In any Indian all-time eleven, some players will always be guaranteed a spot, given their heroic status in the history of the sport. Such figures like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev are deservedly fixed in the minds of Indian cricket followers for their lofty achievements. But, one of the nice by-products of this theoretical exercise is that it shines a light on those players who have contributed so much to Indian cricket but are not necessarily given the column inches they deserve. Players like Anil Kumble, who is third in the list of Test history’s greatest wicket-takers, recede into the memory of the middle-aged as his spearing legbreaks did not have the same sex appeal as Murali’s doosra or Warne’s flipper. Zaheer Khan, the key component of India’s rise to the number one position, can be recognised as one of the great Indian bowlers through this activity as time confers weight and heft to his achievements. In this article, I will explain the logic behind my decisions – something I have not done in previous such posts – and produce what I believe is a worthy eleven to represent India’s Test cricketing history.
As I have written in a previous article, Australian Prime Ministers and cricket have combined to form a complex relationship. As a prevalent strand in the fabric of Australian culture, engaging with cricket is necessary for political survival. Otherwise, they run the danger of appearing out of touch with the electorate. In this article, we will cover some new developments and expand our coverage to Prime Ministers outside of Australia.
When you think about the great fast-bowling all-rounders of Test cricket, a litany of charismatic players spring to mind such as Ian Botham and Kapil Dev. However, if you were to turn your mind to the great slow-bowling all-rounders, you would struggle to come up with a comparable list of names. Apart from perhaps Wilfred Rhodes, a dominant figure in early 20th century English cricket, there is not one who has been able to rise to the level of greatness.
Indeed, among the players with 1000 runs, 100 wickets and a positive average differential – the mark of a strong all-round cricketer is one with a higher batting average than bowling – just three are spin bowlers. Given that being a fast-bowling all-rounder places such a tremendous strain on the body, it is surprising that this number is not higher. But, even more surprisingly, the one with the best average differential is Ravichandran Ashwin of India with a batting average of 34 and a bowling average of 25.
- Virat Kohli (c) (RCB) – As the undoubted player of the tournament, Kohli will captain the side, leading from the front with the weight of his staggering 919 runs in the season (so far). Demonstrating that the Indian national set-up missed a trick by not utilising Kohli as an opener, he scored his first four Twenty20 hundreds this season. Scoring his mountain of runs at a strike-rate of 150, Kohli’s dominance has inevitably drawn comparisons to Bradman (which, for the first time, have some truth to them).
- David Warner (SRH) – Having been shunted to the middle order during the World T20 to accommodate for Australia’s top-heavy batting pool, Warner’s return to the opener position has seen a remarkably consistent run of scoring from the Sunrisers captain: his string of seven fifty-plus scores for the season is only bettered by Kohli.
- AB de Villiers (RCB) – In the spate of run-scoring from the young trio of Kohli, Root and Smith, AB’s title as “best batsman in the world” seemed to be under serious threat. During this IPL, however, his talents were on full display with his match-winning Qualifier 1 performance and a season strike-rate of 170 (the highest among the top ten run-scorers).
- Lokesh Rahul (wk) (RCB) – In one of the breakout performances of the season, Rahul has managed to distinguish himself in the power-packed Banglore batting line-up of Gayle, Kohli, AB and Watson. With his 386 runs at an average of 48, the Indian national set-up will be seeing him as the successor to MS Dhoni.
- Shane Watson (RCB) – Narrowly beating out Chris Morris for the overseas all-rounder position, Watson has yet again proven that he is a world-beater in the limited overs formats despite his semi-retired status. With twenty wickets, he was among the top three wicket-takers in the season due to his guile and experience.
- Yusuf Pathan (KKR) – While he did not reprise the combustion of his performances in previous seasons, Pathan has added consistency and maturity to his game, regularly finishing off innings for Kolkata with eight not-outs for thirteen innings. It is not as if he has been overly protective of his wicket as well with a strike-rate of 140 for his 361 runs.
- Krunal Pandya (MI) – The brother of one of India’s emerging stars in Hardik Pandya, Krunal has managed to star with both bat and ball despite not having a first-class match to his name. His ability to adapt, moving fluidly between positions in the Mumbai batting line-up, should be noted by the Indian selectors.
- Bhuvneshwar Kumar (SRH) – As the leading wicket-taker for the season, Bhuvi has partnered well with his Hyderabad team-mate Mustafizur to produce several death bowling masterclasses with his inch-perfect yorkers and changes of pace.
- Amit Mishra (DD) – Demonstrating that legspin is increasingly becoming a lethal weapon in Twenty20, Mishra has once again illustrated the potential he has shown throughout his stunted international career.
- Yuzvendra Chahal (RCB) – Confirming that his breakout season in 2015 was not a one-off, Chahal’s sophomore season has seen him rank in the top three wicket-takers with 20 wickets at an average of 18.30.
- Mustafizur Rahman (SRH) – Yet again performing against world-class batsman, Mustafizur has shown that his bowling owes its success more to his cricketing brain than to any mystery in his bowling variations.
Match 1 – Match 12
Similar to what I wrote for the 2015/16 Big Bash League season, this is the first segment on the trends that have appeared so far in the ninth edition of this revenue-producing machine, that is, the Indian Premier League.
As the dust has barely settled from a spectacular World T20 tournament, the Indian Premier League – that unique combination of huge sixes and Bollywood stars – will be starting up again in a few days. Given the recent player movement in the IPL 2016 auction and the introduction of two new sides with the Gujarat Lions and Rising Pune Supergiants – did they get a five-year-old to name it? – this is just a preview to get your head around the eight teams of this new season.
The date is 17 January 2016 and India are 2/171 in yet another Australia v India ODI. Virat Kohli is at the non-striker’s end on 72 when James Faulkner begins a futile attempt to verbally unsettle him.
Kohli: Go bowl. Don’t waste your time. Go bowl. You’re wasting your energy. No point.
Faulkner: Having fun, are we?
Kohli: No point. I’ve smashed you enough in my life. No point. Go bowl.
As I watched Virat Kohli dispatch James Faulkner for three consecutive boundaries during his chasing masterclass in the decisive World T20 group match in Mohali, I was reminded of the verbal exchange above. While Kohli’s slap-down might be attributed to gamesmanship – both Kohli and Faulkner are fierce competitors with combative personalities – Kohli did raise an interesting question: has he really smashed him enough in his life?