Middle order August 9, 2010

Modern masters or stalwarts of old?

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • dummy4fb 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)

  • 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.

  • buntyj on August 12, 2010, 18:12 GMT

    pps- and yes, vijay manjrekar rates ahead of umrigar

  • 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.

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • coolankur on August 12, 2010, 11:28 GMT

    MY ALL TIME BEST INDIAN ELEVEN WOULD BE: 1 SUNIL GAVASKAR ----- nobody shd raise a question 2. VIRENDER SEHWAG ---- man who has changed d perception of opening in test mtch 3. RAHUL DRAVID ---- d best sheet anchor ever 4. SACHIN TENDULKAR --- GOD OF CRICKET 5. VVS LAXMAN--- D MAN WHO NEVER DEMANDS BUT ALWAYS GIVES BACK 6 KAPIL DEV - BEST INDIAN CRICKETER OF D LAST CENTURY 7 SYED KIRMANI - BEST KEEPER BATSMAN 8. ANIL KUMBLE - MAN WHO DIDN'T TURN D BALL BUT STILL GOT BAGFUL OF WICLETS 9. JAVAGAL SRINATH- KAPIL'S TRUE SUCCESSOR 10. BISHAN SINGH BEDI- ORIGINAL TURBANATOR 11. B.S. CHANDRASHEKHAR - D MAN WHO MADE HIS WEAKNESS INTO HIS STRENGTH GUYZ PLZ HAVE A LOOK AND COMMENT .

  • dummy4fb 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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