Top row, from left: Gary Kirsten, Simon Katich, Virat Kohli, Jacques Kallis, Rohan Kanhai (c), Alvin Kallicharran Bottom row, from left: Kapil Dev, Alan Knott (wk), Anil Kumble, Michael Kasprowicz, Lindsay Kline © Getty Images
Top row, from left: Gary Kirsten, Simon Katich, Virat Kohli, Jacques Kallis, Rohan Kanhai (c), Alvin Kallicharran
Bottom row, from left: Kapil Dev, Alan Knott (wk), Anil Kumble, Michael Kasprowicz, Lindsay Kline © Getty Images

Alphabetical All Time XIs are great fun. Composing one from the cricketers with their last names starting with K, Arunabha Sengupta finds plenty of quality all-rounders and wicketkeepers to choose from. And yes, Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble do need to play together.

The first thing one notices when one comes to the K contingent is class and capability in certain departments.

The batting comes out strong and sparkling, even though the pool is not that deep to choose from. The bowling turns out to be adequate rather than extraordinary as in some of the other alphabetical sides.

However, there are quite a few quality all-rounders and even more superb wicketkeepers to choose from.

Of course, there is Jacques Kallis, who can walk into this side, and most of the others, as a batsman as well as an all-rounder. There is also Kapil Dev, with his incredible 5,248 runs and 434 wickets.

Two others who come close without being selected are the Australian Charles Kelleway, a superb all-rounder on either side of the First World War; and Lance Klusener, who for at least a part of his career strode along with the best in business.

If the isolation years had not robbed his main cricketing years and limited his Test career to one solitary appearance, Adrian Kuiper would perhaps have made it at least into the list of probables.

When we move along to take a look at the available wicketkeepers, the spread is as sparkling. It starts with the excellent Australian ‘keeper during the turn of last century, JJ Kelly, traverses the Indian corner of Syed Kirmani and Budhi Kunderan, showcases the English genius in Alan Knott and goes on to the Sri Lankan pocketbook stumper in the form of Rumesh Kaluwitharana.

However, when we choose the batsmen and the bowlers the task is much simpler. There are commendable performers who make it to the team easily enough, but not a large pool that leads to endless deliberation.

The opening batsmen choose themselves. Gary Kirsten with his 7,000-plus runs is indeed one. At the other end is the extremely underrated Simon Katich, whose 4,188 runs at 45.03 included 2928 at 50.48 as opener. As often discussed in these pages, Katich as opener had a batting average better than the likes of Sunil Gavaskar or Virender Sehwag at the same position; and on top of that he was a more than useful left-arm spinner.

With two left-handed batsmen at the top of the order, the field is set for Virat Kohli to walk in at No 3. The current Indian captain is already among the all-time greats, and I would wager that his name will be the first one on the sheet within the next couple of years.

The man at No. 4 is the one whose name is indeed the first on the team list today. Kallis was not only the greatest all-rounder of his era, the best since Garry Sobers, but also one of the best batsmen of a period studded with batting behemoths.

After them come two attractive stroke players from West Indies, Rohan Kanhai and Alvin Kallicharran. Thus the middle order ends with this fascinating array of excitement. With Kirsten, Katich and Kallis there is solidity, with Kohli, Kanhai and Kallicharran class and style. Three right-handers and three southpaws, the ideal mix.

The ones to miss out are Alan Kippax, whose numbers were not quite as good as his class merited, and Usman Khawaja, who does require to stretch the form of his last couple of years considerably longer to merit a place in the side.

And well, Vinod Kambli: 17 Tests, 1,084 runs, an average of 54.20. He was not given another opportunity. However, all his big innings came in the course of one wonderful year, and one cannot select a player in an All-Time XI based on a year’s deeds.

One again wonders what would have happened if South Africa had not been isolated all those years. Perhaps Peter Kirsten would have ended as one of the genuine batting greats of the world.

Kapil does come in at his favoured position of No. 7. He will take the new ball as well.

Amongst the many wicketkeepers, perhaps the name that stands out is that of Knott, often ranked among the best to have played the game. He will be batting at No. 8 and will as usual be a hard man to knock over.

The one bowler who is a shoo-in happens to be Anil Kumble. 619 wickets at 29 are enough to go by. Kohli and Kumble, therefore, will have to play for the same side.

The opening partner for Kapil was a toss-up between two Australians separated by 120 or so years. But Tom Kendall’s two Tests proved to be too small a sample and I had to go with Michael Kasprowicz. Of course, the fearsome Lester King was another man who could have been in the side if he had managed to squeeze his frame into the side past the likes of Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith. Unfortunately, King also turned out in just two Tests.

As for the last position in the line-up, it was again a keen tussle between two left-arm spinners: the orthodox man from Yorkshire, Roy Kilner, and the Chinaman bowler from Victoria, Lindsay Kline.

Kilner, a legend of the Northern county, captured over 1,000 wickets in First-Class cricket, but hardly came close to these exploits in Tests. 24 wickets at 30 each was mediocre at the highest level.

Kline, on the other hand, had excellent numbers in the limited number of opportunities he got in Tests, and his 34 wickets came at a fascinating average of 22.82. Yes, there was more to Kline than being the man to face the final ball of the first Tied Test. Kilner was far better as a batsman, a genuine all-rounder, while Kline averaged 8 in both Tests and First-Class cricket. However, I would go with the variety of Kline’s Chinaman to go with Kumble’s leg-spin and the pace of Kapil, Kasprowicz and Kallis.

Hence the team:

Name R Ave W Ave
Gary Kirsten 7,289 45.27 2 71
Simon Katich 4,188 45.03 21 30.23
Virat Kohli 4,497 49.41
Jacques Kallis 13,289 55.37 292 32.65
Rohan Kanhai (c) 6,227 47.53
Alvin Kallicharran 4,399 44.43 4 39.5
Kapil Dev 5,248 31.05 434 29.64
Alan Knott (wk) 4,389 32.75 250 (c) 19 (st)
Anil Kumble 2,506 17.77 619 29.65
Michael Kasprowicz 445 10.59 113 32.88
Lindsay Kline 58 8.58 34 22.82

12th man: Mohammad Kaif

Manager: Alan Kippax