1. Anil Kumble
Why: Because you cannot take winning at home for granted.
Kumble’s greatest curse was that we took him for granted. Always. India wins at home. We have spinning tracks. We will win no matter who comes and who plays. It’s not as easy as that. We still have to go and take 20 wickets every match. If you sit and count the number of Test matches each player has won for his country, then Kumble would have a lion’s share. A victory is a victory no matter where it comes from. And for the record, before he retired, he improved his performance on foreign soil too. Then there’s also his record 10-wicket haul in an innings.
2. Rahul Dravid
Why: Because he was always there in India’s most critical moments.
Kolkata 2001. Leeds 2002. Adelaide 2003. Rawalpindi 2004. Kingston 2006. Perth 2008.
Some of India’s finest victories and Dravid made his contribution in all of them. Ask anyone to make a list of their greatest victories and chances are Dravid will feature heavily in most of them. To keep veering your team to historic wins is a sign of true greatness.
3. Sourav Ganguly
Why: Because he changed the way India played.
Aggression. Professionalism. Self-belief. Faith. These are not just words. They have the power to turn ordinary teams into great ones. And this came just on the heels of the match-fixing scandal and the mediocrity that the Indian team was wallowing in. Had Ganguly not let his guard down and relaxed during the latter part of his tenure, he would have played many more matches and plotted many more victories.
4. Virendra Sehwag
Why: Because he changed the way the game is played.
How many Test cricket openers play as if they are in an ODI match? Sehwag has a phenomenal strike rate of 80%. To put that in perspective, big hitter Test openers Chris Gayle and Mathew Hayden both stand at around 60%. (Kapil Dev and Adam Gilchrist usually used to come down the order.) I remember in school it used to be a rare sight when India’s Test run rate would cross 3 runs per over. Recently, we almost touched 6 on the opening day. Sehwag has single-handedly changed the way India plays Test matches. He can still be the first man to hit 3 Test Triples. And for the record, he rocks in ODIs and T20s too.
5. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Why: Victory. Victory. Victory.
A T20 World Cup. More than half a dozen bilateral ODI series victories. A world record of being undefeated in his first 10 Tests. World No. 1 in Tests. World No. 1 in ODIs. Dhoni has already boldy gone where no India captain has gone before and he’s just started. For detractors who say a captain is only as good as his team, the nucleus of the team was playing cricket for 5-10 years even before Dhoni made his debut. What changed now? The answer is Dhoni. Victories beat records any day and Dhoni so far has proved to be a Victory Magnet. A point also missed is that he has also been the No. 1 ODI batsman for a record number of weeks now.
© Sunil Rajguru