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.
Picking the ODI XI was a tricky affair, especially among the batsmen. There were too many good candidates to pick from, and it felt criminal having to drop some of them. Choosing the bowlers wasn’t a straightforward task either, and let’s not get started on the captain.
Despite many disagreements, an India ODI XI was arrived at that everyone seemed happy with. Here it is.
Stats refer to players’ records between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2009
211 matches, 8,823 runs @ 46.68, SR: 85.04, 21 100s, HS: 175
KK: He has the numbers to bat anywhere pretty much, but does anyone really want to see him anywhere but opening? It immediately means the opposition have to be at their very best, and he sets the game up. Yes, he wasn’t hitting back-to-back sixes in the first over, but in his time, adaptability was an important skill, and he was an expert at keeping a healthy strike-rate while also not taking risks. Call it an attacking mindset rather than attacking shot-making as we see it now.
Sourav Ganguly (c)
185 matches, 6,658 runs @ 40.10, SR: 75.43, 13 100s, HS: 144
AG: He is among India’s top ODI batsmen, doubtless, and if he and Tendulkar are both in an ODI XI, it’s just an absolute no-brainer that they should open together. The two destroyed attacks at a clip that was well ahead of the norm for their era, and are the most successful partnership in history. So it simply just fits, even with Sehwag in the side. You could throw a left-right combination in there, too, but that’s kind of the lamest justification, given all the other variables.
205 matches, 6,655 runs @ 34.84, SR: 102.95, 12 100s, HS: 146
MN: Not entirely happy with having to push Sehwag down, but can’t really argue with Ganguly opening with Tendulkar. And Sehwag, given the sort of player he is, can slot in anywhere and go about doing what he usually does – see ball, hit ball. I mean, he was credited with revolutionising Test opening, but his game was made for the ODI game. Yes, his highlight in the format – the double-century – came the next decade, but in the 2000s, he was all about those breakneck starts and breaking the spirit of the bowlers. Even coming in at one down, he should be able to do that.
231 matches, 7,295 runs @ 40.30, SR: 72.30, 5 100s, HS: 109*
AS: He was India’s team man in the 2000s, even keeping wickets in the 2003 WC to help India fit an extra batsman. And so he is here as well, slotting in at No.4. With the bat, he brought sanity and calm, the kind of role that even the current Indian team doesn’t have anyone filling.
No one played the anchor’s role better, when weathering the storm or constructing a chase. He has the most half-centuries by an Indian in the 2000s, and crucially lent balance in a team filled with stroke-players. He was so dependable player away from home, and, this isn’t spoken of much, he could tonk the ball when needed – remember that 22-ball 50 or the breezy 92 off 63 in England?
Agree with their XI? https://t.co/0gobVIYe8v
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) May 27, 2020
245 matches, 7,249 runs @ 37.36, SR: 89.04, 12 100s, HS: 139
AG: One of India’s best white-ball finishers of all time. Won many games for his side on his own, before Dhoni joined him in that role. Yuvraj was simply undroppable from the team at his peak. A bold bruiser, fearless, aggressive, never afraid to take it to the opposition, and of course, light years ahead of his peers with his fielding, in a team of sloths.
82 matches, 7,897 runs @ 35.12, SR: 88.02, 100s, HS: 116*
AG: He’s arguably an even better fielder than Yuvraj, agile, terrific runner between the wickets: all ingredients that go into the making of a successful limited-overs player. And he could finish games too. Only drawback was his ability to take on the short ball, but his overall presence makes up for it.
Besides, the other best option is Mohammad Kaif, who simply did not have the numbers with the bat to show for. He, like Raina, was a great fielder, too, but Raina was the superior batsman. Oh, and not to forget his six-hitting ability, which I think is underrated. His hits were never monstrous and often gave the impression that he was going to hole out, but he cleared the boundary more often than not.
MS Dhoni (wk)
154 matches, 5,133 runs @ 50.82, SR: 89.59, 6 100s, HS: 183*
MN: Well, of course I picked Dhoni. Since that long-haired version of him burst to the scene with that century against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam, he has been undroppable, till recently. Certainly the 2000s belonged to him. He averaged over 50 that decade, and made a habit of finishing off chases with his bruising batting. Thing is, that early version of Dhoni gets typecast as a one-dimensional big-hitter, but he was also capable of accumulating and rebuilding, and the fact that he took over captaincy of the team later that decade, and became as big as he did, is reason enough for him to be in this team.
107 matches, 1,544 runs @ 22.80, SR: 77.68, HS: 83
152 wickets @ 29.9, 1 five-wicket haul, ER: 5.25, BBI: 5-27
AS: He was very good at swinging the hard, white new ball, especially early in his career, and gave India early breakthroughs. India had a genuine wicket-taker in the powerplay, he was brisk and moved the ball, and was especially effective with the one that swung back into the right-handers.
He kind of tailed off towards the end of the decade, but he was still good enough I feel, to make this team. By the second half of the decade, he had turned into a handy, hard-hitting bat as well, he could bat everywhere from No.1 to No.10. He filled the makeshift all-rounder’s role for a brief while, one that India badly wanted, and lent much-needed balance.
150 matches, 215 wickets @ 28.33, 2 five-wicket hauls, ER: 5.00, BBI: 6-42
KK: Is a bowler really underrated if his name pops up on every second list of underrated players? I suppose there will always be this frustration about him, the lack of control and threat that everyone wanted in their fast bowler. But there were always these bursts of good performance, and he got wickets. There is no arguing his numbers: best strike-rate among India’s top five wicket-takers, and how quickly he reached all his ODI milestones.
193 matches, 215 wickets @ 33.51, 3 five-wicket hauls, ER: 4.29, BBI: 5-31
AS: With Kumble not playing too many ODIs, Harbhajan was India’s trusted frontline spinner in the 2000s, and was a captain’s bowler. In the middle overs, he adapted well and sent down some quiet spells – economy of 4.29 is the best by any Indian bowler who played at least 50 ODIs. That said, he had the distinct ability to prise out key wickets. He took three five-fors, the most by any Indian in that time phase. No other spinner came close to displacing him in the long run.
167 matches, 232 wickets @ 29.50, 1 five-wicket haul, ER: 4.90, BBI: 5-42
KK: In so many ways, Zaheer stands as a counterfoil to Agarkar. And not just because everyone seems to like him more. He was always more dependable, more consistent, more capable of building pressure. Also developed into a more versatile bowler.