Rahul Dravid, the main attraction as we look at the 21st century best playing 11 for Team India for the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final vs NZ.
The ICC World Test Championship or World Cup for Test Cricket is by far the boldest step taken by ICC to preserve the longest format of the game. Surprisingly, it took the ICC more than 100 years to realise this idea. But thanks to the rise of T20 Cricket over the years, the idea finally came to life in 2019.
For Team India, the championship refers to a historical moment in their Test cricket journey. They not only topped the points table beating all the teams, but they would also be playing the final of the ICC World Test Championship vs NZ at the home of Cricket, Lord’s in England.
But, is this the most competent Indian team to be playing the World Test Championship final? Well, the simple answer is No. Team India have had so many legendary players whom the current team would have loved to include in the playing 11 in place of a few players.
So, in this article, we take a look at Team India’s history for the 21st century (01-Jan-2000 to Present), and select those players who would have formed a classic best playing 11 to play the World Test Championship (WTC) final vs NZ. Important to note that this is a fantasy idea, and only highlights the best possible 11 if played together in a parallel world.
Stats Wizard Methodology:
As usual, we have removed any biases or perception while selecting the players. Overall, the players with the best performance in their respective position are preferred in the playing 11. Also, the team is selected by having 2 openers, 3-4 middle-order batsman, 1 wicket-keeper, at least 1 spinner and at least 3 Pacers.
Top-order: Rohit Sharma, Virender Sehwag & Rahul Dravid
Since the start of the 21st century and until today, Team India tried as many as 28 openers in their Test squad. But among the 28 openers, the ones that made the best impression include Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, and Rohit Sharma.
But, the two that impressed the most are Virender Sehwag and Rohit Sharma. While Sehwag is the leading run-scorer among all openers with 8124 runs at an average of 50.1. Rohit has the best average among all Indian openers, 64.4, and has around 1030 runs to his name. The two would make for an impressive batting pair for the WTC final vs NZ.
The number 3 position sees a fight between the former wall and the current wall, Rahul Dravid and Cheteshwar Pujara. While Pujara has 6244 runs from 142 innings at an average of 46, Rahul Dravid is the leading run-scorer for Team India for the 21st century with 10567 runs from 226 innings at an average of 53.4.
While Pujara is good, Dravid is hands down the best batsman in the 21st century for India. However, there is no denying the immense contribution Pujara has done for India, and it’s unfortunate that he had to miss out because the competitor was way better than him. But with an option of Pujara as an opener with Sehwag and Dravid at 3, this combination can also be tried.
Middle-order: Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli & VVS Laxman
The competition in the middle-order isn’t much intense with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, MS Dhoni, and Ajinkya Rahane competing for the spot. While Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli are obvious choices for the number 4 and Number 5, given the England conditions, an extra batter in the form of Laxman would add a lot of value.
From the numbers point of view, Sachin Tendulkar is the 2nd-highest run-scorer for Team India in the 21st century with 10080 runs from 214 innings at an average of 52.2. Virat Kohli has 7490 runs from 153 innings at an average of 52.4. Whereas VVS Laxman has 8155 runs from 197 innings at an average of 49.4. From the centuries standpoint, Dravid has 30, Tendulkar has 29, Kohli has 27, and Laxman has 17.
Meanwhile, Rahane, Dhoni, and Ganguly; three have similar stats in Tests batting in the middle-order. While Rahane has 4583 runs from 123 innings at 41.3, Dhoni has 4876 from 144 innings at 38.1, Ganguly has 4780 from 135 innings at 39.2. While all 3 have decent stats, they aren’t good enough to beat Laxman, Sachin, or Kohli.
Wicket-keeper: Rishabh Pant
For the wicket-keeper, the choice was between MS Dhoni, Rishabh Pant, and W Saha. To be honest, this was the most difficult choice to make as Dhoni and Saha make for superb wicket-keeping options with decent batting stats. But when it comes to batting performance outside India with a decent WK option, Pant beats them comfortably. Hence, Pant vs NZ would add more value than the other 2.
Bowlers: Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami & Jasprit Bumrah
This is an area where there could be a lot of debate. There are so many good options, but unfortunately, we have only 4 bowlers to choose from with 1 spinner and 3 Pacers. The players competing for these 4 spots are Ravichandran Ashwin, Anil Kumble, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, and Harbhajan Singh.
Taking about the spinner spot, we have 4 contenders for this position, viz., Ashwin, Kumble, Bhajji, and Jadeja. While all 4 have been good with Ashwin, Kumble, and Bhajii being the top 3 wicket-takers, the best of all has been Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ashwin is the leading wicket-taker for Team India for the 21st century with 409 wickets from 149 innings at an average of 25.7; the best among all 4 spinners. Moreover, Ashwin’s strike rate of 52.6 and thirty 5-wicket haul has also the best among all 4 spinners.
Coming to the pending 3 Pacers, two pacers select for themselves, and those are Zaheer Khan and Jasprit Bumrah. While Zaheer is the leading wicket-taker pacer for India in the 21st century with 311 wickets, Bumrah has been the most impressive pacer with a stunning bowling average and strike rate. Overall, Bumrah has taken 83 wickets from 37 innings at an average of 22 and a strike rate of 49.
The final pacer sees a tough fight between Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami. To be honest, there is not much to differentiate between them when it comes to performance. While Ishant has 303 wickets at an average of 32.3, Shami has 180 wickets at an average of 27.6. But I went with Mohammed Shami, simply because he is a more attacking bowler with a better avg, and also strikes well at 50 as compared to Ishant’s 61.
The 21st Century Best Playing 11 for Team India for ICC WTC Final vs NZ:
Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli (C), VVS Laxman, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami & Jasprit Bumrah.
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