India will play England in the first test of the Pataudi trophy at the historic venue of Lord’s on July 21, 2011. India is the top ranked team in tests right now and England are ranked 3rd. But when I say, that this is the 2000th test ever and 100th between the two teams the interest really creeps in. Add to that, one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is on 99 test hundreds [!]. Now, anyone would really be making sure that the date is set!
No wonder why the media is hyping the issue already. Even before India played the West Indies or when England was playing Sri Lanka, who are number 4 in the world, the talk was about this upcoming series.
Some say it’s the most anticipated series in England after 2005. Others say the best touring side since 2005. 5 batsmen and 5 bowlers from either teams figure in the top10. India is looking on to continue their reign at the top. England is looking to topple them with all their planning and vision for the future. Many former English players including Botham and Gough have said that England is unofficially the best team currently. No wonder it’s highly anticipated.
I am getting goose bumps as early as now thinking about the battle between Anderson and Tremlett vs Tendulkar. Dravid has already said Swann will be the key factor. I thought of selecting a Best XI among the players from both the teams. It is really straight forward when you see that there are 5 batsmen and 5 bowlers who are in the top 10 from both the teams! But a small analysis would be good.
All four are brilliant batsmen and except maybe Strauss, are in form at the moment. Cook is statistically the best pick while Sehwag can be discounted at the oppositions peril! Gambhir hasn’t played a test in England, but his form has been superb for the last couple of years. Strauss had a very good world cup and he has led England very well. But Cook is in better form and Sehwag is a match winner. Given to me I would not pick both Cook and Strauss at the top. After a lot of thought, I am going with Cook and Sehwag for the opening slot. Two contrasting batsmen, but no doubt, mightily effective. I am going for Sehwag since he can change a game within minutes.
There are 3 batsmen from either team in the top 10. But 5 out of them can be in top 10 anytime. This is really a tough pick. I think Tendulkar has to be an automatic choice. Now at number 3 and 5 it’s a choice between Laxman, Dravid, Peitersen, Trott and Bell.
All are equipped to bat at both positions. Considering current form, I would go with Trott at number 3 and Peitersen at number 5. Laxman has not scored a 100 in England. But he does average 44 and if you consider Laxman’s performance in England, Bell against India has been terrible in Tests.
Peitersens form has not been good. But he has the capability to turn a match and will score big in at least 1 test of a 4 match series. His aggressive style just gets him in. For the remaining spot, we have Dravid, Laxman, Bell, Morgan, Raina and Yuvraj. I wouldn’t even consider last 2. For me it’s a choice between Laxman and Bell. Dravid has been very tentative for me, these days. Considering his ability to bat with the tail, I would go with laxman at 6.
It’s a straight choice between Dhoni and Prior. Considering all round capabilities I would make Mahendra Singh Dhoni captain. Prior has been in good form with the bat and Dhoni has not scored enough. But Dhoni has got some runs under his belt in the last test in the West Indies and his captaincy skills take him in. Especially when there is only Cook as contender for the captaincy slot.
Lack of genuine all-rounders in either side is the reason why I have gone for a 6th batsman. So the last 4 remaining spots will be bowlers and we have a big list for consideration. But I guess based on ability the venue and current form, Zaheer and Anderson go right in. Now Harbhajan vs Swann! Based on current form, Swann is the pick. Harbhajan has been too defensive and monotonous for at least last 2 years. At the same time, Swann has been as attacking as any spinner and also has contained batsmen.
Some dumb rightly said, that best form of stopping runs is to take wickets! But Harbhajan may be saying that team tactics are keeping him from attacking. But I am not buying that. Let this series decide who is better. For now I go with Swann. Last remaining spot goes to Tremlett for the form he showed against Sri Lanka. Many may argue that Ishant is better. But his lack of consistency is what causes concern. Sreesanth can be at times brilliant, but woefully erratic at times. Finn also lacks consistency and I have not seen much of Bresnan in tests except a one off in Australia. 12th man will be Ian Bell as he would be fielding.
So this is my final team.
6. VVS Laxman
7. MS. Dhoni
8. Graeme Swann
10. Zaheer Khan
11. James Anderson
12. Ian Bell
Your own X1s are welcome.