This is an update of an earlier post.
Selecting an all time cricket team used to one of my favorite exercises in school and college times. Since one day cricket was just starting to become popular – 83 world cup win, and 84 World Series Championship win happened after I joined college – there wasn’t much history and much scope for arguing about one day cricket anyway. Cricket meant only test cricket before the 83 world cup win. And I think we just wanted to hang out and argue more than anything else. So it used to Viswanath vs Gavaskar, Bedi vs Chandrasekhar, who should partner Kapil…
The cricinfo XI is as selected by the experts is:
Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Hazare, Mankad, Dhoni, Kapil, Kumble, Srinath and Prasanna.
Readers have selected an almost identical XI. The only change is Laxman replacing Hazare.
Now to my XI!
While selecting this XI, I am going to still follow my original guidelines.
- Performing abroad is much more important than performing in India. In general, Indian batsmen and bowlers tend to perform much better at home than abroad. In Indian conditions, Kapil can be a perfectly adequate number 6 batsman – he averages around 35 with the bat in India. Abroad, he probably averages 25 and would be a good number 8. Bedi is a terrific bowler in Indian conditions – abroad, he needs to bowl 10 more balls and give 10 more runs on average to get a wicket. In other words, Kapil is a great allrounder in Indian conditions, but merely a useful one abroad. Bedi is not a compelling selection once the Indian conditions are taken out of the equation.
- Ideal composition of a team is 5 batsman, 1 allrounder, 1 wicketkeeper, and 4 bowlers. It would help if there is a mix of right and left handed batsmen, if the wicketkeeper is a reasonable bat, if there are 3-4 batting/bowling allrounders in addition to the designated allrounder. Given the paucity of good left handed batsman in this team, all things being equal, a left handed batsman would be selected above the right handed batsman. A batsman who can bowl a few overs (a la Sehwag) would be preferred to someone who doesn’t. Similar logic for bowlers.
- For the batsmen, ability to play fast bowling, swing bowling is invaluable. This is what they can expect abroad.
- Only when batting/bowling skills are nearly equal, we would consider captaincy skills as a factor.
Openers: Gavaskar and Sehwag. They are the only world class openers India has produced. Both average more than 50 abroad. Vijay Merchant may have been world class, but played too few tests. Gambhir may become world class, but right now his record is no match for these two. Shastri had the right temperament for an opener, but didn’t open enough. Sidhu is a home track bully. (Cricinfo’s short list – Gavaskar, Sehwag, Merchant & Sidhu. They should have added Shastri & Gambhir.)
Until the arrival of Tendulkar, Gavaskar was the greatest batsman India ever produced; even today he has a claim to being the greatest opener ever. And Sehwag! A true game changer. He is the first person I would pencil in. Somebody who can win games, and setup wins so consistently is a phenomenon! The combination would do well. Gavaskar does well in the company of an attacking batsman – remember his association with Srikkanth? One grafter, one attacking batsman is the ideal combination. If Sehwag suceeds, Gavaskar would have an easier job. If Sehwag fails, Gavaskar would probably try harder. Sehwag should also bowl a bit more – expect to bowl 5-10 overs in every match, especially when 3 pacers are selected.
Middle Order: One down and two down are easy. Dravid & Tendulkar, of course. It is the three down role that is problematic. Cricinfo experts chose Hazare, and readers voted for Laxman. My short list ranked by greatness is: Gundappa Viswanath, VVS Laxman, Saurabh Ganguly, Vijay Hazare, Mohinder Amarnath, Polly Umrigar, Mohammad Azharuddin and Dilip Vengsarkar.Despite his obvious greatness, Hazare had two bad tours out of 4. That helps me eliminate him. Jimmy Amarnath was brilliant abroad, but his performance was really poor in India. A rare exception to the general rule. Even Kapil is a better batsman than Jimmy in India. That eliminates him, despite my “tour bias”. Umrigar had trouble in England; Azhar blew hot and cold. Vengsarkar is a home track + England tracks bully. His performance was poor everywhere else. But there is little to separate Vishy, Lax and Ganguly.
Despite having the worst record among the three, I rate Vishy as the best bastman among them -but just by a nose. I don’t think the margin is significant enough. Laxman has the best record (I count his performance only after the landmark 281) among the three. I feel that Ganguly just couldn’t motivate himself at home when he was captain – average was less than 30 at home, as a captain. I am going to choose him ahead of Laxman for his grit, lefthandedness, useful bowling skills and captaincy skills.
