With the T20 format being such an integral part of the game as of today, one can’t help but wonder how yesteryear stars would have performed in the shortest format of international cricket.
Many of the greatest cricketers – Don Bradman, Gary Sobers, Viv Richards, Richard Hadlee, to name a few – finished their careers way before the T20 format was introduced (in 2005).
These players functioned during eras when the game was very different. But they were all legends and were able to adapt to change very well. Would they have been just as successful in the T20 format?
Even in terms of former Indian players, there were many players who had a natural flamboyance; a flamboyance that would have been a natural fit in the shorter format. These players don’t necessarily have the most stellar records, but their game had that spark which would’ve helped them excel in slam-bang cricket.
Having said that, here’s a look at an all-time Indian T20 XI consisting of players who finished their careers before the introduction of the shortest format (those who played no form of T20 cricket at any level):
Krishnamachari Srikkanth (1981 to 1992)
He only knew one way – see the ball, hit the ball. Srikkanth batted in T20 mode many, many years before the format came in the picture. He simply didn’t worry about keeping the ball on the ground. His aggressiveness at the top of the order provided an edge to his team. The right-hander set many games up for India, including the 1983 World Cup final, and remained true to his style throughout his career.
Kris Srikkanth batting stats
Syed Mushtaq Ali (1934 to 1952)
India’s premier domestic T20 tournament is named after him. And there’s a reason for that. He was one of the first flamboyant cricketers to emerge from India. The tall right-hander was known for his dashing game and he holds the honour of being the first Indian to score a Test century overseas – a brilliant 112 in just 150 minutes against England at Manchester in 1936. Mushtaq Ali played just 11 Tests over a 19-year period, but he made an indelible mark with his style of batting which was way ahead of its time.
Syed Mushtaq Ali batting stats
CK Nayudu (1932 to 1936)
Another batsman from the 1930s with an aggressive streak, Nayudu was known for his powerful strokes which included big, booming drives. The right-hander had made a name for himself when he smashed 153 runs, including 11 sixes and 14 fours, in a club match at Bombay [now Mumbai] in 1926. Nayudu, too, had a short career with the Indian team but he managed to make a significant impact. Apart from his batting, he was also a brilliant fielder and a useful off-spinner.
CK Nayudu batting stats
Vinoo Mankad (1946 to 1959)
One of the greatest all-rounders India has ever produced, Mankad adds immense depth to this XI. Be it with the bat or with his left-arm orthodox spin, Mankad was a key contributor for India in his 15-year international career. As a batsman, he wasn’t the most aggressive, but what would’ve worked for him in T20 cricket was his ability to play cross-batted, unorthodox shots and his willingness to bat anywhere in the order. The fact that he was one of the finest talents in world cricket during his time says he would have adapted well to today’s fast-paced matches.
Vinoo Mankad batting stats
Vinoo Mankad bowling stats
Salim Durani (1960 to 1973)
They called him Prince Salim for a reason. There’s a famous story about Durani which says he would hit a six at the fans’ command. An out-and-out match-winner, the left-hand batsman and left-arm spinner would have been a sure-fire hit in T20 cricket. He could turn the course of a match in a span of a few overs, both with bat and ball. As a batsman he would use his long arms and giant stride to dispatch deliveries of any length. His style of play was particularly refreshing for his time. And with the ball, he used his height to get sharp turn and bounce. The swashbuckling all-rounder was indeed a talent India would’ve cherished in today’s day and age.
Salim Durani batting stats
Salim Durani bowling stats
Kapil Dev (1978 to 1994)
This list would have never been complete without the great Kapil Dev. Inarguably the greatest fast bowling all-rounder India has ever produced, Kapil would have been hot property in the IPL. The captain of the Indian team that won the 1983 World Cup, he leads this XI as well. Kapil’s ability with the ball needs no introduction, and his aggressive batting would have been a handful as well in today’s cricket. One need not look further than the iconic 175 not-out against Zimbabwe in the ‘83 World Cup to gauge Kapil’s ability with the bat.
Kapil Dev batting stats
Kapil Dev bowling stats
Sandeep Patil (1980 to 1986)
Patil faced stiff competition from Ravi Shastri and Sunil Joshi for this spot. But the presence of two other left-arm spinners – Mankad and Durani – in the XI tilted the balance in Patil’s favour. The others in the reckoning for Patil’s place were Navjot Singh Sidhu and Vinod Kambli, two players with great ability to send the ball a long way. But what gives Patil the edge is the fact that he was a T20 player at his core. He was ultra-aggressive – remember the six consecutive fours against Bob Willis – and would never hesitate from attempting a big shot. Also, he can be adjusted down the order in this XI, unlike his competition, and can provide the necessary fireworks towards the end of an innings.
Sandeep Patil batting stats
Mohinder Amarnath (1969 to 1989)
Amarnath just about made it to this XI. The legendary all-rounder wasn’t really an aggressive batsman but his medium-pace bowling adds balance to this side. The right-hander is known for his tough character and the several comebacks he made to the Indian team. He was a superb player against the short ball as well. And of course, who can ever forget his starring role in India’s victorious ‘83 World Cup campaign. An all-rounder with such pedigree is a solid addition to this team.
Mohinder Amarnath batting stats
Mohinder Amarnath bowling stats
Farokh Engineer (1961 to 1975)
Picking the wicketkeeper for this team was a tricky proposition. Syed Kirmani, Kiran More and Nayan Mongia were also in contention. But what gave Engineer the nod was his ingenuity with the bat. He wasn’t the safest ‘keeper India ever had, but his willingness to innovate while batting was truly remarkable. To play 46 Tests and often look to be positive from the start poses a compelling argument in his favour. The fact that he opened the batting a lot in his career adds extra credit to his case.
Farokh Engineer batting and 'keeping stats
BS Chandrasekhar (1964 to 1976)
With two left-arm spinners already included, there’s a case for an off-spinner to be added. But in T20 cricket, the importance of a leggie cannot be undermined. And who better than the great Chandra when it comes to bowling devastating googlies, leg-breaks and top-spinners. Part of India’s famous spin-quartet in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Chandrasekhar was summoned into the attack whenever a breakthrough was needed. With his quick-arm action and incredible guile, he would’ve been a huge success in the shortest format where batsmen are always on the offensive. A mystery bowler for the XI.
BS Chandrasekhar bowling stats
Javagal Srinath (1991 to 2003)
Along with Kapil and Zaheer Khan, he will make it to the top-three greatest Indian fast bowlers for most fans. During the first half of his career, the right-arm quick was known for the pace he generated. His ability to hit the deck hard and hurry batsmen stood out during his time. Later on, he seamlessly added more variety to his bowling. He always had the in-cutter in his arsenal, but he eventually started using the leg-cutter and slower balls to great effect as well. These qualities would have made Srinath a bright prospect in T20 cricket.
Javagal Srinath bowling stats
(All statistics courtesy ESPNcricinfo)