An India-Pakistan combined eleven would be like cricket-gasm for most fans, more so in limited overs cricket, with the best batsmen coming from the Indian shores while Pakistan rule the roost with the ball. But who shall open and more importantly who will captain this side full of captains and egos?
Setting: With India and Pakistan taking the field in another World Cup game, this is a Limited-Overs combined XI, and thus only their LOI career is taken into account here.
Arguably the greatest cricketer of the modern era, or even of all time some might say, Sachin Tendulkar has cemented and made the opening spot his own. Not to mention his uncanny knack to pick wickets and break partnerships with the ball, the Master Blaster is a fixture in the side. Too bad the T20 format came into vogue when Sachin was in the twilight of his career.
Now here is where it gets interesting. Saeed Anwar or Sourav Ganguly? Not an easy choice, but we go with the Kolkata born player as he trumps his opposite number in runs, average, centuries but most importantly can have a bowling cameo to break a partnership or send back some of the most settled batsmen(Remember dismissing Sanath for 189?). Also Sourav and Sachin have one of the best rapports and that weighs it heavily in his favour. Sorry Anwar.
The Upper Middle Order
The “next best thing” is the best thing right now and already has more than half the centuries of the great Sachin Tendulkar and is the perfect fit for the most important #3 position in the team. Depending on the situation Kohli can either play in 6th gear or just rotate the strike to keep the runs in flow. At 27, Virat has a good 7-8 years of top level cricket left in him, subject to injury and form. He will only get better and thus even further solidify is place in this side. He can also chip in as a part timer.
Probably the last of the batting legends that Pakistan has produced, Inzamam still remains one of the most pleasing batsmen on the eye when in flow. His ability to anchor the innings along with his smooth gear-changing ability makes him an ideal middle order batsman. His running between the wickets might not help him bat with athletic players like Kohli but if there is one thing that Inzi always gives you it’s cricketing intelligence, which is key for any limited overs format.
The last ball 6 will always define Miandad, something which Indian fans will never be able to forget. Javed is arguably the best batsman Pakistan have ever produced and his technique was as sound as it gets. A fiesty character in the dressing room, he wore the same passion on his sleeve when on the pitch and with him coming in at #5 the team has a bedrock in place.
The Lower Middle Order
The greatest captain of all time? Possibly. Greatest all-rounder of all time? Possibly. So there should be no doubt he makes the side. Imran Khan is an outlier. Sound technique with the bat, quality movement with the ball. Ability to defend if wickets are tumbling around him as well as the ability to smack the ball out of the park. Not to mention his ability to manage huge egos and handle different personalities, and yes this team is full of it(Miandad, Ganguly, Kohli), makes Imran Khan the captain of this side without a second thought.
Having all-rounders in the side is a key in the limited overs format of the game and Kapil Dev is just the ideal one. Explosive with the bat and miserly with the ball, Kapil Dev is the perfect foil for the lower middle order to hinge on. Not to mention there is no competition for the spot either. Only issue the greatest Indian fast bowler ever might face in the team is that he would not get to bowl the opening spell. But him and Imran bowling in tandem as first change would be what cricketing fantasies are made of.
Just when you thought the batting could not get any deeper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni comes out of the hat. Arguably the second best finisher in One-Day cricket, Dhoni could move higher up the batting order depending on the situation. The Ranchi boy will unfortunately not get the captain the side with Imran in the side.
The Specialist Bowlers
Presenting to you the first half of the Sultans of swing, Wasim Akram is arguably the best swing bowler to have ever played cricket. Also funnily he’s one of the very few top bracket bowlers who have more wickets in ODIs than in test matches. Not to mention, in case of a batting collapse he can come in handy with the bat as well. Not bad for a player coming in at #9.
Indian fans might be disappointed but Saqlain at his peak was the best spinner in limited overs cricket, by a margin something no Indian bowler has managed, maybe except Ashwin now. Saqlain who was the first off-spinner to master the art of “the other one”, has all the variations that will come in handy no matter what conditions the match is played in. Not that the team lacks any, but Saqlain can bowl expertly at the death.
The other W, the other sultan of swing, Waqar ticks all the boxes and needs no introduction. A champion bowler, Waqar is the man to go to when the ball starts to reverse. With his deadly accuracy with yorkers, Waqar can bowl at the death and wrap up the batting of even the most formidable sides. Of course he will open the bowling with Wasim bhai.
1. Saeed Anwar: Misses the opening spot to Ganguly. Opens the special mentions list at least.
2. Md Azharuddin: The best wrists in the game possibly, if not for his off the field miscues, Azhar would definitely be more celebrated. 9378 runs, mostly in a struggling India side of the 90s. Commendable.
3. Shahid Afridi: The fastest century record that lasted a decade and more, Lala bhai is the quintessential limited overs cricketer. Evolved just as the game did. Not to mention his T20 exploits are as good as any out there.
4. Yuvraj Singh: Winning 2 of India’s 3 World Cups almost on his own. Destructive with the bat, damaging with ball in hand and most importantly a big game player.
5. Saeed Ajmal: Here’s a stat about Ajmal, he has a bowling average of 22 and 17 in ODIs and T20Is with an economy rate of 4.18 and 6.36 respectively. Those numbers in today’s batsmen dominated game cannot be overstated. Sorry Kumble and Bhajji fans.