Our self-anointed chief selectors got into a chat, when watching the Australia-South Africa match, about what the team of the 2019 World Cup so far would look like. Two hours and some disturbing segues into offspin bowling later, they came up with a pretty representative XI that also looks unbeatable - two left-arm quicks, the No. 1-ranked bowler, the No. 1 allrounder, and the oldest man at this World Cup all feature.
Sidharth Monga: Hello, fellow selector.
Jarrod Kimber: Hello, Mohammad Nabi superfan.
Monga: I might struggle to fit him in. He does have a case, though, having almost won Afghanistan a game batting in the middle order.
Kimber: The six single-digit scores do negate his wonderful bowling a bit.
Monga: Nothing negates that action. If ever there was offspin porn, you would have Nabi bowling at the start of it.
Nabi aside, we have a problem. A lot of batsmen have done well at the top of the order. Should we first pick our middle order and then come back to the top?
Kimber: First we pick Shakib Al Hasan, and then we pick the team, surely.
Monga: Do we ask him to bat out of position because he has prior experience of it and because he is Shakib and can do anything at the moment? He might even make it into the offspin porn section if we asked him to.
Kimber: As good as Shakib has been, surely in the team of the tournament he has to bat five or six?
Kimber: Is this an all-round thing, because Nicholas Pooran has been better at five than Stokes.
Monga: They can float. My next name was going to be Pooran, who might just edge out Mushfiqur. Three lefties, though? And if Mushfiq misses out, our wicketkeeper, I assume, will be Alex Carey, another left-hand bat.
Kimber: Left-left partnerships are the best in the business. Let's get them all in.
Monga: Sure then. This is a solid middle order. Two proper allrounders too. None of them is a captain. Does that give Aaron Finch an edge for selection at the top of the order?
Kimber: So Rohit Sharma is one opener, agreed? If you don't agree, I will find a way to boot you from this chat.
Monga: Let me just give you a list of guys who will miss out: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, David Warner…
Kimber: So Roy has averaged 68 while hitting at a strike rate of 114. Bairstow has been very good, and Warner has been good but with patchy slow starts and the odd really poor innings. Finch scores a run an over quicker than Warner and he averages and strikes more than Bairstow. So it's really a straight shoot between Roy and Finch, and you could argue that while both have been great, Finch has to captain. Unless we make Pooran keep and captain.
Monga: Roy has been sensational and Bairstow has played two gun knocks in pressure games. We could look at Kane Williamson as captain and No. 3?
Kimber: Oh, good shout. Finch had to carry Australia's batting a fair bit, especially with Warner struggling in the Powerplay. Roy and Bairstow have had each other and been freer to play their own games.
Monga: But it still is a very difficult selection. We can agree to leave Warner out, but the other four have been equally good.
Kimber: No one has been Rohit. Wash your mouth out twice.
Monga: I could live with Rohit and Finch.
Kimber: That's like saying you want to live without music and mirth.
Monga: Maybe they should all arm-wrestle?
Kimber: If Finch is the best captain, then surely that tips the scales more to him anyway.
Monga: He is the best captain, for sure. He has won games with Maxwell as the fifth bowler.
Kimber: Let's pencil him in - Rohit plus Finch, with a very unlucky Roy offering to arm-wrestle anyone, and hoping we pick Williamson at three.
Monga: As we speak, Carey has missed a stumping. Is he still our keeper?
Kimber: Carey took a stumping earlier, so his ratio is 50% for this match, and I think only 34% of stumping chances get taken.
Monga: Don't make up numbers.
Kimber: 73% of what you say is made up.
Monga: This World Cup is made up.
Kimber: So, No. 3: Babar Azam it is.
Kimber: Disappointed in you taking substance over style. I know Williamson averages 96.2, but he has been scoring at 1999 rates.
Monga: New Zealand have played on low-scoring pitches. All our No. 3 choices are stylish, actually: Williamson, Babar, Root, Kohli.
Kimber: That is very true, and Williamson has looked almost unbeatable. I am still holding against him the bad shot off Mitchell Starc that cost them the Australia game. I mean, it has to be Williamson, doesn't it? Does this change the conversation on Finch?