Health permitting, Sachin/Ganguly/Sehwag should bowl around 15-20 overs every match.
The cricinfo short list for middle order is: Amarnath, Azhar, Dravid, Ganguly, Hazare, Laxman, Nayudu, Pataudi, Tendulkar, Umrigar, Vengsarkar and Vishy. I don’t think Nayudu and Pataudi belong in this list.
Wicketkeeper: The choices are Dhoni, Kirmani and Engineer. I originally chose Engineer, but Dhoni has gone far ahead of him in the recent past. Pity Kiri, who is the best wicketkeeper from India.
The cricinfo short list for wicketkeepers is: Kirmani, Tamhane, More, Mongia and Dhoni. Engineer not making the short list is an egregious error.
Allrounder: There are only two true allrounders from India – Vinoo Mankad and Kapil. Neither of them is a great allrounder. 🙂 I am going to count Kapil as a pacer, and the choice is clear.
Cricinfo short list for allrounders is: Mankad, Kapil, Phadkar and Prabhakar. For the sake of completeness, I would add Durrani to the short list.
Pacers: Kapil is the clear #1. Srinath is the clear #2. Who else? Cricinfo considers Zaheer, Nissar and Amar Singh. Nissar and Amar Singh don’t have enough of a record; I would rather consider Venkatesh Prasad, Irfan Pathan and Karsan Ghavri.
Spinners: Spoiled for riches here. Mankad, Gupte, Pras, Chandra, Bedi, Doshi, Kumble and Bhajji make a formidable list. Applying the “performance abroad” criteria eliminates Doshi, Bhajji and Mankad – though Mankad sneaks in as an allrounder. Kumble is the clear #1. His performance abroad after the seminal 2003 Australian tour is terrific. I would rank the rest – using the “performance abroad” criterion – as Chandra, Gupte, Pras and Bedi. Unfortunately, the #1, #2 and #3 spinners are leggies! Mankad’s batting skills deny Bedi a spot. For balance, I may need an off-spinner, and that choice would be clearly Pras.
Cricinfo considers Venkat as well. I don’t think Venkat belongs in this list. He had one great year – 1970, 71 and thats it!
If I am playing abroad, I would actually choose Zaheer. Going with more than one leggie looks wasteful. Zaheer’s record abroad is better than everybody but Gupte.
I have a couple of extra categories:
Catcher: The one and only Eknath Solkar. Solkar took nearly 2 catches every match – his catch per match ratio is better than even Kirmani’s!
Captain: Pataudi, Wadekar in addition to Ganguly, Kumble and Dhoni.
The captaincy choice is between Ganguly and Kumble for me. Somehow Kumble impresses me even more than Ganguly. He was aggressive and rational. But I am not sure he would have done well without the foundation that Ganguly laid. So I am going to stick with Ganguly as the captain. However, this is a near thing. I just hope Dhoni makes the choice between these two irrelevant in the near future.
So my XI (especially for playing abroad is): Sehwag, Gavaskar, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly (captain), Dhoni (wk), Mankad, Kapil, Kumble (vice-captain), Srinath and Zaheer
My X1 (for playing in India is): Sehwag, Gavaskar, Dravid (vice-captain), Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dhoni (wk), Mankad, Kapil, Kumble (captain), Srinath, Harbhajan
12th man: Solkar (for catching skills)
True 12th man: Zaheer at home, Laxman abroad
Second wicketkeeper: Engineer
Reserve batsmen: Would vary depending on the country (Mohinder is a certainty in Pakistan & West Indies). Generic selections are Laxman and Vishwanath.
Reserve Pacer: Venkatesh Prasad (very weak selection, but neither Sreesanth nor Ishant have really grabbed the position)
Reserve spinners: Prasanna and Chandra
That gives me 17 tour members – (Vishy, Lax, Engineer, Prasad, Pras and Chandra). If I have to restrict myself to 16 members, I would drop Engineer and use Dravid as the reserve wicketkeeper. Mankad and Engineer (if available) would serve as my reserve openers in the touring squad.
If I sum up the averages abroad, this team can be expected to score around 394 runs per innings in an away match without counting extras – 788 runs per test. This set of bowlers would claim around 19 wickets at 680. Not outs skew averages; noballs and wides were not counted for bowlers from olden days. So matches would be close, but they should be able to beat most teams..
Cricinfo’s list and my list differ in the #5 batsman and the last bowler. I chose Ganguly and Zaheer, Cricinfo experts choose Hazare and Pras, and Cricinfo readers choose Laxman and Pras. Pretty close, eh!
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