When Sir Donald Bradman walked off the pitch for the last time in his white shirt, he could have not seen the colorful jerseys and the One-day internationals making their way into cricket, let alone Twenty20. A batsman with exquisite timing and copybook batting technique, he set the standards for the legends who succeeded him. He is said to have hit only 6 sixes over his entire career spanning 52 matches, as he was of the belief that batsmen are less prone to lose their wicket if they stick to just hitting down the ground. Well, cricket was a much simpler game in those days.
Then came the colored jerseys, 3rd umpires, T20s, a whole lot of new technologies, and a breed of fearless players with the intention to hit the ball out of the park. Sixes were measured not by just numbers, but distances; batsmen were not just credited for their batting styles, but for their strike rates too, and the world of cricket embraced the shorter forms just as they worshipped and revered the longer format.
Some of the greatest players of the yesteryears never got a chance to show their complete range of shots; a Bradscoop or a Viv Richards helicopter shot would have all been possible if they were to play today.
1.Sir Vivian Richards (West Indies)
An automatic selection for the opener spot, Sir Vivian Richards is believed to be the most devastating batsmen of all times. Besides being electric in the field, he was also a decent off-spinner. He was arguably one of the best batsmen against fast bowlers and spinners, alike. In 2006, Cricinfo chose him as the greatest ODI batsmen ever, and the ICC came out with a list featuring Richards as the No.1 batsman in ODIs, ahead of Zaheer Abbas and Greg Chappell.
According to Richie Richardson, a former West Indian skipper, Richards was more feared than Chris Gayle, which stands a true testimony to his destructive batting skills. He last played an ODI for the Windies in 1991, and it was only 16 years later did the T20 world cup came about, and a year later, in 2008, IPL took the format to a bigger level. Richards could very well have been one among the costliest players at the IPL auctions.
2.Gordon Greenidge (West Indies)
On a given day, Greenidge had the ability to leave the opposition short of ideas. An excellent player of spin, he was not worried about playing on the spinning tracks and, ironically, made his Test debut in India against a quality spin attack. He ended his ODI career in May 1991. Greenidge is an another easy choice for the opening role, and he along with Richards form a formidable pair at the top. Greenidge had recently thrown his weight behind the T20 concept, arguing that it breeded critical thinking and encouraged a variety of stroke-play that never existed before.
3.Sir Donald Bradman (AUS)
Even though he has hit only 6 sixes in his entire career, it would be nonsensical to think that he would have sruggled to cope up with the demands of the shorter format. Nothing more needs to be said about his batting prowess than a look at his records can suggest. Strong on both sides of the wicket, Bradman was known to have little or no weaknesses in his batting technique. A staggering average of 99.94 places him at a pedestal high enough that there may never be a batsman of his stature again. This legend from New South Wales walks in at no.3.
4.Brian Charles Lara (WI)
Little needs to be said about this great West Indian who is widely believed to be the finest southpaw to have ever embraced the game. It was sad to watch him go unsold during the 2011 IPL auctions; but in his playing days, he was a treat to the eye. A player who could fit easily into the IPL mix of things, Lara holds the record for the most number of runs in a single over in a Test Match (28 runs off Robin Petersen). The Trinidadian would be an ideal fit at no.4.
5.Andy Flower (Zimbabwe)
Andy Flower, without doubt, is the greatest cricketer to play for Zimbabwe. With an average of over 50 from 63 Tests, Flower has been phenomenally consistent while playing for Zimbabwe. The left-hander had an affinity towards the spinners, and considering the fact that IPL is played in the sub-continent, he is a player you would like to have in the team. In the little T20 cricket he has played for Essex, Flower averages 33 with a healthy strike-rate of 123. Since his contemporaries like Adam Gilchrist and Mark Boucher have been a part of the IPL, Andy Flower would be the go to wicket-keeper.
6.Aravinda De Silva (Sri Lanka)
Aravinda De Silva, one of the best batsman of his times, was given the nickname ‘Mad Max’ for his flamboyant yet inconsistent batting prowess that made him lose his wicket going for rash shots. But a stint with the English county team Kent fine tuned his game and, in the following year, etched his name in history with a century in the 1996 World Cup final. The diminutive Sri Lankan ended his career after the 2003 World Cup and has since then gone on to play an integral role in his country’s cricket administration.
At a time when cricket was seen as a sign of hope for a war-torn nation, his altruistic performances helped his team register crucial victories to help the cause. A handy off-break bowler, De Silva provided useful bowling options to the team, which is very essential for the T20 format.
7.Sir Ian Botham (England)
Ian Botham, one of the greatest all-rounders of his time, fits like clockwork at no.7. Apart from being the leading English wicket-taker with 383 wickets, this English icon has over 5000 runs to his name. He was the fastest to reach the double of 100 wickets and 1000 runs. His heroics under Mike Brearley’s captaincy managed to capture back the imagination of a football frenzy England of the 80’s. Botham’s career reached its twilight stage towards the start of the 90’s, just when some radical changes were taking place in the shorter versions. But Ian Botham at his best could make fpr an exciting viewing in the shorter format. Ian Botham, with his solid batting and penetrative bowling, would have dominated the IPL with his endless self-belief and talent that elevated English cricket during his times.
8.Kapil Dev (India)
The ‘Hurriyana Hurricane’ would have caused quite a stir if he was ever up for the IPL auctions. Having inspired a nation to dream about cricket, it would be only fair enough to think that T20 would have been a cakewalk for him. With a frugal economy rate that stands out in comparison with his contemporaries, Kapil Dev has the numbers going right for him. India’s only true fast bowling all-rounder finds himself coming in to bat at no.8. His stats for a no.8 is the third best for batsmen who have batted in more than 40 innings, just behind Daniel Vettori and Mark Boucher.
9.Wasim Akram (Pakistan)
The left-arm pacer would form an ideal opening bowling pair with Curtley Ambrose. The pair has the ability to run through any batting line-up.. He has collected over 500 wickets at an average of 23.52 and at an economy of under 4. Perhaps the best left-arm bowler of all time, Akram could do the magic with the new as well as the old ball and could easily back that up with a few hits down the order to change the course of the game. His mastery over the ball makes him a must-have in any format of the game, leave alone in T20. Akram, referred to as the ‘sultan of swing’ at no.9, is as good as it gets for any team.
10.Bishan Singh Bedi(IND)
A strong critic of the 20 over format, Bishan Singh Bedi holds the record for the most economical bowling figures in a 60-over ODI game 12-8-6-1(overs-maiden-runs-wicket). He is second only to Lance Gibbs for the number of maiden overs per Test. Considered as one of India’s best, the crafty left-arm spinner has taken 266 wickets in 67 Tests and is third in terms of wickets by an Indian spinner, behind Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Bedi will be the lone spinner in the playing 11.
11.Curtly Ambrose (WI)
A lethal fast bowler with 405 wickets, 22 five-wicket hauls, and an economy rate of 2.30 in Test cricket, Ambrose mirrors his West Indian fast bowling lineage. The 6 ft 7 inches fast bowler, delivering from a height of almost 10 feet, made it nearly impossible for batsmen to negotiate the bounce. The sight of a tall fast bowler steaming in is something any batsmen dreads, and Ambrose provides exactly that. Some of his greatest spells are a treat to watch, with batsmen struggling to deal with the bounce or edging the ball to the slip cordon. Ambrose fills the last available spot.