June 12, 2006

By the dozen

A stunning 180 in the ongoing second India-Windies Test had me make one change to this list that I occasionally put together.
    In batting order:

    Sunil Gavaskar
    Virender Sehwag
    Rahul Dravid (c)
    Sachin Tendulkar
    Vijay Hazare
    Syed Kirmani
    Eknath Solkar
    Kapil Dev
    Anil Kumble
    Mohammed Nissar
    BS Chandrashekhar

    12th Man: Subhash Gupte

  • I've made these imaginary lists for some years, and always had Vinoo Mankad to partner Gavaskar. Because Mankad was a fine batsman (being part of a world-record opening partnership is no small change) and an excellent spinner as well. But Sehwag's claim to the spot is now too strong to ignore, and he can bowl some teasing offspin as well.

  • Dravid, Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Hazare, Kumble and Chandrashekhar pick themselves. (Well, I pick them ... but they are the automatics).

  • In the middle order: why Hazare? Why not Vishy, or Vengsarkar, or Laxman, or Ganguly, or Umrigar? Well, Hazare had the best average of them all. Plus he had two centuries in one Test against Australia -- against Bradman and co. That was a Test in which he also bowled Bradman. Admittedly, it was after Bradman had helped himself to a double-century, but a guy who bowled Bradman is a guy I'd be willing to throw the ball to once in a while.

  • In earlier versions of this list, I had MAK Pataudi in the middle-order too, mainly because of his captaincy. Pataudi was an intelligent, forceful captain (and a superb fielder and when in the mood, a devastating batsman), probably the best we've had. But now I think Dravid is on his way to being the best captain we've had, and if that's so, Pataudi doesn't command a place in the team any more.

  • Solkar? Here's my reasoning about this man. His electric fielding made him the secret weapon in our early '70s team, the edge that put that element of fear in opposing batsmen. The edge that made the famous spin attack so good. I've always believed that any team benefits from having a secret weapon, and that's why Solkar makes it. Besides his fielding, he could also bowl (gentle) medium-pace, and was a useful batsman (a century against Lloyd's West Indians, 18 not out in the 42 all out debacle of 1974).

  • Dhoni is, of course, making a case for the wicket-keeping place, but I think it's early days with him still. The real challenger to Kirmani is Farokh Engineer, and in fact I see them as essentially equal contenders. I think Kirmani wins simply because he played much more, proving himself over a longer period.

  • Kapil Dev, of all people, is a tough choice. I think Kapil ruined his case by his stuttering pursuit of a world record at the end of his playing days. He stayed on well past the time he could really command a place in the team, only because he wanted that record. In my book, this is nearly unforgivable. It raises questions about just what kind of team man he was. Still, earlier in his career he was unquestionably a marvel with ball and bat, and deserves a place for that alone.

  • The second pacer's spot is also tough. Srinath makes a strong case. But while I admired his bowling, I was never convinced he believed enough in himself, wanted to work hard enough, to be the consistently destructive bowler he could be, that we glimpsed now and then. It may be nuts to choose a man (Nissar) who only played a handful of Tests, but every description of the man speaks of his quality and real pace. In fact, the same can be said of his opening partner, Amar Singh. So in fact that spot is a tossup between those two. Other contenders, though not really serious ones, are Dattu Phadkar and Ramakant ("Tiny") Desai.

  • Chandrashekhar makes the team for his sheer unpredictability, that Solkar-like secret weapon quality. I don't think there's been an Indian bowler who could so quickly turn a match on its head like Chandra could and, often enough, did.

  • No offspinner in the team? Prasanna probably makes the best case, but I'm not sure how to include him before either Kumble or Chandra. You might argue that the spin department is unbalanced, but then again, Kumble is hard to classify as a pure legspinner. Plus, we know of the success Warne and MacGill, both legspinners, have had bowling together for Australia. What I wouldn't give to watch Kumble and Chandra bowling in tandem...

  • Subhash Gupte as 12th man: at his best, Gupte was the world's best spinner. Chandra pips him only because, again, Chandra played for a longer time.

  • Top four with batting averages of 50+, the fifth close enough to 50, a dynamic keeper, fine fast bowling, world-class spin and a match-turning fielder: I think this team has it all. It would run the best teams of the other cricket countries pretty close.

