The Talkative Man speaks
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006
  Dream Teams - India XI vs World XI
One of the first exercises a cricket fan indulges in, and refines perenially - selecting an alltime great XI.

My pick for an all-time India XI didn't take much time. With 3 unquestioned mummoorthigal in both batting and bowling, all I had to do was to fill the middle order.

So here we go :
Kapil Dev

Not in the playing XI but in the 14 would be Vinoo Mankad/Dilip Doshi, Dravid and Solkar.(In essence, an apt XI comprising 6 Hindus, 1 Christian, 1 Muslim, 2 Parsis and a Sikh, reflecting the unifying nature of this great game!)

The batting Trinity take the first 3 spots by right. Gavaskar easily the world's soundest opener in the last 50 years takes first strike. At the other end would be Vijay Merchant, the man whose first class average is the world's next only to the Don. His great contemporary the other Vijay is at one-drop. Thankfully, he won't be going in each time with the score next to nothing.

Mohinder Amarnath easily the greatest Asian batsman against pace is #4. The real contest was for Slots 5 and 6. Palm-tree hitter Polly Umrigar with his terrific record in the Caribbean has to be there in case the top four are knocked out by the world's legendary fast bowlers.(Polly Kaka's bowling will be handy as well, in fact his part-time legspin has as good a strike-rate as our full-timer Venkataraghavan!)So that leads to a toss-up between Tendulkar and Dravid for Slot 5.

Tendulkar takes preference assuming the top 4 do their expected job of blunting the bowling. Even if they get ambushed, we can expect him to play a lone hand, getting some quick runs farming the strike with the tail. But given a situation where we are fighting for a draw, I would prefer Dravid's survival instincts in the fourth innings. Tendulkar/Dravid with no proven record of a rich aggregate against a top-notch group of bowlers represent the weak link. They have done well in English conditions but this time they're up against the very best that all of history has to offer.

The opening pace bowler slot was a tri-cornered fight amongst Kapil, Nissar and Srinath. Kapil gets the nod by virtue of his proven bowling record in Windies and Australia, where Nissar did not get a chance. However given a game in England, it would be touch-and-go between the two, Nissar holding the edge. Amarnath will open the bowling as he used to do right from his Test debut.

I always prefer specialists and Kirmani gets the vote ahead of Engineer. Engineer's superior batting is not going to accomplish anything that the top 6 could not achieve.

Now for the spinners - Gupte, easily one of the world's all-time greats, is the first choice. Bedi and Prasanna expectedly take their place ahead of Chandra and Kumble, who would be played out as pacemen by the opposing batsmen. It will be an engrossing battle as the world's legends take on these three.

Dilip Doshi whose record is similar to Bedi's, is unlucky here too, as he narrowly misses out. Bishen will also lead the side as he fearless did in yesteryear.

Now for the Rest of the World XIV. To make things a tad easier, I am picking two teams - Test cricket being 130 years old, I am keeping World War II as a reference for the partition.

So here's the much feared pre-war World XI, which will be sufficient to make the Indians shake in their boots:
H Sutcliffe

Also in the 14: Verity/Larwood, Ranjitsinhji, G Headley

Phew! Hobbs and Sutcliffe, the worlds greatest pair of all-time, join together once more to strike terror. They are followed in the line-up by 3 triple-centurions! If that's not enough, Stan McCabe will follow them to turn things around in a crisis situation. If it happens. Hopefully, there will be a couple of run-outs when the stars decide to outrun each other to the batting end.

Blackham the Aussie will keep wickets, a specialist being preferred to the flamboyant Englishman Les Ames. Opening the attack is the 'Demon Bowler' Spofforth, whose demolition of England at the Oval started off the Ashes. George Lohmann will be his pace partner. For the spinners slot, Grimmett and Syd Barnes will suffice - no need for a fifth bowler. Should one of them fall ill during a series, Hedley Verity the prince of slow left-armers will play if the wicket aids spin, else it will be Bodyline ace Larwood. The reserve batsmen would be the Black Bradman George Headley and if grace and wizardry are required, the ever-charming His Highness Ranjitsinhji himself will step in and beguile the packed audience. Doubtless he will invent some new strokes besides his customary leg-glance while playing the spin trio.

