A World XI that can challenge India at home in Test cricket
A record 11 consecutive series wins at home speaks volumes of the dominance of the Virat Kohli-led Indian side, which is already being referred to as one of the finest Test sides from Asia.
India's last home series defeat came against a gritty and well-prepared England back in 2012-13. Since then, they have lost just one Test out of the 32 they have played. Ironically, the only defeat came on a raging turner.
The top-ranked Test side in the world has subjugated every touring side in this period. 26 wins and 5 draws, two of which were rain-affected, and a solitary loss is proof of their supremacy. 10 of the 26 wins were by an innings, seven by 150-plus runs and four by 8-plus wickets. Such has been their dominance that it will require a dream team to even put up a fight.
Here, we look at the best possible XI from players all over the world who can challenge India at home in Tests. (The players have been picked based on recent form, experience in India and ability to excel in the subcontinent).
Openers: Dimuth Karunaratne and Tom Latham (wk)
Dimuth Karunaratne has been one of the most consistent openers in the world over the last couple of years, with an average of 40.75 since the start of 2017. Moreover, with the experience of playing most of his life in the subcontinent, the Lankan opener is the perfect fit for the opening slot.
Tom Latham has been quite underrated throughout his career. But the Kiwi opener is finally starting to gain attention over the last couple of years, averaging 58.03 since the start of 2017. With his ability to handle spin well combined with his experience of playing in India, Latham is also the wicket-keeper of the side.
Other potential options: David Warner, Azhar Ali, Tamim Iqbal and Dean Elgar
Middle Order: Kane Williamson (c), Steven Smith, Joe Root
Unarguably one of the best overseas batsmen in Asian conditions in recent years, with an average of 51.25 in Asia since the beginning of 2017, Kane Williamson is an automatic pick for the No. 3 slot. The Kiwi skipper is also the best choice for leading the side, having the experience of leading in Asian conditions and the habit of leading from the front with the bat.
Widely regarded as the best Test batsman of this era, Steve Smith was one of the key architects of India's only defeat in the last 11 series, gritting out one of his best hundreds ever on a difficult Pune pitch. Moreover, India have always found it tough against Smith in the longer format irrespective of the conditions. Given his form and record, Smith is the perfect choice for No. 4 with an average above 48 in Asia and 60 in India.
English skipper Joe Root, despite not living up to the expectations lately, averages a staggering 46.07 in Asia and 53.09 in India. His debut hundred at Nagpur still ranks as one of his finest hundreds. Root claims the No. 5 spot.
Other potential options: Mushfiqur Rahim and Babar Azam
All-rounders: Ben Stokes, Shakib Al Hasan
Ben Stokes is undoubtedly the finest seam-bowling all-rounder of this era. His knack of delivering under pressure makes him the hottest property in world cricket at the moment; it is impossible to think of a World XI without Stokes in it for any format of the game. With pitches in India offering something for the seam bowlers of late, Stokes brings in value as the third seamer as well.
Shakib Al Hasan is one of the best all-rounders from Asia and is currently the best batsman from Bangladesh. He averages 52 from the two innings he has played in India, but his experience on Asian soil makes him invaluable to the squad. Shakib also fills in as the third spinner, giving his skipper a sixth bowling option.
With six bowling options and the variety they bring in, the skipper will have the luxury that most touring teams lack.
Pacers: Pat Cummins, Jofra Archer/Mitchell Starc
The No. 1 ranked Test bowler Pat Cummins is an automatic choice, given the consistency he has shown over the past couple of years. Cummins has 8 wickets from the 2 games he has played in India so far, and his more than handy batting is a plus given India's struggles in wiping out the tail.
Jofra Archer and Mitchell Starc both make good picks, but there is a slot for only one of them. Archer's deadly bouncers and Starc's toe-crushing accurate yorkers bring the much needed X-factor that is needed to get the better of the Indian batsmen.
Moreover, all three of these bowlers attack the stumps more often than not, which is a must on Indian soil.
Other potential options: Josh Hazlewood, Kagiso Rabada and Jason Holder
Spinners: Nathan Lyon, Rashid Khan/Yasir Shah
Nathan Lyon is one of the best spinners in Test cricket, given his wicket-taking abilities in all conditions. Lyon ripped through the Indian line-up in the second innings in Pune which helped the visitors crush the home team. He has also got the better of Indian batsmen numerous times in Australia. With 34 wickets from just 7 games in India, Lyon is the leading spinner in the side.
Yasir Shah is the best wrist spinner in Test cricket at the moment, with vast experience of playing in Asia, while Rashid Khan is the most promising wrist spinner with limited experience in Test cricket. Both Yasir and Rashid are attacking spinners and will provide the side something which most touring sides have lacked - the second top-notch spin bowling option.
A playing XI comprising of such skill-sets and experience would scare any team even in their own backyard. But can they match up to India in India?
Even when you put together such a team - with openers who play spin well, a formidable middle order, two quality attacking spinners and pacers who target the stumps - they will be at a disadvantage because India already have all these tools, as well as the experience of using them together. Moreover, the whole squad needs to play out of their skin, multiple times over the period of the whole series, to get the better of the home team.
Can this side make India sweat at home, or will they be crushed by the Indian juggernaut like the rest of the teams? It's a fascinating hypothesis to ponder over.Published 25 Oct 2019, 21:34 IST