The Wisden India team, comprising of Aadya Sharma, Rohit Sankar and Roshan Gede, picked out the Border-Gavaskar Trophy team of the 21st century.
It wasn’t an easy task by any means, for India and Australia, two giant cricket heavyweights, have produced legendary cricketers over the years. Therefore, there were long debates on certain spots, agreements and disagreements, especially with some prominent names missing out.
Apart from the overall numbers, we stressed upon the players’ records in home and away conditions and tried to fit them in roles best suitable for them. Here’s how our Border-Gavaskar Trophy XI of the 21st century looks like.
All stats refer to the period between January 1, 2000, and January 3, 2021
Matches: 18, Runs: 1,888 @59, 100s: 6, 50s: 8, HS: 203
One half of the second most prolific opening partnership in Test cricket’s history (alongside Justin Langer), the great Matthew Hayden reserved his best for India. He was Australia’s standout performer in the famous 2001 series with a match-winning hundred in Mumbai and a monumental double in Chennai, not to forget scores of 97 and 67 in Kolkata. In the 2007/08 series, he got three tons in five innings to star in Australia’s series win.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) October 29, 2019
Matches: 22, Runs: 1,738 @41.38, 100s: 3, 50s: 9, HS: 195
To go with the dynamic Hayden, there’s the swashbuckling Virender Sehwag, who had the reputation of producing game-changing performances with his uncomplicated, aggressive approach. Australia got the first glimpse of Sehwag when he smashed a power-packed 195 on Day 1 of the 2003 Boxing Day Test. 10 months later, he hit Warne, McGrath and Gillespie to all parts in Chennai to put India in control before a rain interruption hurt India’s chances.
Four years later, making a comeback to the team, his fireworks against the new ball in Perth were instrumental in setting up one of India’s greatest Test wins and he followed that with a game-saving 151 in Adelaide. It marked the start of a three-year glorious run for Sehwag, by the end of which he became the top-ranked batsman in Test cricket.
Matches: 12, Runs: 1,439 @71.95, 100s: 7, 50s: 3, HS: 192
It was the toughest call of all: to have Steve Smith ahead of the great Ricky Ponting and Rahul Dravid in this star-studded line-up. The modern-day genius, however, with an unmatched brilliance at home and away, pipped the greats.
Smith might not have delivered his best in the ongoing Test series, yet his numbers against India are incredible. The peak came during the 2014/15 home series, when the right-hander aggregated a staggering 769 runs from eight innings, the most for anyone in a Border-Gavaskar series. The standout knock, however, came on a rank-turner in Pune two years later, when he scored a masterful 109 in an innings in which no other batsman crossed 31. Hundreds in Ranchi and Dharamsala later were further evidence of his growing stature as a modern-day great.
Matches: 28, Runs: 2,577 @53.68, 100s: 6, 50s: 13, HS: 241*
A no-brainer and a straight-forward choice, really. Sachin Tendulkar would probably fit into any Test XI as a No.4 batsman. Against the champion Australia side, Tendulkar was even more God-like, unleashing his class both home and away. While most of his great knocks were a product of all-round, eye-catching stroke-play, the one that stands out is his epic masterpiece in the New Year’s Test of 2004. Tendulkar announced before the game that he wouldn’t play a single cover drive, owing to the manner in which he was getting dismissed during the series. By the third morning of the Test, he walked back unbeaten on 241, with all but two of his 33 fours coming on the leg side. “A lesson even in my last Test match,” remarked Steve Waugh.
Matches: 22, Runs: 2,049 @53.92, 100s: 7, 50s: 6, HS: 329*
A 23-year-old Michael Clarke announced his arrival in Test cricket in grand style in 2004 with a game-defining 151 against Kumble, Harbhajan and Zaheer on his debut in Bangalore. Three weeks later, his scored 97 and 73 in Nagpur and alongside Damien Martyn, powered Australia to their first series win on Indian soil in 35 years. An unreal spell of 6-9 in Mumbai rounded off a dream debut series.
By the start of next decade, Clarke was already one of the top batsmen in world cricket. His 329* in Sydney in 2011/12 remains the highest individual score in matches between the two sides. Another double-hundred in Adelaide rounded off an emphatic 4-0 series win for the Aussies – one of the major highlights of his captaincy career.