  • Other names, not mentioned above, that come close to selection: BS Bedi, Lala Amarnath, Vijay Merchant, CK Nayudu, Bapu Nadkarni.

    Raghuveer said...

    Its probably an accurate list and anyone will come up with the same names barring one or two changes. Batting line-up is as good as it comes but unfortunately even our 'best-ever' bowling attack will not keep anyone up at night. It has been a bane of Indian cricket since day one. I have lost count of the number of times we let the opposition off the hook but for one or two potent strike bowlers. Think 'Marshall-Garner-Roberts-Holding' or 'Lillie-Thomson-McGrath-Warne'. Now thats a bowling attack.

    You know what else is unforgivable about the last stages of Kapil? The DD commentators. India is placed precariously and Kapil strides in...the commentators go 'This man can do anything. He can put the ball in orbit if he wants to'. Kapil put-puts for a few balls and gets out. It was torture, am telling you.

    Anonymous said...

    this is a prestigious XI and we must consider this prestigiously. So, considering this consideration I would put Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare in the team. when Vijay merchant and Vijay Hazare were at the crease and they considered the consideration to ultimately take a run and leave their angrej behind.

    Anonymous said...

    can't complain about the batting line-up. but by all accounts, chandra and kumble have similar styles. don't you think fergie should be in the eleven ahead of chandra?

    - another b., may our tribe grow.

    barbarindian said...

    I propose Dilip D'Souza as another spinner.

    Anonymous said...

    Shah Rukh Khan?

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    b.: yeah, perhaps fergie ahead of chandra. It's only that, like I said, I think Chandra proved himself over a longer period than that man Fergie did.

    gbo: I really don't know if Shah Rukh Khan or Khannot.

    Anonymous said...

    Dammit! I was hoping barbarindian would ask you to put OBC reservation in place for this eleven.

    Looks like he is losing steam!

    Anonymous said...

    >>I propose Dilip D'Souza as another spinner.

    Yes, yes, Dilip's been spinning yarns, err...yawns for all these years, that should amount for something.

    Besides, getting atleast one Christian should lower the acid level of Fr Fredrick Prakash and Dolphin D'Souza types.

    Sunil said...

    Solkar was really the only fielder in Indian cricket who fielded "correctly" at silly point or fwd short leg.

    we see the problem once too often now....when the likes of Kaif (an electric fielder at point or cover) field at short-leg. They stand up too early (when the spinner, in this case usually Kumble or Bajji) bowl, and fluff too many chances. Cant do that up front.

    Anonymous said...

    Dilip, do you have a list for the world XI (separate teams for one-day and test)? Do you want to create a world XI post 92 world cup?

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Sunil, the amazing thing about Solkar was his reflexes. He sometimes made catches that by rights should have been just the ball dropping off a defensive bat: he was so close, so fearless and so quick that he could get his fingers under those and hang on. For years, it left me with just one dream: to make such a catch once.

    Remains a dream.

    anonymous, I've never tried to make a world XI, nor even separate Test and one-day XIs. But here's a pool of players I would be selecting from for a post-92 one-day team: Anwar, Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Ponting, Lara, Murali, Donald, McGrath, Lee, Pollock, Ambrose, Gilchrist, Kumble, Akram, Sarwan, Bevan, Gibbs, Cairns, Inzamam, Warne ... can't think of a truly outstanding England player. (Can you?)

    The other one I've occasionally tried to make is an all-time WI team. But it is a remarkably difficult job: I mean, how do you select between Weekes, Sobers, Walcott, Lara, Richards, Kanhai, Hunte, Greenidge, Haynes, Kallicharan, Worrell, Headley, Lloyd ... and between Marshall, Roberts, Hall, Garner, Ambrose, Walsh, Holding, Ramadhin, Valentine, Gibbs?

    (The sad thing about those names is the reminder of how far the Windies have fallen).

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    But having said what I did in that last comment, I would probably select Worrell, Greenidge, Richards, Sobers, Lara, Headley, Marshall, Holding, Hall, Walcott to keep (though he wasn't the best wk), and probably Roberts. (No spinner). Lloyd or Gibbs as 12th man. I would have liked to find a place for Kanhai, but unless we make him open, I can't see where to slot him.

