This post is my extended response to a tweet from Tanmay:
What would be your All Time Asian Test XI?
🇮🇳 • 🇵🇰 • 🇱🇰 • 🇧🇩
— TANMAY 🤡 (@spear_93) April 13, 2023
I gave a brief twitter friendly answer yesterday, and I am now using this post to expand my thoughts and look at the architecture of an all time XI.
I have taken Tanmay’s question as referring specifically to players who played for Asian nations as opposed to players of Asian heritage who played for other nations. I also decided that for the purposes of this post only players with genuinely weighty test records should be considered – there have been players who have been brilliant at lower levels and struggled at the summit, and there have been players who have made incredible starts at test level and then fizzled out (look up Narendra Hirwani in the context of this specific post). I also require that any XI I name be well balanced and obviously capable of functioning as a unit, so I try to select varied players.
BUILDING OUR XI
We start with the openers. Here there is one candidate who overshadows all others, Sunil Gavaskar with over 10,000 test runs at an average above 50. Gavaskar’s partner should ideally pose a contrast, so I want a more attacking player, and preferably a left handed one. For me the person who fits the bill best in terms of Asian test players is Saeed Anwar of Pakistan.
The number three slot is non-negotiable in my opinion – Rahul Sharad Dravid with 13,288 test runs at an average of 53 is a lock for this slot
There would be more candidates for the number four slot but for the presence of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar who preferred this slot in test matches.
At number five I want a left hander given that numbers three and four are right handers, and again there is one commanding candidate: Kumar Sangakkara, the second most prolific of all test match left handers behind Alastair Cook, and with a better batting average than the former England opener.
At number six I want an all rounder, and there is once again a clear cut candidate, who also happens to have been an outstanding captain, Imran Khan.
A wicket keeper who can make major contributions with the bat is a major asset to any side, and Mushfiqur Rahim, a fine keeper and one of the most consistent test batters Bangladesh has yet produced fits the bill nicely.
A number eight should be primarily a bowler, but ideally you want them to be reasonably capable with the bat as well, and Wasim Akram, one of the greatest of all left arm fast bowlers and possessor of a test match double century to boot would seem the ideal candidate.
Numbers 9, 10 and 11 are bowling slots, and we want at least one more fast bowler and at least one spinner. Waqar Younis of Pakistan and Muthiah Muralidaran of Sri Lanka answer these descriptions – the former a genuinely great right arm fast bowler and regular bowling partner of Wasim Akram as well and the latter an off spinner and holder of the record for career test scalps – 800 in 133 matches. For the number nine slot my preference is for a second spinner and one who does something different to Murali, and I opt for leg spinner Anil Kumble, fourth in the list of all time test wicket takers and a big contrast to Murali.
Thus we have constructed our XI and in batting order it reads:
This gives us a very powerful top five, one of the greatest of all all rounders, a quality keeper who is also a very good bat and four top line bowlers of great quality and variety. The bowling with three fast bowlers, one of whom bowls left arm for extra variation and two of the greatest spinners ever to play has both depth and variety as well. I hesitate to say that this side could beat an ROW all time XI because the latter, something like: JB Hobbs, H Sutcliffe (the best ever test match opening pair), *DG Bradman, SPD Smith, G St A Sobers, AW Greig, +AC Gilchrist, AK Davidson, MD Marshall, SK Warne, GD McGrath has arguably even stronger batting and definitely greater depth and variety in the bowling – between Sobers and Davidson any type of delivery that a left arm bowler can produce is covered, while Marshall, McGrath, Warne and Greig do likewise for right arm bowlers, but this Asian XI would be able to give even such formidable opposition as this a genuine contest.
In an exercise of this nature many legendary cricketers are bound to miss out and probably no two people would pick the same XI. I would not argue against the likes of Virat Kohli, Javed Miandad or any of a fistful of left arm spinners: three all rounders, ‘Vinoo’ Mankad, Ravindra Jadeja and Shakib al Hasan and at least two specialists in the craft, Bishan Singh Bedi and Rangana Herath would all have their advocates, merely in favour of my own choices. Two contemporary greats who I decided did not yet have the weight of achievement at test level to merit selection but who I may well include should I revisit this in a few years were Rishabh Pant (who may very well displace Mushfiqur Rahim) and Rashid Khan (who faces an even more formidable obstacle in the form of Kumble).
Just before my usual sign off I have a petition to share: The Academy in Brixton is in danger and there is a petition on change.org to save it. I grew up in southwest London, close enough to Brixton that when I temped there for a period in 1997 I walked to and from work. Finally we come to the photographs…