All Time Test XI – India


Cricinfo has been running a feature called All Time XI where various analysts, former players, cricket historians and writers form a panel that selects all time XI. So far the All time XI have been rolled out for Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, England and South Africa. The process is now on for Pakistan. There is no rhyme or reason for the order they have chosen the countries; Its not alphabetical order or a chronological order by which these countries started playing test cricket. Perhaps, they are saving India for last, as that might be the one that gets cricinfo the maximum readership and debate? Not so much on this blog. We are going straight for it.

A lot of the final XI are typically legends of the game and will be a direct write in on anybody’s list. So, let’s get those out of the way and we can focus on the ones that need debate.

Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble.  (We can’t have any disagreements on these, gentlemen. They have served Indian cricket for a  long time and admirably. They all feature near the top of the lists of all time run-getters/wicket takers.)

Let’s discuss The Others now:

The Opening partner for Gavaskar: Names like Farookh Engineer who was a swash-buckling, fearless artiste with the bat in his days, Pankaj Roy, Vinoo Mankad, Navjot Sidhu, Chetan Chauhan (who partnered Gavaskar himself) and Virender Sehwag easily pop up. In my opinion, the other opener needs to be someone that complements Gavaskar’s game. Sunny is one of the most technically perfect batsmen to ever play the game and was equally comfortable on fast, bouncy wickets and turners. But, he was someone that did not go after the bowling aggressively but chose to grind the attack to dust, thanks to his enormous internal source of concentration and discipline. One person who has shown that the type of pitch and the bowling attack has no effect on how he approaches his game is Sehwag. He already is considered one of the best openers of the game and is just entering his peak. He has shown his ability to play the long innings and is the only Indian batsman to score triple century (and he did it twice and another 293 to boot)!

That moves us right to batting spots 5 and 6 in the middle order as we have The wall and the God holding hostage the one-down and two-down spots. There are several candidates as this is India’s forte – The middle order. We have Vijay Merchant, Vijay Hazare, ML Jaisimha, Mohammed Azharruddin, Dilip Vengsarkar, Gundappa Viswanath, Sandeep Patil, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. In my opinion, these 2 spots should go to batsmen that can come in drive home the advantage given to them by the top order and also show the ability to play with the lower order, and the ability to play play on fast bouncy pitches, as the services of 5 and 6 in the batting order is rarely required within India, considering the quality of the top 4. With that in mind, I award these 2 spots to Gundappa Viswanath and Dilip Vengsarkar. Vengsarkar holds the record of scoring 3 centuries at Lords and was one of the gifted batsmen of his time, and Vishy, well… his backfoot play was something to behold. These two batsmen have shown their ability to perform outside India and were marvelously gifted stroke makers. Perhaps, I am a little biased towards players of the modern era. In my mind, the closest contest to this spot is from VVS Laxman, who has performed exceedingly well against the best team of his era, the Aussies.

Wicket-Keeper: This spot coming in at 7, requires a safe pair of hands behind the wickets (as they will have to keep to some of the finest spinners the game has ever seen) and someone who is capable of contributing with the bat. A quick 50 to drive home the advantage or have the nous to dig in, if the situation demands it. The contenders are: Farookh Engineer, Syed Kirmani, Nayan Mongia, MS Dhoni and Kiran More. Except for Dhoni, all these were naturally gifted wicketkeepers, especially, Kirmani and Engineer. Mongia was no slouch with the bat. Dhoni, in his short time behind the wicket, has shown tremendous promise but has been a lot more effective in front of it, although his technique is suspect in swinging conditions. Based on the needs I have laid out (Glove work and Quick-hit batting based on solid technique), I choose Farookh Engineer. (His technique beyond doubt, is the best of the lost, as he used to open the batting for India during the periods of WI domination!)

The Number 8 spot is of course, reserved for one of the greatest all rounder the game has ever seen, Kapil Dev and Number 9, the all time highest wicket taker for India Anil Kumble.  This leads us to #10 and #11. These 2 remaining spots could be taken by 2 pacers or 1 pacer and 1 spinner. As this team needs to be equipped to win in India and abroad, the two pacers-two spinners is ideal for all conditions. To pick the 2nd pacer (after Kapil Dev), the choices are: Amar Singh, Abid Ali, Javagal Srinath, Prabhakar and Zaheer Khan. The fact that Kapil was a swing bowler (of the highest order, I might add), there is a need for the other pacer to bring in the variety, either as a seam bowler or a left hander. I am torn to make a choice here but I have to make a choice here and so, I am going with Javagal Srinath, someone that kept going and going, was zippy off the pitch and troubled batsmen with seam movement. Zaheer Khan (especially the recent avatar) would be an ideal foil with his left arm swing and his ability to reverse. (May be I’ll keep Zaheer as the 12th man).

