The ICC World T20 2016 begins from March 15 © Getty Images
The ICC World T20 2016 begins from March 15 © Getty Images

The beautiful game of cricket has evolved over the years and come a long way. From a time when it was only played for five days in the whites to 60-over (and later 50-over) cricket, to ‘pyjama cricket’ in coloured clothing and floodlights to the slam-bang Twenty20 (T20) cricket, it indeed has witnessed some revolutionary changes. Though it was always known as a batsman’s game, the advent of T20 cricket has tilted the game further more in their favour. Heavy bats and friendly rules have made the batsmen a fearless breed. But much before all this, there were players, who with a much lighter blade tonked the ball hard and who made the ball do all sorts of things with their art. Such players, who never played the T20 cricket, would have fancied their chances in this era. In the backdrop of ongoing ICC World T20 2016Chinmay Jawalekar comes up with a fantasy XI, who could have dominated any current team in the shortest version of the game.

The engine room:

1.  Gordon GreenidgeA naturally aggressive batsman, former West Indian opener Gordon Greenidge could be brutally destructive on his day. His exceptional record speaks for itself — an average of around 45 in both the formats he played in. A hard-hitter of the ball, Greenidge hit 67 sixes in Tests, a feat bettered only by Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd amongst his contemporaries. There cannot be any other player more worthy than him from the past to stake a claim in this side.

2.  Farokh Engineer (wk): It is said of him that he used to play T20 40 years before its invention. The attacking wicketkeeper-batsman Farokh Engineer was born in the wrong era and would have been a huge hit in T20 cricketEngineer, who claims that he scored the fastest Test hundred in 46 balls (which has not been substantiated), had everything that a modern cricketer has; style, substance, swagger and self-confidence. He once said that he was born to be a one-day player and he would have “loved to play T20 cricket.” He gets to be Greenidge’s partner in this team.

3.  Aravinda de SilvaWho can forget his counter-attacking 47-ball 66 in the all-important World Cup semi-final in 1996 against India? The ‘mad-max’ Aravinda de Silva was a ferocious striker of the ball. He had extraordinary temperament and was a tremendous reader of the game. What stood apart was his ability to tear apart any bowling attack in any conditions and in any match situation. He could hit from the word go, whether the score read 0/2 or 150/2. His skills make him the ideal No. 3 in the squad, though he scored bulk of his runs at N0. 4.

The middle-order:

4.  Viv Richards (c): Arguably the greatest destroyer of world-class bowling attacks, Richards is one of the best the world has ever seen. Several stalwarts of the game who played in his era him rate him as the best they ever played with or against. Richards held the record for the fastest Test century off just 56 balls for a long time before Misbah-ul-Haq equalled it and Brendon McCullum broke it. His place in this team at No. 4, is as much a certainty as the day is followed by night.

5.  Keith millerWith a career batting average touching 37 and a bowling average under 23, Keith Miller ended his career as the best all-rounder in the history of the game. A powerful striker of the ball, an acrobatic fielder and a canny bowler, Miller was all a captain could have asked for. His attacking batting and fiery bowling (he was a genuine fast bowler) could change the game in minutes. A legend who could have been a statisticians’ customer if only he had some patience, Miller is the apt No. 5 in this team. Looking at his utility in T20 cricket, how much would you have bid for him?

6.  Gary Sobers: A dream of any captain, Gary Sobers could do just anything and everything on the cricket field. When he wielded the willow, there were few who were better than him. When he had the ball in his hand, he could bowl fast-medium, slow left-arm orthodox and chinaman as per his skipper’s need. With a Test average of over 57 and 235 Test wickets, there is no doubt he has been one of the finest all-rounders and that had he played T20 cricket, he would have been equally successful.

The lower order:

7.  Ian BothamAnother legend of the game, who ended his career with over 5,000 Test runs and 383 wickets, Botham’s name is right at the top when it comes to game’s greatest all-rounders. Again an automatic choice for this team, Botham hitting lower down the order and his effective bowling upfront will be a huge asset.

8.  Kapil DevCompared with the likes of Botham and Imran Khan for the most part of his career, Kapil Dev is another great all-rounder the game was privileged to witness. An inspirational leader, who won India its first-ever World Cup, Kapil again is an obvious choice to the team for his exceptional bowling and hard-hitting skills and in fact a strong contender to lead it too. However, Kapil narrowly misses out on the captaincy of this side to Richards, who had a better record as the leader.

Specialist bowlers:

9.  Wasim Akram: The sultan of swing, Wasim Akram was one of the most feared bowlers during his playing days. Some of the best batsmen of his era rated him as the most difficult bowler to deal with while the cricket pundits hail him as one of the all-time best. Besides being a world-class bowler, Akram could hit the ball hard to a fair distance. Despite his all-round abilities, he makes it to the team solely on his bowling.

10.  Curtly Ambrose: The man who terrorised the batsmen world over with his huge frame, lethal pace and venomous stare, Curtly Ambrose was a wicket-taking as well as miserly bowler. With 630 international wickets and an economy rate of 2.30 in Tests and 3.48 in ODIs, there is little doubt about his success in T20Is. He gets to open the attack of this line-up, which has the likes of Akram, Kapil, Miller and Botham in its ranks.

11.  Bishen Singh Bedi: Bishan Singh Bedi is one of the finest spinners to have ever come out of India. One fourth of the famous spin quartet, Bedi holds the record for the most economical bowling figures in a 60-over ODI game 12-8-6-1. The fact that he makes it to the team as its only specialist spinner underlines his class. The only opposition to his inclusion could probably come from the man himself, as Bedi is a staunch critic of T20 cricket. But that does not stop me from naming him in my XI, as it needs it.

Notable mentions: Clive LloydKris Srikkanth.

The team, though heavily loaded with all-rounders (Sobers, Botham, Miller, Kapil, Aravinda and Akram) has all its bases covered. All these players have been equally proficient both with the bat and ball, and that lends it solidity. It has the ability and class to excel in different countries, as all its members are proven performers in varied conditions. It has five world-class fast-bowlers, which makes it a force to reckon with outside the Indian subcontinent. The only area where critics may think it lacks is spin bowling. But with Aravinda being more than a part-timer and the fact that Sobers could be used as a slow left-arm or chinaman, the team can do well in subcontinent too. This is the team to beat; a team even the best of the opponents would want to avoid meeting.

This article first appeared in Criclife

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)