As a noted cricket website made all the news recently by picking an all-time World XI which included dead, alive, retired and ‘never tired, forget retired’ legends of the game- the time seems right for naming one uncanny, unheard, unbelievable Indian XI featuring top 11 underachievers of the game who represented India for some time but more importantly frustrated Indian cricket fans.
I personally liked the choice of the jury that consisted of noted cricket columnists and former players who picked an all-time great XI, but was also disappointed with inclusion of some legends who are resting comfortably in the graveyard and all we present cricket writers know about them is a black and white deteriorated photograph and some heavy numbers what archaeologists tell us are their real stats!
Not only that, if you wish to watch their cricketing days period (Not to be confused with Before Christ era) and search their names on ‘Youtube’, all you get are some newborn freak r
ock singers playing some random tunes on their guitars!
So, I decided to make my own
‘Hopeless XI’ – a personal selection of players in my cricket-watching life (1990 to the present day) - one set where every cricketer is in itself a threat to already decreasing fan base of cricket.
1. Sadagoppan Ramesh
India has produced many stylish batsmen and Ramesh tried to take this art to an un-climbable suicidal height! The only batsman to defy all cricketing logics about footwork and still register two centuries and five half-centuries in his first seven Tests. He also tried his hand at being a movie star and as a host of a comedy show. Sadly for him, he flopped out on all accounts! His career statistics prove the existence of God!
Signature style: Those glorious cover-drives where he looked like a ‘sarkaari hand-pump’ with copyright footwork with his feet individually acting as brand ambassadors for Fevicol!
2. Deep Dasgupta
Coming from Bengal, Dasgupta came from that lucky breed of cricketers who existed between post-Nayan Mongia and pre-Dhoni era.
Drafted to Indian national team as a ‘specialist’ wicket-keeper and solid opening batsman, all Dasgupta managed was to stop the ball from going to byes without actually catching it. It is learnt that top scientists are still figuring out how a player with such extraordinary keeping abilities can actually ‘catch’ 13 players in 13 innings!
Signature style: That lazy elegance behind the stumps where he often used to take power naps and even forget to stand after the ball was delivered. Also, that art of making faces when he used to do grass sitters! Ufff, NSD stuff!
3. Vinod Kambli
Mistaken many-a-times as a West Indian cricketer with fascination of gold and other obvious reasons, the only good thing Vinod Kambli managed to do in his life was to strike friendship with Sachin Tendulkar!
A Test average of close to 55 can raise few eyebrows on his selection in this esteemed eleven- but his nine comebacks in his nine-year ODI career justify his selection. A failure in imitating Tendulkar as a player, the only thing he imitated from Sachin was his style of looking up to God and thanking him on his achievement. The only difference was that Sachin did that when he reached his hundred and Kambli did that when he was successful in opening his account!
Signature style: When he got that high-backlift game going, he looked like Brian Lara but when the ball bounced above his waist, he looked like Javagal Srinath!
4. Sanjay Manjrekar
The man hailed as the next Sunil Gavaskar from India, ended his career only better than that of Rohan Gavaskar! Obsessed with technical perfection, Manjrekar even edged the ball to slips with perfect hand-eye coordination and created just enough space for the ball to get through between his bat and pad!
Signature style: While his slow lazy batting in ODIs acted as a perfect sleeping pill, he- just like Mohinder Amarnath- often bored team-mates with his singing too!
5. Vijay Bharadwaj
The cricketer who told the world about size-zero figure before Kareena Kapoor. He was so thin that spectators needed a telescope to track him on the field! Bharadwaj shot to fame with a dream debut series at Nairobi mini World Cup but just like an old ‘Priya’ scooter, his career abruptly ran out of life!
Signature style: With a physique where his bat appeared heavier than his body weight, he sometimes cracked off-drives which were beyond perfection. Only to be in contrast with his Test career average of 9 runs, which was beyond belief!
