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Over the years, the Indian team has produced quite a few legends of the game. That’s why short listing Top 5 is a daunting task, but we have given our best, really. In no particular order, here is our Top 5 in Indian Cricket…
With close to 35,000 international runs, Sachin Tendulkar, who debuted at a tender age of 16, went on to become one of the greatest batsmen of all time. Tendulkar’s talents were spotted at an early stage and were thrown in the deep end of international cricket, debuting against Pakistan in Karachi in 1989. Sachin slowly went from strength to strength and in the 90s established himself as the best batsman in the world. His 143 and 134 against a strong Australian batting unit in 1998, fondly remembered as ‘desert storm’, were two of his finest innings in ODIs, while his unbeaten 241 against the Aussies Down Under in 2003-04 is rated quite highly as he curbed himself from playing the cover drive throughout the innings – a shot which led to his downfall more often than not in the series.
However, his best moment came when he played a crucial part in India’s World Cup triumph on home soil in 2011 and that too in his home ground at Wankhede, Mumbai. In fact, no cricketer has more runs (2,278) and more centuries (6) than Tendulkar at the mega event. Overall, Tendulkar has scored 15,921 Test runs and 18,426 ODI runs, which is the most. He was also the first ever player to score a double hundred in ODIs, which came against South Africa in 2010. His last game for India was his 200th Test, which brought curtains to an illustrious 24-year international career. Tendulkar has been an inspiration for many cricketers and his legacy will forever be etched in the annals of the game.
Interestingly, while there were hardly any achievements Tendulkar missed out on with the bat, good results as a captain eluded his cricket record. He was just 23 when he was given the captaincy and they say that one of the major reasons for his failure as a captain was lack of good players back then in the Indian team. It was the time when Indian cricket was all about Tendulkar’s form. He was given the credit if India won, while the 10 players were blamed if the result was a loss. He kickstarted his captaincy tenure in 1996 on a winning note by defeating Australia and Proteas at home but the rough period began when India toured South Africa and suffered a thrashing.
Tendulkar had two spells as Indian captain before he finally stepped down in a home series against South Africa. Having captained in 73 ODIs, he won 23 and lost 43. On the other hand, out of 25 Tests he captained, he managed to win only four, loss 9 and drew 12.
When the senior players refused to participate in the 2007 T20 World Cup, saying the platform was for youngsters, the Indian cricket board chalked out a young team. They made Dhoni the captain of the side that went to South Africa for the inaugural ICC tournament. Who knew, a gamble would turn out to be the best move ever by the Indian selectors. Dhoni’s India lifted the T20 World Cup and there began the very special ‘Dhoni era’.
He was soon handed the ODI captaincy as well. Dhoni’s calmness and brilliant tactical brains earned him massive success especially in the shorter formats.
India reached heights even in Test cricket when Dhoni was in charge. Under his leadership, India won a series against England at home (2008) and they clinched an away series win against New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Throughout his first five years as a Test player, India had lost only two away series and that helped India reach the peak of the ICC Team rankings. His best moment came when he played a captain’s knock in the final of Cricket World Cup 2011 as India lifted the coveted trophy after 28 long years. Dhoni still remains the only captain to have won all the ICC trophies – Cricket World Cup, Champions Trophy and T20 World Cup.
However, soon after the memorable World Cup win, Dhoni’s India touched rock bottom in Test cricket. They suffered back to back series losses in Australia and England, which meant a defeat in eight consecutive Tests. While Dhoni never managed to pull the Test side up from there on, he still continued to lead fantastically in the ODIs. The Cricket World Cup in 2015 showed why he was such a terrific captain in the white-ball game. Having failed to win a single game in the Tests in Australia and even the tri-series prior to the ICC tournament, the Indian team had a tremendous run in the world Cup. They won all their league games and even the quarters, only to fall short against Australia, the eventual champion.
Dhoni retired from Tests in 2014 and gave up limited-overs captaincy in 2017. By then, he had groomed Kohli well to take over the baton.
Many cricketers come in with the hype of being the next big thing, but don’t live up to it. However, Virat Kohli has lived up to every bit of his potential and is on course to breaking every single record. It has not all been easy for the Delhi boy, who lost his father while he was playing for his state in a Ranji Trophy game. A teenage Kohli felt his team needed him at that point and instead attending his father’s funeral, stuck around to help Delhi draw the game. He never looked back from there. He went on to lead India to the Under-19 World Cup title in 2008 and the same year made his international debut for India under MS Dhoni’s leadership.
