Clockwise, from top left: Mushtaq Ali, Budhi Kunderan, CK Nayudu, Vijay Hazare, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Vinoo Mankad, Lala Amarnath, Dattu Phadkar, Bapu Nadkarni, Amar Singh, Subhash Gupte.
Clockwise, from top left: Mushtaq Ali, Budhi Kunderan, CK Nayudu, Vijay Hazare, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Vinoo Mankad, Lala Amarnath, Dattu Phadkar, Bapu Nadkarni, Amar Singh, Subhash Gupte.

The 2013 Indian Premier League has just taken off. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the Indian Test heroes of the yesteryear who would have undoubtedly dominated the tournament, and would probably have been among the highest-paid stars.

As the 2013 IPL gets under way, there have been speculations regarding the significant factors that decide the outcome of a tournament, which include having the best cheerleaders, adorning the most colourful jerseys, the stars dancing the Gangnam Style on YouTube, Jennifer Lopez’s absence, and Glenn Maxwell — though not necessarily in that order.

As an outsider, one wonders how India’s greats of yesteryear would have fared in this tournament. One can easily form an XI using players like Kapil Dev, Mohammad Azharuddin, Anil Kumble, and Sourav Ganguly — people who have never played a Twenty20 International, but would certainly have done well at the shortest version of the sport.

Let us take things a bit differently by going further back in time. Let us restrict the pool to Indian cricketers who have represented India only at Test cricket — nothing more, nothing less. Who would have made it, then?

The team:

1. Mushtaq Ali: Keith Miller called Mushtaq ‘the Errol Flynn of cricket — dashing, flamboyant, swashbuckling, and immensely popular wherever he played”. The first Indian to score a Test hundred overseas, he had scored a hundred in a session at Old Trafford. Like Matthew Hayden did after several decades, Mushtaq often stepped out against fast bowlers — without a helmet. Add to that his left-arm spin that helped him pick up 162 wickets at 29.34 at First-Class cricket and very good fielding given the era, and you get a fine, aggressive all-rounder.

2. Budhi Kunderan: Kunderan was selected for India even before he made his First-Class debut, though he did not make his Test debut at that point. He scored a double-hundred on his Ranji Trophy debut. He had scored 170 on the first day of a Test, and ended up with 192 in that innings — that remained the highest score by an Indian wicket-keeper until MS Dhoni went past him. An extremely aggressive batsman and a more than capable wicketkeeper, Kunderan would walk into the side as the second opener.

3. CK Nayudu: Had Nayudu played today, he would probably have been the star of the tournament, and of world cricket. Several of his innings, and more importantly, the humongous sixes, have become a part of Indian cricket folklore. He played First-Class cricket till the age of 69, and still managed to hit huge sixes — which would probably give one an idea what he was like in his prime. He was an excellent leader to boot, and was respected by almost everyone who had played under him. Oh, and did I mention that he had 411 First-Class wickets at 29.28 with his off-breaks, and was an excellent fielder? Additionally, as a captain, he would also coach the side and control them using the leash of discipline he was so famous for.

4. Vijay Hazare: If the top order collapses, we can always have Hazare to walk out at four to save the side. He had finished with an average of 47.65 in an era when runs were not the easiest to come by; he is still the only player to have scored hundreds on successive days in a Test — at Adelaide against Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, and Ian Johnson. If that is a proof of his resilience, the speed at which he could accumulate runs is perhaps demonstrated by the fact that he had scored 309 out of a total of 387 in the Bombay Pentangular Final of 1943-44. He also had 595 First-Class wickets at 24.61, and had Don Bradman bowled twice in Tests.

5. Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi: At No. 5 we will have the flamboyant Pataudi. His numbers perhaps do not reflect the bravado with which he used to bat, never hesitant to loft the ball. He was a risk-taker, and often played breakneck cameos to change the complexion of the match. Pataudi was also an excellent fielder; many a single has been denied by the opposition batsmen as he swooped down won the ball with the swiftness of a cobra. He would have to relinquish the captaincy to Nayudu, though. No one gets to lead Nayudu. Vizzy had tried, and we all know what had happened to him.

6. Vinoo Mankad: Before Kapil Dev had appeared on the scene, Mankad was the greatest cricketer in the history of the country. Mankad would probably have been one of the MVPs of any Twenty20 tournament: a hard-hitting batsman who could take any opposition apart and a versatile left-arm spinner who could run through any side even on flat tracks, Mankad would have been an asset to any side — and would have been good enough to play even if he was proficient in only one of the two departments of the game he was so good at. He would also be able to open the batting if required.

