In the wake of India and Sri Lanka’s ODI venture that is afoot, we have a story to tell you all. The dynamics of the India-Sri Lanka rivalry have completely changed over the span of the last decade. A feud that used to be fierce, febrile and extremely closely contested is now a mere shadow of itself.
At the turn of the century, both the teams were high on new-found talents who were hell-bent on changing the face of the subcontinent’s cricket. India and Sri Lanka were two reckoning forces, battling hard to establish themselves as major monikers of cricket.
Being candid, both the teams were successful in doing so as India kept on climbing on a historical high, chronically from Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli while Sri Lanka’s transitory outburst of brilliance was snuffed out after the 2011 World Cup finale with two of their best players stepping down from national duties.
While being kids, we were always intrigued by the fact that if both these teams would have combined on a mission to conquer the world, which players would have made the cut. Everyone would have a separate opinion about this and so do I.
I will be taking you through a story that narrates the combined best of India and Sri Lanka in One Day International cricket. However, this piece is a highly subjective one and may not include players whom you believe will be the best picks according to yourselves. It will be really amazing if you can drop your choices in the comments section.
Virender Sehwag and Sanath Jayasuriya
It is needless to say that this duo changed the definition of aggressive cricket, making the fullest use of fielding restrictions to impose an unprecedented carnage upon their counterparts. Sehwag made his footfall in international cricket in 1999 and featured in 251 matches that saw him grabbing 8273 runs at a fine average of 35 plus and an astonishing strike rate of 104. The strike rate of more than hundreds used to be a mythic figure before the arrival of ODI cricket and in those enduring times, Viru made it look like a cakewalk. Despite his average dropping against Sri Lanka by a decimal, his strike rate shot up to 110 that made him a more menacing threat to the Islanders.
This hard-hitting southpaw completely took Sri Lanka through a paradigm shift in One Day cricket as he introduced striking the ball early making use of the fielding restrictions. In 445 ODI’s he batted in 433 innings, amassing a wholesome 13430 runs at a decent average of 32.36. He definitely couldn’t chronicle a 100 plus strike rate but managed to pen figures of 91.20 that was equally destructive and still is, in terms of ODI cricket. He was an all-rounder and picked up 323 wickets, a number higher than many regular and iconic bowlers of the sport. Jayasuriya proved himself to be one of Sri Lanka’s biggest menaces against India as he ranged a strike rate of 96 plus.
Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly (cap), Mahela Jayawardene, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni (wk)
Needless to say but Sachin Tendulkar’s ubiquity is obvious in the best sides of the Indian cricket team when it comes to ODI cricket. The man’s effusive brilliance and effortlessness in making those exquisite strokes defined the class, elegance and beauty of cricket. The centurion of centurions, Sachin played in a staggering 463 ODI’s garnering 18426 runs at an incredulous average of 44.83. Against Sri Lanka, he penned figures of 3113 runs at a blistering average of 43. He struck eight centuries against the Lankans and 17 half-centuries. He was also a significant bowler considering the fact that he claimed 152 scalps that starred 4 four-wicket hauls and two fivers.
It can definitely spark a severe debate over the fact that why would Ganguly be needed in the team if Dhoni is already taking care of the captaincy responsibilities? There are not one but countless reasons to include Ganguly in this side. In the early 2000s, India had a very limited pool of talents that were often plagued by mediocrity and very apathetic commitment to the field. With such talents, Ganguly established India as a major power on the fabric of international cricket. Coming to the second reason, there must be someone to whack Saqlain Mushtaq, Ashley Giles and Muttiah Muralidaran and who else to look forward to than the man who loved dancing down the pitch over and over again to conjure those magical strikes. This list will eventually constitute a book altogether but cutting it short, Ganguly’s numbers are magical despite a boatload of controversies in the middle. He featured in 311 ODI’s that saw him become a member of the elite 10000-run club with 11363 runs to be precise. Against Sri Lanka, he starred in 44 games that saw him scoring 1530 runs at a brilliant average of 40.36. His career-best of 183 also came against Sri Lanka at Taunton in an all-important World Cup match. Sri Lanka is ranked third in the list of the team that has suffered the most number of sixes at the hands of Ganguly.
One of the most amicable cricketers to have played the sport, Jayawardene could have very well been the most hated cricketer for Indians for taking away their World Cup dream. However, Gambhir and Dhoni had other plans and instead turned him into a tragic hero. A tactical colossus with the willow, it was a pleasure to watch Mahela bat. His leadership abilities were equally a pleasant sight to the eyes of any cricketing onlooker. He starred in 448 ODI’s, batting in 418 of them that saw him amassing 12650 runs at a decent average of 33.37. Against India he featured in 87 matches, scoring 2666 runs at a strike rate of 78 plus. More importantly, he had four centuries against India and 17 half-centuries that made him an important threat to the Indian echelons.
