Usually when we select an all-time 11, opinions come in from all quarters saying “That player should have been in the XI. But this list is made purely on the match winning ability of the players and not the number of runs scored or wickets picked. So, lets go to our list.
There was a statement by Imran Khan – “In the 2013/14 Ashes, Australia had one pure match-winner in their bowling line-up, Mitchell Johnson and we all know what he did to the English team. The shivers and tremors he caused in the England dressing room was nothing short of a thunder and the batsman coming in would be thinking of only one thing – How to face Johnson. If one match winner could create that impact in the opposition’s mind before the start of the game, imagine having 6 match winning bowlers in your team- 4 playing in the squad and 2 warming the benches. That was the West Indian team of the 70s and 80s.”
Against that sort of a West Indian line-up in their own backyard which was filled with green and damp pitches back then, Sunil Gavaskar scored 774 runs in a single series by wearing a hat, not a helmet. All those bowlers used to be of a minimum height of 6ft 5 inches and there was no limit on the number of bouncers to be bowled in a single over too (PS: His height is 5ft 5 inches). That sort of an effort definitely qualifies to be the best one of all-time. His classy style was the perfect answer to not just survive but score a truck load of runs during a generation of fast bowlers. The bowlers he has faced during his generation – Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Ian Bishop, Michael Holding, Dennis Lillie, Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan. This should explain his presence in the list.
If Sunil Gavaskar was known for his ability to fight out situations and patience, Hayden is known for his macho type presence and positive intent. His presence at the crease would give utter shivers to the opposition captain and the bowlers. His career took off only during the later stages as he started to become a certainty in the team only at the age of 28. Hayden was the epitome of brawn meets brain and the result was there for all to see.
Usually, overseas batsmen are judged by their performance in Asia. On the spinning pitches of India, Hayden dictated terms with aplomb, using the sweep shot with such ease that it put extreme pressure on India’s slow bowlers. In Sri Lanka and Pakistan, he had to face quality bowlers like Muthiah Muralidharan, Chaminda Vaas, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoiab Akhtar and all the time he had come out with flying colours. His ability to score runs anywhere in the world against any kind of attack at an impressive strike rate makes him one of the best openers of all time.
That’s my opening pair, a pair of opposites, a combination of patience and intent, a Left-right combo.
3.Sir VIVIAN RICHARDS:
Following that sort of an opening pair is a person who has defined batting for the next upcoming generations, an epitome of attack, intent and swagger. It might come as a surprise with him batting at No.3 but that’s the position he has scored maximum runs and that too at an average over 61 and a strike rate of 80+. He might have a high strike rate but he was not a slogger. He scored 8000+ runs in just test matches during a generation of fast bowlers. His devastating style of batting with the attitude he carries, wearing a cap, chewing bubble gum and smacking sixes at will, that’s the typical Vivian Richards. Often, you’ll find bowlers in a soup and the opposition captain scratching his head of how to get him out and then come up with an idea of making him stay at the non-striker end. That is the sort of fear he instills in the opposition.
Next comes in the present-day Vivian Richards. The batsman who defines his presence in the crease with his attitude, fighting spirit and a stubbornness to win the match from any sort of situation. His ability to score runs in the most complicated situations and conditions against the best bowlers in their own backyard makes him one of the best batsmen of all time. Afterall, he’s known for his ability to chase down totals with ease. His career in test cricket started off slowly with him not scoring a 50 for the first 12 innings but his century in Adelaide just proved that he’s got the ability to sustain at the top most level. Since then, he’s just been on a roll and has raked up runs against all the teams he’s played against. He has already scored 7 double centuries in his career. The best part about Virat’s career is that his best performances have come overseas against the best bowlers of the present era. He scored 692 runs against Australia in their own backyard against the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Starc. The best part of the series was him taking down Johnson who tamed the English team just the previous summer. That battle of fire against fire and Virat winning it hands down was one of his career highlights. The next best performance came against England in their land against James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and Ben Stokes. This was the series wherein he had to lose his ego of going after the ball to drive and dominate the bowlers and giving the bowlers the respect they deserve and still coming out on top with huge runs. His battle against Anderson was a treat to watch for test match lovers and he didn’t lose his wicket to him once during the whole series. The reason he’s included in this team is because he has scored all those runs being as a captain and time and again, he has led the team out of trouble.