7. Lala Amarnath: Amarnath would probably be fuming for making him bat so low in the order, but I guess his real value would be in the final overs of the match, when the batsman would be expected to take any bowling attack to the cleaners. Amarnath also brought an aggressive attitude to the Indian side, and could liven up any side with his aggressive batting. He was a quality medium-pacer as well, picking up 463 First-Class wickets at 22.98, and wasn’t a bad wicket-keeper as well. He wouldn’t get to lead the side either, for the reason revealed already.

8. Dattu Phadkar: We have still not selected an opening bowler, and Phadkar should be one of the first choices. An accurate bowler who could bowl and a nippy pace and often generated movement both in air and off the pitch, the tall and handsome Phadkar was one of the fast pin-up boys of Indian cricket. He was also a very aggressive batsman, and his batting surprisingly went up a notch when he played quality oppositions, especially fast bowlers.

9. Bapu Nadkarni: Nadkarni averaged 29.07 with the ball at Test level — the third-best by any Indian with over 50 wickets. However, his greatest USP was his economy rate of 1.67 — second-best in the world. He would undoubtedly have been an asset to any side, strangling batsmen in his quota of 4 overs. His 32-27-5-0 is a part of cricket folklore, and his stubborn batting had earned him 2,880 runs in First-Class cricket at 40.36 with 14 hundreds and a highest score of 283 not out.

10. Amar Singh: Though Phadkar will share the new ball, the first over will go to Amar Singh — undoubtedly one of the greatest pace bowlers India has ever produced. Walter Hammond had mentioned that Amar Singh “came off the pitch like the crack of doom”, and Len Hutton had commented in 1970 that “there is no better bowler in the world than Amar Singh”. It was unfortunate that he had passed away at the age of 29 — but not before taking 506 First-Class wickets at a phenomenal 18.35. He was also a very hard-hitting batsman, reputed for hitting big sixes, and had scored five hundreds in his First-Class career.

11. Subhash Gupte: The last slot in the side will be Gupte’s. This was a difficult choice, since on-demand six-hitting Salim Durani was a definite contender, but what the side really lacks is a quality wrist-spinner (and someone who can wreck any top side) to go with the finger-spin of Mankad and Nadkarni. Garry Sobers had described Gupte as the best leg-spinner he has seen — ahead of Shane Warne. Gupte had 149 wickets 29.55 in Test cricket — and would have probably averaged less than 25 had he had the close-in fielders of the early 1970s that the famed quartet was fortunate to have.

This, then, will be the final team. Do note that everyone in the side barring Kunderan can bowl — and Kunderan had opened bowling in Tests for India! Everyone but Gupte is an accomplished bat. I would love to see MS Dhoni’s side try to win against this side. One thing is for sure — it will not be an easy battle. CK will ensure that.

Did you say you want reserves as well? Fine.

ML Jaisimha: The swashbuckling, attractive opening batsman who had served as an idol for many an Indian cricketer.

Polly Umrigar: A powerful hitter with a massive frame, and a more than useful off-break bowler.

Chandu Borde: A fearless, versatile batsman, and a quality leg-break bowler.

Rusi Surti: The “poor man’s Garry Sobers” who could contribute in any department, including fielding.

Salim Durani: He could set the ground on fire with his on-demand sixes, and could pick up vital wickets.

Mohammad Nissar: The first Indian genuine quick bowler, over half of whose Test wickets were bowled or leg-before.

Lall Singh: The first great Indian fielder who “glided over the ground like a snake” and hit stumps on a consistent basis — in the 1930s

Coach: This has to be someone who can control people like Nayudu, The Lala, or The Nawab, or the mercurial Mushtaq, Mankad and Durani. I guess this will have to be DB Deodhar, then.

One salient feature of this side will be the fact that they — especially the three mentioned in the above paragraph — won’t be willing to put themselves up on auction. They will be willing to play without sponsors — but not be bought. Hence the side would need a patron — and if you need a patron, where will you find a better one than The Maharaja of Patiala?

Foreign players? What foreign players?

Final XI:

1. CK Nayudu (captain),
2. Tiger Pataudi (vice-captain),
3. Budhi Kunderan (wicket-keeper),
4. Mushtaq Ali,
5. Vijay Hazare,
6. Vinoo Mankad,
7. Lala Amarnath,
8. Dattu Phadkar,
9. Bapu Nadkarni,
10. Amar Singh,
11. Subhash Gupte.

Reserves: ML Jaisimha, Polly Umrigar, Chandu Borde, Rusi Surti, Salim Durani, Mohammad Nissar, Lall Singh.

Coach: DB Deodhar.

Owner: The Maharaja of Patiala.

I guess Patiala will want to name his side “Patiala Pegs” or something, though I have a strong suspicion that Nayudu would insist on “Holkar Hurricanes.” These are moments when Deodhar will have to intervene.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is a cricket historian and Senior Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He generally looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – though not as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the sport with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers that cricket has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in. He can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ovshake and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)