This man was made of an altogether different mould. He was one of Ganguly’s primary weapons who changed the face of Indian cricket from mediocre monikers to title contenders. One of the most agile fielders of the Indian cricket team and one of the hardest-hitting batters of the side, Yuvraj was a deft finisher who drew contrasts with Michael Bevan and then eventually surpassed him. He had absolutely zero regard for the best bowlers of the world and the word ‘caution’. He never practiced it and believed in hammering anything and everything that flew his way. He played in 304 ODI’s, scoring 8701 runs at an average of 36.55 and a staggering strike rate of 87.67. Against Sri Lanka, he played 55 matches that saw him chronicling 1400 runs at a steady strike rate of 82 plus. The numbers may not seem as impressive as they may look but it is an important thing to be kept in mind that he came out to bat at number 5 or 6, which usually gives a batsman very limited time to conjure something magical.
This was an extremely tough call to choose between Dhoni and Sangakkara with both being titans of the sport. However, keeping the blistering batting of both aside, we picked Dhoni for his blitzkrieg wicket-keeping ability. We are all aware of the fact that how impressive Sangakkara was too behind the timbre but this man was altogether a God who surpassed the benchmark set by Gilly. More importantly, his figures skyrocketed by leaps and bounds against Sri Lanka when it came to batting. It was a phenomenal 183 against the islanders that established him as one of the most destructive batters of the Indian side in his initial days and also played a crucial role in gaining him the captaincy of the Indian side. He featured in 150 ODI’s, amassing 10773 runs at an astonishing average of 50.57 and an intimidating strike rate of 87.56. Against Sri Lanka, he starred in 67 matches out of which he batted in 53, scoring a whopping 2383 runs at a stunning average of 64.40 and a strike rate of 90 plus. It was against Sri Lanka, that he recorded his career-best score in ODI cricket. More importantly, the telling blow to the Sri Lankan dreams came at the hands of MS.
Chaminda Vaas, Harbhajan Singh, Muttiah Muralidaran, Zaheer Khan
Needless to say again, but Chaminda Vaas was undoubtedly and unarguably Sri Lanka’s best fast bowler of all time. A lethal reverse-swing expert, Vaas was completely unplayable in his heydays. He also penned the record of best bowling figures in ODI cricket with numbers of 8 for 19 against Zimbabwe in 2001 that skittled out the formidable Zimbabweans for a derisory 38. From 322 matches, Vaas claimed 400 ODI wickets at a brilliant bowling average of 27.53. He had his highest tally of scalps against India with 70 wickets from 61 matches with a brilliant economy rate of 4.66. He could even bat at times that saw him amassing 2025 runs out of which 370 came against India. This is why he is one of the most obvious picks for this side.
Harbhajan Singh was one of the most animated characters in all formats of the sport. He never minced his words and always donned his heart on his sleeve. An entertaining batsman at number eight for India, he was one of the most effective off-spinners that India has begotten until date. He featured in 236 matches, claiming 269 wickets at a brilliant economy rate of 4.31. He was absolutely lethal against Sri Lanka as he went on to pick 61 wickets against the mighty Lankans at a bowling average of 26.95 and an improved economy rate of 4.19.
If Shane Warne is the emperor of leg-spin, Muralidaran is the emperor of off-spin. He was one of the intimidating bowlers to have ever graced the sport. From 350 matches, the man claimed 534 ODI wickets at an incredulous bowling average of 23.08 and a magical economy rate of 3.93. He compounded himself in an even more menacing avatar against India that saw him claiming 74 wickets at an astonishing economy rate of 4.28.
This was a tricky call between Zaheer and Ajit Agarkar despite most of the fans will be going for the first name in the list. Actually, looking at the figures of Agarkar against Sri Lanka, one may very well be inclined to including him in this team but once again the impact that Zak had on the rivalry was too overwhelming that included a power-packed punch against Sri Lanka in the World Cup final of 2011. From 200 ODI’s, Zak claimed 282 wickets at an economy rate of 4.93. Like Chaminda Vaas, his most impressive tally is against our continental neighbours as he scalped 66 wickets which are his highest against any nation. He also boasted a decent economy rate of 4.98 that also saw the transition of the batsmen from the old ODI format to the newly found explosion in T20 cricket.
Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Kumara Sangakkara, Angelo Matthews, Ajit Agarkar, Dilhara Fernando