@Aadya_Wisden 3 minute read
Continuing our trend of hypothetical XIs in cricket, here’s an all-time ODI side based on ICC rankings, made up of players exclusively from India and Pakistan.
It’s scary to imagine the might of a combined India-Pakistan XI (there was actually one not so long ago): while India have been renowned for producing batting superstars, Pakistan has been the flagbearers of pace bowling for decades. Over the years though, both countries’ talent pool has extended to produce great cricketers of all specialities and traits, making it quite a task to choose one XI across several generations.
The ICC all-time rankings are a good way to make that judgement: we’ve picked the top four batsmen, one wicketkeeper, two all-rounders and four bowlers from the list, putting them together in a rather well-balanced XI. As always, some entries might be contentious, but what’s cricket without a little bit of debate?
ICC all-time batting ranking: 15 (highest rating: 887 v Zimbabwe, 13/11/1998)
Like most all-time one-day XIs, Sachin Tendulkar adorns the opening spot for this team as well. An ODI great in the truest sense, Tendulkar was the centrepiece of India’s batting for two decades, finishing with more runs and centuries than any other player in the format’s history. His range of strokes and ability to accelerate would make any batting line-up richer, including this one.
ICC all-time batting ranking: 2 (931 v New Zealand, 20/06/1983)
Partnering Tendulkar for a rather unusual opening pairing is Zaheer Abbas, a strokemaker par excellence. Abbas never opened the innings in ODIs, but the lack of a genuine opener in this XI pushes him up one spot from his usual position of No.3. Nonetheless, Abbas’ pristine strokes would have been fairly effective with the field restrictions on. Even though he played just 62 ODIs, featuring in the format’s nascent stages, his golden run in 1982/83 saw him rise to No.2 in the all-time rankings.
ICC all-time batting ranking: 6 (911 v England, 12/07/2018)
The modern-day batting behemoth, Kohli has been shooting down long-standing records with each passing year in the game. Kohli’s batting lends plenty of oomph to this top order, his swift running between the wickets combining with his immaculate precision in finding gaps. He could also set the platform for the big-hitting players to follow further down the order.
ICC all-time batting ranking: 7 (910 v Sri Lanka, 08/10/1987)
If Kohli has rebranded one-day batting today, Miandad was redefining it in his own way through the previous decades, bringing a street-smart, inventive approach to the format. Not someone to shy away from a challenge, Miandad was the ideal clutch player: between 1982 and 1988, his batting average every calendar year dropped below 40 only once.
MS Dhoni (wicketkeeper)
ICC all-time batting ranking: 32 (836 v Australia, 31/10/2009)
Once the anchors have done their work, MS Dhoni would be the ideal man to end the innings with a flourish, merging raw belligerence with adaptability and sharp game awareness. As leader and batsman, Dhoni is a fine asset to have, but also takes up wicketkeeping duties in this team, owing to his expertise of keeping up expertly to both pace and spin for over a decade.
ICC all-time bowling ranking: 17 (845 v New Zealand, 10/04/1986)
ICC all-time all-rounder ranking: 1 (631 v Pakistan, 22/03/1985)
The world’s top-ranked all-rounder in the all-time rankings, Kapil was a dominant force in all three aspects of the game. His bowling was lively and precise both at once, with his new-ball spells generating ample movement to disconcert batsmen. Down the order, his batting was hard to contain when on song, and he could single-handedly change the course of a game with his powerful cameos.
Imran Khan (captain)
ICC all-time bowling ranking: 39 (780 v England, 20/10/1987)
ICC all-time all-rounder ranking: 10 (480 v New Zealand, 20/06/1983)
Another blockbuster all-rounder and a leader par excellence, Imran Khan guided Pakistan Cricket for two decades, with progressing age managing to do little to dim his aura and skills. The 1992 World Cup was no doubt a major highlight, but Imran’s crafty swing and punchy batting were Pakistan cricket’s driving forces for plenty of years leading up to that title.
ICC all-time bowling ranking: 14 (851 v South Africa, 10/04/1986)
Bringing left-arm variety into the pace attack is arguably the best bowler of his kind. Akram could make the ball talk, both in the air and off the surface, and was a complete package, capable of producing devastating spells with both the new ball and the old one. No bowler took more wickets in the 1990s than Akram, who also adds some useful lower-order batting depth to this XI.
ICC all-time bowling ranking: 14 (851 v West Indies, 02/01/1988)
An unusual name some would say, given the stream of all-time greats around him, but Maninder’s left-arm spin did make a brief but forceful impact on ODI cricket before it disappeared into obscurity. The most successful spinner at the 1987 World Cup, Maninder is India’s highest-ranked bowler in the all-time list, beating several established names primarily on the back of a prolific 1987/88 season.
ICC all-time bowling ranking: 22 (810 v South Africa, 15/03/2013)
Saeed Ajmal might not see eye to eye with the ICC and its policies, but he did end up being Pakistan’s top-ranked spinner in their all-time rankings. His shrewd off-spin (and that venomous doosra) carried him to the top of the rankings in 2011, where he stayed put for the most part of the next four years, claiming a whopping 62 wickets in 2013 alone.
ICC all-time bowling ranking: 18 (841 v West Indies, 01/11/2018)
In just half a decade, Jasprit Bumrah has risen to be one of India’s finest white-ball bowlers, employing his unusual yet effective action to trouble the world’s best. It’s his accuracy that is his biggest asset, so is the ability to effortlessly switch between his range of variations irrespective of conditions. Imagine Akram and Bumrah’s devastating combination bowling in tandem at the death: batsmen better guard their toes.
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