Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin revealed his dram All-time XI featuring several stalwarts of the game. A flamboyant sportsman himself, Azhar’s picks mostly included contemporary cricketers of his playing days.
To open the batting, Azhar banked on India’s most successful opening pair in ODIs, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. The Ganguly–Tendulkar era back in the day ensured that the team gets off to a steady start and does not succumb to a batting collapse upfront. The duo aggregated over 8227 runs in 176 innings in ODIs whenever they batted together and 6609 runs of it came when the two opened the batting. Azhar heaped praises on both the cricketer’s remarkable feats in their illustrious careers and especially lauded their exquisite strokeplay.
“Tendulkar is one of the finest players, and I have played a lot of cricket with him, and I think his straight drive is to die for. Ganguly’s cover drives and square-cut have a lot of elegance,”Azhar on Tendulkar-Ganguly’s brilliance as batters
“It was outstanding to watch” Azhar on Waugh’s effortless batting
Caribbean legend Brian Lara bats at No.3 in Azhar’s all-time XI. Lara alongside Tendulkar were unanimously hailed as the best batters of their generation by the cricket fraternity. A prolific run-scorer, the swashbuckling southpaw had the ability to smash from ball 1, no matter who the bowler might be. Interestingly, Mark Waugh finds a spot at No. 4 and as per Azharuddin, the Aussie’s simplified approach towards batting made him stand apart from his contemporaries.
“Lara is a no-defense player, and if the ball is right there to hit, he strikes it from the first one itself. I remember against the Sri Lanka spinners, he scored around 500 runs in three matches. My favourite player is Mark Waugh, due to the way he played and made batting look easy. It was outstanding to watch, even when I was on the field,”
Back in 1984, when Azharuddin made his international debut, David Gower was the captain of the opposition side, England. Another classy southpaw often described as one of the most stylish batters of his era, Gower made batting look exciting. Azhar also regretted that he could never share the dressing room with Gundappa Viswanath.
“When I made my debut, Gower was the captain of England, and he was an outstanding player. No one can compare GR Vishwanath, my only regret is to not play Test cricket with him. He has won so many games for India, and I have huge respect for him,”
Dev-Khan-Botham lead the pace attack
59-year-old Azharuddin picked three of the greatest all-rounders of the game to spearhead the bowling attack. He considered India’s 1st World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev alongside Imran Khan to be true champions of swing bowling. He also described Sir Ian Botham as a “total entertainer”. An unsung hero of India’s 1983 World Cup-winning squad, Syed Kirmani got picked by Azhar as the team’s wicket-keeper. Australian spin wizard Shane Warne is the only spinner in the team. Azharuddin chose another fellow veteran cricketer from Hyderabad as the 12th man of the side.
“They are the finest players and are great exponents of swing bowling. Both had amazing fitness, and Kapil Paji was outstandingly fit till his last game and used to compete with us. Kapil Paji was one of the best all-rounders, and I learned a lot from him. Ian Botham was a total entertainer,”
Azharuddin’s graceful and elegant XI: Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Brian Lara, Mark Waugh, David Gower, GR Vishwanath, Syed Kirmani (wk), Ian Botham, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Shane Warne, VVS Laxman (12th man)