I'm sure the Indian all-timers will prefer the post-War team though, but only on a relative basis. For they read:
G Pollock
Adam Gilchrist(wk)

12-14 : GS Chappell, McGrath, Ambrose

With Gavaskar playing for India, the openers were the weak link. In the reckoning but missing out were Greenidge and Hayden. I am pencilling the exquisite Barry Richards and the resilient Bob Simpson to open the innings. Beware of Simpson pouching blinders in the slips, with 4 ace fast bowlers around!

The next 4 slots had exciting contenders - Barrington, Viv Richards, Greg Chappell, Lara, Weekes, Sobers, Ponting, Pollock and Harvey. Of course Sir Gary was an automatic choice and being the captain, he wisely envisaged Ponting pulling a flighted Prasanna long hop for 4, only to be bowled next ball by a similarly flighted one that sped the other way and took the offstump after pitching! The opponent being India, masters of spin Pollock, Weekes and Harvey were selected. Harvey will look forward to yet another duel with Gupte while Barrington was unlucky to be dropped. With 3 outstanding left-handers, Bedi and Gupte will be handled in formidable fashion. Sir Gary will sportingly field Gilchrist to give some respite as opposed to Jeff Dujon, since he will be swallowed in no time by the champion off-spinner.

Now to the bowlers. Since Sobers will chip in with spin as well, it was decided to go for 4 top-notch fast bowlers who will wipe out the opposition as quickly as possible.

Tyson, Marshall and Trueman were automatic choices, the last 2 will be impatient to get the ball given their history of carnage against India. The fourth pace bowler was to be decided between Lillee, Ambrose, McGrath, Donald, Akram and Younis. Ambrose/McGrath represent sustained accuracy and Lillee represented sustained aggression and in a photo-finish McGrath pips Ambrose. He could well run among the wickets when the Indians go fishing at him after being kept quiet by the superfast trio. Chappell and Lillee lose out due to their lack of experience on Indian wickets.

Now for the venues - an India XI v Rest of the World XI wont get more than 3 Tests. Looking at the composition, most likely a Test would be allocated to England, Australia and India. As the venue of India's first Test, Lords takes the honours. Sydney would be a great choice to showcase India's spin troika. Now comes the question of the Indian venue - Calcutta would be ideal in terms of capacity. But we're talking about the gentleman's game so Chepauk will be preferred, as long as the sycophantic Chennai press don't crib about the exclusion of their gods Ramesh/Srikkanth/Venkatraghavan from so hallowed a gathering. They will be silenced by the choice of Venkatraghavan as the umpire alongside Madhav Gothoskar, India's finest umpire to date, although I'd prefer Gothoskar with Judah Reuben - 2 tough talking umpires who won't be cowed down by the fast bowlers. In England, David Shepherd and Dickie Bird will do duty(although I prefer Barry Meyer and Shep, Bird will be a sentimental favorite for India after standing in 83 Cup final). In Australia, it will be Tony Crafter and Darryl Hair(stay away, Harbhajan).

Although poor in the bowling department, India can take heart in the fact that they have 4 of the world's best surely - Gavaskar(opener), Merchant(all time first class - Don belongs to another world), Amarnath(pace) and Gupte(legspin). And even if they get thrashed, the squad could always come home and hand out a drubbing to Pakistan - whose team would read :

Hanif Mohd, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Inzamam Ul Haq, Javed Miandad, *Imran Khan, Wasim Raja, +Rashid Latif, Wasim Akram, Fazal Mahmood, Waqar Younis(Rashid Latif preferred to Moin Khan/Imtiaz Ahmed as his presence would prevent Akram from fixing matches ;))

Go for it, gentlemen.
What a great post!

Fully agree with your Indian eleven. When I came down to Amarnath, I was wondering whether you prefer the chip of the old block or the old block itself. I am happy, you preferred the chip.
I would prefer to see Vijay Manjrekar among the reserves. Barring Vishwanath, no other Indian batsmen can come near him for equisite square cuts and square drives. I find Polly kaka as the only Parsi in your team.

Padmakar Shivalkar and Rajinder Goel were almost equal to Bishan Bedi, but Bishan ecplised them. I prefer one of them to Dilip Doshi, who atbest can be their clone. Kapil gets an edge over Nizzar,
because of his batting also. Who can forget his 175* against Zimbabwe or the masterly support he gave to Vishwanath, at Chennai against West Indies, when Vishwanath was in full cry?

Totally agree with you on pre-war world eleven. Bradman, Hutton and Hammond at 1 down, 2 down and 3 down - When will the opposition get to bat?

Post war world eleven - I cannot imagine a team without Viv Richards. You have preferred Neil Harvey. In 1956 Manchester, he was out to a full toss from Jim Laker in one innings and another unplayable ball in the other innings, scoring 0 runs in both. With the great Gary around, no left hander can shine. That is why I do'nt feel the absence of Lara.

Tyson is a one season player. Please bring in Lilly. If you are keen on an English man, let Alec Bedser bowl along with Fred Trueman.

Marhsll runs faster than his ball. Why not we have the luxury of Holding's Rolls Royce runs up?

Lords, Sydney and Chennai - absolutely happy with the selection of the pitches and also the umpires.

John Arlott, Ian Chappell and Dicky Ratnagur as commentators with either Trevor Bailey or Geoffrey Boycott as the 'expert' and read Jack Fingleton or S.K>Gurunathan in Hindu the next day.
You have classed Chandrasekhar and Kumble along with pace bowlers. How true! Wess Hall said once about Chandrasekhar: " Man, he bowls leg breaks at my pace".
Mahadevan Saar,
thank you for your feedback.

I thought Merchant was a Parsee going by the name but its a misnomer.
Harvey had proven mastery in India, Windies and South Africa. I'm sure the Indian trio will surely outsmart Viv.
Bedser is a good choice too.
Between Marshall and Holding its Marshall anyday - he truly had the heart of a lion and commanded awe even in defeat - 5/72 during Sunny's 236* and 5/29 in 31 ovs during Sydney 89 defeat. What a giant!
Ability to use the air and the pitch are the two weapons in a spinner's arsenal hence I preferred these three.
I thought Viv Richards would be able to handle Spinners better, because I was not happy the way Harvey batted against Jim Laker in turning tracks. I agree with you, Indian spinners can keep Viv guessing asto where the ball would pitch and turn after pitching.

In the post war World eleven, I would also prefer either Colin Bland or Johnty Rhodes, as 12th man, just to have the sheer thril of watching their fielding.

And Finally,after the match is over and after reading either Jack Fingleton or S.K.Gurunathan, I would like to have a review of the whole thing in Talkative Man's Blog.
Sobers, Simpson can also provide the fielding fireworks.

I'm only a statistician, not a writer like you. I would suggest you wait another 10 years and read Ram Guha's description, such as this one.
(Friend of mine who decided his kid's name after seeing Prasanna bowl, while he was still a bachelor!)
if u meant Matt Hayden, he's over-rated.
There have been very few great openers post-war.

As I said, what a delightful list(s). I don't know that I could justify Merchant, stellar first-class record or not.

I was away in the US, without access to cricket news, at the time of Mohinder Amarnath's peak (WI tour of what was it, 1983?). So perhaps that's why I'm somewhat blind to his qualifications. Still, I find it hard to choose him over such men as Dravid/Vishy. Umrigar I would be more inclined to select, not least because he was such a rock in the team at the time he played (I think context is as important as stats).

I'd like to have both Tendulkar and Dravid in the team, but if, like you, I was forced to choose, Dravid would get my nod. I think he's just that much more reliable as a Test batsman -- to fight for a draw as you say, and also to simply grind down the opposition with a long matchwinning innings. He's done that more than Tendulkar has.

As I half-indicated in my own post, I think Kapil is a borderline choice. His early record tips it (plus, as you say, in WI and Aus). But my heart says, go with Nissar and Amar Singh, or Nissar and Srinath. (Srinath is another borderline choice because I'm not convinced he had that fire in the belly fast bowlers need).

