Indian Cricket for long has been nurtured by a few centers which have produced worthwhile players to represent our nation. Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkatta, Bengalooru, Chennai and Vadodara have been those cradles of Indian Cricket civilization. However when one further studies these centers it is easy to make out that Mumbai and Bengalooru (Karnataka) stands out in credit of serving our cricket history by presenting us a lot of great players, quite a few of them becoming legends of the game.
I chose to select an All Time XI of these two centers or teams – Bombay and Karnataka effectively meaning Bombay and Bangalore cities and ended up finding it as an All Time India Test XI effectively but for an addition or two outside these cities. One can’t argue on how big has been the service of these two cities to Indian cricket when he goes through the history of Indian cricket.
Here is my “B” Axis :– Bombay – Bangalore All Time XI :
The legend of Bradman is famous for his average of 99.4 in Tests and 95.6 in First Class Cricket. The second one on the list of highest average in First Class Cricket is surprisingly an Indian from Bombay – Vijay Merchant. He averaged 71.64 in First Class competitions and amassed a healthy 47.72 average in tests. A talented opener, he made his name in the record books on two tours of England, either side of Second World War scoring 1000 plus runs on both occasion. One needs to remember it was India’s initial days in Cricket when our Team was seen as a whipping boys to the big sides. His three centuries against England in his ten tests, all eventually against the English were innings of master class. Had not the World war and injuries intervened he might have ended being a bigger legend. He opens my XI.
My other opener is considered by many as the best opening batsman in Test cricket. Sunil Gavaskar has quite a few challengers for this position in any World XI. The Mumbai mastero was a purist’s delight with water tight technique and unbeatable concentration. He was the first person to reach 10000 runs in Tests and held the record for most test centuries and lot more for long period. He brought the respect for Indian cricket and accorded as the best in business of his era. Gavaskar would be unanimous choice for any All Time India XI and is likely to be one in World XI too for opening.
|Test Cricket's Top Two Run getters|
My No 3 is India’s best in this position and one of World’s best No 3. Rahul Dravid from Bangalore walks in this critical spot and I can be assured he will be my man when my team is under pressure. Rock solid defense, impeccable concentration, perfect technique and what not does he has in his profile. Recently he pipped Ponting to become the second highest run scorer in Test Cricket. If any youngster needs a role model to emulate with the talents he has, Dravid is the best choice. His orthodox batting has played major role in most of India’s great away wins in most testing conditions like Australia, South Africa, England and West Indies. He also holds the record for Most Catches in test cricket, follows his mate Tendulkar as Test Cricket’s second most run getter and has an excllent ODI record too.
At No 4 comes the man anointed by Sir Don himself as his successor. Recent survey by a famous cricket website selected this guy as Best batsman in Cricket after Sir Don. A man with gifted technique, unrelenting hard work, he has married flair and grace with effectiveness and consistency. He holds the record for most runs, centuries, matches and almost every batting record in both formats of the game. The only man to score 50 centuries in test cricket, my man is India’s gift to the World Cricket and Mumbai’s gift to India. A child prodigy that he was, he has lived upto the early promise and has scripted many of great innings in cricket. He has perfect balance, precison, flair, technique and has been as innovative as orthodox. He is the most followed cricketer ever and is acclaimed in India as “GOD of Cricket”. No points for guessing. Here walks in the Mumbai mastero – Sachin Tendulkar.
If Mumbai can pride with producing two of the world’s best stroke makers in Gavaskar and Tendulkar, Bangalore can find the same in Dravid and Gundappa Viswanath. He walks in at No 5 in my XI. His late cut is best ever seen in Cricket. Vishy held the middle order of India in 1970s and ended up being one of India’s most revered batsmen. He once again like Dravid proved his worth in testing conditions of West Indieas and Australia with very good record.
The No 6 spot is usually reserved for an allrounder. Here just like India’s perennial inability to produce great allrounders apart from Kapil Dev, My B Axis XI also has a this issue. However sticking to India’s habit of playing 6 batsmen, I go with a specialist batsman at this spot. In walks the Mumbaikar Dilip Vengsarkar. Another gifted youngster who made it big to national team early, Vengsarkar was pivotal middle order heavy weight for India in his heydays having played the best of the world with immense success. He has a superb technique and was a fighter encore. He guards my pivotal No 6 spot.
The next slot of wicket keeper is a challenge. There has been two guys. One from each of Bombay and Bangalore. One of them is India’s second best statistically and other is India’s best on technique. I go with the Mumbai based gloveman – Farookh Engineer, He has a solid technique as a wicker keeper and was highly successful in aiding the Indian spin quartet for most of their victims. Furthermore he was a flamboyant batsman capable of playing quick fire innings and so I chose his ahead of Bangalore’s Kirmani.
