My dream cricket XI (1996-2007)

I watched cricket very seriously in the entire period between the World Cup of 1996 and the World Cup of 2007, and after that stopped watching it altogether. Lack of cable television wherever I lived after 2007 was one of the reasons. People who lived around me in those places weren’t much interested in the game either, which was another reason for my drop in interest in cricket. Also it is probably not a coincidence that India-England test series in 1996 marked the arrival of my hometown hero, Sourav Ganguly, in test cricket and World Cup 2007 was the large major ODI tournament he played.

As I moved back to India in 2017 and got a cable TV in my house cricket got back to my life once again and made me reminiscence those glorious days of test and ODI cricket with the Tendulkar-s and the Lara-s and the Shane Warne-s. So here are my dream test and ODI XI, only picking players who dominated cricket during that period. Again, I never understood the technicalities of the game that well and so my teams may not be optimised with the right combinations for the best performance. It’s rather made from the heart largely to recount the amazing moments those cricketers gave us to cherish. As a result, performance in big matches like World Cup matches and some crucial Test series matches has played more importance in selection of the team than average, technique, etc.

Dream Test XI:

1. Mathew Hayden

2. Virender Sehwag

I have found it harder to choose the openers than the middle order batsmen because  unlike the four middle order batsmen that follow in the list these two batsmen came to prominence towards the later part of the period I picked up here. Still, these two batsmen completely dominated that later period with their explosive batting, consistent performance and most importantly their triple tons. So I can’t leave out either of them.

3. Jack Kallis

4. Sachin Tendulkar

5. Ricky Ponting

6. Brian Lara

Jack Kallis is there at no. 3 to anchor the innings. Rahul Dravid could have been another option, but Jack Kallis could also bowl. That has given him an edge over Rahul Dravid to get into the squad. Making a dream XI like this always makes you sad in the end because of the players you have to exclude. In my case, the fact that Dravid is not included in my dream test XI really makes me sad. Also, V.V.S Laxman for that matter!

The batsmen at no. 4,5 and 6 were the three batsmen of that era, so it is impossible to drop any of them.

7. Adam Glichrist

The man you first think of when you think of a wicketkeeper- batsman in the pre- Dhoni and pre- Sangakara era! He single handedly changed the role of no. 7 batsman in the squad in test cricket.

8. Wasim Akram

9. Glen Mc Grath

10. Allan Donald   (Anil Kumble or Muthaiah Muralidhan on a subcontinent track)

11. Shane Warne

Wasim Akram and Glen McGrath make it to pretty much anybody’s dream XI, so those are obvious choices. For the third fast bowler, I have to go with Allan Donald, thanks to the amazing memories I have of India’s tour of South Africa in 1996-97. That face smeared with white cream, that gentle and yet sinister run up and smooth delivery style which all of us tried to imitate in gali cricket, and that menacing speed at which the ball came towards the batsmen – Allan Donald is my personal favorite and has to be in the squad! For the only spinner, I will go with Shane Warne just like most other people will. He had been the very definition of spin bowling in that era. In case it’s a subcontinent spinning track, I will drop Donald and pick Anil Kumble or Muthaiah Muralidharan in his place.

Captain: Wasim Akram

He is probably the most senior player in the team and  has been really well respected throughout his career. He should lead the team.

Dream ODI XI:

I have found making the dream ODI XI list much harder than the test XI. All the dominant teams of that era- India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa- could contribute 5-6 players each to this team. As a result I have made some hard choices- some of them quite unorthodox. Here is my list.  I go with the combination of 4 batsmen, 4 bowlers,  2 all rounders and 1 wicketkeeper-batsman.

1. Adam Gilchrist

2. Sachin Tendulkar

Since I am going with 4 batsmen, I couldn’t pick Sanath Jayasurya or Sourav Ganguly in Glicrist’s spot though I would have really wanted to. Choosing the other opener here is a no brainer.

3. Ricky Ponting

4. Jack Kallis (all rounder)

5. Aravinda DeSilva

6. Michael Bevan

7. Lance Klusener (all rounder)

Ricky Ponting at no. 3 is probably a no brainer. Jack Kallis is there at no. 4 to anchor the innings- plus he had been excellent with the ball in limited overs cricket. I choose Aravinda DeSilva at no. 5 instead of Steve Waugh or Mohammad Azharduddin because of the two consecutive ODI centuries he scored in the semi-final and final of the 1996 World Cup. Michael Bevan was the best finisher in ODI cricket before MS Dhoni arrived in the scene, so his position at no. 6 of my squad probably cannot be questioned.

Lance Klusener at no. 7 is probably an unorthodox choice but again I have given a lot of importance to big match performance and personal memories here. 1999 World Cup- need I say more? With respect to cricket, that guy probably gave me the most excitement and also the biggest heartbreak! Those two boundaries smashed through mid-off, followed by a dot ball and that “fatal” attempt to take a single- I don’t think I can ever watch a replay of that over in my life! A couple of decades has passed since then which included almost a decade for me away from cricket and yet it remains as a painful memory which I never want to go back to. So my dream XI will be incomplete without him.

8. Wasim Akram

9. Glen McGrath

10. Shawn Pollock

11. Shane Warne

The bowlers in my ODI XI are pretty much the same as that in my test XI, just that in place of Allan Donald I choose his fellow teammate Shawn Pollock in the shorter format of the game.

Captain: Wasim Akram

12th man: Jonty Rhodes