Joel Garner and Bapu Nadkarni during their hay-days © Getty Images


By Akash Kaware


When one-day cricket became serious business, it led to new breed of cricketers – the one-day specialists. So it was only natural that the newest form of cricket, Twenty20 spawned its own brand of specialists as well. Kieron Pollard, Andrew Symonds and Shaun Tait – and now Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga, as well – are the first of these ‘available-for-hire’ globe-trotters who play Twenty20 around the world for several teams while playing almost no other format. While they are certainly bankable stars in T20, players like Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis prove time and again that a good player is a good player across all formats.


Their success makes one wonder how the stars of yesteryear would’ve done in this latest fad in town.


Here’s taking a look at some of them.


Sir Garfield Sobers


If Sir Gary Sobers was born in the day and age of the IPL, goodness knows how much he would have fetched in the player auction. The Ambanis and the Mallyas of the world would have fallen over themselves to get this wonder on board. Think about it, here’s a player who was as capable of scoring a Test triple century as he was of hitting six sixes in an over, all the while exhibiting a rare combination of elegance and raw power. A player who could bowl left-arm fast, left-arm orthodox spin and left-arm Chinaman, depending on match situation or his mood, and was agile enough to catch round objects flying anywhere in his vicinity with consummate ease!


He was one of the few players who stood up to the long-forgotten definition of an all-rounder, that of being good enough to be selected in a team as a batsman or a bowler alone. And even in that conservative era, Sir Gary plied his trade not just for the West Indies, but also in league and first-class cricket in England and Australia. One gets the feeling he himself would have loved to play in a league like the IPL.


Joel Garner


In a batsman-dominated format, the most lethal weapon at a bowler’s disposal is the yorker. And there have been few better exponents of it in the history of the game than Joel ‘Big Bird’ Garner.


Quite apart from the yorker, Garner was able to generate disconcerting bounce off the length because of his monstrous height, which made him virtually unhittable. Just imagine, if today’s mollycoddled batsmen had to face Garner at one end sending down toe-crushers which seemed to come down from the heavens at one end, and those of Lasith Malinga’s, which seem to come out of the umpire’s mouth, from the other end!


Well, let’s just say many batsmen’s strike rates, not to mention their toes, would have taken a severe beating!


Bapu Nadkarni


Metronomic. Tying up one end. Not giving away easy runs. All these commentators’ and cricket writers’ clichés might have originated when they saw Bapu Nadkarni in action. Only one bowler in Test history who played more than 10 Tests has a better career economy rate than Nadkarni’s 1.67. In his 41 Tests, Nadkarni achieved some scarcely believable bowling analyses: 32-24-23-0 against Pakistan in 1960; 34-24-24-1 and 52.4-38-43-4 against Pakistan in the same Test in 1961. Not to mention his figures of 32-27-5-0 against England at Madras in 1964, in which he bowled 21 consecutive maidens. That’s one over more than an entire Twenty20 innings!


As if such thrift was not enough, he was a more than capable batsman too. In a format where anything less than a run-a-ball is now considered economical, Nadkarni could have taught today’s bowlers a thing or two about economy!


Viv Richards


If audacious strokeplay alone was a criterion for selection in Twenty20, then Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards would be the first name on any team sheet. Using any other criteria for batsmanship, he would be on the team sheet anyway! Some more than useful off-spin and predatory fielding, to go with the typical helmet-less, gum-chewing swagger and a degree of intimidation that he brought to the crease would have made him a natural in T20 cricket. His only potential weakness could have been that a combination of his own desire to dominate and the pace that T20 demands might have led to some injudicious shots, as it happens so often with Virender Sehwag. But any man who can score a Test century off 56 balls would be an automatic pick in any T20 side today.


Sir Donald Bradman


Any such list would be incomplete without the most complete batsman cricket has ever seen. Everyone knows about the Don’s legendary Test average, but it is also a fact that the he scored his runs at a much faster clip than any of his contemporaries. He only hit six sixes in a career spanning 20 years and 52 Tests, but when someone is able to score 42 runs an hour like he could (in Tests mind you), you don’t really need to hit sixes!


One would think that it might have taken him a while to get used to the tempo of a Twenty20 game, but it would be sacrilegious to think that he would not have mastered this format. A man capable of scoring a triple century in a single day of Test cricket would have actually enjoyed it, one might think. In fact, more than as a player, one wishes he was still around as a rare administrator with common sense and the game’s best interests at heart, but that’s a thought for another day.


Other than these, there are many names from the past that jump out at you that would’ve been more than handy exponents of Twenty20 cricket – the four leading all-rounders of the 80’s in Kapil Dev, Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Sir Richard Hadlee … then there was Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson, Doug Walters, Mike Procter, Barry Richards to name a few others.


If only someone could invent a time-machine so the younger selves of these players could be brought to 2011!


(Akash Kaware is an Indian IT professional, who would’ve been a successful  international cricketer if it hadn’t been for an annoying tendency to run towards square-leg while facing tennis, rubber or leather cricket balls hurled at anything at little more than genuine medium-pace! Watching Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid convinced him that breaking into the Indian team was not going to happen anytime soon and hence he settled to become an engineer and MBA, who occasionally wrote about cricket. A few months ago, sensing his uselessness and constant use of cricket websites at work, his company banished him to Canada. His hopes of playing international cricket have, thus, been renewed!)