Top row, from left: Michael Vaughan (c), Murali Vijay, Dilip Vengsarkar, Gundappa Viswanath, Adam Voges, Daniel Vettori Bottom row, from left: Kruger van Wyk (wk), Bert Vogler, Chaminda Vaas, Hedley Verity, Bill Voce © Wikimedia Commons and Getty Images
Top row, from left: Michael Vaughan (c), Murali Vijay, Dilip Vengsarkar, Gundappa Viswanath, Adam Voges, Daniel Vettori
Bottom row, from left: Kruger van Wyk (wk), Bert Vogler (Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons), Chaminda Vaas, Hedley Verity, Bill Voce © Getty Images

Alphabetical All-Time XIs are great fun. Composing one from the cricketers with their last names starting with V, Arunabha Sengupta finds himself forced to leave out a few quality spinners.

One would not expect it. After all, V is not that common a letter to kick off last names as B, M or W.

However, what works is perhaps that the letter travels well across geographies and cultures. We find V’s everywhere, from classy Indians to sound Englishmen, from quality Sri Lankans to fantastic West Indians, South Africans and New Zealanders, and finally the clutch of useful cricketers with Dutch roots in their ancestry.

But curiously, for a letter with which all the other resources are just about adequate to form a team, there is a profusion of spinners, especially the left-arm variety.

Hedley Verity stands head and shoulders above the rest in this category, followed by Alf Valentine, Daniel Vettori and the relatively unknown but excellent early South African Cyril Vincent. All these men are left-arm spinners.

And then we have Bert Vogler, one of the battery of South African googly bowlers of the first decade of the twentieth century responsible for the development of the wrong ’un. He was a superb operator as his figures demonstrate. A handy batsman too.

There is Srinivas Venkataraghavan as well, perhaps a stretch to include him in the list of probables given his less-than-ordinary numbers. But, it underlines that that there are lots and lots of spinners to choose from.

Yet, when we turn to the batsmen and the pace attack, they more or less choose themselves.

There are two sound openers in Michael Vaughan and Murali Vijay. The consistency of these two compounded with better numbers leave men like Lou Vincent and Michael Vandort behind.

In the middle order the elegant Dilip Vengsarkar and stylish Gundappa Viswanath, both with 6,000-plus runs at 40-plus averages, are definite picks.

The numbers of Adam Voges are a clear example of the dangers of small sample. Five mammoth Tests against West Indies make his 20-Test career seem destined for immortality with an average of 61. However, his performances against stronger opponents like Sri Lanka, South Africa and England are different and diametrically opposite.

Yet, competition in the form of Bryan Valentine (two series) and Peter van der Bijl (one series) yield even smaller samples. One option was to back to Vincent, but the New Zealander’s record is as sketchy against the various opponents. Hence, we stick to Voges at No. 5.

The choice of the all-rounder is rather one sided. There is really no strong candidate apart from Vettori. With the number of batsmen of definite pedigree limited to five, we do need all-rounders in the side. And this factor, four-and-a-half thousand runs at a 30-plus batting average, puts Vettori (362 wickets at 34) ahead of Alf Valentine (139 at 30.32). Clive van Ryneveld was a brilliant all-round sportsman, but a batting average of 26 and the leg-breaks yielding just 17 wickets at 39 do not allow him to make the cut.

Of course, Vettori will be the second left-arm spinner in the outfit after the great Verity.

There are more useful batters down the order. Vogler and Vettori were more than decent and so was Chaminda Vaas. Yes, the new-ball attack picks itself in the form of Vaas and Bodyline hero Bill Voce. That lends some serious quality to the bowling.

There is really no choice for the wicketkeeper (the talented Sadanand Viswanath played only 3 Tests) apart from the man whose name, along with that of Vaas, makes this team one of the weightiest in this curious context. Little Cornelius Francoius Kruger van Wyk finishes second only to Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas in terms of complicated names, and that is perhaps not restricted to the V’s in our alphabetical XIs.

It is a very balanced team with sound batting at top and middle, a steady late order and a rather strong bowling attack. This side can very well be a dark horse.

Hence the team:

Name R Ave W Ave
Michael Vaughan (c) 5,719 41.44 6 93.5
Murali Vijay 3,408 39.62 1 164
Dilip Vengsarkar 6,868 42.13
Gundappa Viswanath 6,080 41.93 1 46
Adam Voges 1,485 61.87
Daniel Vettori 4,531 30 362 34.36
Kruger van Wyk (wk) 341 21.31 23 (ct) 1 (st)
Bert Vogler 340 17 64 22.73
Chaminda Vaas 3,089 24.32 355 29.58
Hedley Verity 669 20.9 144 24.37
Bill Voce 308 13.39 98 27.88

12th Man: Mike Valetta

Manager: Clive van Ryneveld