Noted commentator Harsha Bhogle has come up with a dream Indian Test XI comprising of the players he had the privilege of watching over the years. In collaboration with Cricbuzz, the 55-year old, who has lent his voice to numerous iconic contests, chose spinner as well as current head coach, Anil Kumble to lead the star-studded lineup.
In his typical self-effacing manner, Bhogle began, “I must confess that I am not very good at this (selecting all-time XIs). What’s the best way to do it, can you speak with a certain degree of authority (of those from the past)? The likes of Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, Subash Gupte and even Bishen Singh Bedi whom I watched a little bit?” Interestingly, he had selected a separate lineup for those who played in the pre-1970s era, a few days earlier.
Gavaskar and Sehwag at the top
Meanwhile, among the greats whom he got to witness, he opted for an opening combination of Sunil Gavaskar and Virender Sehwag. The former, one of the most technically accomplished batsmen to have ever played the game, the latter made up for his technical shortcomings by relying on his gifted hand-eye coordination to tear bowling attacks apart.
Admitting that he grew up idolising Gavaskar, Bhogle also asserted, “You cannot even raise a finger into a Test against Virender Sehwag, India’s top three innings have all been from Sehwag.” With two of the middle-order slots invariably filled up by the usual suspects in Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, the focus then shifted towards the lower-order positions.
Although his legacy has been placed under the scanner due to the infamous match-fixing saga, Mohammad Azharuddin’s elegance and languid approach was truly a sight for sore eyes. Dismissing theories of bias towards his hometown of Hyderabad, the witty analyst included him at Azhar with VVS Laxman, another stylish player from the same city, rounding off the top six.
Describing the duo with adjectives such as ‘beauty, artistry and eye-catching’, he revealed that superior numbers helped them pip the likes of Sourav Ganguly.
Ashwin over Harbhajan, Kumble captains
For the all-rounder’s spot, there was not too much to think with the legendary Kapil Dev making it his own. MS Dhoni got the nod to take up the gloves aside from elongating the batting lineup significantly. Though the second seamer’s slot proved to be a bit difficult to seal as both Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan have contributed immensely to India’s cause at the Test level, the left-armer's guile as well as his ability to extract reverse swing tilted the scales in his favour.
Hailing Anil Kumble as the greatest match-winner in Indian conditions, Bhogle ushered him into the eleven without any ado. Even though Harbhajan Singh’s luring off-breaks garnered his attention, he called Ravichandran Ashwin a ‘modern-day colossus’ pointing to his astonishing numbers with the strike-rate in particular standing apart. According to him, the side has been chosen keeping Indian pitches in mind.
Harsha Bhogle's Dream Test XI: Sunil Gavaskar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Azharuddin, VVS Laxman, Kapil Dev, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Anil Kumble (c), Zaheer Khan