Cross-sport stars: Cricket's Versatile XII

With the Windies recalling a baseballer, we look at an historic XII of cricketers who excelled in other sports

West Indies batsman Kieran Powell hit the headlines today when he was recalled to the Test squad for the upcoming series against Pakistan after spending three years out of the sport pursuing a baseball career in the United States. 

While Powell was ultimately unsuccessful in his endeavours on the baseball front, the return to cricket of the 27-year-old, who played 21 Tests between 2011 and 2014, is one of three new additions in the 13-man squad. 

Uncapped batsmen Vishaul Singh and Shimron Hetmeyer have also been called in for the three-match series, beginning Friday. 

West Indies squad: Jason Holder (c), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Vishaul Singh.

And in the spirit of the multi-talented Powell's return, we've assembled a legendary XII of cross-sport stars:

1. CB Fry (football and long jump)

Fry's Test career was played out either side of the turn of the 20th century, with the Englishman earning 26 caps in total. He was captain in six of those, never losing while in charge, and if that's not impressive enough, he also played football for his country against Ireland in 1901, and an FA Cup final for Southampton in 1902. All that came after he equalled the long jump world record in 1893.

2. Tip Foster (football)

Another former England captain, Foster is most famous in cricket circles for his 287 at the SCG against the Aussies in December 1903 – the world record Test score at the time and still the highest from a debutant. Foster also boasts another impressive claim to fame: he's the only man to have led England in both cricket and football.

3. Don Bradman (squash)

It's hardly surprising that Bradman's extraordinary hand-eye coordination was put to good use in other sports, and the Boy from Bowral won the Amateur Squash Rackets Championship of SA in 1939, just before the onset of WWII. "I play squash because it is marvellous training for cricket," he wrote at the time. "It improves footwork, poise, balance and suppleness, and develops ball sense. It is great training for the eyesight."

Bradman: The greatest of all time

4. Viv Richards (football)

Turns out the 'Master Blaster' was also pretty handy at the world game, having represented his native Antigua and Barbuda. There is a lack of consensus about whether Richards actually played World Cup 1974 qualifiers for his country (which would make him the only man to have played in both football and cricket World Cups) however his prowess at the sport is well documented.

Mix Tape: Viv Richards Vol. 1

5. Denis Compton (football)

With 78 Tests to his name, Compton is a legend of English cricket, but his batting average of 50 doesn't tell his entire sporting tale. When not playing cricket, the Englishman was a dashing winger for London heavyweights Arsenal, for whom he appeared 54 times, scoring 15 goals and winning a league (1948) as well as a FA Cup (1950) title.

6. Jonty Rhodes (hockey)

South Africa's star batsman and fielder of the 1990s, Rhodes was also a gifted field hockey player. He was so good, in fact, that he very nearly became an Olympian; he was named in South Africa's squad for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, but his team failed to qualify. With no wicketkeeper in our XII, we're backing Rhodes - one of the greatest fielders of all time - to take the gloves in our side.

7. Keith Miller (Australian rules)

In addition to being arguably Australia's greatest allrounder ever, Miller was a gifted Aussie Rules player and played 50 Victorian Football League games for St Kilda in the 1940s as well as one game for Victoria. His football and cricket careers famously book-ended a distinguished career as a pilot in the Second World War, while he also had ambitions to be a jockey before a significant growth spurt when he was a teenager.

8. Ian Botham (football)

England's great allrounder very nearly pursued a career in football in the early 1980s. A centre half, Botham played 17 senior matches for Yeovil Town and then 11 for Scunthorpe United in England's fourth division before opting to focus completely on cricket.

Botham's bullring

9. Ellyse Perry (football)

Arguably the most successful dual-sport athlete in the women's game, Perry has the distinction of representing Australia at both the cricket and football World Cups. Perry's football career, which included 47 games at domestic level and 18 caps for her country, reached the heights of a domestic title in 2011-12, just six months after she scored a brilliant goal against Sweden at the World Cup in Germany. Oh, and she's also won FOUR World Cup titles with the Southern Stars and is one of Australia’s greatest-ever women’s cricketers.

Perry notches fifth straight ODI 50

10. Ray Lindwall (rugby league)

Miller's legendary fast-bowling partner, Ray Lindwall played 31 NSW Rugby League matches for St George in the early 1940s as a goal-kicking fullback. Having missed out on a premiership with the Dragons in 1941 due to illness, Lindwall played in a losing Grand Final the following year and also finished the season as the League's top point-scorer. After WWII intervened, Lindwall returned home and turned his focus to cricket, playing 61 Tests between 1946 and 1960.

11. Jeff Wilson (rugby union)

While he only represented New Zealand in cricket seven times, the fact Wilson played two sports at the highest level in the professional era is truly exceptional. A brilliant winger for the All Blacks in the 1990s and early 2000s, Wilson played 60 rugby Tests before reviving a cricket career that had reached its peak with four ODIs for the Black Caps in 1993. After an absence of 12 years, the fast bowler returned to NZ's side for two more ODIs and a T20 in 2005 before retiring due to injury.

12th man: Usain Bolt (athletics)

Bolt might run a lot faster than he bowls, but what the Jamaican sprint king lacks in cricket pedigree, he makes up for in enthusiasm. "As a kid, I was happy to be in the streets playing football and cricket," he said recently. "I was a massive cricket fan. My dad was really into it. Every Test, every one-dayer." The eight-time Olympic gold medallist has also cited Matthew Hayden as a favourite. And while runners for injured batsmen are no longer allowed in international cricket, we can think of no better man to play that role in our fantasy side.

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