London: Six Indians cricketers — including Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni — figure in The Guardian newspaper’s ‘World Test XI of the Year’ which interestingly does not include a single Australian.
Former England all-rounder Vic Marks prepared the list which came out in Sunday’s edition of the daily where Marks is a writer.
Apart from Tendulkar and Dhoni, the other Indians in Marks’ team were opener Virender Sehwag, pace partners Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma with Harbhajan Singh as the only spinner.
“This is brilliant; we do not really know which is the best team in the world. For a decade, it has been Australia and there has been nothing to argue about.
“Now there are three contenders as India and South Africa challenge Australia’s supremacy,” said Marks.
“Pick the best XI from these four sides (apologies to Sri Lanka, Pakistan, West Indies and New Zealand for being so exclusive) and it is possible, without too much mischief, not to select a single Australian. This may be an indication of the way things are going,” he added.
Marks picked South African captain Graeme Smith as the skipper of his World XI and the other opener alongside Sehwag.
“He (Smith) is the best ugly batsman in the world,” quipped the former Somerset player.
“Seeking romance and adventure, the choice has to be Virender Sehwag. But, even if pragmatism rules the day, the alternative is another Indian, Gautam Gambhir, who — while not especially pleasing on the eye — is fiercely combative and oozing runs in 2008,” he said.
Ponting misses out
Marks said he gave Australian skipper Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey’s names a thought for the middle-order but ultimately decided to select England captain Kevin Pietersen, Tendulkar and South African AB de Villiers on the basis of their current form.
“Of course, there is a case for Ricky Ponting at three if we take into account his entire career. But he has failed too often recently and is no longer playing his cricket with a smile,” he explained.
“So the middle order comprises Pietersen, Tendulkar and de Villiers. All three have hit brilliant centuries during the past fortnight, so they are in form.
“It was odd that, after 156 Tests, there were still some Indians who questioned whether Tendulkar was capable of playing the ‘match-winning’ innings. “In Chennai, he willed himself to the hundred and the victory that a wounded country demanded. In some ways, it was a humble innings as Tendulkar declined to play extravagant strokes in case they jeopardised his goal,” Marks said.
The all-rounder’s place went to Andrew Flintoff despite his recent lean patch.
“Andrew Flintoff may seem an Anglo-centric selection, but watching him bowl on the energy-sapping pitches of India clinched his place, even though we have to question his ability to score enough runs for our number six.”
For the wicket-keeper it was a toss-up between Dhoni and his South African counterpart Mark Boucher but Dhoni got Marks’ vote for his energy.
“Dhoni made his name as a long-haired flayer of all types of bowling, who quickly became a folk hero in India. Now he has a sober haircut and, as captain, is the ultimate pragmatist, prepared to revert to all-out defence if necessary. Already, his record in charge is mighty impressive: played five, won four, drawn one,” he said.
“Harbhajan Singh gets the spinning slot in a weak field. In the real World XI, Sri Lanka provides the spin. A year ago, Monty Panesar might have been considered — now he is fretting about his England place.”
The pace attack is all-Indian with Zaheer and Ishant and Marks said the duo is simply unmatched right now.
“The first-choice pacemen are India’s two opening bowlers. Zaheer Khan’s mastery of swinging the old ball, especially from around the wicket, cannot be matched by anyone in world cricket,” he pointed out.
“So there are six Indians, three South Africans and two Englishmen, which may not accurately reflect the status quo, but does suggest where the momentum lies. “Whatever the ICC table says, there is an argument that India are already the best team, especially in their own conditions.”
Vic Marks’ select XI: Graeme Smith (capt.), Virender Sehwag, Kevin Pietersen, Sachin Tendulkar, A.B. de Villiers, Andrew Flintoff, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Dale Steyn. — PTI