    Equally difficult: an all-time Aussie XI. Fast bowling alone: McGrath, Lillee, Thomson, Lindwall, Miller, Davidson, McKenzie ...?

    Enough of this stuff. Maybe we should shoot for an all-time Tripura XI.

    Umesh Patil said...

    This is fun and good entertainment. One batsman who actually would have got position would be - Azar. It is sad that he is discredited, for the right reasons, because of his integrity compromising actions. I still feel there is no other 'silky batsman' like him. Gavaskar has been supreme and I dare say than Sachin. Even Dravid is as great as like Sachin. By the end of his career, Dravid in all probability would have contributed more to Indian Cricket than any other contemporary Indian player; including Sachin. And I would put Azar in this top class. One only wishes he had not slipped away his way.....

    This was once a regular blog but, after six said...

    I noticed the word 'stunning' before the word '180'. (Not ugly or swishy.) You've changed your mind, then, about the aesthetics of Sehwag? :-)

    Good team. I don't know about Solkar though....I take the point but I'd pick Mankad instead.

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Roshan, the man's batting is still ugly, from where I sit. Stunning in that 180, but ugly. "Aesthetics"? Not a word I tend to use in the same breath as "Sehwag".

    Umesh, I've never been fully persuaded of Azhar. I think he let his moods get to his batting a little too much. I do agree with your comment about Dravid -- when they're all retired, I think he'll be remembered as the dominant (and match-winning) Indian batsman of his time.

    The Talkative Man said...

    Interesting list. I put mine here a few days back. No Vijay Merchant or Prasanna? Sehwag might be sorted out by a couple of good seam bowlers. If you're playing a World XI, both Kumble and Chandra would be played like pacemen by worldclass batsmen and Indians will be sent on a leather hunt! Gupte played two 5-0 series and came back with stacks of wickets in each, IMHO the greatest.

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    Talkative Man, took a quick look, what a delightful list you have. I'll respond there when I get a chance. I have some objections, but then that's what these mind games are for!

    You're right about Sehwag: I think a Lillee or a Lindwall would clean him up. But having been a long-time Sehwag sceptic, I'm starting to think that what's in his favour is that he thinks about what's getitng him out, and tries to make amends. (Though he hasn't yet applied that to ODIs). I think his record of big hundreds now speaks for itself, and the bonus with him is the speed at which he puts runs on the board once he gets going.

    And once he and Gavaskar are inked in, I can't see a place for Merchant.

    Prasanna: a superb bowler. But I chose Chandra, as I've indicated earlier on this page, for his ability to turn matches inside out within minutes. And I chose Chandra over Gupte only because of Chandra's much longer career, meaning he proved himself over a longer period. If Prasanna were to make it, he would displace Kumble, of whom the medium pacer criticism strikes home more than it does with Chandra. (Because Chandra could be so unpredictable).

    You have guts choosing a World XI!

    The Talkative Man said...

    Dilip bhai,
    I too agree that Sehwag is twice as good as he seems and would prefer him anyday to someone who "looks correct" like S.Manjrekar. I wish we had the chance to see him play a tricky left-arm seamer or someone like Akram.

    Avoiding raw stats, I try to base selection upon what I've heard or read. My method of employing stats is to consider a player's worst 3 averages while playing in different countries. In that respect, Sachin has 41 in NZ, 40 in Pak, 42 v SA which are not really phenomenal when compared with all time greats.

    Going off the track, I am great surprised that there are only a handful of openers Post-War who can be called great...Sunny, Boycott, Simpson.

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    TalkativeM, Akram would cause serious problems for Sehwag. I still remember watching him square up Dravid -- a batsman far better equipped to handle the likes of Akram than Sehwag -- two balls in a row, then simply crash through into the stumps with the third. Dravid looked like a novice. When was this, the '99 series perhaps?

    That 3 worst averages things looks interesting. I'm going to follow it to see what I can find. And as for post-war openers, what would you say about Greenidge? If not quite in that league (Gavaskar/Simpson/Boycott), he could be an unstoppable force on his day.