The T20 format has caught the eyes of the world and has seen a tremendous rise in popularity since its invention in 2003. India was late in catching hold of the T20 fever, but with the victory of the World T20 in 2007 and the advent of IPL in 2008, India became the center of T20 cricket in the world.
There were many cricketers in the past as well, who made a name for themselves as some of the best limited overs format players for India. Some players have had big reputations of hitting the ball a long way, or score quick runs at ease; in short, these Indian players were way ahead of their time and if T20 cricket would have been there at that time, these players would have made a killing.
Circle of Cricket came up with an Indian T20I XI made up of players who played ODIs for India, but couldn’t play T20I matches for their nation.
The openers of this T20I XI would be former India captains Sourav Ganguly and Kris Srikkanth. Ganguly had the chance to go to South Africa to play in the 2007 World T20, but similarly to Dravid and Sachin, Ganguly opted out, in order to give youngsters a chance.
Ganguly then played in IPL and had decent success. His ODI career was exemplary and he scored over 10,000 runs in over 300 ODIs with more than 20 centuries and led India to 2003 World Cup finals in South Africa.
Ganguly knew how to take advantage of the power play overs and was a brilliant hitter of spinners. His partner would be the original marauder of Indian ODI cricket, Kris Srikkanth. The right-hander from Tamil Nadu is famous for top scoring for India in the 1983 World Cup triumph over the mighty West Indies.
Srikkanth was known for taking on the bowlers in the ODI format at a time when even the best openers tried to play the game like Test cricket.
Mohd Azharuddin was the first Indian batsman to score 9000 runs in ODI cricket and was a brilliant player of both fast and spin bowling. He could very well spell doom for bowlers if he was in his element and had the rare ability to keep rotating the strike. A perfect no.3 batsman for the T20I format was Azhar.
Next to come is Sandeep Patil, the slam-bang cricketer, who won the 1983 World Cup semi-final against England, with his batting. Patil, who is also famous for his 174 against Australia in a Test, boasts of a strike rate of over 82 in ODIs, in a time where most of the players were not much worried about strike rates. Patil could be brutal to both spin and quicks, and continue the mauling of bowlers for a sustained period of time.
In T20Is, the players who are most valued are the all-rounders and this XI will have two of the best utility players India have ever seen in Ajay Jadeja and Ravi Shastri.
Ajay Jadeja’s ODI record of 5359 runs in 196 ODIs with six centuries speaks for himself. He performed the duties of a finisher before finisher was even a term. He is known for his brilliant innings against Pakistan in the 1996 World Cup semi-final, in which he fell down like a lightning on Waqar Younis.
Ravi Shastri was a brilliant left-arm spinner and batsman who could both hit big sixes or stem the fall of wickets. Shastri played 150 ODIs and 80 Tests in a career spanning 11 years and scored 3108 runs and took 129 wickets in ODIs for India. He had every variation a left-handed bowler could possess and with his sharp cricketing mind would have been perfect in the format.
The team will be captained by none other than India’s 1983 World Cup winner Kapil Dev. He is the greatest all-rounder that India produced and was the first Indian to score a century in ODIs and also held the record for the highest individual score in the format for some time. His bowling exploits are known all over and with 3783 runs at a strike rate of 95.07 and 253 wickets in ODIs, Kapil Dev is the best person to lead this team.
Farokh Engineer will keep wickets for India and he was the best wicketkeeper India had until MS Dhoni came along. Engineer was part of the team who played the very first ODI match for India in 1974 and also played in the very first World Cup for India in 1975. A wicketkeeper par excellence, he was also quite handy with the bat, as evident from his two centuries in the Test format.
The bowling machinery of the team will be handled by the Karnataka trio of Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, and Venkatesh Prasad.
Anil Kumble is the highest wicket-taker for India in both Tests (619) and ODIs (337) and someone who along with Shane Warne and Mushtaq Ahmed, made leg spin relevant in ODI cricket. Kumble will be helped by Javagal Srinath, the first Indian bowler to take 300 wickets in ODI cricket. Srinath was the first genuinely quick bowler produced by India and he served the team quite well, picking up 315 wickets in 229 matches.
Srinath had the ability to pick wickets at the start of the innings and then come back and bowl toe-crushing yorkers in the death overs.
The last member of the XI will be Venkatesh Prasad, someone who partnered Srinath for most of his career for India. Prasad picked 196 wickets in 161 matches and was famous for his well disguised slower balls and leg cutters, which proved to be perfect in the death overs in ODIs. Prasad was also lethal against left-hander batsmen and he had a knack of removing left-handers with ease.
This T20I XI might not have had the chance to play T20 cricket, but if they would have been born in the right era, they would have definitely ruled the format for India.
Indian XI with players who never played a T20I for India:
Sourav Ganguly, Kris Srikkanth, Mohd Azharuddin, Sandeep Patil, Ajay Jadeja, Ravi Shastri, Kapil Dev (C), Farokh Engineer (WK), Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad.