<--Added on 8/22/08 for migration to TPB -->
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 :
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:
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:
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.