The Radcliffe line that decided the fates of two new nations in 1947 is an object of enormous significance for cricket romantics and philosophers. Sixty-nine years down the line, one still dwells on what could have been had the Partition of India not taken place on that fateful August midnight. Even restricting the discussion to cricket throws up boundless possibilities regarding team composition and combination.
The pace and guile of Pakistani bowlers have mesmerized many through the ages, as have the temperament and dominance of Indian batsmen. In a feeble attempt to combine the best of the neighboring nations in a fantasy T20 team, quite a few deserving names had to be omitted since position as well as suitability, and not merely overall stats, have been taken into consideration for the XI.
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1. SAEED ANWAR
The aggressive opener from Pakistan was known for his tendency to drive through the off side and score at a brisk pace. A fine exponent of majestic strokeplay, Anwar made batting look ridiculously easy as he guided every ball wide outside the ropes. At a strike-rate of 80.67, Anwar plundered close to 9000 runs in limited overs cricket. His blistering 194 against India in 1997 remains the highlight of his successful ODI career.
2. VIRENDER SEHWAG
Widely regarded as the most destructive opener to have donned the India colors, Virender Sehwag’s nonchalant belligerence spelt doom for opposition bowlers for almost a decade. That his Test strike rate is as high as 82.23 even after playing 104 matches speaks volumes about his cricket.
With 4061 T20 runs including two hundreds and 24 half-centuries, Sehwag earns a place in any limited overs squad.
A reliable No. 3 across all formats, Kohli’s transformation from an impetuous youngster to a matured Test captain for India has been remarkably quick. While his talent and dedication have never been doubted, his extraordinary form of late has often begged the question: Is Kohli even human?
An outstanding fielder and a prolific batsman, Kohli’s incredible chasing statistics make him an indispensable part of the team under pressure, especially while batting second.
4. JAVED MIANDAD
Pakistan’s youngest captain, Miandad, is frequently referred to as the greatest batsman ever to sport the green jersey. With shots ranging from textbook square cuts to unorthodox reverse sweeps, the right-hander was a match-winner in his own right. His decisive last-ball six against India in the Australasia Cup final at Sharjah in 1986 resulted in years of Pakistani domination over India at the venue.
5. MS DHONI (C/WK)
When it comes to captaining the side, none can come close to the Indian T20I skipper who also serves as a glovesman, famous for his lightning-quick work behind the stumps. Intuitive and street-smart, Dhoni is unafraid to gamble with his resources – a practice that has earned rich dividends through the years.
As a lower middle-order batsman, he averages 35.89 in T20Is with 31 unbeaten knocks in 60 matches – a figure that confirms his role as a finisher for the team.
Such had been Kapil Dev’s greatness that even more than two decades after his retirement, India’s quest for a replacement remains fruitless. Unanimously acclaimed as the finest all-rounder India ever produced, Dev’s ability to swing the ball away from the right-handers made him a dangerous bowler. His ODI strike-rate of 95.07 provides ample evidence to the feats he was capable of.
It is unsurprising that a T20 squad will be packed with all-rounders, and with Imran Khan among the options, it is a no-brainer to include him in the eleven. Elegant and imposing, the Pakistani right-hander emerged as an idol for millions in the 1980s with his phenomenal performances with bat and ball.
Arguably the best all-rounder among his contemporaries, Imran also established his cricketing genius when he led Pakistan to the World Cup title in 1992.
8. ANIL KUMBLE
A legspinner in a T20 eleven is not essential, although it definitely increases the variety and incisiveness of the attack by leaps and bounds. India’s most successful bowler, therefore, makes the cut as the most prominent option available for the spot. In spite of the fact that Kumble has never featured in a T20I, he has led the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL with reasonable success. His usefulness with the bat at No. 8 provides depth to the squad that is already packed with international stars.
9. WASIM AKRAM
One half of the two W’s in Pakistani cricket, Wasim Akram’s amazing ability to swing the ball both ways coupled with infrequent bouncers and slower ones to surprise the batsman made him the kind of bowler every T20 captain would crave for. It is a pity that he retired long before the inaugural T20 international, for his ODI average of 23.52 at less than 4 runs per over would have made him the ultimate nemesis of T20 batsmen.
Akram and Waqar Younis complete the most fearsome duo that an India-Pakistan combined squad can ever have. Given his penchant for pitching at full length with the late swing doing the damage, Younis would have amassed huge success in the shortest version of the game. The regularity with which he produced reverse swing troubled even the in-form batsmen who struggled to deal with his pace and swing variations.