Coming on to the Bowlers, I go with Indian way of playing two seamers and two spinners. My first choice spinner bats at No 8. Bangalorean Anil Kumble is India’s best match winner. The leggie was a workhorse bowling unrelentedly his flippers and googlies and legbreaks at a pace of a medium pacer. During his initial days he was written off by most. Yet he fought back and ended up as Test cricket’s third highest wicket taker with 619 victims. He was a perfect example of hard work and commitment. He was the only one to emulate Jim Laker when he bamboozled Pakistan claiming all the Ten wickets in an innings. The single example of Kumble with a bandaged jaw thanks to a fracture sustained earlier in the test and winning India a test at Antigua shows how committed he is. He was also a handy bat and even managed a fighting century coming down at No 8 against England at The Oval. He is my Legspinner’s choice in XI.
At No 9 comes my first choice pacer. The man from Bangalore Javagal Srinath was arguably India’s fastest pace bowler with decent record. He had a wide range of amours from offcutters to inswingers and outswingers. He has been pivotal in Indian fast bowling renaissance. He had a good slower ball and excellent leg cutter too. More than anything he mentored quite a few pace bowlers who all ended up taking India to No 1 rank like Zaheer Khan. He was very good was old ball too and has an excellent ability to bowl in dust bowls of India. Srinath was not a pushover with bat either and has made some exciting fifties and was used as a pinch hitter many a times.
No 10 slot is for India’s greatest left arm pacer. Mumbaikar Zaheer Khan who began his career with Baroda before moving to his home Mumbai is the man. If one man can be owed for India’s No 1 ranking in last two years it is Zaheer. A lanky pacer he is equally adept with both new and old balls and can move the ball in either direction. He is street smart customer and has produced a wicket or two every time his captain wanted him to. The fact that he has been India’s One man bowling army backing a star studded batting lineup epitomizes his greatness. He now is World’s best swing bowler. He is also mentoring the battery of Indian pacers and is regarded as Bowling captain of India these days.
My No 11 is India’s best offspinner. Man from Bangalore – Erapalli Prassanna. He out thought his victims and had a magical arm that produced wickets in any kind of pitches. He had a big part in spin quartet and had an excellent arm ball and off break that had most batsmen guessing. Had he not missed few valuable years for academic qualifications, his records would have been much bigger. He also had to fight for his place with Venkatraghavan, another excellent offie from Chennai.
On the whole my XI read as: VIJAY MERCHANT (Bombay), SUNIL GAVASKAR (Bombay), RAHUL DRAVID (BANGALORE), SACHIN TENDULKAR (BOMBAY), GUNDAPPA VISWANATH (BANGALORE), DILIP VENGSARKAR (BOMBAY), FAROOKH ENGINEER (Bombay), ANIL KUMBLE (Bangalore), JAVAGAL SRINATH (Bangalore), ZAHEER KHAN (Bombay), ERAPALLI PRASANNA (Bangalore). This is a perfectly balanced XI with some of the biggest names in the game and is all but INDIA ALL TIME XI if we choose to replace the extra batsman at No 6 (although with heavy heart) with India’s greatest allrounder – KAPIL DEV.
Even a Second XI from Bombay – Bangalore reads good : Ravi Shasthri – Wasim Jaffer – Ajit Wadekar – Vijay Manjerekar - Dilip Sardesai – Eknath Solkar – Syed Kirmani – Bhagwat Chandrashekar – Subash Gupte – Venkatest Prassad though its dominated by the Mumbaikars. Such has been the presence of Legends from these two cities that players like Chandrasekhar, Umrigar, Vijay Manjerekar, Sardesai, Solkar, Kirmani have all not been able to find a place in XI.
Just a piece of statistics. The Batting lineup of this XI boasts of 51292 runs among the Top 6 with World’s Top two run getters in Tendulkar and Dravid and 8th placed Gavaskar. Among the Indians, Top three run getters bat at Nos 2, 3,4 in reverse order, Vengsarkar is 7th and Viswanath is 9th on the list. There is staggering 153 centuries and 240 fifties among them. As for the bowlers combined total wickets for 4 bowlers is 1317 wickets with 1st placed Kumble, 4th placed Zaheer, 7th placed Srinath and 8th placed Prasanna. Chandrashekar who missed by XI is 6th highest wicket taker for India.
So the B Axis of Bombay and Bangalore is clearly the one which produced the Best of Indian Cricket in history. So where are those from other centers?