Warning: If you are not a fanatic of that silly game called cricket, don’t bother reading further!
Picking a fantasy team is the favorite sport for those who don’t actually play the sport at any decent level! Cricket is no exception to the rule, and has billions of arm chair critics and experts like me going around!
And, as if to induce us to do this even more, Cricinfo – that mother of all cricket websites, is picking an all time XI for all test cricket nations.
India’s turn has not yet come, but they’re done with England, Australia, New Zealand, and are now with South Africa.
There is a panel of experts and there is an online voting too, so you pretty much end up with two different teams, but there are many names that would make it to both the teams.
One common trend I noticed is that the online generation, which is typically young, picks more contemporary players, where as the “experts” tend to grow for players from my grand dad’s generation, of whom there is much written about, but nobody has actually seen.
I guess all this is speculative, and subjective; so each one is free to play selector!
Though I am Indian, I think the best two all time test teams would be Australia, and West indies. It’s a no brainier actually! And boy what a contest that would be, in the imaginative world of your brain where this match could take place!
Here is Cricinfo’s all time Australia XI: Victor Trumper, Arthur Morris, Don Bradman, Greg Chappell, Allan Border, Keith Miller, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Bill O’Reilly, Dennis Lillee, Glenn McGrath
Give and take a couple of names based on your taste, this is as good as any team that could take the field. But is it as good as an all time West Indies XI?
Since Cricinfo hasn’t picked its XI yet, I took the liberty of making my own West Indies list: Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, George Headley, Vivian Richards, Brian Lara, Gary Sobers, Jeffrey Dujon, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Lance Gibbs
That’s a bloody mighty team, and although Australia would fight like hell, I think West Indies will prevail.
Picking an Indian XI though, is not easy, primarily because there are a few glaring weaknesses (fielding, fast bowling) that will make it tough against any top team, and because we have very little videos of olden players.
So I gave myself a few golden rules to pick this XI:
- Generation: I am going to pick only from players I have seen in action. So that rules out names like Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, Lala Amarnath, Subhash Gupte, Amar Singh, Mohammad Nissar
- Batting: Variety in batting: a good mix of players with aggressive, risky games + solid technicians who can grind it out + players who can capitalize and score fast against spinners and the old ball.
- Fielding & catching: This has to be the best fielding & catching XI we can play, as our fielding standards are lousy, and against a real top team we would be made to pay dearly. This was a tough rule for me, as it ruled out a personal favorite G.R Vishwanath, in favor of another personal favorite, but not quite Vishy’s caliber: Mohammed Azharuddin. Thankfully, our slip & close-in catching is as good as any with Dravid, Sunil, and Sachin.
- Keeping: Since I am playing 5 batsmen + 4 bowlers + one all-rounder, I wanted to pick a wicket keeper whose batting was pretty good & versatile, while being a safe keeper. Amongst M.S. Dhoni, Syed Kirmani, Nayan Mongia, and Farokh Engineer, Dhoni was the better wicketkeeper batsman at number 7
- Bowling: There has got to be variety in bowling: 2 pace and swing bowlers (spin and reverse swing will be the only factors that will help us get 20 wickets against strong teams), one bowling all-rounder (Kapil, the de facto choice), one leg spin, and one finger spin. Kumble was the obvious first choice spinner, and my second choice had to be a finger spinner (that ruled out Chandra in spite of terrific numbers and a mystery factor) that got good turn (as Kumble doesn’t spin much). The choice was between two sardars: Bedi & Harbhajan. Numbers being fairly similar, I went for Bhajji for his batting at number 8, better fielding, and a slightly modern aggressive streak that has helped us compete better.
- When in doubt, go by gut instincts, personal bias, and throw stats to the wind: Sehwag, Azhar, Bhajji, Srinath (struggled in early days with no guidance, matured into a deadly bowler, but fitness and terrible support from fielders and other bowlers let his statistics down) are such personal picks. They may make the cut even by statistics – Sehwag’s stats for example, are as good any anybody else’s, but there will be naysayers. That’s why Kapil is also captain ahead of most others. Kapil is the best all-round player in this team, and while that itself is no consideration for captaincy, he deserves the honor purely for his attacking instincts and style of play. And he is the only bloody Indian captain to win a world cup. So I let my favorite’s reign- after all it’s my team!
And so, here is my all time best Indian test XI dream team: Kapil’s devils:
Sunil Gavskar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin, M.S. Dhoni, Kapil Dev (Captain), Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath
I would rate this team as the joint 3rd best with Pakistan & South Africa, but behind West Indies & Australia.
My verdict (for a 3 match series):
- Fast pacy pitches against an all time Australia / West indies XI : Will lose
- Fast pacy pitches against an all time SA XIs : Draw
- Sub continental pitches against:
- England, SA, NZ, SL: Will win
- Pakistan, West Indies, Australia: Draw
- Swinging conditions against England / NZ XI: Will win
The most awesome sight for me would be to watch the chalk and cheese pair of Sehwag, and Gavaskar open. If they happen to survive the first session against an attack that has any one amongst: Lillee, McGrath, Ambrose, Holding, Marshall, Imran, Wasim, Waqar, Warne, and then we can beat any opposition anywhere.
And the contest to savor for a life time would be: India Vs. Pakistan, on any good pitch amongst the few available on the sub continent.
Here is to some more day dreaming 🙂
P.S: Those who think the IPL & T20 is cricket may have a different opinion if they watched some classic Australia vs. West Indies clashes from the 60s through the early 90s, which are up on YouTube. That’s pretty much how my fantasy game would have played out.
Select clips that I am in awe of:
Empire of cricket series’ story on the historic series in 1960 featuring the first tied test in Brisbane:
Gary Sobers smashes a double hundred at Melbourne, playing for a Rest of the World XI against Australia:
Dennis Lillee Vs. Viv Richards:
Curtly Ambrose’s spell of 7 for 1 at Perth: