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Cricket's Avian XI

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Avian_XI_cricketEvery cricket aficionado worth their salt must have engaged in the thrilling pastime of forming random XIs, stretching from the relevant to the inane. We have all been there – alphabetical XIs, statistical XIs, festive XIs and what not. Inspired by Mason Crane’s Test debut at Sydney, here is an attempt at gathering an international eleven of cricketers who share their name, surname or widely known nickname with our friends from the skies and the marshes.

Presenting cricket’s Avian XI.

1) Aaron Finch (Australia)

The hard-hitting Aaron Finch can be banked on to provide a buccaneering start for the Avian XI. The opener from Victoria holds the record for the highest score in a Twenty20 international – he pounded England into submission with 156 from only 63 balls, studded with 11 fours and 14 sixes, at Southampton in 2013. He marked his World Cup debut in 2015 with a match-winning 135 at Melbourne, also against England, as Australia’s victorious campaign got off to a flier.

2) Jack Heron (Zimbabwe)

Jack Heron had the privilege of playing in Zimbabwe’s first ever ODI match, against Australia at Trent Bridge in the 1983 World Cup, which resulted in a memorable nine-run win for the greenhorn Africans. However, he could muster only 50 runs from six innings in the tournament, which turned out to be his last outing in any form of cricket. He had his moments with Rhodesia in the Currie Cup though, including a career-best of 175 against Transvaal in 1975-76.

3) Stork Hendry (Australia)

Hunter Scott Thomas Laurie Hendry, who played a handful of Tests for Australia between the wars, was more commonly known as ‘Stork’, due to his height. A top-order batsman, he passed fifty only once in Test cricket, when he scored 112 in a losing cause during the 1928-29 Ashes at Sydney. His first-class record, however, boasted a triple century - an unbeaten 325 for Victoria against the touring New Zealanders in 1925-26. He was a handy pace bowler as well.

4) Martin Crowe (New Zealand, captain)

One of New Zealand’s greats, Martin Crowe makes it to the Avian XI due to his first name – the martin is a species similar to the swallow. Crowe also has the honour of leading the side. When his Test career ended, he was his country’s leading run-getter; his highest score was 299 against Sri Lanka at Wellington in 1990-91, a national record for 23 years. Crowe’s captaincy at the 1992 World Cup was seen by many as pioneering. He died of lymphoma in 2016, aged just 53.

5) Aminul Islam (Bangladesh)

Popularly known as ‘Bulbul’, Aminul Islam marked Bangladesh’s inaugural Test match, against India at Dhaka in 2000-01, with a patient 145, an innings that at one point gave the Tigers a realistic chance of upstaging the Indians. Captain of Bangladesh at the 1999 World Cup, during which he oversaw wins against Scotland, and more significantly Pakistan, Bulbul ended with modest numbers in both Tests and ODIs. His last international appearance came in 2002-03.

6) Robin Uthappa (wicketkeeper, India)

In a toss-up between the Robins, Uthappa of India pips Smith of England only because a wicketkeeper had to be brought into the team. Uthappa, an attacking batsman and occasional wicketkeeper, made his ODI debut against England in 2005-06 and immediately made an impact, scoring 86 before running himself out in a bizarre fashion. However, his international career since then has been patchy, and he has not played for India in the last two and a half years.

7) Ilyas Gull (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong made their ODI debut in the 2004 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka, and part of the squad was Ilyas Gull, an off-spinning all-rounder who returned a tidy 3/46 in ten overs in the opening game against Bangladesh. In 2004-05, he had marked his first-class debut in style, taking 5/16 in a losing cause in the first innings of an Intercontinental Cup match against the UAE at Sharjah. While he may not exactly be a solid bat at seven, his surname makes it hard to leave him out.

8) Jackson Bird (Australia)

A long tail begins with Australian fast bowler Jackson Bird, whose surname says it all to justify his inclusion in our team. Bird made his Test debut in the 2012 Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka. He was named man of the match in his second Test, the following match of the series at Sydney, where he returned match figures of 7/117. In 2015-16, playing a Test series for Australia after 30 months, he took his best innings haul of 5/59 against New Zealand at Christchurch.   

9) Joe Partridge (South Africa)

Bulawayo-born Joe Partridge, a top-quality swing bowler when at his best, first broke into the South African team in 1963-64, for the tour of Australia and New Zealand. He collected as many as 38 wickets across eight Tests on the tour, including nine each in both the Tests played at Sydney. The bespectacled Partridge played his last for South Africa in 1965 – he enjoyed a lot more success on the first-class circuit with Rhodesia. He tragically committed suicide in 1988.

10) Mason Crane (England)

Hampshire’s young leg-spinner Mason Crane was only two T20 internationals old before making his much-awaited Test debut at Sydney. He first represented his county’s first eleven as an 18-year-old in 2015 in a T20 against Surrey, claiming Kumar Sangakkara as his prized first wicket. Later that season, Crane, who grew up idolizing Shane Warne, became the youngest Hampshire bowler to take a five-wicket haul in the county championship – 5/35 against Warwickshire.

11) Glenn McGrath (Australia)

The lanky paceman Glenn McGrath rounds off the Avian XI. An undisputed legend of the game and a vital cog of a great Australian side for the major part of his career, ‘Pigeon’ troubled many a batsman with his nagging accuracy and impeccable control in his 13 years as an international cricketer. His 563 Test wickets – at 21.64 – are the most by any pacer, while his ODI numbers, 381 wickets at 22.02, are just as terrific. He has been part of three World Cup-winning teams.

Team Manager: Harold ‘Dickie’ Bird (England).

Honourable mentions: Joel ‘Big Bird’ Garner (West Indies), Vasbert Drakes (West Indies).

Near misses: Lord Martin Bladen Hawke (England), Graeme Swann (England).

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket blogger and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of Test...

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