Monga: Much as I have enjoyed Babar Azam's hundred against New Zealand, no, Finch still remains the best captain.
Kimber: So Roy is still on the outside?
Monga: Is Roy's batting minus Finch's batting greater than Finch's captaincy minus Williamson's captaincy? If the answer is yes, we get Roy in. To be fair, the captain will have very little to do with this team, which has four specialist bowlers plus Stokes and Shakib.
Kimber: That might be the greatest question ever asked. Roy is slightly more explosive and perhaps better in the field, but I have been very underwhelmed by Williamson's captaincy.
Monga: I think Finch's fielding is also greater than Roy's.
Kimber: We need to go back to the official Monga-Kimber fielding metric to be sure.
Monga: Which is logistically impossible to maintain because we have to be at the same place at the same time for all matches.
Kimber: And at both matches played on the same day.
Monga: If any team had any sense, they would be hiring us.
Kimber: Well, after this informed chat it will be: as selectors.
To recap: Rohit, Finch, Williamson, Shakib, Stokes, Pooran. So we're back to keepers.
Monga: Thought we had Carey?
Kimber: We may have Carey. Other keepers have made more runs and some, like Buttler, even scored faster than him. But Carey has scored runs fast while regularly pulling Australia out of trouble. He's kind of a composite of Buttler and Mushfiqur. His keeping - much like Buttler and Mushfiq - is not ideal, but I think he's shown he can score when he is in early, under pressure, and also finish off well later on.
Monga: To be fair, even Dhoni's keeping hasn't been ideal this World Cup. We will take Carey. Three quicks and a spinner next.
Kimber: Four quicks.
Monga: Finch will be banned after two games.
Kimber: People never talk about who these mythical best XIs are playing against, but I am pretty sure Cardus once said that his team was against an alien XI (as if an enlightened space-travelling species would invent cricket). Which is also kind of the plot to Space Jam.
Monga: Nabi would be a great No. 8.
Kimber: Mujeeb Ur Rahman hasn't got many wickets, but after he struggled early, no one hit him off the square.
Monga: It's a good shout.
Kimber: DDS [Dhanajaya de Silva] would lengthen the order too, plus he's a great fielder.
Monga: We love DdeS.
Kimber: DdeS sounds like a malware problem.
Monga: DDS sounds like an illness. Some deficiency syndrome.
Kimber: If we pick a fingerspinner, this team will lose to any other team because they'll have wristspin.
Monga: Tahir was my original pick, by the way.
Kimber: Tahir has actually bowled quite well, and if he was playing in a better team, I think his record would have been much better.
Monga: So we have a No. 11.
Kimber: But that means no Nabi. While he did really struggle with the bat, I thought he was wonderful with the ball.
Monga: Wristspin trumps finger.
Kimber: Really sad to see you tearing up your Mohammad Nabi bedroom wall posters here. But "wristspin trumps finger" is pure truth.
Monga: Nabi can be our spin coach. I just need to watch his action, not necessarily in a match
Kimber: Naked in a bird cage?
Monga: Bowling to Ian Bell.
Monga: Lockie Ferguson or Jofra Archer as the third?
Kimber: Mark Wood? Trent Boult has been pretty good too.
Monga: Ferguson's average is 18. But we do need a new-ball bowler. Starc, Bumrah and Ferguson have been at their best with the older ball. Having said that, Bumrah could bowl with any ball.
Kimber: Shaheen Afridi is pretty good with a new ball...
Monga: And an average of 14.6. It's between Afridi and Ferguson then.
Kimber: Let us take a step back. Because picking Afridi would be awesome, but is it right? And picking Ferguson means we have a bunch of guys who aren't great with the new ball.
Monga: Why is Afridi not right? He has an average of less than 15 and an economy rate under five. Having said that, even Pakistan used him fifth over onwards.
Kimber: Yes, I am on board. I thought he was one of the best new-ball bowlers coming into this tournament, but he hasn't played every game, and if he is a new-ball specialist, we need to check his record as a Powerplay bowler. He has bowled 72 Powerplay balls and taken four wickets at an economy of 5.6. Mohammed Shami has bowled 90 balls, taken four wickets at an economy of 3.4. Sheldon Cottrell is the only other one near these two. From 192 balls, he averaged 22 with an economy of 4.8.