Despite his initial failures, Dhoni backed him and under his guidance became a force to be reckoned with. Be it his 183 against Pakistan in Asia Cup 2012 or his twin hundreds at Adelaide in 2014-15, his appetite to score runs never stopped. He took over as captain from Dhoni – first in Tests in 2015 and then couple of years later in ODIs. As captain, Kohli has led India to new heights in all three formats. He guided them to the final of the 2017 ICC Champions trophy and the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup.
In Tests, India have dominated especially at home and are the top ranked team in the format, while in the 50-over format, they lie second to England. Winning overseas is something India have not done on a consistent basis. In 2015, Kohli-led India to their first Test series win in Sri Lanka since 1996. He also recently became the first India captain to win a Test series in Australia – a year which saw him win a Test in South Africa and England a well. As a result, Kohli is now India’s most successful Test captain. He is also the fastest to 10,000 ODI runs and with 43 hundreds in the format, he is on course to going past Tendulkar’s 49 tons, which is perhaps one of many records he will go on to break as his career progresses.
Kohli became India’s full-time Test captain in 2015 before taking over the limited-overs charge as well two years later. He has been a true leader as the pressure of the responsibility has not gotten the better of him. In fact, his performances across formats have only bettered ever since he took over the charge. In a short period of time, Kohli has broken and made several records as India’s skipper. In what turned out to be a very special moment when he became the first Indian captain to win a Test series in Australia when India defeated the hosts 2-1 in the 2018-19 series.
If not the best in the world, Kapil Dev still remains the greatest all-rounder to have played for the Indian cricket team. It’s almost three decades since his retirement and Team India has not found a suitable replacement of him in the Indian. Several promising all-rounders cropped up in the team, such as Yuvraj Singh and Irfan Khan but none of them have managed to match the level of Dev. Even though there have been players such as Tendulkar and Gavaskar who’ve been considered synonymous to Indian cricket for their batting records, Dev will always hold a special place in the history of Indian cricket that is irreplaceable.
He led an underdog Indian side to becoming the powerhouse of international cricket when they defeated the superior West Indians in the final of the 1983 World Cup. He changed the image of Indian cricket. Before him, no batsman across the globe took the Indian bowlers seriously. Dev became the first Indian pacer to earn genuine respect from his opponents. He was a rare bowler back then who could swing both ways and if needed could also throw down ‘body-blows’.
Not just with the ball, Dev was talented enough with the bat as well. His level of batting was in par with big names such as Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, Ian Botham. Many pundits say that had Dev belonged to a different era, which would be without Khan, Hadlee and Botham, the former Indian skipper could be adjudged the greatest all-rounder of his time. His 175 not out against Zimbabwe in a Group B match in the 1983 World Cup is regarded by many as the best ODI innings of all-time and interestingly, that innings made Dev India’s maiden ODI centurion. Dev hung his boots in 1994 and went on to clinch the Indian cricketer of the century award in 2002. One of his stints, post retirement, included coaching the Indian cricket team. Sadly, that ended on a bad note when he was one of the cricketers named by Manoj Prabhakar in the notorious match fixing scandal.
Sunil Gavaskar made the world take notice of him when he scored 774 runs from four Tests at a staggering of 154.80 with four centuries and three fifties against the mighty West Indies. From there he forged one of the best in the world of cricket. His approach was solely built upon his disciplined technique and enormous amount of concentration. He had equal dominance on both front and back foot, while he had mastered the art of judging the line and length before going for a shot. He literally made the bowlers earn for his wicket. The fact that he belongs to the era of cricket where there were deadly fast bowlers with no modern-day helmets for protection makes him standout in the list of the greatest Indian batsmen.
Gavaskar made and broke several records in Test cricket during his career that spanned across 16 years. He was the first cricketer to reach the milestone of 10K runs and 30 centuries in Test cricket. Of his tally of 34 Test centuries, highest at the time, 13 came against the West Indies, a side that boosted one of the best fast bowling line-ups ever. He was the first person to score centuries in both innings of a Test match three times. While he made a special place for himself in the longest format of the game, he failed to replicate the same dominance in white-ball cricket. He even tried captaincy at different intervals of his career but never tasted much success. He eventually ended his career with 10,122 Test runs at an average of 51.12. Post-retirement he has served as an ICC Match Referee, BCCI President, chairman of ICC Cricket Committee, commentator and analyst. He still remains one of the most reliable and renowned voices in the game.
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