lankans or West Indians were available for selection while only two "I" South Africans have played test cricket. Thank heavens for Pakistan then, whose players ride to the rescue and without whom this team would be dangerously thin. As matters stand it remains a selection that may be considered more interesting than it is daunting.
I had considered selecting Iftikhar Ali Khan but decided against it since he is, after all, rather better known as the Nawab of Pataudi and I felt that picking him here would be just a little bit too much.
So: A drastic shortage of top-class pace bowlers means that the attack has an old-fashioned look about it. In fact it might be best suited to either the flat tracks of the post-war subcontinent or the perfect batting wickets of the 1920s. In other words, it's not a side that you would particularly want to see playing at, say, New Road or Headingly on a cold April morning. Certainly, it's hard to imagine many modern-day selectors having the courage - except in the most extreme conditions - to pick three spinners and just two quicks. However this is an extreme situation and I'm biased in favour of tweakers anyway. In fact, there are other spinners - Iqbal Qasim, John Inverarity, the all-rounder Jack Iddon and, of course, Intikhab Alam who might consider themselves aggrieved they had the misfortune to run into so much competition for a selection that is less than abundantly stocked with talent in other areas.
Still, two of the spinners in particular are worthy of comment. Bert Ironmonger was 45 when he made his debut for Australia in 1928 and though he only played 14 tests the 74 wickets he took with his slow leftarmers came at a miserly 18 runs apiece, even if he met with less success against England. It has to be supposed that, as a genuine rabbit, he didn't much enjoy batting against Harold Larwood either. Still, "Dainty" Ironmonger's achievements are in one sense remarkable: he bowled with great control, depsite missing the forefinger of his left-hand. The more one contemplates this, the more extraordinary it seems.
Mind you, Ironmonger was orthodox compared to Jack Iverson. "Mystery" spinners are, as you know, a great and irresistable part of cricketing folklore and this consideration alone would have been enough to earn Iverson a palce in this XI. Happily, he could also bowl, even if top-class batsmen did eventually work out that though he looked like a leg-break bowler it was sensible to play him as an off-break bowler. Still, this realisation came too late for England, 21 of whose batsmen succumbed to Iverson in his only test series, the 1950-51 Ashes.
Additionally, you have to enjoy this:
His unique style caused Australian captain Lindsay Hassett, a fellow Victorian, to hide his action during training sessions for the national team. Hassett prohibited Iverson from bowling to New South Wales batsmen to prevent them from analysing his bowling action, making him more effective in Sheffield Shield matches for Victoria against New South Wales. This led to conflict with New South Wales batsmen. When Iverson was put on to bowl during the Tests, Hassett would remove Keith Miller, a New South Welshman, from his position at first slip and move him to mid on, so that he was standing behind Iverson and could not understand how Iverson's bowling action worked.
Ritchie Benaud said of Iverson,
Ritchie's word is good enough for me and, frankly, i'd be disappointed if it weren;t for you too.
Ray Illingworth, by contrast, is more familiar: a gloomy bugger who was one of a succession of selectors to muck-up English cricket in the 1990s. But he could play in his day. No doubt about that. There's an argument for making the Yorkshireman captain, especially given how much better he performed as a skipper than as a subordinate. On the other hand, there's a sense in which a team containing so many players from the sub-continent might perform better if led by a Pakistani captain. Though he will also have to be the premier - indeed only - strike bowler, I suspect that this is an additional challenge Imran would be happy to take on.
The middle order, in fact, is pretty much secure. Asif Iqbal's inclusion is especially welcome since he was considered a good enough bowler to open the attack for Pakistan and his bowling supplies much needed, if still necessarily imperfect, support to Imran. South africa's Lee Irvine, who averaed 50 in his four tests (all played in 1969) and 40 in his career for Essex and Transvaal may consider himself somewhat unfortunate.
Inzamam will obviously be asked to supply a weight of runs to match his stature, though he can count on doughty, if never fluent, support from Ijaz Ahmed and some lusty hitting from Imtiaz.
The openers take us back some way. Frank Iredale is not a name often put up in lights these days. Then again he had the misfortune - in this sense anyway - to be in the same Australian side as Victor Trumper and Clem Hill which rather crowded out room at the top end of the billboard. But he had talent as a test average of 36 on the pitches of the late 19th century surely demonstrates.
It must be admitted that KC Ibrahim's brief test career disappointed. Making his debut in 1948, he averaged just 21 in his four tests. Against that must be weighed a) the shortage of class batsmen available for selection and b) the 60 he averaged in his 60 first-class matches.
Completing the side is South African swing bowler David Ironside, who also, alas, only played a handful of tests. He holds the distinction of being the only test cricketer to have been born in Mozambique. More pertinently for this exercise he seems to have more to offer than a number of English military medium seamers who might otherwise blag their way into this side. Ironside took 15 wickets at 18 against the 53-54 New Zealanders while his first-class figures, though compiled in just a few years, are similarly flattering.
I freely confess that this is a less than ideal XI but we are labouring in less than ideal circmstances here. It is entirely possible I have overlooked a gem and I have little doubt that yu'll tell me - gently! - if this is so.
Next week - or this weekend actually since I'm selecting it now - the much more interesting K XI which will, as previously promised, contain a brace of Scotsmen.