There is no question the #11 spot (for the 2nd spinner) needs to come from the following: Chandrashekhar, Bedi, Prasanna, Venkat and Harbhajan Singh. Bhajji has shown the knack of disappearing when playing abroad, so I am kicking him out. I cannot go wrong with picking any from the spin quartet, but the fact that Bedi was a magician with the ball – the loop, the pace, the drift, gets my vote and was never afraid to toss the ball up and always looked to get wickets, an essential quality for a test match spinner.

So, without further ado, Here is my All Time XI (Of course, captained by Kapil Dev – The only one to take India to a world cup triumph and always led the team from the front). All I have to do now is wait for Cricinfo to come up with theirs and see how many they get right! In the meantime, let me know what you think.

Sunil Gavaskar

Virender Sehwag

Rahul Dravid

Sachin Tendulkar

Gundappa Viswanath

Dilip Vengsarkar

Farookh Engineer (WK)

Kapil Dev (C)

Anil Kumble

Javagal Srinath

Bishen Bedi

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19 responses to “All Time Test XI – India

  1. Team is very much influenced by the modern era. Also a little unbalanced. Batting depth down to No. 8 (No. 9 has a century). But only 4 bowlers including an all-rounder? At least an all time XI test side should have 5 bowlers.

    So here’s my take:
    1. Gavaskar
    2. Sehwag
    3. Hazare
    4. Tendulkar
    5. Dravid
    6. Engineer (Kirmani is a close 2nd)
    7. Kapil Dev
    8. Kumble
    9. Srinath
    10. Mohd. Nissar
    11. Bishen Bedi

    • As I said in the post, the team is a little biased towards modern era. I think anyone who is making these lists, will be more swayed by players they have seen play live than newspaper clippings. I agree with you that you don’t need 7 batsmen in Indian conditions but when playing abroad, that’s not a bad option at all. Anytime, you make a collection of greats, you are gonna have centuries even by #9 🙂

  2. You asked for it so here you go:

    1. Pankaj Dharmani
    2. Vikram Rathore
    3. Devang Gandhi
    4. Dodda Ganesh
    5. Wriddhiman Saha
    6. Nilesh Kulkarni
    7. MSK Prasad
    8. Iqbal Siddqi
    9. Rahul Sanghvi
    10. Subrato Banerjee
    11. David Johnson
    12 th man Deep Dasgupta

    World beaters for any ground in the world under any conditions.

    • Fabulous team. 2 wicketkeepers in the 11 (3 if you include Dharmani too) and the 12th man is also a WK. Rathore is unquestionably deserving of the spot 🙂

      This is what it would like if we formed a Bizzaro-All Time XI.

  3. Dharmani and Saha have played as specialist batsmen the time they were in the playing XI’s ….. you should do a post on the worst cricketing test squad that India can put together. Jokes apart I kinda agree with your squad even though I would have put Azhar instead of Hazare (betters creds in international matches I think) and Zaheer instead of Srinath (left armer providing variety). Also you need to choose a captain (I would go with Kumble)

    • Don’t think i was not thinking along similar lines. But Azhar was found out (till late in his career) on pitches outside India (In fact, besides Eden Gardens 🙂
      The Zaheer-Srinath I could not decide easily either. So, I thought I’ll keep one of them as 12th man. But Srinath showed during his career that he was a force even on dead pitches with his pace. Zaheer needs some swing in the air and/or the ball to reverse. I picked Kapil as the Captain (its noted in the post). Can’t go wrong with Anil either.

  4. I’ll take Zaheer instead of Srinath. They are sort of identical in the way they progressed but I think a left handed bowler has a bit of an advantage.

    And I’ll take Dhoni as keeper. Not so pretty but he does an excellent job as a keeper, not to mention what he brings to bat.

    It’s tough to leave out Laxman but Viswanath is equally deserving. May be there should be at home and away India teams XI?

    • Interesting you are the 2nd person to prefer Zak over Sri. I thought the combo of swing-seam bowlers will suit a variety of conditions even with the advantage of having a left arm bowler. This is a tough one. Kapil is primarily an outswing bowler and Srinath is hit the deck kind of bowler.

      I think considering the depth of batting already available, the key for the keeper is someone that’s ultra-safe, hence the choice of Engineer over Dhoni. Plus, Engineer has more sound batting technique than Dhoni.

      Aah.. the home and away XI.. I think at home, you pick the extra bowler and away, an extra batsman.. that’s my view anyway.

  5. Well, let’s not forget what Zaheer can do with the old ball! Sure, Srinath used to hit the deck hard Zaheer has improved in that area too..

    And probably Farookh Engineer had a better technique but ultimately the point is to get things done with or without traditional technique and Dhoni has already proved that he can do it (just like Sehwag).

