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Cricket XI at the FIFA World Cup 2018

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Football_Cricket_World_CupHere at HoldingWilley, we know that cricket, the game of gentleman and tea, is the world’s premier sport. However, much to our astonishment, the vast majority of the global population disagrees.

The FIFA World Cup is upon us and rather than turn our noses as the circus, we’re getting involved. Sure, a Cristiano Ronaldo freekick can’t compare to a James Vince cover drive, but we’re not ashamed to admit that we’ve felt a touch of World Cup fever.

In honor of the (second most) beautiful game, we’ve assembled a dream team of cricketers and speculated on the type of footballer they would make. With a solid 4-2-3-1 formation, this XI is solid in the middle, is provided width from energetic wing-backs and has enough muscle up front when all pre-match plans have been scuppered and the manager has been forced to resort to a route one approach.

Goalkeeper - MS Dhoni

Like the eternal shot stoppers Gianluigi Buffon, Edwin van der Sar and Peter Schmeichel, our glove man has only improved with age. Time may have slowed down his reflexes, but few in the business know how to command an area, marshal a defence or rally the troops like Dhoni. We need a ‘keeper switched on at all times and the former Indian captain is still as sharp as they come.

Left back - Rashid Khan

Woe to the right back tasked with tracking this high energy teenager as he marauds down the flank, creating overlaps and whipping in crosses. If his variety with a cricket ball is anything to go by, Khan will be able to mix attack with defence with sparkling efficiency.

Centre backs - Kagiso Rabada & Mitchell Starc

In Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, Spain have one of the most settled centre back partnerships at the World Cup. That they come from rival club sides does not seem to hinder their abilities so there is no reason why Rabada and Starc can’t put their differences aside and forge a watertight defence. With towering height, silky skills, a left-foot/right-foot combination and just enough aggression; these two double tick every box.

Right back - Kane Williamson

With youth across the defence, it’s crucial to have a strong leader who can give the lads a tongue lashing when the offside trap has been let down by a lazy teammate. The New Zealand skipper is more than capable of providing an attacking outlet down the right but is just as adept at stabilizing the defence with a crunching tackle or a well timed intercept.

Defensive midfield - Joe Root & Ben Stokes

By drawing inspiration from the legendary union that was forged by Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso, we’ve shored up our midfield with two countrymen who dovetail superbly. Root is the artisan; the majestic ball player whose right foot paints a masterpiece with ranging passes that link defence with attack in eye-catching fashion. Stokes, well, the all-rounder would be just as happy banging one in from thirty yards as he would be knocking the stuffing out of a fleet footed winger who had the temerity to get anywhere near the raging ginger’s orbit.

Left midfield - AB de Villiers

Zinedine Zidane came out of retirement for a World Cup so we’re pinning our hopes on AB doing the same. You just know that this man would make a world class footballer and we can just see him beating a defender, cutting inside and unleashing a curler right in the top corner. With Khan doing the running out left and Stokes offering cover in the middle, de Villiers can play the game at his own pace and provide magic where necessary.

Centre midfield - Virat Kohli

The captain, the heartbeat of the team, the driving force whose will alone could drag even the most abject side to victory. By stationing Kohli at the fulcrum, he could dictate the tempo of the match as he saw fit. A small pass into space here, a deft flick there, a galloping solo run that leaves several defenders on their arse as he dinks one over the keeper to win the final in extra time; all is possible (and expected) when the man with 10 on his back has the ball at his feet.

Right midfield - Mohammad Amir

The way the team is set up we’ll need a winger who is comfortable hugging the touch line to provide width on the right. Naturally, that player is likely to get a lot of stick from away fans and if there is one person who can brush off abuse it is Pakistan’s Amir. With skill and speed to match his temperament, even the loud mouths on the touchline will be chanting his name after 90 minutes.

Striker - Chris Gayle

There’s nothing like a hulking number 9, is there? No matter how much the game evolves and how many iterations of tiki-taka Pep Guardiola invents, there is no replacing the cold blooded efficiency of the target man. Gayle can play with his back to goal to link up play, he can be used as a lightning rod for the inevitable reversion to route one and he can stick an elbow in the face of a defender when the ref isn’t looking.

Manager - Gary Kirsten

With all those egos knocking about, we’ll need a strong character who understands that a soft approach is best suited for this generation obsessed with social media and haircuts. Kirsten knows this better than most. Besides, who doesn’t want a World Cup winner in the dug-out when the side is 0-2 down at half time?

 

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Daniel is a freelance sports journalist from Johannesburg who would always rather be watching Test ...

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