Monga: That brings Archer into the picture too - bowled 44 overs in the first ten overs for six wickets at an economy of 4.4. For me, it is between Archer and Afridi now.
Kimber: Bumrah averages 23.5 in the first Powerplay. Starc at 34.2 and Archer at 32.3. So our choices are Bumrah and Afridi/Jofra with the new ball with Starc backing them up. Or Starc and Bumrah with the new ball and Ferguson at first change.
Monga: There could be days when we open with Tahir too.
Kimber: Does Archer give us cover at the death? (Do we need cover at the death? No, we do not.)
Monga: Starc, Bumrah, Tahir, Shakib, Stokes... what is this attack missing?
Kimber: I think Jofra is better than Afridi right now, and more flexible, but if you ask what this XI is missing, it is a new-ball bowler. And Afridi takes more wickets than Shami or Jofra - even if they are better.
Monga: Afridi has a wicket every three overs in the first ten. If we give him five upfront, we could expect him to give us five wickets in three matches.
Kimber: And this isn't a fluke for him. I think he was the best Powerplay bowler over the last year coming in. Ferguson is very unlucky, of course.
Monga: And it's not like Afridi is not good at the death. Under a run a ball off the 61 balls he has bowled after the 40th over. As are Archer, Cottrell and Boult. Just one final thought: Archer can bat.
Kimber: No, it's settled. Go away. Archer can bat and field (as can Cottrell), but Archer has not made runs in this tournament.
Monga: We are looking at Starc at No. 8 and three No. 11s. But as long as it is not four No. 11s, I am happy with it.
Kimber: Wow, you are right. Mind you, don't India do that all the time?
Monga: Which is why I said I am happy, because India are an extremely successful ODI side. Shami at eight is not great, but Shami at nine is fine.
Kimber: If Archer had any runs (and he does not), I would be on your side.
Monga: Is Starc as good as Bhuvneshwar/Jadeja? Perhaps not, but he's still not a No. 11.
Kimber: And with Rohit and Williamson never getting out, it would be very hard to get to our No. 8. We could do Nabi for Tahir, of course. I feel dirty for just suggesting it.
Monga: My only other option was Pat Cummins, but there have been times when he has not looked that great with the ball. And yet he has gone under five an over.
Kimber: Cummins has been outstanding but he hasn't got wickets. And we don't need control in this side.
Monga: Has he not got wickets because he has not been wicket-taking or because he has been unlucky?
Kimber: I think because teams have not attacked him and he's bowled so few balls to punish. Control stats don't suggest he's been unlucky.
Monga: Okay, let's be attacking and go for Afridi. Nabi for Tahir is not a bad thought. But is it a good thought?
Kimber: Well, are we only picking Tahir because he is a legspinner, or because he's been a top-quality spinner in a poor team (though I suppose Nabi is too).
Monga: Wristspin is a big reason.
Kimber: But our other fingerspinner does turn a different direction than Nabi.
Monga: Let's go the aggressive option: Tahir.
Kimber: Now while we have talked, Finch has failed against South Africa. Roy?
Monga: Roy was extremely unlucky to miss out, but today's failure can't be the reason to drop Finch.
Kimber: I kind of agree, but as a Victorian, I just don't want to be accused of bias towards the great Victorian champion. (I also really like Jason Roy, those straight drives...)
Monga: Bairstow and Roy could prove us wrong in the 2nd XI. My only concern now is we don't have a Buttler-type batsman - someone who gets a 30-ball 70.
Kimber: David Warner literally made a hundred as you typed that. Pooran can do that. He didn't in this World Cup, but his whole career he has been scoring at that level. And Carey made 50 off 35 balls against India. Him and Pooran have us covered, even if Hardik and Buttler are more suited to it.
Monga: Okay, final recap: 1 Finch (capt), 2 Rohit, 3 Williamson, 4 Shakib, 5 Stokes, 6 Pooran, 7 Carey (wk), 8 Starc, 9 Afridi, 10 Bumrah, 11 Tahir.
Kimber: The good thing is, we've made such great selections that no one can ever argue with them.