India XI
ESPNcricinfo picks the best Test teams of all time

Middle order

Modern masters or stalwarts of old?

Will the picks skew towards the current crop, or will the Vishys and Hazares get a look in?

Suresh Menon

August 9, 2010

Comments: 453 | Text size: A | A

Fab Four: Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman pose for photos, Bangalore, June 18, 2004
The Fab Four: how many of them will make the all-time India middle order? © AFP

The poet Yeats nearly got it right. He wasn't referring to cricket, of course, but he could have been speaking about the middle order: things fall apart when the centre cannot hold.

In the 1930s and 40s, India's middle order was shored up by Vijay Hazare and Lala Amarnath. The next decade belonged to Polly Umrigar, Vijay Manjrekar and Chandu Borde. Then came Tiger Pataudi, ML Jaisimha and Ajit Wadekar before Dilip Sardesai, Gundappa Viswanath, Mohinder Amarnath and Dilip Vengsarkar took over in the 1970s. With three centuries in his first three Tests, Mohammad Azharuddin announced himself in 1984-85.

The golden age was certainly the 1990s and 2000s, when Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman came together to give India the best batting side in the world.

The larger shortlist means picking the middle order for an all-time India XI is more difficult than selecting the openers. One player more or less selects himself, leaving two other slots up for debate.

The candidates

Rahul Dravid
The finest No. 3 in the history of Indian cricket, and one of the best ever. A one-day aggregate of over 10,000 suggests that he can adapt his game. His record away from home makes him the most valuable batsman when the ball does things domestic players are unused to.

Sachin Tendulkar
Most runs, centuries, Test matches, and the man Don Bradman thought played like him. Enough said.

VVS Laxman
Played one of the most valuable innings, 281, by an Indian. It led to a win after following on against Australia and the start of the run that saw India finish as the No. 1 Test team in the world. In an age of utilitarian batsmen, his batting remains a visual delight.

Gundappa Viswanath
Has anybody been more pleasing to watch than this wonderful player of pace and spin alike? Carried the middle order on his shoulders for a decade, attacking the best fast bowlers and throwing the finest spinners off their length with creative batsmanship.

Vijay Hazare
Two hundreds on successive days against Don Bradman's Australia, and the Don's wicket in the same Test. He was India's first Test-winning captain, and the finest batsman in the middle till Viswanath.

MAK Pataudi
Led the self-respect movement in Indian cricket, inspiring the team into believing they could win. Trevor Bailey once said Pataudi might have been in the Bradman class if it were not for his handicap. Six Test centuries and innings of 75 and 85 in Melbourne in 1967, despite a pulled hamstring, established him as the Indian batsman of the 60s.

Mohinder Amarnath
Successful series against the best fast bowling in the world, in Pakistan and the West Indies, earned him the right to be labelled the best for a while. Innings of 90 and 100 in Perth had already hinted at what was to come. As a medium-pacer, he gives the captain more options.

Polly Umrigar
His 12 centuries formed the mark Indians aimed at, till Sunil Gavaskar made such calculations redundant. Innings of 56 and 172 not out in Trinidad in 1962 (he had five wickets in the first innings, besides) seemed to repeat Vinoo Mankad's famous Lord's performance of 1952.

Sourav Ganguly
The only left hander in the list, but that is not the only reason he is there. His average of 42.17 over 113 Tests compares favourably with Viswanath's 41.93 (91 Tests) and Dilip Vengsarkar's 42.13 (116 Tests). India's most successful Test captain, besides.

CK Nayudu
Was already 37 when he led India in their first Test, and was playing first-class cricket a quarter century later. Nayudu top-scored in the first innings at Lord's. He never lived up to his reputation as a six-hitting bowlers' nightmare in the seven Tests he played, but was an inspiring figure who put India on the international map.

Mohammad Azharuddin
Belonged to the Viswanath tradition of wristy batsmanship. He never really had to shoulder the batting on his own, though, since in his early days Vengsarkar or Mohinder Amarnath did that job, and soon Tendulkar arrived.

Dilip Vengsarkar
The link between the Gavaskar and Tendulkar generations, he held the middle order together, once making 166 against Sri Lanka on a dodgy track when no one else made more than 60. His three centuries at Lord's and six against West Indies' pace made him the most valuable player in the middle order in his time.

We'll be publishing an all-time India XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your middle-order batsmen click here

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore

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Posted by   on (August 12, 2010, 20:11 GMT)

Too many great players who have played for the country ...... really difficult to select one All-Time Indian XI from amongst players who have played the game across different eras.

So I have selected two teams : Team A - consisting of players who have played bulk of their cricket before 1970s and Team B - comprising of players who have played in the post 70s period.

