I don’t know how Hussey is faring right now. Baba won our little battle, and so I’m twiddling my thumbs while I watch “Maa”. But the mind wanders and wonders how Mr. Cricket’s holding up against Steyn. Am I missing out on the best battle this IPL, or is the Dale versus Gayle battle better? Or is it Sunil Narine who poses the greatest challenge for the batting behemoth from Jamaica?
A quick look at the scores during commercial breaks suggests that for a change, a visiting team has run away with the initiative in the early overs. In the Sunrisers dugout sits the legendary Waqar Younis who’d be wishing he could have run in and had a bit of a bowl himself . One thinks he could have had the guys in yellow looking paler than their shirts when on song. Or would these modern giants have taken him on and apart in this new format?
While I waited for the soap to burst its bubbles, an engaging idea kept me entertained – What if you were an IPL team owner and could put together the best ever T20 team that your fantasies could buy? Don’t worry about the money or the era. Just the best eleven to have ever played the game to take on the Indian Premier League…
So here it is, my dream team…
Who should I pick to give the innings an explosive start? Should it be the swashbuckling Victor Trumper or the destructive Gordon Greenidge? The great Arthur Morris or bludgeoners like Mathew Hayden, Virender Sehwag or Sanath Jayasuriya? Tempting names all, but how does one get around the colossal figure of Christopher Henry Gayle? This man tees off on the pitch like a golfer practicing with the ‘big dog’. For sheer entertainment value and the ability to smash the new ball out of the park almost at will, this man reigns supreme in the history of the game. It’s only fair that he gets picked first.
To partner Gayle, and give the innings a sense of solidity on seaming wickets, the team needs an orthodox opener who can play his strokes against the best in the business. Mike Hussey has just played a blinder against Steyn and co. But is he even a contender? No, not with names like the great Barry Richards and Brian Lara being available for that position. And while most experts would say that it is sacrilegious to look past the man who hit 300 runs in a day against an attack that included Dennis Lillee and ‘Garth’ Mckenzie, how can you not pick the greatest batsman of our times, the one and only Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
On the odd occasion that a bowler does get past one of the two openers, can there be a more demoralizing sight for the opposition than to see the greatest batsman to ever walk on a cricket field? Sir Donald Bradman wasn’t much of a six hitter but you can count on his bat peppering the boundary boards with laser like precision strokes, slicing the field-setting to bits like a paper shredder with a mission.
The man to follow in the wake of The Don, the greatest Test batsman in the history of the game according to the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanac, would have to be the greatest One Day batsman of all time according to Wisden – the imperious Vivian Richards. I can imagine the opposition quaking in their boots as they see the gum chewing original ‘Master Blaster’ walk out to bat after the havoc wrought by his predecessors.
And in the last few overs of the game, we need a man who can hit sixes, preferably six of them in an over. There are three names that come to mind. It would be nice if this cricketer could also hold his own as a bowler, left arm orthodox, would be nice, just to mix it up and add variety to the attack. Again, the same three names come to mind. Come on, who are we kidding. Great though they be, neither Yuvraj Singh and Ravi Shastri, nor any other cricketer in flannels can hold a candle to the greatest of them all, the phenomenal Sir Garfield St Auburn Sobers.
Spare a thought for the cheerleaders here. The dizzying mayhem that this team will unleash will have them calling out the medics more often than the players on the field.
The above few names have been no contests really. But the next category, that of a bowling all-rounder is being hotly contested between some of the greatest names in history. Here, we have the aristocratic presence of Imran Khan competing with the astute intelligence of that Bradman amongst bowlers, the impeccable Sir Richard Hadlee. And then there is the left arm wizard, the great Wasim Akram. But they all will have to make way for the man they called ‘Nugget - the golden boy of cricket’. Keith Ross Miller, the man who the crowds loved to watch, and whose name would sell more tickets than even the great Don’s, was an allrounder who could destroy the opposition singlehandedly, with bat or ball. He would bat like a knight at a joust and bowl fiendishly fast, medium or ridiculously slow, but always chasing wickets. Statistically, as an all-rounder, Miller edges out all the others except for Imran Khan with whom he is neck and neck in the cricketing as well as the good looks stakes. But for his sheer explosiveness with the bat, ingenious use of ‘change of pace’ - a concept way ahead of its time in the 1940s and sheer flamboyance and gallant bravado on the field – a quality worth its weight in gold in the era of franchise cricket, it is Miller who makes the cut.
It’s between Adam Gilchrist and Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the wicketkeeper’s spot and the latter wins it with a much better batting average in ODI cricket.
At number eight, the incredibly accurate medium-paced finger spinner Derek Underwood makes a strong case for himself but with a proven track record in the IPL, and as the man who bowled the ‘ball of the century’, Shane Warne’s magical variety and cricketing acumen would have to hold sway.
The next one’s perhaps the toughest pick of them all. Dennis Lillee, Malcolm Marshall, Ray Lindwall, Harold Larwood and Freddie Trueman… they all are masters of the art of hurling the wrecking ball. The battering ram of the team would need to be fast, and a master of swing and seam and subtle changes of pace. All these past masters have it all but the one man who is an acknowledged all time great in the middle of his playing career, the man who is respected so much by batsmen, that even on a flat wicket against a team that scored 223 runs in 20 overs, he started with a maiden and gave away just three runs in three overs and was unlucky not have gotten a wicket – take a bow Dale Steyn. With the best strike rate in the history of the game, and with more than 300 Test wickets already in the bag, Dale Steyn is the best there’s ever been.
And who should partner Dale? Should it be Lasith Malinga with his toe crushing yorkers? Or would the metronomic Glenn McGrath or Joel Garner be a better bet. Well, since the only way to restrict the opposition in T20 cricket is to take wickets, you’ve got to go with strike rates. And here, Dale is in a league of his own with only his Sunrisers coach, the original sultan of swing, Waqar Younis Maitla for company. Behold the beads of cold sweat, as the opposition batsmen shudder in their dugout.
And if a batsmen or two were to survive the hissing spitting vipers conjured up by Warne, or the magical motley from Sobers and Miller, and howsoever unlikely, but even survived the red-hot scorchers from Steyn and Waqar, then there’s the mysterious Sunil Narine and the spell of subtle variations he casts on his victims. Admittedly, Narine’s international career has only just begun but with two astounding seasons in the League, he has proven his claim in this all time IPL list ahead of others like Jim Laker, Lance Gibbs and Muttiah Muralitharan.
Don Bradman, who captained ‘The Invincibles’, will also be saddled with the responsibility of captaining this dream team. Sir Frank Worrell, the man who galvanized a bunch of talented cricketers from different island-nations into one team and was himself a great ambassador for the game, would be appointed coach. And who else but the inimitable Jonty Rhodes for twelft h man.
Next time the remote is too remote, let me see you come up with a dream team that can go up against this one without getting its donkeys whipped to various shades of black and blue.