Statistics are an undoubtedly essential part of the game because they give us apparent insights into a player's performance and achievements. However, when it comes to admiring the talent and class of some batsmen, stats mean next to nothing.
It may have been a cover drive or a bottom-handed whip or a lofted straight drive, but we have all experienced moments that have taken our breath away. Many cricket fans would pick style over substance. For many, sport is poetry, where the players on the field exhibit their artistry in the most incredible circumstances.
This article looks at the batsmen who have not only scored thousands of runs but have also made fans fall in love with the class and elegance of their batting.
So, let's have a look at the players who we think are India's ten most elegant batsmen ever:
10. Rahul Dravid
At number 10 on this list, we have probably the most dependable batsman India has ever produced, Rahul Dravid. The Karnataka batsman is not one of the popular names you'd associate with stylish batting, but that would be a mistake. Steadfast elegance is a very underappreciated quality, and very few cricketers have that.
Dravid is known for his consistency and defensive batting, and there are only a few batsmen out there who can match his batting technique. He was one of those batsmen who would make a leave or a rock-solid defence look classy just because of the way he did it.
When the bowler missed his mark by even the slightest of margins, he would pounce on it with his beautiful stroke-play. Be it his perfect cover drive or his magnificent pull-shot, there was grace in his style.
Dravid always showcased the elegance and beauty of his game, be it under the scorching sun in the Caribbean, or the breezy swinging English conditions, or against the hostile bowling attack of the Australians.
9. KL Rahul
Next on this list, we have a rising star in KL Rahul. The Karnataka boy has proved on many occasions why he is considered the future of Indian cricket, and why he has the potential to match Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
There isn't a shot in the book which this man cannot play. Be it a classic cover drive or reverse sweeping a ball for six, Rahul has them all. It is incredible how he makes batting look so effortless and beautiful, even when he is at the peak of his aggression.
It isn't easy to bat at different positions and still be this consistent. While in full flow, Rahul gives even the biggest names in world cricket a run for their money when we talk about being pleasing to the eye. Only KL Rahul can make 360-degree batting look orthodox and classical.
8. Sourav Ganguly
It is the Prince of Calcutta, Sourav Ganguly, who is next up on this list. While 'Dada' shaped a young team who would go on to dominate world cricket, he also entertained the world with his flamboyant batting.
It was for a reason that Rahul Dravid called Ganguly "God Of The Offside". In his time, there were very few batsmen who had control over the off-side like Ganguly. He played the square cut, square drive and the cover drive with utmost perfection. Be it powerful shots on the front-foot or elegant cuts on the back-foot, Dada had complete command over his strokes.
Ganguly said that David Gower was the first cricketer to attract him to the game. He loved Gower's style, and used to watch old videos of him playing, and that explains the elegant and stylish shot-making. Ganguly has clearly picked up his style from David Gower, who was definitely one of the most elegant batsmen to grace this game.
7. Yuvraj Singh
It is time for another left-handed batsman, because there's just something intrinsically elegant about them. Yuvraj Singh's batting was an expression of his inner self. It was brutal, aggressive, and full of confidence, but remarkably beautiful.
Yuvraj was a natural stroke player. With brute power apart from his near-flawless technique, he was one of the most fashionable middle-order batsmen to have ever played this game. His beautiful high back-lift and follow-through made his batting look even more attractive. Throughout his career, he remained strong off both feet, especially his cover and square back-foot punches.
His lazy charm and ability to play shots away from the body on the offside made him look incredibly elegant.
6. Mohammad Azharuddin
Mohammad Azharuddin was one of the most delightful batsmen to watch in Indian cricket. It was often said that Azharuddin holding a cricket bat was no less than a magician holding a magic wand.
As a youngster, Azharuddin burst onto the stage with a century on his Test debut against England. What is even more astonishing is that he went on to score two more centuries in the next two Tests, which is still a world record.
He was a master of wrist-work, and his hand-eye coordination was top-notch. Azhar's on-side play is the stuff of legend, and he could hit balls pitching outside off to the square leg boundary just by using his wrists.
In the era of Sachin Tendulkar, there were many fans out there who watched India play just to watch Mohammad Azharuddin bat. For many, he remains the hero and the reason why they fell in love with this game. Azharuddin may be remembered for many wrong reasons, but there is no doubt that he was one of the greatest to have ever played for India.
