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.
Sourav Ganguly may be widely regarded as India’s best captain, and he was in fact made captain of our India Test team of the 2000s. However, there was some debate about whether he merited his place in the XI at all, as ridiculous as it seems.
While the 2000s start well for Ganguly, it went pear-shaped towards the middle of the decade, especially since Greg Chappell took over as coach. He made his comeback, and in fact, did impress, but the uncertainty over his place in the side lingered, and it did contribute to his decision to retire in 2008.
His place was, therefore, up for discussion for our panel as well.
MN: Okay, did anyone consider not having Ganugly in the team? It’s perhaps a preposterous notion, yes, but for the sake of debate, he wasn’t great second half of the decade. As in, post-2004, he waned, that whole Chappell episode happened, and ever since, the feeling for me is that he was always trying to fight for his spot. He had a good comeback, but even accounting for that …
AG: He’s the most vulnerable to being left out, yes, but who’ve you got to replace him? Only other option is Yuvraj (if we stretch it), but he didn’t do enough to displace Ganguly.
KK: Yes, I did consider not having him. My thinking was, you don’t need such batting depth in your team. But the numbers in the time he did play were just great. I would have gone with another all-rounder in my team.
MN: The other option was to leave him out, push Laxman up to five, Dhoni at six … so on, and add a fast bowler or an all-rounder. But I ultimately went for Ganguly. Didn’t feel right leaving him out, and honestly, there was no good replacement.
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KK: Yeah, it wasn’t about replacing him with another batsman, because there was no like-for-like replacement, but change the balance of the whole team.
AG: Post-comeback Dada was among his best career phases. I’m talking that time when he made that double-hundred in Bangalore. And a 91 to follow it up! There were also super knocks of 80-odd against South Africa, including in the second innings of that Test that India lost by an innings after Steyn shot them out for 76 on the first morning in Ahmedabad. I thought the fluency he showed in 2007/08 was something else. He just had one bad series in Sri Lanka, and I still believe he was made the scapegoat for it. I mean, who didn’t look like a bunny against [Ajantha] Mendis and Murali? Sehwag in Galle excepted, of course.
AS: Yeah, and Ganguly could also chip in with a few overs (not that we’re using that to seal his spot).