Gladstone Small admits that he had to be "a bit ruthless" when selecting his My Bears XI. That's understandable though - and necessary when you have played alongside Bears greats from more than one era.
- Dennis Amiss
- Andy Moles
- Brian Lara
- Ian Bell
- Geoff Humpage
- Paul Smith
- Keith Piper
- Ashley Giles
- Allan Donald
- Tim Munton
- Bob Willis
All the My Bears XIs we have featured so far are magnificent sides but Bears legend Small’s team raises the bar. Brian Lara and Ian Bell at three and four! And Bob Willis and Allan Donald to open the bowling!
“I had to bit a bit ruthless,” said Small. “It’s not just about the playing records of the guys, I don’t look at how many runs people scored or wickets they took – I don’t even know my own, to be honest. It all comes down to the circumstances these guys played in, the people they are and were and how they impacted on people around them.
“You had to be a good player, of course, but it’s a mixture of all these things. I think this is a really good team. If anyone else picks a team to beat this one, them good luck to them!”
Right at the top of the order, an all-time Bears great.
“My number one is the daddy bear, Dennis Amiss. It was brilliant for me to come into the Warwickshire line-up back in the Eighties and play alongside this great player. He was a top player against fast bowling or spin but he was always still looking to improve. For a young kid like me it was a great lesson to learn, that someone who had got to the top of the tree still wanted to get better. A lovely man.Gladstone Small
“He and David Brown used to have some great contest in the nets. It was great watching first-hand and I would secretly join in and try to get Dennis out. He would come in after scoring 150 and say ‘oh, my heads falling over’ or ‘my feet aren’t moving’ and say ‘Small, come and bowl to me!’ so I would go and bowl at a guy with a bat as broad as a door. It was a great learning curve for me.
“To open with Dennis, I’m going with Andy Moles. He was tough, stubborn and when he got started you knew the opposition had to dig him out, so for a bowler like myself who liked putting his feet up, I loved seeing him out in the middle. A great man to have in your corner on and off the field. He should have played for England.”
Then comes that very special three and four.
“Brian Lara is simply the best batsman I ever played with,” Small said. “He was unbelievable. To watch someone that good at close quarters was an absolute privilege and to watch him all through 1994 – it doesn’t get any better than that. It was done with such style.
“I didn’t play with Ian Bell but I did bowl at him so I’m having him! At the end of the 1990s, I only played one-day games (the guys used to call me ‘the vicar’ because they only saw me on Sundays) but when this little blond-haired kid came into the nets, his technique was so pure, I would wait until he came into bat so I could bowl to him. He was a quality batsman even then.”
Then comes a five, six seven who did not play a Test match between them but could arguably have played plenty.
“My number five is Geoff Humpage. He was very under-rated. He kept wicket as well, which is hard work, and I think if he had just been a batsman, he would have been even better. He would have been an absolute wow in T20. I would pay decent money to see that top five play!
“At six is Paul Smith, a real talent. Ted Dexter once commented that Paul could be the next Ian Botham. Batting-wise, he had the strokes and power to take bowling attacks apart and he had a different style of bowling with some serious revs on it. Paul could get his pace up with the best of them.
“When it comes to keeping wicket, there’s only one man. Keith Piper was simply the best gloveman I ever bowled to. His hands were so soft, his footwork was so fast and good and he made it all look so easy. He was a really good batsman too, probably good enough to bat in the top six if he had just believed in himself a little bit more.
“Then at number eight, it’s Ashley Giles. Dilip Doshi was a fine slow left armer, with beautiful flight and control, but I can only have two overseas players so it’s Ash. Steady, not spectacular, you’d have to say, but a very good bowler, very useful lower order batsman and, for a big guy, a very good fielder. He had a really strong arm.”
So Giles supplies the spin. That just leaves the pacemen…
“Now we come to the main guys – nine, ten, eleven,” said Small. “They can take it in turns who comes in at nine, ten and eleven, because they’re all pretty useless with the bat, but they are all wonderful bowlers. And with the other eight guys ahead of them, they’re not going to need to score many runs!
“At nine, Allan Donald – a great, great fast bowler. Just like Lara, to be up close to someone that good and that special was just phenomenal. And he loves Warwickshire. He is a proper Brummie boy. Warwickshire made him as a cricketer.Gladstone Small
“In ’95 when he arrived at the start of the season, he was just determined that he was going to win a trophy. Quite early on I said to my drinking buddies ‘guys, there’s only one winner of the county championship this year because Allan Donald is going to bowl us there.’
“Then it’s Tim Munton – Mr Steady and Dependable, whatever the conditions and every team needs that type of bowler. He should have played a lot more international cricket – he certainly had the skills.
“And then the one and only RGD Willis. My first captain at Warwickshire and a very fine fast bowler who would raise his game against the best opposition. Many a time he would arrived for a county game at Edgbaston starting on a Wednesday having just finished a Test match with England somewhere the day before. He was a fantastic bowler who went through the pain barrier for both county an country.”
And one name not in the Small’s XI 11…G.C.Small…
“I’ll be 12th man,” he laughed. “That team is quite a sociable team, so I’ll carry the drinks. We’d have a lot of fun.”
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