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2000s in Review

Wisden’s India ODI team of the 2000s: Who should open between Ganguly, Tendulkar & Sehwag?

India opener
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 most thorny issue when Wisden’s panel sat down to pick an India ODI XI of the 2000s was that of the openers. India at the time had three supremely gifted openers in Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly, with Gautam Gambhir staking a claim towards the end of the decade.

Picking between them, and shunting one down the order, seemed a bit like cheating but was also necessary, in the end. Eventually, the panel decided to stick with the fan-favourite combination of Tendulkar and Ganguly at the top, backing Sehwag to continue playing his big-hitting game at No.3.

Arriving at that conclusion, however, took hours. Below is a brief version of the debate.

AG: Openers is the biggest debate for me. I simply don’t want any combination other than Sourav and Sachin, but that has resulted in Sehwag coming in at No.4, and Gambhir at No.6 (!) in my team.

AS: I want all three in the team, and of the three, I feel only Sehwag can be pushed down the order …

KK: I went with Sehwag and Gambhir, after much changing and chopping. Although I really want Tendulkar in there.

MN: I think Sachin is fixed up there, and the choice is between Ganguly, Sehwag and Gambhir. I cannot fathom Sachin and Sourav not being there, even if it makes for a weird-looking middle order.

KK: My vote will be for Sehwag. Although I fully get the Ganguly appeal as well.

AS: Tendulkar, Ganguly at the top for me. Sehwag is floating right now. Need to find a spot for him in the middle order.

MN: Sehwag and Sachin for me. I’ve put Ganguly at 3 (slightly cheating). But look at the numbers, he’s been pretty decent at 3 – I think Sehwag, Sachin, Ganguly in that order is a very good compromise, all considered. So even if Sehwag lashes at one and gets out early, it’s like Sachin and Ganguly are still there.

AS: I think I’m fine with that.

AG: My only explanation for Sachin-Sourav is that they are the most prolific of all time. They have, what, 21 century stands? They destroyed attacks at a rate that was well ahead of the norm during their era.

KK: Yeah. Then Sehwag went and redefined what it means to be an opener almost.

MN: I still think Sehwag, Sachin, Ganguly is the best way to proceed. I know we’d all like Ganguly-Sachin to open, but as compromise, this is the most workable.

AG: It seems the importance of figures will have to be compromised. This is a tough one, little bit of cheating is needed. Problem with Ganguly at 3 is, I’ve got Dravid there.

AS: I am fine with Ganguly at 3. I want all three, and I don’t see any other solution, unless Sehwag is down the order.

MN: I have Dravid at 4, and no, Gambhir doesn’t find a place in my team. He should open or at least play in the top order, and in this set up, there’s no space for him.

AG: So we’re not considering Dravid at 3 at all? That’s crazy, he was India’s most consistent batsman at that position for most of the first half of the decade. He was arguably a greater batsman than Tendulkar during this time. What if top three bat 40 overs? I’d rather not have Dravid come in at all. He can’t come and go bang, bang in the last ten. It’s either Dravid at 3, or no Dravid at all for me.

AS: And that might not happen as often. For all the other scenarios, I think Dravid fits well. We’re also considering ODIs of the 2000s, when 275 was a challenging score.

AG: Okay, you know what, Dravid at 4 is fine. Sehwag seems odd at 3, but we can always find problems! This is an overwhelming team to put together!

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