Rikki Clarke would be one of the first names down on the team sheet of most people asked to select their best ever Bears T20 XI.
Clarke’s all-round excellence helped to power the team in 98 matches over a decade and was central to the Bears lifting the trophy in 2014.
But, asked to name his My Bears T20 XI, he leaves himself out.
- Jonathan Trott
- Varun Chopra
- Ian Bell
- Jim Troughton
- Laurie Evans
- Chris Woakes
- Tim Ambrose
- Keith Barker
- Jeetan Patel
- Imran Tahir
- Boyd Rankin
“I’ll just come in if someone picks up an injury!” he said.
“To be honest, it was a tough team to pick. I played with so many great players for the Bears and there are a lot of really good ones that could easily have made it in but didn’t – Brendon McCullum, Ant Botha, Darren Maddy, Sam Hain, Neil Carter, Olly Hannon-Dalby, Chris Wright. I apologise to them but just couldn’t get everyone in.”Rikki Clarke
Up top, Clarke plumps for a player who averaged 39.81, with 12 half-centuries, for the Bears in T20 cricket – Jonathan Trott.
“Trotty averaged just shy of 40 at a decent strike rate and I am a big believer that if you have got someone who consistency scores runs, that allows people down the order to have a higher strike rate and get you to the bigger totals,” he said.
“Trotty was someone you could rely on so he’s opening the batting and opening with him I’ll have Varun Chopra. Again, someone who consistently scores you runs at the top of the order and, on his day, Chops could take any attack apart. One of the best players I ever played with.
“At three it has to be Ian Bell. Just a class act and someone who I just loved to watch bat. With Belly it was always proper cricket shots, all timing and elegance and it was a pleasure to watch.
“Then at four, Jim Troughton. He had all the shots and a very calm manner about he way he went about his batting. He was an amazing cover-driver and could come down the wicket to spin. I’ve also gone for Troughts as my captain because he is one of the best captains I played under. He had the respect of all the players and was such a calm leader.
“At five, Laurie Evans. I think Laurie never really got the credit for some of the innings that he played. He played some fantastic knocks for Warwickshire. He understands his game brilliantly, knows what to do and goes through the gears – a real destructive player in the mould of Jos Buttler. He played some vital knocks in 2014 when we won the trophy.”
Into the all-rounders, at six, many people would put Rikki Clarke, but Rikki goes for Chris Woakes.
“Woakesy is just Mr Reliable, everything about him with bat, ball and in the field, and a hero of a guy. He bowled the tough overs, up top and then at the death and always took wickets. He was also fantastic the bat and could score quickly or, if you lost early wickets, come in and steady the ship.
“At seven, I’ve gone for Tim Ambrose. A very adaptable player who could steady the ship early on or drop down the order and give you vital runs with late cameos. The way he batted made the margin for error for bowlers very small and he was one of the best keepers I ever played with. Such good hands.
“At number eight, it’s a man who I reckon should have played a hell of a lot more T20 cricket for the Bears…Keith Barker. With the bat he could clear the ropes and also worked on his little dab shots and sweep. With the ball, he was similar to Woakesy. At the start of the innings or at the death he had a plan and his execution of that plan was brilliant. He would set his field and bowl to it brilliantly, particularly with yorkers. Left-armers can be vital so he definitely comes into my side.
“At nine, it’s Jeetan Patel one of the best overseas players the Bears have ever had, up there with Lara and Donald. He was never injured, always wanted to play every single game and whenever you needed a wicket, he stepped up and got it. He could bowl at any point in the innings and was a great competitor. An absolute diamond for us.Rikki Clarke
“At number ten, I’ve gone for Imran Tahir. Immy came to us for just one season but was a fantastic spinner and had one of the best celebrations in world cricket! Similar to Jeets, he always picked up wickets and you need to take wickets in T20 cricket – that stems the run flow and puts pressure on the opposition.
“Finally, at number 11, I’ll have Boyd Rankin. He was a big unit and bowled fast and gave us the opportunity to keep taking wickets through the middle overs. You need to keep getting new batsmen to the crease and we used Boyd a lot just after the power-play. We’d say to batsmen ‘if you’re going to hit Boyd for four or six, pretty much off your nose, fair play to you.’
“He played a major role when we won it in 2014 so I will have him to bowl those middle overs – I reckon my team would take some beating!”