Choosing 2/3 spinners between Gupte/Chandra/Bedi/Doshi/Prasanna/Kumble, with Venkat in the wings -- what luxury! For me, Chandra and Gupte are the best, as pure matchwinners, and ideally I'd like to take just them (and so fit Solkar in, as I indicate). But I just think Gupte's career was a little too short. Prasanna probably would be the next on my list. In the end I chose Kumble only because of his longevity. I would love to find a place for Bedi, somehow.

I'm going to respond to your World XIs separately.
Dilip bhai,
Merchant was unlucky that WWII took away his peak days. He was 36 when he hit 2 Test tons in England and 40 during his last Test 100. Impressive record on uncovered wickets in chill weather.
I wonder how Sehwag would fare against McGrath/Hadlee/Akram on Day 1 at Leeds!

Amarnath is undoubtedly one of the world's best against pace:
-100 & 90 at Perth v Thommo in 77-78
-85 in the victorious POS 76 test
-584 runs(2nd highest Sunny with 434) off Imran, Sarfraz and Pak umpires in 82-83
-598 v WI pace quartet in Windies 83(2nd highest was a mere 279, SMG 240 thanks to a 147 on a dead pitch)
-Came back to Pak 84-85 unfit and still saved a Test with a 100.

Vishy isnt a world-beater on an away track, won't score the BIG 100s. I'd like to see Dravid score 400+ in an away series against a team having 3 top-notch bowlers(not Lee/Bracken/Williams type) - Dravid failed against Aus in both 99 and 2004. Now it's possible to see off ONE top notch bowler and milk the rest for runs, which is what Dravid habitually does.

Nissar was expensive compared to Amar but with a superior strike rate.

I'm surprised you have no spin strategy to counter left-handers. Gupte got his 4w/Test strike rate playing *good* and powerful sides, away record better than home. Both he and Prasanna took bagfuls of wickets abroad, hence the top positions. Any batsman would be hardpressed to play a leftie, leggie and offie, all 3 top-class in the same innings.

what next? A Cupwinners Cup featuring Mumbai XI, NSW XI, Yorkshire XI and a Barbados XI? :-)
You make a compelling case for Amarnath! (Incidentally, I wonder if a case can be made for Amarnath being the guy with the longest gap between Test debut and his peak in the team -- he debuted in 1969, but wasn't quite considered a top-rate cricketer till the early 1980s).

I guess I've got a little bit of a bias towards longevity in the team -- meaning matchwinning capabilities over a longish time. That's why Chandra over Gupte for me, though Gupte was a spectacular bowler in those short years of his prime. Similarly, that's why Kumble. But I find it hard to argue with your choices too! Prasanna, what a bowler.

And yeah, I don't think Sehwag would last long against sustained top-rate fast bowling. McGrath, Hadlee, Akram, Donald, Holding and co, Lillee ... I think they'd all figure out how to soften him up and get rid of him.

Back to the drawing boards, but then again, isn't that what makes this exercise so much fun?

Yeah, that cupwinner's exercise would be a delight too. For the Bombay XI, do you think I'd find a place for perhaps my favourite cricketer who never quite got the Test chances I think he deserved, Ramnath Parkar? (I could say the same for Padmakar Shivalkar, who didn't even get one Test).
Great posts. However, I found somebody mentioning Kapil to be a borderline choice. With all the due respect to the others, his name should be the first one for an Indian XI. If this team ever have a chance against World XIs, it will be because of this lion hearted fighter.

Though one tends to agree that Amarnath had played some fighting knocks, he lacked consistency. You cannot hold lack of quality opposition against Tendulkar or Dravid. I think they both deserve a place.

Ofcourse a World XI without Viv does not merits its name, so bring him in.
excellent description of all teams; here is where I differ - viv richards has to be there (take weekes out); greenidge for simpson, and imran for tyson; If the post-war XI were playing any team other than india, pencil warne in. also, dravid for umrigar
These kind of post are always inspiring and I prefer to read quality content so I happy to find many good point here in the post, writing is simply great, thank you for the post
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