  6. Yes, I understand what Zaheer can do and hence the tough choice between the two. You can’t go wrong with either one.

    I understand traditional technique is not necessary but Sehwag is a little more conventional than Dhoni will ever be, actually. Sehwag does not have an uncoventional technique, he is just an attacking batsman. Dhoni is both unconventional and aggressive. I chose Farookh because if the conditions were to be tough, he always can fall back on his conventional (yet aggressive, remember) technique and he was a superlative wicketkeeper. The choice between Farookh and Dhoni strictly comes down to the ability with gloves. As much as Dhoni has shown he is dependable for a large part behind the wickets, Farookh was one of the best.

  7. Good Choices. With Engineer and Kapil at 6 and 7, we do not need more batting in any conditions. Would recommend like the others moving out one batsman and keeping that slot for a fifth bowler. This would be Zaheer Khan/Prasanna, with ZK for away games and Pras for home games.

  8. @Madhusudan, Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, I agree with your line of thinking, to have 4 bowlers and Kapil. But having 3 spinners in a side is a luxury no matter the conditions. Although we are playing with legends from 70’s and 80’s, the games are gonna be held in the current time, so, no dust bowls. Even if there were to be dust bowls, all you would need then is Kumble. 3 seamers (including Kapil), 2 spinners, 1 WK and 5 batsmen shd do the trick. I would take a batsman as 12th man.

  9. I’d say there aren’t enough players from the modern era. Vishwanath performing away from home? His sub-40 average abroad might disagree. I also agree with those who say 4 bowlers aren’t enough. With that in mind, this is my team.

    1.Sunil Gavaskar
    2.Virender Sehwag
    3.Rahul Dravid
    4.Sachin Tendulkar
    5.VVS Laxman
    6.Kapil Dev
    7. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
    8.Anil Kumble
    9.Zaheer Khan
    10.Javagal Srinath
    11.Bishen Singh Bedi/Erapalli Prasanna/B S Chandrasekhar

    • @Mahek – Thanks for stopping by and the comment. Interesting choice you picked Dhoni right away. Since this is supposed to be an all time XI, I am picking WK for the glove skills, that’s not to say Dhoni’s glove skills suck or anything. Engineer was a better keeper and perhaps as attacking a batsman as Dhoni, with the ability to play the swinging ball. I think Kapil at #6 is too high for him as a batsman.

  10. I went with Dhoni because he’s shown tremendous improvement over the years. This guy is supposed to score like Gilchrist, keep for long periods AND captain the side. He’s solid enough behind the stumps so I can make peace with it. Maybe he can bat ahead of Kapil who can drop to 7.

    • Dhoni is a good keeper, he is not great. Even his batting in test matches is average not great. I am sure he will be the wickie of choice for an all time india ODI XI. but for tests, he still has ways to go to get there.

  11. Kumar Subramany

    Most of the modern day batters have their averages bloated by the lifeless pitches all around the world except in England and south Africa and to some extent in Australia.
    I would pick Vishwanath over Laxman even though it is pretty close.
    Dhoni over Farookh since Dhoni is a better batsman at 6.

    I have picked a team to do well in turners , bouncy pitches as well as swinging and seamy pitches.

    India is short of allrounders and we always seem to forget Vinoo Mankad who can get into the team as a bowler and a decent bat.
    He can open the batting as well.

    Vinoo at 7 and Kapil at 8 would be great addition to the batting line up.

    Srinath and Zaheer are good in all conditions because of the reversing swinging ability. remember how South Africa was decimated by Srinath (6/21).

    Kapil is unplayable in seaming and swinging conditions.

    Regarding the bowling,
    Kumble – Leg spin
    Vinoo Mankad- left arm
    Sehwag – decent off spin -( atleast spins ball more than Bhajji )

    Player batting avg and bowling avg

    Gavaskar 51
    Sehwag 53
    Dravid 53
    Tendulkar 56
    Vishwanath 43
    Dhoni 42
    Vinoo Mankad 31 32
    Kapildev 32 29
    Kumble 18 29
    Srinath 16 30
    Zaheer khan 12 33

  12. A lot of different choices for all time indian XI. But i feel extremely confident that my XI is very competitive.

    1) Sehwag- 53
    2) Gavaskar- 51
    3) Dravid- 53
    4) Tendulkar- 46
    5) Hazare- 48
    6) Mankad- 31 32 SLA
    7) Dhoni-43
    8) Dev 31 29 RFM
    9) Amar Singh 23- 30 RFM
    10) Kumble- 18 29 LBG
    11) mohamed nissar- 7 28 RF

    My has a batting line up which is competent all the way to 10. The first four in my line up are must have. for me, Vijay just beat amarnath and laxman. Dhoni without a doubt is my keeper. My bowling line up has so much variety including a one of the most fared bowling partnerships in the world ever to bowl, nissar ad amar singh.

  13. @ramandeep – that’s the issue with selecting all time XIs. they are always contentious. I think the longevity and the body of work of Srinath and Zaheer Khan will probably take the place of Amar Singh and Nissar. I am ok with the rest of your choices

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