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Thursday, Oct 24, 2019

Here is my all-time India One-Day Eleven

In choosing this eleven, I exclude from consideration those whose careers ended before the first World Cup

columns Updated: Jul 13, 2019 18:57 IST
At number eight would be our wicket-keeper-batsman, MS Dhoni, whose third dimension here would be his supreme tactical skills. For this particular team must have Dhoni as captain, leaving Kohli and Kapil free to concentrate on their own game
At number eight would be our wicket-keeper-batsman, MS Dhoni, whose third dimension here would be his supreme tactical skills. For this particular team must have Dhoni as captain, leaving Kohli and Kapil free to concentrate on their own game(AFP)
         

As one grows older, one tends to think that things were better when one was young. In my sixties, I tend to have my moments of nostalgia-laden bitterness too. My home town, Dehradun, once a verdant vale of sal forests, paddy fields, and litchi orchards, is now an ugly, stinking, over-built state capital ruled by a land mafia. The academic institutions in New Delhi that nurtured me have gone from being first-rate in my youth to being (at best) second-rate in my dotage.

However, even an Indian of my age and sensibilities must admit that in one area things have improved in our country. This has to do with the quality of the national cricket team. Here, we have gone from being laggards and has-beens to (as it were) a superpower. When India won the 1983 World Cup it was regarded as an utter fluke, since we weren’t even expected to make the semi-finals. Thirty-six years later, when we were knocked out in the semis, the entire cricketing world was stunned, since we were the overwhelming favourites to win the tournament.

In this column, printed the day of a final we sadly didn’t reach, I offer for readers an all-time India One-Day eleven. In choosing this eleven, I exclude from consideration those whose careers ended before the first World Cup. CK Nayudu and Vinoo Mankad, among others, would have been real stars in the limited-overs format, but they never got to play it. At the same time, in picking this team I am disregarding the records of players in the longer formats of the game. Indeed, several of my selections may not even make the All Time Ranji Elevens of their respective states.

As my openers, my first instinct is to choose those two Mumbaikars, Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma, both magnificent strikers of the cricket ball, each with a staggering record in the one-day game. But, on thinking further, I’d rather have Rohit open with Virendra Sehwag, because of Viru’s unparalleled ability to pick the gaps and hit boundaries when seven fielders are up in the circle. Tendulkar can instead come in at number three, so that if a wicket falls early he can still authoritatively take on the new ball with that dazzling combination of leg-glides, off-side forcing shots, and, not least, the straight-drive. After Sachin will come his only real rival for the greatest Indian batsman of all time, the current captain of the Indian team.

The first four select themselves very easily. But who will bat at five? Do we choose Azharuddin, because of his ability to pick the gaps, and for his fielding? Or does the odium of match-fixing still hang around Azhar (despite his being cleared by the courts)? If we think the latter, then we can substitute him with Rahul Dravid who could bat in different gears, take all the catches that came his way at slip, and step in as wicket-keeper if required.

Filling the next three places in the team should be free of controversy. At number six is Yuvraj Singh, whose claims to three-dimensionality rest on his own recorded achievements rather than on a cavalier claim by a national selector. He would dramatically escalate the scoring rate with the bat, field well anywhere, and then bowl a few overs too if required. Following him would be the greatest all-rounder ever produced by India, Kapil Dev. At number eight would be our wicket-keeper-batsman, MS Dhoni, whose third dimension here would be his supreme tactical skills. For this particular team must have Dhoni as captain, leaving Kohli and Kapil free to concentrate on their own game.

Three places remain to be filled. Two present no problem at all. One goes to the finest spin bowler ever produced by India, Anil Kumble, the other to the dazzlingly gifted fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah; both equally good at slowing down the run rate and at taking wickets. For the last place, I’d choose Zaheer Khan, a swing bowler with subtle changes of pace and the added advantage of being left-arm.

My All Time India One-Day XI therefore reads:

1. Virendra Sehwag

2. Rohit Sharma

3. Sachin Tendulkar

4. Virat Kohli

5. Rahul Dravid

6. Yuvraj Singh

7. Kapil Dev

8. MS Dhoni (captain)

9. Anil Kumble

10. Zaheer Khan

11. Jasprit Bumrah

The first four would bat in the order indicated, but the next four would come and go as the situation demanded. If the opposition relied on pace rather than spin, then Dravid and Kapil might be promoted ahead of Yuvraj and Dhoni. If we were chasing and the asking rate was climbing above eight, then it might be the reverse.

The batting is very strong; and runs deep too. And there are four superb strike bowlers, three seamers and one spinner. Sehwag, Yuvraj, and Sachin can between them handily play the role of the fifth bowler; all had the ability to pick up wickets at crucial times. The one perceptible weakness is in fielding; for Sachin, Sehwag and Zaheer would most likely fail the Yo-Yo test. However, since it is Dhoni who is this team’s captain, the test shall not be mandatory. And we can still have Ravindra Jadeja as our twelfth-man, to come in when one of our unfit trio want to come off the field to attend to their boots (or whatever).

A notable feature about the eleven I have chosen is its twenty-first century ring. Only one member of the winning squad of 1983 makes the cut; as compared to as many as six who played in the winning squad of 2011. Four—a not inconsiderable number—played in the current tournament. In this sphere of life, at any rate, I have no reason to be nostalgic. The environment of my beloved Dehradun has been shot to bits; my old college has lost its shine; but (notwithstanding their recent shock loss to New Zealand) our cricketers are now much better and more competitive than they were when I was young.

Ramachandra Guha is the author of Gandhi: The Years That Changed The World

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Jul 13, 2019 18:56 IST

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