India XI
ESPNcricinfo picks the best Test teams of all time

The XI

Sons of a golden age

Six of the XI made their debuts after November 1989. A sign that this is one of Indian cricket's best periods ever

Suresh Menon

September 14, 2010

Comments: 380 | Text size: A | A

Sunil Gavaskar with Virender Sehwag, Kanpur, November 19, 2004
Virender Sehwag and Sunil Gavaskar: an opening pair that would have any bowler quaking in his boots © AFP

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.

The XI

Sunil Gavaskar
"My view is that Sunny Gavaskar is the greatest batsman I have come across. He has opened the innings against genuine fast bowlers like Michael Holding, Roberts, Croft and Garner. He has made more runs away from India - in the West Indies, Australia and England." Garry Sobers

Virender Sehwag
"Virender destroys all strategies. He brings the excitement and drama from the first ball. If Test cricket is still alive, it is because of players like him." Matthew Hayden

Rahul Dravid
"Once Dravid was set, you needed the bowling equivalent of a dozen cannon firing all at once to blast him down." Shane Warne

"He has the technique and his record proves his ability on all surfaces." Ian Botham

Sachin Tendulkar
"If I had a son I would have wanted him to play like Sachin." Brian Lara

"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

Vijay Hazare
"Hazare was one of the most graceful batsmen it was my pleasure to see and perhaps the best compliment I can pay him is to say that his batting more closely resembled that of the great West Indian star Sir Frank Worrell, than anyone I can remember." Don Bradman

Vinoo Mankad
"Vinoo was unorthodox - more bent on getting on the offensive than defensive but he also had tremendous powers of concentration." Nari Contractor

"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

Kapil Dev
"Kapil Dev, whether batting, bowling or fielding, is a spectators' delight." Fred Trueman

"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

MS Dhoni
"He is exceptional. He can play purely as a batsman or as a wicketkeeper. He doesn't jump at the ball while keeping and collects cleanly, moves well. He is a fine leader and has forged the team aggressively. He reads the game well… it helps that he is a wicketkeeper." Wasim Bari

"Dhoni is the kind of guy who will create something and win matches." Kiran More

Anil Kumble
"Anil Kumble became the best cricketer he could be and to me that is worthy of the highest honour. He redefined spin bowling in India, he was a game changer, and he soared above people's initial expectations of him to become a giant in the game. He was one of the most aggressive cricketers India has produced and carried that aggression with unfailing dignity and class." Harsha Bhogle

Javagal Srinath
"As one who has been privileged to watch and comment upon his best bowling displays at home, in England in 1996 and in South Africa in 1996-97, I can say that he made me feel proud to be an Indian." Rajan Bala

"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

Erapalli Prasanna
"He could drift the ball either way, and then there was the sharp spin coming off the smoothest use of the wrist. Much as Bradman rated Bill O'Reilly the best bowler he saw, Ian Chappell, who batted in an era rich with spin bowling talent, held a similar opinion of Pras. It's all in the wrist, said Muttiah Muralitharan about his success. Pras had that wonderful wrist that gave him his great range in the air." R Mohan

Suresh Menon is a writer based in Bangalore

RSS Feeds: Suresh Menon


Posted by MannuBhai22 on (September 17, 2010, 20:54 GMT)

I would at any time pick Laxam ahead of Hazare. Also my captain would be Gavaskar rather than Kumble because Kumble is not a guarantee for away tests. Gavaskar was only defensive because of India's strength at that time. In addition to always being shrewd, he showed on several occasions that he can be aggressive too. Remeber World Chmpnshp 85, Melbourne 81. My 12th man would be Zaheer, he would replace Prasanna/Kumble in tests where pitches are conducive to seam bowling. Also my keeper would be Kirmani though I must admit that it will be a tight race between him & Dhoni. What works in favor of Kirmani though is his excellant glovework for both pace & spin alike & his longevity without any injuries. Remember this is a specialist position & batting should not be the criteria as batting in this line up is immensely strong with 2 alrounders (Kapil & Mankad) backing up Sunny, Shewag, Dravid, Sachin & Laxman. Finally Mohinder, Gupte/Chandra, Dhoni-bkup WK & Amar Singh would complete my 16.

Posted by MannuBhai22 on (September 17, 2010, 20:03 GMT)

Except Sharda Ugra, rest of the jury members all got it wrong proving they are no different than the original bunch of jokers.How can any one with good cricketing common sense not pick Laxman. Laxman's average is comparable to the best if his stats as opener are taken away. Moreover the value and stability that Laxman provides to the Indian Middle order can never be measured by stats alone. It is only since Laxman returned to the middle order from being a reluctant opener that India started winning test matches consistently both at home&away and importantly not loosing as many as before. He has been the best crisis man for team India. Most people seem to only remember his magical 281 but he has made innumerable contributions on several occasions to be the difference between a win/draw versus loosing a test match. I would also pick Zaheer Khan as 12th man,he would replace Prasanna/Kumble on pitches conducive to seam bowling both home&away. My captain would be Gavaskar & keeper Kirmani.