5. Virat Kohli
It is modern superstar Virat Kohli who is next on this list. This man has broken almost every batting record out there, and he has done that while being stunningly stylish while batting. Kohli’s technique can leave any bowler frustrated. He creates extraordinary angles that beat the field, with a combination of bat-speed and strong wrist-work.
The Delhi batsman is strong on the leg-side, but with skilled footwork, he creates room to crash the ball through covers inside out with ease. There is no conventional shot that Virat Kohli can't play. He can pick the length early and play the ball late. Some of his stylish strokes include the flick on the leg side, the cover drive and the late cut.
All this effective yet elegant stroke-play makes him the one of the best batsmen of this generation across all three formats, if not the best. Already one of the all-time greats, whenever he bats, it looks like a genius is at work.
4. Sachin Tendulkar
When asked to describe Tendulkar, a plethora of superlatives immediately come to mind - extraordinary, masterful, evergreen and many more.
His batting technique was a thing of beauty. Tendulkar’s batting was an expression of its simplicity. His front foot drives- lofted and checked, cuts, pulls and flicks were all executed with a minimum expression of energy but to the utmost perfection.
Tendulkar also incorporated several unorthodox strokes into his repertoire towards the late years of his career. These included the paddle sweep, the scoop over short fine leg and the slash to the third man. His elegance even made these rash modern shots look easy on the eye.
Sachin Tendulkar scored more than 34,000 runs in international cricket over 24 years, and the' Master Blaster' very rarely lost his touch. Not only is he the greatest ever batsman to play this game, but Tendulkar has also shown elegance, style, composure and class in every game that he has played.
3. VVS Laxman
VVS Laxman was undoubtedly one of India’s greatest Test cricketers ever. He timed his shots perfectly, and was a terrific player against spin as well. He wasn’t very aggressive in his body language, but a very languid batsman who was a treat to watch.
Laxman was a great timer of the ball, and his wristy style made for some aesthetic viewing. He was known for his fluid style and technical abilities. Laxman played several crucial innings for India, with the 281 against Australia being the standout of his career.
The batsman from Hyderabad had substance to go with the style as well. He won countless matches for India, especially late in his career, and he made batting with the tail-enders an art form of its own.
Laxman may not have scored as many runs as Sachin Tendulkar or been as stubborn at the crease as Rahul Dravid, but when in form, he was India's most watchable batsman.
It was said that: "At his sublime best, VVS Laxman is a sight for the gods. Wristy, willowy and sinuous, he can match – sometimes even better – Tendulkar for strokeplay."
2. Gundappa Viswanath
Two short gentlemen who perfected the art of batting, Viswanath and Gavaskar were the mainstays of the Indian batting line-up in the 1970s. While Gavaskar was unmatched in compactness and control, his partner in crime Gundappa Viswanath had an elegant and wristy batting style which relied on timing.
Vishy was more an artist than a cricketer- the cricket field was his canvas, and he would paint it as he liked with a bat in his hand. His trademark shot was the late square-cut, and he played it to perfection. Not even the menacing pace quartet of the West Indies in the 70s had any answers to his square cuts. He did well against some quality pace bowlers on faster pitches because of his natural ability to use the pace of the ball.
It won't come as a shock to hardcore cricket fans even if it is said that Gundappa Ranganath Viswanath is the most stylish batsmen to have ever worn the India cap.
1. Rohit Sharma
India, in its long cricketing history, has seen many elegant batsmen whose stroke-play would put most artists to shame. However, from the nine mentioned above and many more, one player stands firm above the others when it comes to elegance. And he is none other than Rohit Sharma.
In his first six years, he played as a middle-order batsman. Averaging in the lower 30s, it is safe to say he wasn't doing well. Then came the year 2013, where Rohit Sharma started to open the innings for India, and he hasn't looked back since.
When you think of Rohit Sharma, you think of lazy elegance. Aesthetically, he is one of the most attractive batsmen to watch. When he is on song, his feet move like a ballet dancer’s. It just feels like he has the power to slow down time because he always seems to have that extra second or two to play his shot.
Rohit is a batsman with grace and charm, who can sit back and smack any bowler in the world to the farthest corners of the stadium without breaking a sweat.
With elegance matching that of the players mentioned above and the brute power similar to that of Chris Gayle, Rohit Sharma is a colossal beast in the limited-overs formats, who makes batting look remarkably easy, and takes the crown as India's most stylish batsman of all-time.Published 03 May 2020, 12:02 IST