Compiling an “All-Time XI” list is every schoolboy’s post-lunch fantasy, and Lord’s Cricket Ground—the maternity ward of an Indian game mistakenly mid-wifed by the English—has been compiling them as if South Indian nerds are facing extinction.
Every few days, some worthy or the other pops up on its Facebook page and unveils his “All-Time XI” (shockingly without the hyphen; Queen, please to take note).
Since Sachin and Lara, Richards and Sobers, Gilchrist and Kallis, and Akram, Marshall and Warne write themselves into almost everyone’s team, only the last three slots are up for grabs, in the process of filling which, the weak-kneed “selector” reveals his soft corner.
An English selector will go for Gooch and Botham; a Sri Lankan for Vaas and de Silva; a Kiwi for Crowe and Hadlee.
(Thankfully, not too many “cosmopolitan” Bombay-ites have been invited to compile their All-Time XI. Or else, it would have read: Ghulam Parkar, Lalchand Rajput, Chandrakant Pandit, Suru Nayak, Balwinder Sandhu….)
Anyway, the short point is: what is the big fucking genius involved in picking an All-Time XI when eight or nine players are dead certs, and there is independent India’s only worthwhile invention—CricInfo—to dip into, to bring up the rear?
Although Marshall McLuhan said it would usher us into a “global village”, television has an incredible ability to constrict the mind and cricket on TV has diminished it even further, into a showcase of the usual “international” celebs.
Fans in most States today can barely recite their Ranji sides, and khichdi leagues like IPL and KPL, concocted by MBAs who don’t know which side of a bat to hold, have made it worse.
To paraphrase the West Indian cricket writer C.L.R. James: “What do they know of cricket who only Kohli and Anushka know?”
So, how about an All-Time Mysore XI?
On the basis of 40+ years of watching local cricket, from inside and outside, after trying to ignore all the local fights and squabbles, here’s my 14-member squad: five batsmen, two-allrounders, three fast bowlers, two leg spinners, one off-spinner, one wicket-keeper.
“The world’s most famous Mysorean“, Javagal Srinath, does not make it to my side because he has been there, done that. So doesn’t Dr V.P. Ballal, our “Kapil Dev“, about whom I heard much but sadly didn’t see him play enough.
Or, Jaishankar Menon who was vice-captain of the Indian school boys’ team under Ravi Shastri.
1) M.G. KIRAN KUMAR (National Cricket Club): Quite easily the most exciting opening batsman in Mysore’s modern era, a la Virender Sehwag. “Sundari” combined lazy elegance with breezy aggression.
2) K.S. NITHYANANDA (Central Excise, RBNCC): Easy, free-flowing batsman, lovely to watch. Along with contemporary Sarvottam set a steady start, match after match. On a good day, would play style bhaiFazil Khan of Jai Hind.
3) P. ASHOK (BEML, Mysore Gymkhana): ‘Pancha‘ was/is the best batsman Mysore has produced, and without a contest, its sharpest fielder ever. Unlucky not to have played for Karnataka.
4) ADARSH HARI PRASAD (Jai Hind): My junior at CFTRI school, Adarsh was clean, classy, stylish—and good against both pace and spin. Cricket’s loss was engineering’s gain.
5) A.K. RAGHU* (Canara Bank, Mysore Gymkhana): Very much our own Gundappa Viswanath, albeit left-handed, short and swift off his feet, with an added ability to roll his arm over. *Captain of my side.
6) S. VIJAYAPRAKASH (BEML, Ideal Jawa, Mysore Gymkhana): Batting, bowling, or fielding, there wasn’t a thing “Vijayappa” didn’t do with aplomb. At Jawa, formed a formidable duo with V. Prabhakar.
7) B.T. KRISHNA MURTHY (Triton, Royals): Quick-silver wicketkeeper, who stood at the stumps even for the fast bowlers. B. Harish was decidedly more stylish but B.T. was more effective, and a hard-hitter.
8) S. RAMACHANDRA (BEML): Fabulous leg spinner with a lovely high-arm action, who also batted superbly. His brother Sridhar played for Karnataka, but ‘Rama’ oozed calm confidence, as he does now on the golf course.
9) R.K. HARIKRISHNA KUMAR (NCC): Mysore’s “Mr Cricket” was the leading wicket-taker in local leagues even at 50. Had the helicopter shot in his armoury long before Dhoni, and hit sixes bigger than Carl Hooper.
10) M.S. RAVINDRA (BEML, RBNCC): Fast, furious and full of aggro, streetsmart “Putti” was a local legend with both tennis ball and leather. Now an NCA coach demanding the discipline he wasn’t always known for.
11) K.R. DINAKAR (CFTRI, Mysore Gymkhana): Without a doubt, Mysore’s most accomplished fast bowler, with over 1,300 wickets in his kitty. In the ideal world, should have played for India before his ‘shishya‘, Srinath.
12) P. DHARMICHAND (Saraswathipuram Cricket Club): Offspinners are murdered in club cricket but Dharmichand brought flight, loop, fizz, turn and bounce before the nepotism of Brijesh Patel did him in.
13) The late MOHAN KUMAR (LCC, NCC): Those who ooh and aah at Warne would have enjoyed “Kolle‘s” high-speed googlies that would baffle even the wicket-keeper, “Robin” M.R. Suresh.
14th man: SHIVALINGU (Ideal Jawa): Nobody watched more matches from the sidelines, with a mountain of groundnuts and without complaining, than Shivalingu, as his super-strong team repaid the faith of their benign employer, Faroukh Irani.
Coach: MANSOOR ALI KHAN (MUCSC): There were bigger coaches like V. Prabhakar and V.P. Mylevaganam, but Khan turned a fledgling University side into a super-fit squad who took on all comers.
Can’t identify a single name?
Compile your City’s “All-Time XI”—with a hyphen—and show Lord’s Cricket Ground that there is more to cricket, and to life, than what their selectors think