Arjun Raja is a NRIOL featured sports columnist. To read about Arjun Raja, please Know more.
It is a very difficult task to choose an All Time Best squad since the game has changed a lot over the past 50 years. Cricket has gone from a recreational sport to a highly professional and intense game. Also no two people will agree on the choice of all eleven players, which means pleasing everyone is next to impossible.
However, I will try to select my best XI keeping in mind the players' records as well as a very important quality - the ability to draw crowds to the stadium because without spectators, there is no fun in playing the game.
First if all, I will select my pace bowlers. Keeping in mind that India is definitely a country that depends on spinners to win them matches, I will choose only two quickies in the XI with the rest of the bowlers being spinners.
In the department of pace bowling, Kapil Dev sails in without any fuss, just like his bowling action. He has a phenomenal track record, 434 wickets - still a World Record. To partner him, I will select Javagal Srinath who is by far the fastest bowler India has ever produced, and has won test matches for us, taking 158 test wickets so far.
Now to select the spinners. A very tough job as in every era of our cricket, we have had some great spinners, who could walk into any world XI of their time. Spinners like Subash Gupte, Prasanna, Venkataragahvan, Chandrashekar, Bedi and now Anil Kumble.
My yardstick in this case would be the capacity... for the bowler to win test matches on any given day. Therefore I will select Bedi,Chandra and Prasanna as my three spinners with Anil Kumble doing reserve duty. That is because all these bowlers except Kumble have a great record overseas as well.
Bedi had 266 wickets, Chandra 242 and Prasanna 189. Incredible bowlers and a treat to watch anytime.
With the bowlers selected, we can now select the wicket keeper. To my mind India's best keeper ever has been Syed Kirmani. An absolutely safe catcher and a brilliant stumper. Many batsmen have been shocked at the speed in which he removed the bails. Top drawer stuff. He grabbed 188 dismissals in his time and could only be challenged by Faroukh Engineer for the wicket-keeper's spot.
That leaves us to select five batsmen including an all rounder.
My opening batsman will be Sunil Gavaskar as there is no doubting his record or achievements. One in a million. The first man to score ten thousand test runs (10,122) and his 34 hundreds - including 13 centuries against the then mighty West Indies - are still a world record.
To partner Gavaskar, I will select Vinoo Mankad, who was a fine opening batsman with five hundreds and a top score of 231. He is also the holder of the record for the highest opening partnership in all test cricket - 413 with Pankaj Roy against New Zealand in 1955. Mankad has added advantage is being a brilliant left arm slow bowler- a genuine all rounder who took 162 wickets in addition to scoring over 2000 test runs.
At number three I will play the little genius of Indian cricket today and probably for ever more, Sachin Tendulkar. 21 hundreds and 22 fifties and he in only 26! No problems there. He has already scored over 5600 runs in tests.
At number four will be Gundappa Vishwanath, streets ahead of all other middle order batsmen India has seen . A genius with two or three shots to every ball. Unstoppable on his day and his knock of 97 n.o. in the Madras test of 1974 against West Indies still rates among the best ever played by an Indian. He scored 0 and 137 on debut against Australia in 1969 and was never known to struggle, whatever the conditions. Scored 6080 runs in tests.
At number five will be Mohammad Azharuddin - another fantastic talent capable of turning a game in a space of a couple of hours as we saw in Calcutta many a time. His hundred at Lords in 1990 of 82 balls still rates as one of the greatest innings ever played at the Mecca of cricket. Scored three hundreds in his first three tests, still a World Record.
At number six will be Kapil Dev, a brilliant batsman on his day, another who never seemed to struggle whatever the situation or conditions. Famous for his knock of 175 n.o. against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup in England which India won under his captaincy. The only Indian captain to lift the World Cup so far. Scored 5248 runs in addition to his 434 wickets. Mind boggling.
The wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani with two test hundreds will bat at number seven. A batsman who put a price on his wicket. A fighter to the end. Scored over 2700 runs in tests.
Javagal Srinath comes in next, followed by the three spinners in Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrashekar, to make up the final XI.
In the reserves, Eknath Solkar as 12th man is an automatic choice. He's the best close-in catcher and possibly all round fielder India has seen. A tremendous help to our spinners at forward short-leg where he grabbed countless half chances . He took 53 catches in just 27 tests.
Anil Kumble with an outstanding record in the sub-continent must find a place in the squad. He has taken 262 wickets, only 4 more to equal Bedi's record of 266 wickets.
Dilip Vengsarkar who played many great innings on all types of pitches will consider himself unlucky to miss out on a berth in the playing XI, but he is a certainty in the squad.
The reserve wicket keeper will be Engineer. Dattu Phadkar, a fast bowler who could also bat well, will be the final member of the 16-man squad.
The captain of the side is a difficult choice but as a reward for his outstanding success as a captain albeit mainly in the sub continent, my vote will go to Mohammad Azharuddin. Many may say that he won games on doctored pitches and so on, but even on such wickets, captaincy is an art.
Therefore my All Time Indian Squad reads as:
Mohammad Azharuddin (captain)
Syed Kirmani (wicketkeeper)
Bishen Singh Bedi
12th man: Eknath Solkar
Anil Kumble, Faroukh Engineer, Dilip Vengsarkar and Dattu Phadkar. Read more
- Arjun Raja in Dubai, UAEDecember 26, 1999The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.For a listing of past columns by Arjun Raja, please Know more.