A panel of Wisden writers picked out a men’s Test XI based on performances by players in matches between England and India this century.
With several closely-fought Test series between India and England in the 21st century, identifying a combined XI based on performances in those matches came with quite a few challenges. There were heated debates over the wicketkeeper’s slot and the bowling group, but there were clear-cut reasons for why we chose the names below.
All stats refer to period between January 1, 2000 and January 26, 2021 in Tests between England and India.
Alastair Cook (c)
Matches: 30, Runs: 2,431 @ 47.66, 100s: 7, 50s: 9, HS: 294
One name that did not trigger any discussion or debate was Alastair Cook. The highest run-scorer in Test matches between these sides in the 21st century, Cook made big runs against India both at home and away, and was England’s leading run-scorer when a side captained by him won 2-1 in India in 2012, with three hundreds racked up in four Tests.
Matches: 9, Runs: 1,016 @ 72.57, 100s: 4, 50s: 3, HS: 197
While he played just nine Tests against India, Michael Vaughan made telling contributions as an opener. In the 2002 home series against India, Vaughan made scores of 100, 197 and 195, all while opening the batting. In 2007, he scored another hundred, this time from No.3.
Matches: 19, Runs: 1,888 @ 59, 100s: 6, 50s: 8, HS: 217
Some of Rahul Dravid‘s greatest-ever Test performances came away from home against England. In 2002, he made 602 runs in four Tests, with three consecutive hundreds leading to a series average of 100.33. In 2011, in a struggling side that succumbed to a 4-0 whitewash, Dravid stood a class apart from his colleagues against an England side on its way to No.1 in the world rankings. Dravid finished with 461 runs in the series, finally putting up his name on the Lord’s Honours Board in the process. At the Oval, Dravid managed to carry his bat for an unbeaten 146 as others perished comfortably.
Matches: 16, Runs: 1,581 @ 58.55, 100s: 6, 50s: 6, HS: 202*
One of the greatest individual knocks in Test matches between these sides came from Kevin Pietersen at Mumbai in 2012. His 186 off 233 balls in the second Test helped England to a famous victory after a thumping loss in the first Test. Pietersen finished that series with 338 runs at an average close to 50, over a year on from a successful home series against India in which he hit 533 runs at 106.6.
#OnThisDay in 2012, Kevin Pietersen produced one of the best knocks of his career – a stunning 186 from 233 deliveries against India in Mumbai! 👏
— The Nightwatchman (@NightwatchmanXI) November 25, 2020
Matches: 16, Runs: 1,421 @ 56.84, 100s: 4, 50s: 9, HS: 154*
It was a close battle between Virat Kohli and Joe Root for the No.5 spot, but Root’s exceptional average in matches against India tilted the balance in his favour. Root’s consistency against India was also factored in, with Kohli having endured a disastrous tour of England in 2014. In that same series, Root averaged over 100 and scored 518 runs, including two hundreds. The England captain’s record in India is impressive too: he averages 53.09, with a hundred and five fifties to his name.
MS Dhoni (wk)
Matches: 21, Runs: 1157 @ 33.05, 100s: 0, 50s: 12, HS: 99 | Catches: 63, Stumpings: 4
This was one debate that took up much discussion, with Jos Buttler a close contender. Dhoni helped India to a series win away to England in 2007, though, helping save a Test at Lord’s with an unbeaten 76 before hitting an 81-ball 92 at The Oval. While Buttler has a fine record against India, he hasn’t always kept wicket against them, which helped tip the argument in Dhoni’s favour.
Matches: 12, Runs: 624 @ 32.84, 100s: 2 | Wickets: 41 @ 32.63, BBI: 6-67
Moeen Ali was in the discussion right from the word go as an all-rounder, tipping Ravindra Jadeja. In his first home summer as a Test cricketer, he picked up 19 wickets against India at an average of 23, and while his record with the ball is less impressive in India, two of his five Test tons have come in the country.
Matches: 12, Wickets: 63 @ 30.07 | BBI: 7-115
Anil Kumble has 92 wickets in Test matches between these sides, with 63 of them coming in the 21st century. In his last game against England, at The Oval in 2007, he earned the Man of the Match award after hitting a century and taking five wickets in a draw that sealed a series win.
Matches: 20, Wickets: 70 @ 25.67, BBI: 5-75
With 25 wickets in four Tests in the 2011 series between the sides, Broad topped the wicket-taking charts, averaging a miserly 13.84. He also made vital contributions with the bat in that series, racking up scores of 74 not out, 64 and 44. In three Tests in India in 2016, he finished with eight wickets, the second-most by a fast bowler in the series.
Matches: 13, Wickets: 43 @ 29.02, BBI: 8-141
The incredible series Zaheer Khan had in England in 2007 made him a shoo-in. A 4-79 at Lord’s was followed by a nine-wicket match haul in Nottingham. His home record, while not outstanding, was good enough to complement the Indian spinners.
Matches: 27, Wickets: 110 @ 25.98, BBI: 5-20
With 110 wickets in 27 Tests, James Anderson is the only bowler with over 100 wickets in Test matches between these sides. The England seamer has four five-wicket hauls, including a match haul of 9-43 in 2018 at Lord’s, when India were bowled out for 107 and 130. He made a good impact in 2012 in India too, acting as the perfect foil for England’s two spinners, picking up 12 wickets at an average of 30.25.