'Lillee, Willey and Dilley' - new book picks cricket's craziest 11s

Mark Slattery and his new book Cricket's Craziest Teams.

Mark Slattery and his new book Cricket's Craziest Teams. - Credit: Mark Slattery

A St Albans author has created what he thinks must be the most unusual book on cricket ever published - and a perfect last minute stocking filler this Christmas. 

Cricket’s Craziest Teams features over 800 genuine international players selected for 50 teams picked according to the absurd criteria of their names. It comes just as England experience their own selection problems. 

It’s the brainchild of writer, Mark Slattery, who explained:  “I grew up watching my dad play cricket every Saturday, and scoring for his team. I also grew up listening to BBC Test Match Special and love the warmth and humour of the sport.

The trees team.

The trees team. - Credit: Patrick Latham

"After years of being bombarded by Botham not quite getting his leg over, and the bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey, I thought there must be something pleasing in the poetry of names.” 

The book’s 50 teams collect together properly balanced sides with players whose names are based on birds, trees, the landscape, restaurant terms, age and youth, numbers, motoring, and many other equally irrelevant criteria. 

“We all love to play selector. That’s why fantasy cricket has been so popular. I’ve now become the Monty Python of selectors. I can justify my selections with absurd reasoning, such as choosing my Birding XI according to plumage, not talent.”

'Mowing Ali'

'Mowing Ali' - Credit: Patrick Latham

His book features most of the commentary teams, with some lines thrown in for the likes of Rob Key (“he always did have trouble turning”) and Mike Atherton and their colleagues.  

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“I remember when Phil Salt made it into the England squad, David Lloyd could hardly contain himself. Social media exploded. I was in there too, offering Salt my condiments.” 

Joe Root finds himself in the Trees XI, alongside recent India coach Ravi Shastri; Rory Burns is in the Illnesses and Ailments XI which also stars the man who was to captain Australia – wicket keeper Tim Paine. 

Pakistani legend, Ramiz Raja.

Pakistani legend, Ramiz Raja. - Credit: Patrick Latham

At long last, the well-known trio of Lillee, Willey and Dilley, who combined in a classic dismissal in 1979, can take the field together alongside other rhyming names like Stokes, Foakes and Woakes. 

Aaron Finch appears in the Birding XI. Jos Buttler is part of a Fine Dining XI, where he combines with Jack Hobbs, Richard Spooner, and Graeme Cremer. (“They will feed nicely off each other.”) 

Other teams are made up of body parts, animals, construction and tradesmen, players whose names are counties, landscapes, macho, numerical, dogs, cars, or even drinks. One team Slattery says he is pleased with is his Festive XI.

The gardening team.

The gardening team. - Credit: Patrick Latham