Matches: 25, Runs: 2271 @54.07, 100s: 6, 50s: 11, HS: 281
From Kolkata to Sydney to Mohali and Adelaide, there are 281 and more reasons to have VVS Laxman in this team. A sparkling 167 out of India’s total of 261 in their first Test of the century in Sydney – his first Test hundred – forced people to sit up and take notice of him. The glittering and audacious strokeplay was something to marvel at. A year later, he produced an epic 281 in Kolkata with the team following on, which not only catalysed the competitiveness in the India-Australia rivalry, but also influenced a massive turnaround in Indian cricket. The stylish right-hander played the likes of Warne, McGrath and Gillespie with ridiculous ease, prompting tones of appreciation from teammates and opposition alike.
18 years ago #OnThisDay ,I had the good fortune of playing my part in a memorable Test match victory against Australia at the Eden Gardens. Was a complete team effort, and a test match victory I am very proud to have been a part of. pic.twitter.com/bAg9xUe3oK
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) March 14, 2019
Adam Gilchrist (wk)
Matches: 16, Runs: 633 @25.32, 100s: 2, 50s: 1, HS: 122; Catches: 68, Stumpings: 1
It’s an interesting one. Adam Gilchrist’s worst numbers in Test cricket came against India, where his batting average hovered around the mid-20s, almost half of his career average of 47.60. Six of his 27 innings in the period saw him score in binary digits, yet a man of his stature is almost impossible to look beyond. For most, he’s an automatic choice as a wicketkeeper in an all-time Test XI. His major contributions with the bat were his match-winning hundreds in Mumbai (2001) and Bengaluru (2004), when he demoralised the opposition attack like he did on numerous occasions throughout his career.
Anil Kumble (c)
Matches: 14, Wickets: 74 @33.72, Five-fors: 7, BBI: 8/141, BBM: 13/181
One of the greatest to have graced the game, Kumble was India’s most reliable bowler both home and away for a major part of his career. The only bowler to pick 100-plus wickets in India-Australia contests with as many as seven five-fors, Kumble made it to this team ahead of the great Shane Warne. Aside from his great bowling, Kumble was an inspirational captain for India during a difficult 2007/08 tour and despite a very small sample size, the vastly experienced campaigner was chosen to lead this star-studded line-up.
Matches: 17, Wickets: 93 @29.13, Five-fors: 7, BBI: 8/84, BBM: 15/217
Harbhajan against Australia was one of the most fascinating battles through the 2000s, with the off-spinner being the leading wicket-taker in head-to-head contests in the period. In his comeback series in 2001, the “Turbanator” accounted for 32 dismissals and stunningly, that was 29 clear of India’s next best. 13 wickets in Kolkata, including India’s first-ever Test hat-trick was followed by a match haul of 15-217 in Chennai, still the best-ever match returns this century. His rivalry with Ricky Ponting remained a sub-plot amidst the fascinating contests between the two teams. He was our first-choice spinner in the team, ahead of Warne and his partner in crime Kumble.
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) May 1, 2020
Matches: 10, Wickets: 43 @25.44, Five-fors: 1, BBI: 5/56, BBM: 9/80
Jason Gillespie had great impact against India at the start of the century. He had a knack for picking up wickets at crucial stages of the game throughout his career and it was no different in the Border-Gavaskar Test matches; he dismissed Tendulkar and Dravid on six and five occasions respectively. His best came in the 2004 series, where he was Australia’s leading wicket-taker with 20 scalps at 16.15.
Matches: 8, Wickets: 41 @17.56, Five-fors: 2, BBI: 5/48, BBM: 10/103
To go with the Indian spin duo of Kumble and Harbhajan, the fast bowling department will be led by the unconquerable Glenn McGrath. Arguably the greatest fast bowler of his time, McGrath, despite having played just eight Tests in the period, produced remarkable numbers. His incredible discipline with the new ball handed India a crushing defeat in Sydney in January 2000 and he was still in red hot form when Australia came to India in 2001, before the Kolkata turnaround. In the 2004 series, he was back at his best, delivering match-winning spells alongside Gillespie. His bowling average of 17.56 is still the best among bowlers with a minimum of 20 wickets in the period under consideration.
Wisden’s Border Gavaskar XI of the 21st century
Adam Gilchrist (wk)
Anil Kumble (c)