April 01, 2005

Down fantasy lane - Indo-Pak Dream Teams

By H Natarajan

The anger of this cricket-crazy nation is palpable. India’s second innings capitulation at Bangalore has triggered a wave of negative emotions, from restrained disappointment and calculated censure to unbridled disgust and unequivocal condemnation. Maybe, it’s good to digress from the current series and use the break between the Test and One-Day International series to indulge in bit of nostalgia and imagination to fantasize on what India and Pakistan could have offered as a combined force.

The rich cricketing heritage of India and Pakistan presents an awesome picture. Between the two nations, they have produced players who have scaled almost every cricketing summit – the highest run-scorers in Tests and ODIs, the highest wicket-takers in Tests and ODIs, the highest century-maker in Tests and ODIs, the highest individual scorer in ODI history, the fastest bowlers, the craftiest seamers, magicians with the old ball, a bowler who has taken all 10 wickets in an innings, wicket-keepers who were ranked among all-time best, the greatest batsmen, bowlers and fielders. India and Pakistan, between them, have also won two World Cup from four finals. Phew! One can dare say that many superstars would have been unsung heroes in domestic cricket had the Partition not taken place.

My choice of the all-time great, fantasy India-Pakistan Test team is based on what the players have achieved and on the assumption that they are at the peak of their prowess. It’s important to bear that in mind before baiting any of the current players!

So, let’s venture into fantasyland to pick the greatest Test from the rich talent the two nations has seen so far. Sunil Gavaskar will be an automatic choice for one of the two opening slots. His opening partner would have to be Virender Sehwag, the most destructive batsmen in modern cricket alongside Adam Gilchrist. Sehwag’s aggression presents the perfect foil for Gavaskar’s patient, percentage play. Reminiscent of Viv Richards’s supreme arrogance, Sehwag’s fearsome methodology gained him a place ahead of openers like Vijay Merchant, Hanif Mohammad, Majid Khan, Ravi Shastri and Saeed Anwar.

For the three middle-order specialist batting slots, among those lining up are Vijay Hazare, Polly Umrigar, Gundappa Viswanath, Mohinder Amarnath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohammad Azharuddin, VVS Laxman and Yousuf Yohanna. I had no difficulty in picking the No 3 and No 4 slots - Zaheer Abbas, the man they called “Asian Bradman”, to be followed in the order by Sachin Tendulkar. The biggest debate in mind came in deciding the No 5 position. I had narrowed it down to three - Javed Miandad, Rahul Dravid and Inzamam-ul-Haq, three solid, classy and extremely dependable players. Though Dravid’s record is increasingly admirable with every passing Test, I chose Miandad because of his sheer genius, his ability to innovate, improvise and single-handedly change a match with unique, combative skills that were both fair and unfair. He could destroy the best of attacks with his brand of unorthodoxy and methods. But it was a photo-finish deciding between him and Dravid. Inzamam’s fielding alone was enough to push him behind Dravid and Miandad.

The rest of the squad would comprise a ’keeper and five bowlers – four fast bowlers and a spinner. Of the six, it was necessary that at least two players were top class all-rounders.

Spin options presented an embarrassment of riches. There was Vinoo Mankad and Bishan Bedi as left-armers, EAS Prasanna, S Venkataraghavan, Harbhajan Singh and Saqlain Mushtaq as offies and Subhash Gupte, BS Chandrasekhar, Anil Kumble, Abdul Qadir and Mushtaq Ahmed as leggies. I zeroed in on Mankad by virtue of his status as one of the finest-ever all-rounder in the game - a batsman with two Test double hundreds (and a near third) and two eight-wicket innings haul as a match-winning bowler. Mankad will be my man for No 6 and also a back-up opener.

Two more legendary all-rounders follow Mankad at No 7 and 8 – Imran Khan, my choice to captain the side, and Kapil Dev. Imran, the left-handed wizardry of Wasim Akram, the blistering pace of Waqar Younis and Kapil would form a formidable fast bowling quartet. The Pakistanis were also masters of the reverse swing, so there will be little respite for the opposition.

The choice for the ’keeper was a two-way contest between Syed Kirmani and Wasim Bari and my pick was the Indian, who I reckoned was not far from Allan Knott - arguably the greatest ’keeper ever.

THE combined overs-limit side I picked comprises only those who have played ODIs. That eliminated several worthies, who otherwise would have been strong contenders – players like Vinoo Mankad, Polly Umrigar, Bapu Nadkarni, to name a few.

My combined ODI XI has Tendulkar opening the innings with Ganguly. The Indian captain has an awesome ODI record - nearly 10,000 runs at an average touching 42, with 22 hundreds (second highest in ODI history) and 59 half-centuries, strike rate of over 74 and the reputation of being one of the biggest hitters of sixes, especially against left-arm spinners. In fact, he is the third highest scorer of sixes in all ODIs and the highest by any Indian. Besides, his bowling worth cannot be ignored (93 wickets with a best of 5-16), which is why he is my man, ahead of Saeed Anwar, as Tendulkar’s opening partner. The 16 century partnerships the two have jointly authored is a ODI record for the first wicket.

Zaheer Abbas averaged a half-century every third visit to the crease to still enjoy the third highest career average (47.62) in ODIs. There are few to challenge his one-drop position. One has two choose three men from Sehwag, Miandad, Inzamam, Dravid, Azharuddin and Asif Iqbal for the No 4, 5 and 6 spots. My pick is Miandad, Inzamam and Sehwag.

At No 7, will be the flamboyant Farokh Engineer, wicket-keeper of two illustrious World XIs whose career ended when ODI was still in its infancy. At No 8 and 9, come the two great all-rounders – Imran and Kapil. Wasim Akram at No 10 is as dangerous as any in wielding the long handle. The 11th and final choice is Saqlain Mushtaq, whose 288 wickets have come at an average of just 21.78 and whose strike-rate is still the best for any spinner who have bowled a minimum of 1000 balls in ODIs.

So what does the ODI attack look like – Imran, Akram, Kapil, Saqlain with the part-time help of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Ganguly.

Indo-Pak all-time great Test XI

1. Sunil Gavaskar
2. Virender Sehwag
3. Zaheer Abbas
4. Sachin Tendulkar
5. Javed Miandad
6. Vinoo Mankad
7. Imran Khan (captain)
8. Kapil Dev
9. Wasim Akram
10. Syed Kirmani (wk)
11. Waqar Younis
12th man: Md. Azharuddin

Indo-Pak all-time great ODI XI

1. Sachin Tendulkar
2. Sourav Ganguly
3. Zaheer Abbas
4. Javed Miandad
5. Inzamam-ul-Haq
6. Virender Sehwag
7. Farokh Engineer (wk)
8. Imran Khan (capt)
9. Kapil Dev
10. Wasim Akram
11. Saqlain Mushtaq
12th man: Md. Kaif


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