A few names…
Anyone who says that the current England or South African test sides are the best in the world may be correct for now. But really, standards have fallen some way in the last 10 years or so. I do not blame T20 for this; I think it is a cycle of time. The strongest years in tennis were when Borg, McEnroe, Connors, and Lendl, dominated the game 30 years ago. Only now, with Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray, has the game seen a top 4 so spell-bindingly good, and dominant over their peers.
I expect that we won’t see a side dominate cricket, like that incredible Australian team did, for quite some time. Look again at the names above. The two in blue are, undoubtedly, ranked in the top 5 bowlers of all time ever. And they played together for most of their careers; that alone is incredible. The name in green is widely regarded as the best combination of batting, wicket-keeping (and integrity) ever seen wearing the gloves. The names in maroon can all be talked about, legitimately, as being among the most imperious, destructive, and best batsmen in a generation. How Australia would love the other three batsmen right now! And think for a moment of the class players that never really made it into that test side: Darren Lehmann, Michael Hussey, Stuart Law. My word, that period of Australian cricket was incredible. Think again of the bowlers … Stuart MacGill, Stuart Clark come instantly to mind as incredible players who would have played FAR more if not for the utter class of those “above” them.
Players of such utter class do not come about as a product of any first class system, coach, or particular training method. They are freaks … but of the very best kind; remember them fondly. Oh, and if anyone talks about 2005, and how England beat (most of) that side, I say this: McGrath didn’t play in two tests, England won those two tests.
England may have beaten Australia, but they did not beat McGrath.
So please – when England play South Africa in the 2nd test – know that while good, they ain’t *that* good.