It is oft stated by those of us who are not fans of the English cricket team that it is, at times, akin to playing a United Nations XI given that a number of English players over the years have been born, and in some cases played significant cricket, in countries other than England. As a result of a discussion on this very issue this morning, off the back of an Irishman and Zimbabwean making their debuts for England today, I was set the challenge of naming a “best” English XI made up from those who were born somewhere other than England.
Let me get this out of the way now: I am abundantly aware that some of these players moved to England to play cricket because of political (apartheid), opportunity (their country was not in test cricket) or, indeed, they moved there with their families as children. I am also not in any way seeking to be racist. All I am pointing out is that a large quotient of England’s best players, for better or for worse, have been born elsewhere.
The method for picking this XI has been simple: I reviewed the records of the English players who have played the game filtered by from the most tests played to the least and then I looked at the place of birth of players I knew to have been born other than in England. I may have missed a couple along the way but I reckon this XI is pretty spot on. Finally: Wales, Scotland and Ireland and NOT part of England for the purpose of this exercise.
Here is the United Nations (English) XI (with country of birth in parenthesis) along with their test records:
Andrew Strauss (South Africa)
Mike Denness (Scotland)
Allan Lamb (South Africa)
Kevin Pietersen (South Africa)
Graeme Hick (Zimbabwe)
Basil D’Oliviera (South Africa)
Matt Prior (South Africa)
Tony Greig (South Africa)
Chris Lewis (Guyana)
Robert Croft (Wales)
Norman Cowans (Jamiaca)
That is a pretty fair XI I am sure you will agree. It would be remiss of me though to not mention one of the most hated English players to grace these shores (not Stuart Broad for those of you who jumped to that conclusion), Douglas Jardine. The captain of the Bodyline series and noted anglophile who was almost overt in his dislike for Australians was born in India.