One of the greatest batsmen of the modern era, Brian Lara walks into my all time XI pretty easily. His match winning capability coupled with his immense pedigree for runs is something to crave for as a captain. The greatest battles are against the best in business and Lara always reserved his best against the best team, Australia. One of the all time best innings of 153* came against the best bowling line up of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie while chasing down 311 and that innings has been regarded as one of the most classy innings ever to be played by any batsman alive and could win the match with 1 wicket to spare. But saving the time from crisis situation has always been Lara’s bread and butter and his flamboyance and non-chalance in shot making is one to watch out for as a cricket enthusiast. I am going with Lara over Sachin just because of his match winning ability and take the team home from any god forsaken situation.
6.AB DE VILLIERS(WK):
At no.6, I need not just a wicket keeper but also a batsman who can play according to the situation, who can hit a quick 100 or 120 when the teams need and also a player who can wear the opposition bowlers right down to their skin. Who better than ABD can do that? A batsman who has redefined the art of batsmanship in the modern era. A batsman who has made his name through his un-orthodox shots but still has a very solid defence. And also, a wicket keeper who can fly around according to the bounce in the pitch but can never give away runs through byes. One of best wicket keepers around and also the most under utilised one. But nevertheless, his batting can speak for him. His ability to score centuries in any part of the world against any kind of bowling attack has been his strength. His century against the Australian pace attack of Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson on a Perth pitch while chasing down 414 successfully should be one of his career highlights. He can also play his innings with no gears running just to save up the test match. His innings of 33 in 220 balls, 43 in 228 balls, both against Australia on difficult Day 5 pitches proves his resolve to stay at the crease. This sort of dynamism is necessary to bat in the lower middle order and no one better than ABD can suit this role.
Easily the greatest cricketer ever produced by Pakistan. His handsome hunk type appeal which stood as a heart throb for the viewers attracted the viewers a lot but not as much as his cricketing brains. His long sway in his bowling with his reverse swinging yorkers and batting pedigree with which he could earn a spot in the top-6 itself makes him one of the best all-rounders to be produced in the history of the game. Under his supervision, a whole new generation of Pakistani fast bowlers have been produced with the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed and Shoiab Akhtar dominating the world cricket for the next era completely. During the 1992 world cup, after winning just one match in their first 4, Pakistan were at the brink of getting eliminated. But in the press conference, Imran Khan came in and very confidently told that they have a good chance of lifting the world cup. Hearing this statement, the world of cricket started looking at him as a Madman but surprise, Pakistan brought in their best players and their A-game in the crucial part of the tournament and won all the matches from then and went on to win the world cup. The modern-day greats of Wasim Akram and Inzaman ul-Haq were the star performers during those matches. That is the sort of confidence a captain has to instil in his players even during the worst of the times. In the final, he came in to bat at no.3 and dragged the team out of trouble and scored 72 in 110 balls redefining the words – “Captain leading the way for the team”. This is the sort of leadership necessary for a team to succeed in tough challenging situations.
The greatest spin bowler of all time, known as the spin king. He could weave a spin web around the opposition from any situation to win the game for the team. His gentle walk up to the crease and giving it everything in his bowling action and the release became so difficult for the batsman to pick. Although he has picked up 708 wickets in test matches, his best came against England and South Africa, particularly the Ashes. Almost every batsman was a bunny to him at some point of time. You have to be exceptionally good against spin to survive out Warne, which Laxman figured out well. 😛 His ball of the century to Andrew Strauss should be the poster for his brand. Warne’s greatest feats are perhaps those of the last couple of years of his career. Returning in 2004 from a 12-month hiatus for swallowing forbidden diuretics, he swept aside 26 Sri Lankan batsmen in three Tests, and the following year scalped a world record 96 victims – a stunning 24 more than in his show-stopping 1993. His batting has always been under-rated but could score those crucial runs down the order which could result in the difference between win and lose.
