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Six of the XI made their debuts after November 1989. A sign that this is one of Indian cricket's best periods ever
September 14, 2010
If the all-time XI is any indication, this is the golden age of Indian cricket. Four players in the list - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni - are currently in the national side and two others, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, retired fairly recently. The trouble with golden ages is that they are seldom recognised as such by those living through them. In sport especially, greatness is usually bestowed retrospectively. Perhaps it is no coincidence that India are currently the No. 1 side in the world.
That six of the XI made their debuts after November 1989, when Tendulkar first announced himself to the world, is a tribute to the Mumbai man's impact. Golden Ages must have their iconic figure and Tendulkar is clearly the one here, both for what he has accomplished himself and for his qualities that inspired the others.
The XI, so heavily tipped in favour of the modern players, has only two cricketers who appeared before independence. Vijay Hazare and Vinoo Mankad both made their debuts at Lord's in 1946. Mankad was 29 and opened the batting with Vijay Merchant; Hazare was 31 and opened the bowling with Lala Amarnath, although each was to become better known for his other skill.
Erapalli Prasanna alone of the spin quartet of the 60s and 70s makes the cut. Srinivas Venkatraghavan might have been the offspinner of choice towards the end of Prasanna's career, but in an all-time XI, Prasanna's greater variety and classicism were bound to make the difference. The presence of Mankad with his dual skills kept Bishan Bedi out, while Bhagwath Chandrasekhar had to make way for Anil Kumble with his superior record and aggressive outlook.
Four players - Sunil Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Kapil Dev and Mankad - were unanimous choices, while Sehwag, Dravid and Kumble were nearly so.
The bowling attack is well balanced, with three different types of spinners and two fast-medium men. There is no left-hand batsman, and that speaks of a lack of variety in the middle order. Syed Kirmani might have run Dhoni close for the wicketkeeper's slot, and with a re-jigging of the batting order it might have been possible to include Zaheer Khan (again, for variety). Perhaps he might have been in the 12.
Nine of the 11 have captained India, so who should get the vote here? A case can be made for Hazare. Or Gavaskar. But for the dignity he brought to the job, his commitment to the team and the game itself, and his demonstration through the 14 Tests he led in that you can be aggressive without being boorish, my vote would go to Anil Kumble.
Tendulkar might have set up the golden age and been its most obvious representative, but it was Kumble whose bowling secured the victories that made the difference in that period.
"He has the technique and his record proves his ability on all surfaces." Ian Botham
"Tendulkar is one of that narrow stratum of elite sports stars whom people will clamour and even make great sacrifices to watch, regardless of their national identity. If you care for cricket, you must love Sachin. In this regard, his peers are few - and mostly found in other sports, and certainly in other lands." Mike Marqusee
"He is No. 1 in my book - the best player I have ever had the privilege of bowling to. There's Steve Waugh and there's Brian Lara, but Tendulkar is a class above, consistently special." Allan Donald
"Although called upon to bowl so often on all types of wickets Mankad rarely departed from a perfect length and, even if not carrying all before him on a wet wicket he was rarely mastered. Indeed but for the shortcomings of some of his fieldsmen, his number of wickets [on the 1946 tour of England] might have been increased by as many as 40 to 50." Wisden Cricketers' Almanack
"He was a fantastic cricketer and he was a great asset for Indian cricket during his time at the helm. He set the pace for them early on and he came to the fore and did wonderfully well - he played like a true champion and was a brilliant leader." Clive Lloyd
"Dhoni is the kind of guy who will create something and win matches." Kiran More
"Srinath, by far the quickest Indian bowler of our era, could unsettle the best with the steep bounce he could produce even on unhelpful tracks. Though an underachiever, given the quality of his bowling, he is a perfect foil to Kapil Dev's control and incisive swing." Pradeep Magazine
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