Island all-time XI

‘The all-time Island team that covers all the bases’            Rob Batiste

Guernsey Press      September 2021

The top 100 individuals have been picked, now for the best teams for a fantasy one-day tri-series to wrap it all up. Guernsey’s finest 50-over XI to take on the best English players that came our way and the best Overseas XI. And there will be controversy, with one of my own Top 10 individual picks not even making the side. You might very reasonably ask how on earth Ralph Anthony, joint record-holder when it comes to appearances, does not make the team. I would counter, with so much strong competition there is no need for two left-arm spinners and as Jeremy Frith (the individual No.l) can take on that role more than ably, I have gone for another batsman just in case the wicket is green and the overhead conditions are favouring the seamers. It’s a team stacked with all-rounders and only two outright specialists – a wicket-keeper and opening bowler who has no rival for the No. 11 spot.

While a few are far from household names, that cannot be said about my spearhead bowler. Miles Dobson gets the cherry at its freshest and at the other end I have plumped for one of three more Old Elizabethans who bowled notably fast. W. C. Watling, commonly known as Bill, and Brian Rose were teammates in the last College sides before the Occupation and clearly were very fine bowlers and notably fast also. Tragically, both men were killed in action after they volunteered to join the RAF at the onset of war, which Edward Mockler also experienced, albeit the First World War.

This man was the star of the College side of 1907 and years later was a mainstay of the GlCC sides in the 1920s. The Elizabethan magazine refers to Mockler’s ‘death-dealing deliveries’ and while there is no record of him actually killing anyone, he was clearly a scaringly quick bowler who took 93 wickets for the College in 1906. He often opened the batting, too, but it was his bowling that always caught the eye and in the late 1920s he was claiming five MCC wickets as the famous old club toured the island.

On the basis that here was someone who could play the ‘Thommo’ role to Dobson’s ‘Lillee’, the long-gone Major gets in my side. That said, if Dobson and Mockler are unable to blast their tri-series opponents out with pace and swing, there are plenty of choices in terms of seam and stifling accuracy.

Lee Savident, Pierre Le Cocq and Matt Stokes could ably handle that objective and, if the wicket was slow and there was a need for a trundler to put the ball on the spot, Keith Howick might well be the man. Howick made his name in Island cricket as an opening batsman who could bat for hours, but it is often overlooked how successful he was with ball in hand, delivering cherries from circa 6ft 5in and from a high action. Sticking with the bowlers, I have gone the full Monty in picking three spinners, the orthodox right-arm off-spinner, the left-armed and to bamboozle with something altogether different, the best leg-spinner Guernsey has ever seen. We are talking Paul Le Masurier, who produced several years of astonishing figures at Elizabeth College in the early ’30s before heading off to a new life in the UK.

For those who don’t recall his appearance at No. 70 in the Top 100, he was to take 48 wickets in four seasons against Victoria College. In 1931, he took 9 for 25 against the brown caps and a year on bowled them out them twice more, claiming 8 for 23 and 5 for 39. Into his 20s, he came back to the island and represent the GlCC, for which he took 52 wickets in 1936. Never afraid to pitch the ball up, he often opened the bowling as he was considered good enough to get wickets on any pitch. On a ‘sticky’ he was almost unplayable and, for good measure, he could handle a bat.

Warren Barrett and Frith would provide the traditional right-left spin options and would expect that on most occasions, Barrett would be tasked to prise open any budding partnership. At the same time, Frith would be skilful enough to tie down an end, firing in his lefties, generally bowling at a quicker pace and more negatively than the often-enticing varities of Ralph Anthony. Of course, to maximise the spin threat and the seamers in this side, you need the best wicket-keeper. Were the side not so strong in batting I would have gone for the pugnacious and brave Mike Webber, but in this XI he would probably bat no higher than eight. I would not insult ‘MCC’ by saying there is room for a specialist, because he was every inch that as well as being a top batsman, but Micky Fooks was the slickest and most reliable ‘local’ gloveman I have seen. He plays and bats at No. 10.

As for the batting, I was torn over who would be the lower middle-order strokemaker. Should it be Robin Roussel? Bill Stone? The man who could clear the College Field pavilion – and capable of some fearsome hitting, as well as some tidy leg-spin? No, for no other reason that he has played at a higher level than any of his rivals and scored heavily for the Hampshire seconds, I would edge towards the modern-day slayer, Tim Ravenscroft, to bat at No. 6, one place ahead of Pierre Le Cocq. That leaves the five main batting places and – a confession – I have guarded against the Overseas and England XIs having some pre-lunch fun in seaming conditions by playing three men who will be hard to prise out on any day.

Opening are Howick and Lee Savident, two giants of the local game in both shape and record. Howick would the anchor man, a role he played so ably in his time in domestic cricket. Savident would have a little more licence in terms of shot playing, and not only were this pair so good at handling the quickies, their height allowed them to negate late Swing with a big, confident left-foot stride. At first wicket down comes the finest Guernsey player of current times. Matt Stokes could comfortably bat at the top of the order and I am sure there will be many who demand he does. But, in a 50-over game, there is sufficient time for this classical player to adapt to whatever challenge is thrown his way. You could also make an argument for Jeremy Frith, my No. 4, swapping places.

That leaves Warren Barrett to sit in at No. 5, a position which, his side having made the solid start you would hope for, enables the man of every stroke in the book to push the innings on.

Team: Keith Howick, Lee Savident, Matt Stokes, Jeremy Frith, Warren Barrett, Tim Ravenscroft, Pierre Le Cocq (Capt), Paul Le Masurier, Edward mockler, Micky Fooks (Wkt), Miles Dobson

As for the opposition? The Overseas XI is heavily dominated by South Africans – eight of them. Were it real and about to walk out to bat against them I might be a touch nervous – correction, make that a jangling wreck – to face the combination of Divan van der Heever, Bruce Ricketts, Justin Scriven and Andre van Rooyen, not to mention arguably the finest seamer Guernsey ever fielded – the little Indian Ami Banerjee.

It matters little whether compatriots Ryan Bishop or Mark Wright take the gloves because either could easily play as a batsman, while adding some stroke playing capability and lightning running between the wickets at No. 5 would be another Springbok, the one-season St Saviour’s wonder Howard Taylor. The side is completed by a pair of Kiwis in Glenn Milnes and Ian Atchison.

Team: Glenn Milnes, Ryan Bishop, Ami Banerjee, GH Smit, Howard Taylor, Mark Wright (Wkt), Ian Atchison, Divan van der Heever, Andre van Rooyen, Justin Scriven, Bruce Ricketts

The England side is not too shabby either. Guernsey never had a better opening pair of batsmen than Tony Taylor and Alan Lewis and in Nick Derbyshire and a young Tim Duke, a pacy new-ball attack. Paul Smith was a fine wicket-keeper and there are plenty of runs in a middle order containing Robin Winstone, Alan Conway, Terry Nicholls, Mark Clapham and John Beasley. So much quality batting.

Team: Tony Taylor, Alan Lewis, Alan Conway, Robin Winstone, Terry Nicholls, Mark Clapham, Tim Duke, Paul Smith (Wkt), John Beasley, Mike Kinder, Nick Derbyshire

But who would win? To be honest, that is one argument I am not prepared to take up, but take a good luck at the three XIs named today and you make up your own mind. They are all strong sides that highlight how many good players we have seen.