One of Imran’s prime comrades to lift the World cup 1992, the Man of the Match in the Final, the wizard of swing bowling is one of the greatest bowlers ever in the history of cricket. The tall left arm pacer who could swing it both ways with both the new and old ball could turn matches at will with his pace and consistency. Picking up more than 400 wickets in Test and 500 wickets in ODI, his caliber was never in question as started to impress Javed Miandad at a young age and then Imran Khan too. His dangerous bouncer or the deceptive slower deliveries were powerful addition to the already existing attractive armoury. He is regarded as the best left arm pacer to have ever played the game by many greats. He was no dummy with his bat too as he used to bat at No.6 for Pakistan and also scored 33 runs at a real quick pace during that ’92 final. He also has a double century in test cricket. This sort of a match winner has to walk in to any sort of XI.
Those ferocious eyes, steaming sprint up to the crease, quick bounce and action through the delivery and moving the ball both ways with pace of 150+ and the next sight would be the cart wheeling of stumps. This was the sort of stuff Test cricket lovers feed on. His ability to run through batting line-ups made him the No.1 bowler in the world during his peak. He started off a bit slowly but his dismissal of Vaughan with the dream fast bowlers’ delivery, angling into the middle stump with pace and slight out swing to knock off the off stump and have the batsman completely squared up, this is the kind of delivery any bowler dreams off. Usually fast bowlers are assessed by their performance in Asian conditions. On that mark, Steyn was a complete star as he recorded his best figures of 7/51 against India in Nagpur. He could also pickup wickets at ease all throughout the world with his pace. That is the sort of caliber he possessed and is one of the strike bowlers of my XI.
Finally, the bowler who could irritate batsman with that accuracy, giving away nothing and still pick up wickets at ease. He wasn’t the quickest or the canniest but his ability to pickup wickets everywhere in the world made him the best. His tall legs running in effortlessly, maintaining a decent pace and hitting the top of off stump day-in and day-out, this was his USP. Picking up 563 wickets with a highly impressive average of 21.64 is the kind of stuff greats are made of. His matching winning spells in 1999, 2003 and 2007 can never be forgotten by any cricket fan. His accuracy has made even greats like Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara his bunny. His position in the batting line up should explain the lightness of his cricket kit coming into a match.
That completes my bowling line up – Left arm pacer who could swing both ways, a bowler with who could maintain line and length through long spells and a tear away bowler. Enough variety, skill and greatness flowing through it.
12th man – MUTTHIAH MURALITHARAN:
Doesn’t deserve to be in that spot but shall draft him into the squad if the pitch is on the drier side or if it is spinning. An absolute master of the art of spin bowling and can pickup wickets on any pitch. Picked up a mountain of 800 wickets in Test and 534 in ODI’s which is still the record for most wickets ever taken by a single bowler. He should be walking into any squad easily given his pedigree to pickup bulk of wickets on a regular basis.
My XI :-
- Sunil Gavaskar
- Matthew Hayden
- Sir Vivian Richards
- Virat Kohli
- Brian Lara
- AB de Villiers(WK)
- Imran Khan(Capt.)
- Shane Warne
- Wasim Akram
- Dale Steyn
- Glenn McGrath
- Mutthiah Muralitharan(12th man)
The team I have given is based on my conviction. Am open to discuss, debate on the same. Likewise request you to choose your XI and write the same in the comment’s section. Do tag us @arhaaths.
Note : The pictures of the player has been taken from Google.com for representation purpose