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T o be given the task of picking a greatest West Indies team of all time induced both pleasure and angst. A mere glance at those on a shortlist brought back joyful memories of so many great players, but pruning them into a final eleven ( with a twelfth man) was a devilishly difficult challenge. As an English cricket writer, I can at least claim to be impartial, but having travelled extensively through the Caribbean I know full well that opinion will be divided and sensibilities tested. One leading authority on West Indies cricket even described the very selection of an all- time eleven as an exercise in futility. But, futile or not, this was the brief. W ith an all- rounder at number six ' Garfield Sobers' name being the first on the team sheet - and a wicketkeeper at seven, that left five spaces for specialist batsmen and four for bowlers. Starting with the former, it was quickly clear that the claims of an array of extraordinarily talented middle order players meant one might have to open the batting. If Vivian Richards, the most feared batsman of his generation, was next on the team sheet, and had to be followed by Brian Lara, the second- highest run scorer in the history of Test cricket, that buttoned up numbers three and four with the pair inter- changeable in the batting order. That left only one more middle order place at number five, with a whole host of candidates... George Headley, Clyde Walcott, Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell, Clive Lloyd, Rohan Kanhai, Richie Richardson and Shivnarine Chanderpaul to name but a few. One obvious solution was to give Walcott the wicketkeeping gloves, a role he performed with some distinction for 15 of his 44 Tests, even if Jeffrey Dujon, a veteran of 79 appearances and himself a fine batsman, was a more athletic option keeping to the fast bowlers. Walcott was nevertheless more assured standing up, and with two spinners in CRICKET 60 lime October - December 2008 my side, that was an important consideration. Moreover, Walcott's superiority as a batsman - he once made five hundreds in one series against Australia in 1954- 5 when he totalled a remarkable 827 runs - made him impossible to leave out. With a Test average of 58, you could argue he is too low at number seven in the order, but he would be formidable ' insurance' - a modern- day Adam Gilchrist. For a long time, George Headley was considered the best batsman to have come out of the Caribbean, and his Test average of ll

Photographs: GETTY images MAIN: Sir Viv Richards in full flow TOP RIGHT: Brian Lara celebrates reaching his triple century during day two of the Fourth Test match between the West Indies and England on April 11 2004 at the Recreation Ground in St Johns, Antigua ABOVE: The captain of the Rest of the World Cricket team Sir Garfield Sobers with the Guinness Trophy, after his team beat England at the Final Test match held at the Oval October - December 2008 lime 61