Like an old wine, Ishant Sharma has aged well as a cricketer in the whites. He has risen up the ranks in the pacers world in the recent past. He has matured as a bowler and with experience on his side, he has turned into a beast for India, specially in SENA conditions.
There were a few "A" players that I found during my research, but based mostly on the fact that this is the one I'd love to have seen the most, I'm taking Warwick Armstrong at 6. His all-round game steadily got even better as his career went on, not to mention his ever-increasing physical stature. This is apart from his rather...unusual...behaviour both on and off the field. You'll read on CricInfo that when an Ashes Test was headed toward an obvious draw, he went out into the outfield, began to chat, and even began to read a newspaper that was accidentally blown out onto the field. Or when the Aussie team picked a manager for the first time (to tour England in 1912), he refused to go because he never believed in the role of a manager...and actually was promoted to captain for the next Test. He had that sort of command over people.
I'll finish up my lower middle with Leslie Ames. I found him while looking for the "A" picks, and I was glad that he could bat down at 7 too. In a time when wicketkeepers were picked only on the basis of their skills behind the stumps, Ames was picked for his batting first. That doesn't mean he was any part-timer with the gloves. 74 catches and 23 stumpings in 47 matches isn't too shabby for a player during that period. That little "record" under his CricInfo profile of most byes conceded in an innings? He wasn't even keeper in that innings! He had hurt his back while batting and didn't play any further part of the match.
His batting? In his 593 FC games, he had 102 centuries and 176 fifties. That's pretty good for a keeper. I'll take it.
Ken Higgs's Lancashire team-mates were baffled that he played in only 15 Tests. Not only did he take his wickets at lower cost than any of his new-ball rivals, but at a superior economy rate (2.15 runs per over) than even Brian Statham, whose accuracy was a byword in the game. Maybe his quality was understated. Higgs was dour and undemonstrative, and though well-liked and respected by his peers, he was unimpressed by figures of authority. Opposing batsmen knew how good he was, however: Higgs wasn't fast, but he was one of those who, by bowling a fuller length than most seamers of his pace, hit the splice persistently and jarred the hands. The ratio between specialist batsmen and tailenders among his 71 England victims was astounding. In his best series, against West Indies in 1966, he dismissed Conrad Hunte and Rohan Kanhai four times each, Basil Butcher three times, Joey Carew twice, and Garry Sobers, Peter Lashley, Seymour Nurse, David Holford and Easton McMorris once apiece in a bag of 24. What wouldn't England have given for him in the 1990s. He was good enough to make a surprise county comeback for Leicestershire in 1986, and take five wickets in an innings in his 50th year.