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2000s in Review

Wisden India Test team of the 2000s: Srinath v Pathan – The pace conundrum

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

The Wisden India team, comprising Editor-at-large Karunya Keshav, Editor Manoj Narayan, and staff writers Akshay Gopalakrishnan and Aadya Sharma, gathered – virtually, of course – to come up with a Test and ODI XI for India as part of Wisden’s 2000s in Review series.

The Test XI mostly picked itself, what with it being India’s golden generation. However, there was one big debate regarding the second seamer’s spot – it was India in the 2000s, of course there was.

Irfan Pathan and Javagal Srinath were the central characters. Srinath retired in 2002, but was still the third best paceman India had in Tests that decade, in terms of wickets taken. Pathan, meanwhile, was India’s golden boy for a while, and also offered something with the bat.

Ultimately, the panel went the way of Pathan, only because it was felt Srinath wasn’t representative enough of the India in the 2000s. He was more a Nineties bowler. However, reaching that conclusion took a long time.

MN: Yeah, I did consider Srinath, quite a bit. Eventually didn’t go with Javagal, because he hasn’t played since 2002. He was mostly a Nineties player. But still, he picked an insane number of wickets in those first two years.

KK: The only reason Srinath didn’t make it for me was the fact that he didn’t really play very much in the decade. So I didn’t think it would be fully representative of a time India’s Tests really turned around. Crazy numbers, though.

AS: I considered not having Pathan too. But he was quite impactful, brought freshness in the bowling, and took almost as many five-fors as Zak in less than half the matches.

AG: Hmm, fair point. But my pick was purely based on skill and not necessarily numbers. Even in the first two years of that decade, Srinath was insanely good. He was easily India’s fastest bowler then, and still is among the fastest ever. But it was also about what he could do with the ball.

My reason for not picking Pathan was I felt he experimented too much. Zaheer already showed us in the second half of the decade that he was super wily and could manipulate batsmen into playing the kind of shots he wanted them to play. So what this XI needs is a bowler who can keep it simple. Not much of a thinker, can just run in and bowl straight and accurately, and not give away too many runs and keep the pressure on.

Sreesanth was my other choice, but he was too tantalising and unpredictable. Again, tried too much. Srinath was natural with all his variations. Super inswinger to the right-hander, which works well because Zaheer, being a left-hander, takes it away from them. So that’s a good variety to have. Was still super fast in the early 2000s. And he could do stuff with the new ball and old. Just the way he could exploit the seam, and make things happen on really flat decks. That was a special talent to have.

MN: Agree with all that you’ve said Akshay, but I just don’t think Srinath represents the decade too well, irrespective of how impressive he was for the last two years of his career. It’s what I think, at least. Karunya, Aadya?

AS: Don’t think there’s enough for me to have him in the 2000s team either. Would have been one of my first two bowling picks of the Nineties.

AG: If Srinath isn’t good enough to be in the XI, then my second choice would be Sreesanth. He’s my 12th man, so …

MN: Is anyone else considering Sreesanth at all? He doesn’t make my list. I just didn’t think much of him, honestly, but even overlooking my bias, I wouldn’t pick him. He was too all over the place, although on his day, no denying he could be very effective.

KK: I had one other option. Agarkar, who’s my 12th man.

AG: So my order of choices would be – Srinath, Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan and then Agarkar. Which means Agarkar would be my 14th man in a 13-man squad. Sorry Karunya!

KK: Agarkar, I was looking at as an all-rounder. Always there and thereabouts. Australia, a bit in England. There’s an element of legend with him. Not career-wise, but these bursts of something that people talked about for a long time.

AG: He was seriously fast in his prime, but I just don’t see Agarkar as a frontline red-ball operator.

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