Team A (Pre - 1970s):

1. Vijay Merchant 2. Vinoo Mankad 3. Vijay Manjrekar 4. Vijay Hazare 5. Polly Umrigar 6. C.K. Nayadu 7. Farokh Engineer 8. Ghulam Ahmed 9. Subhash Gupte 10. Amar Singh 11. Mohammed Nissar 12th Man : Lala Amarnath

Team B (Post - 1970s):

1. Sunil Gavaskar 2. Virender Sehwag 3. Rahul Dravid 4. Sachin Tendulkar 5. G.R. Vishwanath 6. Kapil Dev 7. Syed Kirmani 8. Javagal Srinath 9. Anil Kumble 10. Erapalli Prasanna 11. Bishen Singh Bedi 12th Man : VVS Laxman

Not easy to relegate a magician like VVS to 12th man or exclude Zaks ..... but these are the best teams that I could think of.

Posted by   on (August 12, 2010, 19:26 GMT)

my choices would be dravid, tendulkar and (its a really tough call between vvs vs vishy) i choose vvs. 1. gavaskar, 2. sehwag, 3. dravid, 4. sachin, 5. vvs 6. kapil I thought nailing down the batting order would be tough for india but the batting selected itself rest was tough 7. kirmani (classical debate excellent keeper with limited batting skills or better batsman whose ok behind the stumps? very tough decision being a purist its a toss between kirmani or farooq but considering there are only 5 batsman its very tempting to choose dhoni) 8. chandra(very tough one chandra and kumble both being leggies with very similar fast leg break type of bowling its very tempting to keep both but u also need variety so I had to choose chandra again personal opinion) 9. Bishen(its Bishen vs prasanna) 10. zaheer 11. srinath(selecting 2 seamers was also tough not because of too many options but because there are too few(others i considered are prabhakar, chetan, roger, madhan, prasad)

Posted by staranikanti on (August 12, 2010, 18:16 GMT)

Rahul and Sachin are a cut above the rest. It is a close tie between Hazare, Laxman (both have highest average in the list) and Vishy. Vishy too had similar av. before the slump from 1979-80. There is another criteria ie. Runs per test. Here except Hazare, Vishy scores over the rest. Vishy had as many runs as Hazare at 30 tests and better record before his downslide. A team is assessed by performance in individual tests aggregated. Vishy scored most runs for India in 25 out 91 tests. In case of Gavaskar it is 26 in 91 and 31 in 125. In tests won by India, it is 8 in 20 for Vishy. VVS too contributed significantly in India's wins. His batting average is boosted by a number of not outs. Vishy farmed strike better with tail enders loosing his wicket in the process. Vishy being a walker, in his case, bad decisions were not compensated. In Cricinfo/Wisden's words 'Though Stats don't reveal, he was as much critical as Gavaskar was'. Vishy(1st)/VVS(2nd) or if team opts for 2 seamers, Hazare.

Posted by buntyj on (August 12, 2010, 18:12 GMT)

pps- and yes, vijay manjrekar rates ahead of umrigar

Posted by buntyj on (August 12, 2010, 17:31 GMT)

ps- with helmet +fielding not a factor- the all time indian xi is likely to be by far the poorest fielding side in any case- jimmy amarnath at no 5 is ahead of all other options.

Posted by   on (August 12, 2010, 13:32 GMT)

Barry Richards (SA) Len Hutton (Eng) Don Bradman (Aus) Viv Richards (WI) Sachin Tendulkar (Ind) Garry Sobers (WI) Imran Khan ( Pak ) Richard Hadlee (NZ) Wasim Akram (Pak) Allan Knott (Eng) Murlitharan (SL)

I should be the first to put a world eleven. Atleast 1 from each team.

Posted by 270380 on (August 12, 2010, 11:59 GMT)

My All time Indian XI would be 1. S. Gavaskar 2. V. Sehwag 3. R. Dravid 4. S. Tendulkar 5. G. Vishwanath 6. V. Mankad 7. Kapil Dev 8. S. Kirmani 9. A. Kumble 10. Zaheer khan 11. E. Prasanna. There cannot be a better opening pair than Gavaskar and Sehwag one technically perfect and the other sending the best bowler on a leather hunt on any wicket. No comments on Dravid and Tendulkar. Vishwanth could play both fast and spin with ease on worst wickets. Mankad the classic left arm spinner and could bat in any position. Kirmani easily the best wicket keepr India has produced. A. Kumble like Dravid and Tendulkar does not need any comment. Zaheer can compliment Kapil as a left armer. Prasanna perhaps the best off spinner the world has produced. I will have Azharuddin as twelfth man for his superb feilding in any position.