6. Joginder Sharma
Joginder Sharma has a few things in common with Kapil Dev. He plays for Haryana, can hit the ball a long distance and has the surprise factor with his nippy medium pace. Alas, all that he does not have is the most required talent!
Joginder will perhaps always be remembered as the bowler who took the last wicket in the final of the inaugural ICC Twenty20 World Cup, but such was his confidence in bowling that last over- he has never been picked for any T-20 International thereafter!
Signature style: That head-scratching run-up and worried look on his face while bowling often confused batsmen of his mental state and forced them to do the unthinkable.
You don’t agree? Ask Misbah-ul-Haq!
7. Ajit Agarkar
One player who deserves to be awarded knighthood before Don Bradman is Ajit Agarkar. Born with matching ears like Lord Ganesha, he was indeed the God of underachievers! Pitted as a match-winner with bat and ball, Agarkar always showed that he has all the ingredients of being a match-winner but never formed a long-lasting mix.
Signature style: Agarkar or as his fans like to call him- ‘Sir Aggy’ used to do his batting with a very high backlift. So high it went at Australian tour of 1999 that before it could come down, Agarkar had seven consecutive ducks!
8. Romesh Powar
Like every overweight person who wants to play cricket, Romesh Powar had two options to pick from- become an outstanding slip fielder and shied himself from running in outfield like VVS Laxman or become a quality spinner! And he chose the second option minus the quality.
Small, dark and handsome (Okay! I cooked the third one), Powar’s off-spin skills were limited to bowling flighted deliveries. Historians believe that his only reason playing International cricket was because cricket had already seen Gatting, Ranatunga, Inzamam and Darren Lehmann!
Signature style: Powar was a tease even before he rolled his arm over: the big Powar waistline, the irritating red Powar sunglasses, the sparkling Powar grin, all conveyed to the opposition batsmen a seriously unserious cricketer!
9. Debasis Mohanty
Debasis Mohanty only knew to swing the ball in overcast favourable conditions; BCCI didn’t know how to pick him only for England tours! Though he stopped making news for his cricket very early in his career, Mohanty grabbed unexpected news headlines when a fan slapped then coach Greg Chappell for ignoring Mohanty for Indian team! And that was the only time I and Sourav Ganguly felt sorry for Greg Chappell.
Signature style: Mohanty belonged to the list of bowlers who made news with their terrible-looking bowling actions (Obviously headed by Paul Adams and Carl Hooper) rather than bowling performance. Mohanty’s bowling action was somewhat similar to revolving fans on a wind mill!
10. Munaf Patel
The best time in Munaf Patel’s career was the time before he got a selection call in the national team. Hailed as ‘Bahruch Express’ for his unseen raw pace, Munaf proved to be just a passenger train!
The rate at which Munaf lost his pace was so extraordinary that CBI had to raid MRF Pace Academy to see if it was being headed by Dennis Lillee and TA Shekhar or Madan Lal and Roger Binny!
Signature style: Munaf Patel had no signature style. He was too lazy to develop one!
11. Venkatapathi Raju
The only person Vijay Bharadwaj could knock-out in a fist fight was this spinner from Hyderabad. Called ‘Muscle’ by his teammates for the lack of it, Raju used his wrists for completely different thing what most Hyderabad cricketers use it for!
Signature style: Raju used to bowl really slow, so slow that batsmen often used to take drinks during his deliveries. A fighter cricketer, he retired only after his bowls stopped even crossing the half-pitch!
The 12th Man: Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar
There is no logic how Sachin Tendulkar can feature in this team, but before readers start badmouthing me, SRT is made 12th man just because many cricket fans just can’t digest the fact that there can be a team without Tendulkar! Ah, we proud Tendulkar fans!
So, there is my XI. No apologies for being rude!
Please nominate your own suggestions for this XI.
(Just in case readers want to know my credentials as a cricket writer, not only I’ve made numerous records on the EA version of the game but I am also the one who can delete you discourteous comments on this post!)
(The views expressed by the author are personal)