Posted by pinalshah on (September 17, 2010, 19:19 GMT)

Interesting to see that there are no left-handed batsman in the line up and only Vinoo Mankad (sla) as a left arm bowler. But I do not recall any good left-handed batsman other than Ganguly and left-arm bowler other than Zaheer and Irfan Pathan...but i guess none of them are good enough to be listed in all time XI...

Posted by RayShaumik on (September 17, 2010, 18:17 GMT)

@Neil247.. thanks for your observation...I also looked into some filtered search and if you think that Sri Lanka is a half decent cricketing nation, i hope you will consider Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as minnows or you would like to think them as superpowers? The average of Sachin is 52.83 as compared to Lara with 52.53 (leaving out Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as opponents out in both cases)

As far as averages is concerned, i HOPE you understand that averages are inflated by the number of Not Outs and had Lara been Not Out as many times as Sachin has been in his career, his average would have been:57.19 as compared to Sachin's 56.02. So if you bother to filter away/home matches also filter Zimbabwe/Bangladesh as opponents and number of not outs..

Posted by viks_j on (September 17, 2010, 11:41 GMT)

Once again it has been proved that INDIA will never acknowledges he contribution of LAXMAN. He has played various match winning knock and match saving too.

Posted by Navillus on (September 17, 2010, 9:11 GMT)

And to counter the cavalier XI let me present the stuffy XI ... players who would never give way to flourish at the cost of runs or wickets. Whose motto is defence is the best offense. Who would play with a bat that redefined dead, and would bowl as negative a line as to frustrate even Chris Tavare into losing patience.

Geoff Boycott, Hanif Mohammed, Chris Tavare, Jimmy Adams, Samaraweera, Trevor Bailey, Jack Russel, Ravi Shastri, Grant Flower, Bapu Nadkarni, Fannie de Viliers

Which eleven would you pay to watch?

Posted by Navillus on (September 17, 2010, 8:29 GMT)

Let us look at a world eleven of cavaliers ... the one who played for providing and extracting immense delight, pulled the crowd to the grounds and did not disappoint on most occasions.

Say Victor Trumper opens with Mustaq Ali, Australian flamboyance without the stubborn hard Aussie character, with Oriental quickness of eye and feet, someone who uses the bat as a paintbrush. At one down enters Denis Compton, not one hair out of place with heavy Brylcream. At 2 down it is David Gower, each innings a Shakespearean sonnet, reverting to the jester on occasions when he throws his wicket away, at 5 enters Mohammed Azharuddin, the lithe young version, wrists working the ball to unthought of corners, at 6 Gilbert Jessop, croucher who can slam bang, at seven Keith Miller, at eight dare I put the young long maned Dhoni before he became captain? at 9,10,11 strides in Arthur Mailey, the profligate leg spinner, Shoaib Akhtar and jeff Thomson. More such XIs at

Posted by Navillus on (September 17, 2010, 8:19 GMT)

Let us try to set the field. Kapil opening the bowling on a helpful track. Gavaskar, Tendulkar and Dravid in the slips. Kumble at gully, Sehwag(?) at short leg (last time he was there, he almost divided the cricketing world courtesy Mike Dennes), Srinath at fine leg, Mankad at md on, Hazare at extra cover ... that leaves Prasanna at point .. well...

For Prasanna on a spinning track ... Kapil at slip, Dravid silly point, Sehwag forward short leg, Gavaskar backward short leg, if silly mid on is required, Tendulkar ... Mankad at mid on, Srinath deep fine leg, Hazare patrolling the mid wicket, Kumble somewhere in the offside, waiting for his next over ...

I think the fielding side is okay ... not brilliant, but decent ... only one needs to hide Prasanna somewhere

Posted by vish57 on (September 17, 2010, 6:28 GMT)

As a person who follows Cricket since 1965, I need to congratulate the selection of All time XI; while the younger generation may feel the absence of VVS Laxman or S.Ganguly, they are not as consistent in their entire career of test cricket like Dravid or Tendulkar ; like Laxman or Ganguly even GR Vishwanath, BS Chandrasekhar and BS Bedi played great cricket for India. No doubt Prasanna is a class above all as spinner. Once again cudos for an unbiased selection. Crickinfo can consider "hall of fame" for Indian cricketers.

Posted by Neil247 on (September 17, 2010, 3:46 GMT)

Gang-who-ly?? Surely you guys cannot be serious? Perhaps ,just perhaps in the ODI team. But not in the Test team.

Comments have now been closed for this article

Email Feedback Print
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