Posted by cricfanraj on (August 12, 2010, 11:53 GMT)

@Ramesh Dhoni over Kirmani can be compare to Gilchrist over Healy /Rodney Marsh. Gilchrist is noway a better keeper compare to Healy or Marsh . But he was good which is enough and his batting skills added advantage to redefine No 7 position. Similarly I agree that Dhoni is not in same class as Kirmani but he did very well against Kumble and Bhajji . I don't think Chandra is way too different from Kumble and his batting + leadship qualities gives him an edge over Kirmani. I agree that a player should not choose for wrong reason (like some people always force Irfan because he can bat ) but when it comes to Dhoni he is no mean with glouses. So most of use choose Dhoni over Kirmani.

Posted by coolankur on (August 12, 2010, 11:28 GMT)


Posted by   on (August 12, 2010, 10:08 GMT)

Why is Dhoni being picked as a wicket keeper in the All Time India XI. His wicket keeping abilities are no where near Kirmani, Engineer, Bharat Reddy etc etc. Have you even seen Kirmani miss a stumping like that Dhoni missed of Ojha. Keeping wickets for Chandra is much more tougher.

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Suresh MenonClose
Suresh Menon Suresh Menon went from being a promising cricketer to a has-been, without the intervening period of a major career. He played league cricket in three cities with a group of overgrown enthusiasts who had the reverse of amnesia - they could remember things that never happened. For example, taking incredible catches at slip, or scoring centuries. Somehow Menon found the time to be the sports editor of the Pioneer and the Indian Express in New Delhi, Gulf News in Dubai, and the editor of the New Indian Express in Chennai. Currently he is a columnist with publications in India and abroad, and is beginning to think he might never play for India.

India Jury

Sambit Bal
Sambit Bal
Editor, Cricinfo
XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Mohinder Amarnath, Mankad, Kapil Dev, Dhoni, Srinath, Anil Kumble, Prasanna
Harsha Bhogle
Harsha Bhogle
Cricket commentator, presenter and writer. Has covered nearly 100 Tests and over 400 ODIs
XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Viswanath, Umrigar, Mankad, Kapil Dev, Kirmani, Kumble, Srinath
Ramachandra Guha
Ramachandra Guha
Historian and cricket writer. Author of A Corner of a Foreign Field, Wickets in the East, Spin and Other Turns, and editor of the Picador Book of Cricket
XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, CK Nayudu, Mankad, Kapil Dev, Kirmani, Kumble, Prasanna, Nissar
Arun Lal
Arun Lal
Played 16 Tests and 13 ODIs for India between 1982 and 1989. Currently a cricket commentator
XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Hazare, Dhoni, Kapil Dev, Mankad, Lala Amarnath, Kumble, Srinath
Pradeep Magazine
Pradeep Magazine
Has written on cricket for the last three decades for various Indian newspapers. Author of the book Not Quite Cricket. Currently advisor, sports with the Hindustan Times
XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Mohinder Amarnath, Mankad, Kapil Dev, Kirmani, Kumble, Srinath, Prasanna
Sanjay Manjrekar
Sanjay Manjrekar
Played 37 Tests and 74 ODIs for India between 1987 and 1996. Now a cricket commentator and presenter for ESPN Star
XI: Sehwag, Gavaskar, Dravid, Tendulkar, Hazare, Mankad, Dhoni, Kapil Dev, Prasanna, Gupte, Srinath
Ayaz Memon
Ayaz Memon
Sportswriter for 30 years. Former editor of Sportsweek and former sports editor of the Independent and the Times of India. Has covered over 100 Tests, more than 250 ODIs, and six World Cups
XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Hazare, Mankad, Kapil Dev, Dhoni, Kumble, Zaheer, Nissar
Suresh Menon
Suresh Menon
Former sports editor of the Pioneer and the Indian Express in New Delhi, Gulf News in Dubai, and former editor of the New Indian Express in Chennai. Currently a columnist with publications in India and abroad
XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Hazare, Mankad, Kapil Dev, Dhoni, Srinath, Prasanna, Kumble
R Mohan
R Mohan
Resident Editor of the Deccan Chronicle, Chennai. Formerly cricket correspondent of the Hindu and The Sportstar for nearly two decades. Has reported live close to 150 Test matches and more than 300 ODIs, including five World Cups.
XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Merchant, Tendulkar, Hazare, Kapil Dev, Dhoni, Mankad, Srinath, Kumble, Prasanna
Vasu Paranjape
Former Mumbai and Baroda player, and former coach of Mumbai and of the National Cricket Academy
XI: Gavaskar, Merchant, Tendulkar, Hazare, MAK Pataudi, Phadkar, Kapil Dev, Mankad, Tamhane, Gupte, Prasanna
Sharda Ugra
Sharda Ugra
Senior editor, Cricinfo. Cricket writer for two decades with Mid-Day, the Hindu and India Today magazine
XI: Gavaskar, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Mankad, Dhoni, Kapil Dev, Kumble, Srinath, Zaheer