Can there be a better Santa-Cricketer than Mike Gatting? © Getty Images
Can there be a better Santa-Cricketer than Mike Gatting? © Getty Images

The festive season is here. Cricket, the greatest sport of them all, will be ready with three Boxing Day Tests. Just before the cricket festivities tee off, Abhishek Mukherjee creates a Christmas XI.

Note: Written in 2014. Some numbers may have changed.

The season is nigh — the season of cakes and mead and candles and decorations and Santa and stockings and gifts and delicacies. The last week of the year is often the most eagerly anticipated one in many parts of the world. What better way to celebrate the festive season than to pursue that armchair fan’s ultimate pastime — create a Dream Team?

Here is a Christmas XI that would throw a challenge to many teams. While it is not easy to find a Mistletoe, a Myrrh, or a Frankincense, we can find some that would fit the bill.

1. Jacques Rudolph

When he gets time off from pulling the sledge (or should we call it a sleigh?), Jacques Andries Rudolph — who was good enough to open batting for South Africa — will be the first name on the list. The man, whose debut was delayed, responded with 222 not out when his chance came. What else do you want?

2. Russell Cake

What is Christmas without cake? Russell Quentin Cake played 37 First-Class matches — for Cambridge University and Combined Universities — and was good enough to score four hundreds and average 38.05 with the bat. Certainly not an outstanding batsman, but a competent one. The right-left combination will be there. That should make Sunil Gavaskar happy.

3. Ian Bell

With a career spanning over a hundred Tests and 7,000 runs (including 21 hundreds), Ian Ronald Bell’s selection is a no-brainer. Jittery on some days and explosive on others, Bell has been responsible for England’s revival after the nadir of the 1990s. He is also set to become the second Englishman to score 5,000 ODI runs. Count on him to jingle!

4. Phil Mead (captain)

Charles Phillip Mead played only 17 Tests, but he averaged 49.37. Eclipsed by the great English batsmen of the 1920s (probably the finest line-up their history), Mead came to his elements for Hampshire. One of only four men to have scored in excess of 55,000 First-Class runs, Mead had also captured 277 wickets with his left-arm spin. An overdose of Mead is sometimes good.

5. Noel McGregor

Spencer Noel McGregor played 25 Tests for New Zealand (which is more than his captain’s tally). Though he did not have excellent numbers he did a good job overseas, and played a crucial role when New Zealand drew a Test at Lahore in 1955-56 against all odds, scoring 111 and 43. For the uninitiated (do I sound stupid?), Noël is another name for Christmas (or Christmas carol).

6. Carol Oyler

Carol Mary Duske née Oyler played hockey for New Zealand, but more importantly, she played five Women’s Tests. Her batting average of 35.33 would sound more impressive if we mention that she played all her Tests against England Women. Time for some music, then…

7. Joyce Christ

At number seven, Joyce Christ née McCulloch (do I need to mention why she will find a place?) will provide the perfect balance to the side. While her steady batting will provide support if there is a collapse, her fast-medium bowling will provide the occasional breakthrough.

8. Matthew Church

Matthew John Church’s career was neither long nor distinguished (his four-year stint with Gloucestershire and Worcestershire resulted in 629 runs and a mere nine wickets), but he can at least provide with some support. He also had a four-wicket haul. He had scored 152 and taken four for 50 in the same match (albeit against Oxford University) in 1996, so he will not be a misfit in the side.

9. Claus Morild

We could not find a Santa, but we Claus Morild had played for Denmark without any success in World Cup qualifiers. He seemed cut out for the longer version, given he had once scored 67 against Ireland at Dublin in 1978.

10. Blessing Mahwire

Robert Mugabe’s regime took away the best years of Ngonidzashe Blessing Mahwire. He could have become a quality fast-medium bowler, and had opened the attack for Zimbabwe. A competent batsman, Mahwire had scored 42 and 50* against New Zealand at Bulawayo in a losing cause.

11. Mary Waldron (wicketkeeper)

Mary Veronica Waldron (the investors do not allow jokes on virginity) continues to do a commendable job behind the stumps for Ireland. Her averages of 6.64 in ODIs and 10.28 in T20Is are certainly not impressive, but her glovework has certainly been neat. Our strong batting line-up can certainly do with a specialist wicket-keeper.

12th man: Gift Mkhondwane

The young Gift Mkhondwane has only played for Easterns Under-17s and Easterns Under-19s — and has a rather ordinary career — but can you imagine Christmas without gifts?


George Pope, Ian Bishop, and Mark Priest.

Special appearance:

John Snow.

Home ground:


(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)