A master of deception, Bishan Singh Bedi was one of the craftiest spinners of his time. Unafraid to flight the ball and lure batsmen into strokeplay, Bedi flourished in Test cricket with 266 wickets from 67 matches. Although a consistent performer with the ball, the wily spinner was abominable with the willow, which is precisely why he finds a place at No. 11.
He had been re-appointed for the second time to head-up India’s cricket board following the death of Jagmohan Dalmiya last October.
But news of Manohar’s apparent willingness to step down was doing rounds in the Indian media and was first broken by CNN-News18 around a fortnight back.
It is believed that Manohar’s resignation has got a lot to do with the recommendations laid down by the Supreme Court of India appointed Justice Lodha Panel, which if implemented dilutes the executive powers held by the BCCI chief.
Manohar is the BCCI’s nominee for the post of the Chairman of the International Cricket Council, and it remains to to be seen if the Vidarbha lawyer continues to hold interest taking up that post.
The Old World has an interesting mystique when it comes to domestic cricket and proving oneself in the English county game is the equivalent of passing the sternest of exams.
County cricket affords its overseas participants an important education in sporting and psychological terms; acclimatising to the cold and wet weather conditions, going through the daily grind in a different country, refining your game and developing mental steel are all essential parts of a wholesome county education.
It is akin to an acid test that many Indian cricketers would benefit from taking.
And of those that already have, the results were noticeable.
1) SACHIN TENDULKAR, Yorkshire, 1992
When Sachin Tendulkar signed for Yorkshire at the age of 19, he created history. He became the first-ever foreign player to sign for the county for what turned out to be his only season of county cricket. The good vibes he created were enough to make Yorkshire sign up the West Indies captain Richie Richardson in 1993, as Tendulkar realised he could not keep both his county and international commitments.
On the field, he recorded 1,070 runs in 25 innings, with one hundred (against Durham) and seven fifties. The runs came at an average of 46.52, meaning he was fortieth in the national averages that season. Although Tendulkar went on to far greater heights, he remains immensely proud of his brief county stint, as does the county.
2) RAHUL DRAVID, Kent, 2000
Rahul Dravid’s time with Kent coincided with some poor form for India the previous year, The Wall looking far from the greatness he is now fondly remembered with. His spell at Kent changed all that. He played fifteen games for the club, scored more than a thousand runs at 49.47, and was, by a distance, Kent’s best batsman that season. He also finished fourth in the list of top run-getters across the Championship that season.
The experience clearly helped him. Over the next few years, Dravid hit superhuman form, becoming India’s outstanding batsman. His average remained above 60 for four years and even climbed above 100 in 2003. A legend was born.
3) VVS LAXMAN, Lancashire, 2007 and 2009
While the legend of VVS Laxman, at the time in his early thirties and an established face in the Indian side, had well and truly been forged, his form was a bit patchy in the couple of years or so leading up to his first of two spells with Lancashire.
Across both stints (5 and 11 matches), Laxman piled up 1,237 runs at a colossal average of 61.85, with six hundreds and six fifties to boot. The first stint was the lead-in to a four year period in which saw Laxman score over three thousand runs and six hundreds (over a third of all the hundreds he ever scored at Test level) at an average of 57.79 for India.
4) FAROKH ENGINEER, Lancashire, 1968-1976
Indian cricketers haven’t generally made county cricket a consistently successful and productive side career. Farokh Engineer is the exception. A talented wicket-keeper-batsman, Engineer racked up more than 5,000 runs and had a direct hand in well over 400 dismissals in his 164-match career for Lancashire.
Besides the runs, Engineer was also part of the Lancashire side that won the 40-over Sunday League twice and the C&G Trophy four times while he was at the club.
5) ZAHEER KHAN, Worcestershire, 2006
Zaheer Khan is the perfect example of the kind of imprint a county education can leave. It helped him make the decisive step up from ‘promising talent’ to India’s primary pace spearhead. Zaheer collected an astonishing 78 wickets from his 16 county games for Worcestershire that season at an average of 29.07. It was a true coming-of-age for the bowler.
Before his county stint, Zaheer had 160 wickets in 56 Tests for India. After it he had totted up 151 wickets in 36 matches – a dramatic improvement that no Indian cricketer has effected on the back of a county stint. It was no coincidence that his English education made him one of the game’s leading pacers.