To whittle from the list of 260, i decided to have a minimum stats critieria
- Wickets (Min): 150 (Post-1950s); 100 (Pre-1950s)
- Runs (Min): 2000 @ Ave (Min): 40 (30% leeway for Pre-1950s)
- WK: 100 Dismissals
- All Rounder: 75% of Min. Wickets & Runs
There are 6 categories - Openers (2), Middle Order (3), All-Rounder (1), Wicketkeeper (1), Pace (2) & Spin (2)
The following is the list of shortlisted candidates:
- Openers: V Merchant, P Roy, S Gavaskar, NS Sidhu, V Sehwag, G Gambhir
- Middle-order: V Hazare, P Umrigar, V Manjrekar, C Borde, D Sardesai, MAK Pataudi, G Viswanath, M Amarnath, D Vengsarkar, M Azharuddin, S Tendulkar, R Dravid, SC Ganguly, VVS Laxman,
- Wicketkeeper: S Kirmani, F Engineer, K More, MS Dhoni
- All-rounder: Vinoo Mankad, Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri,
- Pace: Srinath, Kapil Dev, Z Khan,
- Spin: Subhash Gupte, B Chandrasekhar, BS Bedi, A Kumble, H Singh, EAS Prasanna, S Venkataraghavan
The reasons for leaving out some folks - K Srikkanth (Average below 30; Only 2 Test Centuries); CK Nayadu (no Test Centuries), Lala Amarnath (Average below 25), N Contractor (only 1 century), Jaisimha (Average around 30), C Chauhan (no century)
Some folks don't pass the stats but are in the list: Vijay Merchant (brilliant batsman but played only 10 Tests, 7 as opener), P Roy (Pre-Sunny best Opener?)
Analysis & Selection:
Openers: Only 2 stand out as outstanding. Sunny & Sehwag. Roy & Merchant played in an era where India wasn't dominant and known for brilliant individual but inconsistent overall performances. Sidhu was good but weak against pace attack. Gambhir has the potential to challenge Sunny & Sehwag but has a long way to go.
Verdict: Sunil Gavaskar, Virender Sehwag
Middle-order: Look how packed the middle-order is! There are 14 contenders and from them we get it all - class (Ganguly), grace (Laxman, Azhar), endurance (Dravid), technique (Viswanath). In this list, i think only Laxman & Amarnath never captained the side. As tough as the choice seems, the cream has a way of finding itself seperated from the remaining greats.
Verdict: Tendulkar (no reasons required), Dravid (stellar record, match winning performances) and G Viswanath (IMHO, Tendulkar in the pre-Tendulkar era!)
All-Rounders: Indian Test cricket has had only 2 great groups - Middle order batsmen, Spinners. But the all-rounder class is the most barren. Ravi Shastri was good but not great. Pajji was the best we ever had and Mankad has stats pretty similar to Kapil Dev. Mankad was a bit better with the bat & Kapil with the ball.
Verdict: Vinoo Mankad, Kapil Dev (Kapil selected as All-Rounder/Pacer)
Wicketkeeper: While Dhoni might look the parts of the winner, i don't think this is as easy a selection. Primarily because Dhoni hasn't achieved his potential in Test cricket. Otherwise, what explains the fact that Dhoni has only 1 century in 37 test matches. Farookh Engineer has the advantage of being an opening batsman while Kirmani was the best pure Wicketkeeper we had. Dhoni has the potential to take this spot down the road.
Verdict: Farookh Engineer
Pacers: The less said, the better. There are just 3 Indian paces with more than 100 Test wickets - Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath & Zaheer Khan. I will go with Srinath for now. Khan has the potential to take this spot in a few years.
Verdict: Javagal Srinath
Spinners: Rich crop here as well. Kumble is a shoo-in because of the fact that he won the most matches for India. The fight amongst the rest is pretty intense. My vote for the present is for Bishen Singh Bedi but Bhajji is already on the rear-view mirror. If Bhajji can perform at the highest level over the next 3-5 years, the spot will be his.
Verdict: Anil Kumble, Bishen Singh Bedi
India's Test XI: Sunny, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Vishwanath, Mankad, Kapil, Engineer, Srinath, Kumble, Bedi.
Just Missed: Dhoni, Kirmani, EAS Prasanna, B Chandrasekhar, Bhajji, Gupte, Vengsarkar!