Sidin’s guide to the greatest Indian cricketers of all time especially that period between 4 and 6 pm last week

After yesterday’s fantastic win against Pakistan there is a new-found optimism in the Indian camp especially with our younger players coming of age and beginning to complement the senior players nicely. When asked of his feelings about the current Indian team Rahul Dravid stated that there was a new-found optimism in the Indian camp especially with our… you get the drift yeah?

So it is but natural that several young Indians of today, drunk with current glory, lose touch with the glittering past of Indian cricket. India has had a history of outstanding cricketers many of whom have been instrumental in the achievement of a large number of cricketing records by countries like Australia, Pakistan, England, Scotland, Vidharbha etc.

This negligence has to stop and the movement to relive our cricketing past starts with this blog right now. So today we celebrate some of the luminaries who have taken Indian cricket to where it is today in the cricketing record books (i.e. in the “vs.” column). This list is by no means exhaustive, authoritative or even authentic, and the author strongly expresses the opinion that you do not try this at home.

List of luminaries with brief biographies, often true. (Part 1)

Ranjit Singhji: One of the first great Indian cricketing heroes. Singhji was “The cricketer formally known as “Prince””. His most famous exploits include obtaining a UK visa and work permit and inventing the Leg Glance, a move whereby when friends’ sisters walks by in a short skirts you make a sweeping cricket shot action imitation thereby looking at their legs but not getting caught. Famously, Ranjit Singhji once fell ill after a mixing some bad milk in his cup of Darjeeling and could only bowl a single over. In spite of this he got 3 wickets through judicious use of line and length. This is immortalized today in the famous “Corridor of Uncertain Tea”. He names lives on to this day in the form of the tournament named after him, the “Coca-Cola Cup”.

Gundappa Viswanath: Widely considered the greatest left-handed batsmen from Andhra with a moustache to play in the 60s, in Indian History. Played several crucial test innings for India, many times pulling India back from the brink of complete disaster, taking them to mere comprehensive defeats. He was a daring, brave batsman who stood fearless in the face of the quickest bowlers, primarily because he was blinded by his moustache. Renowned for his deft footwork, he once, after being bowled for duck, moonwalked all the way back to the pavilion. His first name means “Fat Papa” in Tamil and this ensured constant victory for India against the Sri Lankans who could not bowl at him with a straight face.

Sunil Gavaskar: The first big international Indian cricket star. Scored thousands upon thousands of runs in a career that spanned several millions of balls left outside off-stump. He was affectionately known as Sunny, the Little Master and that little Prick though the first two were rarely used. He was a tireless team player and inspiring captain who often shouldered a lot of the batting burden and most of the match fees single-handedly. Gavaskar was a cricketer who patiently waited for the loose ball and once did so for three whole days in a limited overs match before stadium security politely asked him to leave. Gavaskar became the captain of India in 1982 taking on the mantle from Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan, an accomplished cricketer himself, who retired from cricket in protest after it became mandatory to wear kits with one’s full name on the back.

Ravi Shashtri: Holds the record for maximum sixes hit in one over with 6 against Tilak Raj in Bombay. Shastri would have hit more but little Tilak had maths homework and a Social Studies test the next day and we all know how bad 7th standard CBSE is. Shastri was one of our first great all-rounders and once, in a remarkable game in the 1987 tour of Ooty and Coimbatore, Shastri bowled himself around the legs. Ravi Shastri was the heartthrob of millions of women in the late 80s and early 90s and was considered a great looker. This has now been found to be an error due to primitive TV broadcasting technology. He is now a well-known and respected cricket commentator. Fiercely patriotic, he recently pegged India to win all the one-days in the South African tour of Sri Lanka.

Kapil Dev: Explosive with the ball, dynamic with the bat and ridiculous with the English language, Kapil Dev was the life of many humorous post-match press conferences. Dev often stood alone in the face of adversity and dragged India out of tight spots. His 175 run innings in Tunbridge Wells is a classic and some of his shots continue to orbit the Earth to this day bouncing off space stations and interfering with TV broadcasts (see Ravi Shastri above.) Kapil Dev was also one of the first few cricketers to make it big in the world of advertising and synonymous with the caption: “Boost is the secret of my enema. Our enema. (Smile)” Nowadays he is a successful entrepreneur and often appears on TV when he roots for India from his heart saying: “India needs to play the games with the heart and the tactics is nice if then the whole together comes… err… boost is the secret of my enema…”

Krishnamachari Srikkanth: A dynamic one-day player who pioneered the technique of repeated letters in one’s name for good luck. Srikkanth was an explosive opening batsman who often stepped out of his crease and swung his bat with great gusto only to be stumped down leg side. He holds the record for maximum consecutives world cups without a haircut (4). Kris Srikkanth was the quintessential South Indian in the team who rapidly learned Hindi while playing for India, leading to an average of well over 4 run outs per match in the process. Today Kris is a passionate cricket commentator who can say “Oh shit, sorry” in over 14 north Indian languages.

Venkatesh Prasad: If Akthar is the “Rawalpindi Express” then for many years Venkatesh Prasad, a key part of the bowling attack, was affectionately called “The Slow Bangalore Passenger That Is Currently Broken Down At Palakkad Station. Passengers approach ticket counter for refund please.” Despite several key wickets, Prasad was not a pacey bowler but instead used a bewildering array of slow, slower and slowest balls to vex batsmen. In the 1992 World Cup he bowled a slow one to Wasim Akram that has not reached the batsman to this day. He was a pioneer of the “Intimidation” school of fielding whereby you do not run for the ball but merely try to stop it by looking at it gravely.

Anil Kumble: Named after the Anil Kumble Circle in Bangalore, where he grew up learning to bowl, Kumble continues to be one of the spinning maestros in the country. However he is not a big mover of the ball but instead unleashes a repertoire of balls so complicated even he does not know what he is doing. He holds the record for having captured 10 wickets in a single test innings but honestly cannot explain how. The author has a particular grouse with Mr. Kumble for having released a shitty cricket video game that the author’s brother forced him to buy. The game has graphics reminiscent of a Rohrschach Test and game play marginally more engaging than digging one’s nose. Kumble is frequently a useful all-rounder and was the first Indian to achieve the “supreme” double of 400 wickets taken and 4000 misfields.

Sachin Tendulkar: No one makes fun of Sachin. Not even me.

Sanjay Manrekar: Manjrekar is an exciting top order batsman with an amazing repertoire of shots. If you play him in that stupid Anil Kumble game that is. In real life he was often called a text-book cricketer, in the sense that watching him bat was like reading a macro-economics text book. Sanjay Manjrekar was full of technique and single-handedly developed 2567 ways of padding upto an off-spinner. His moment of glory was during the Ashes Test of 1994 when Imran Khan approached him and accepted defeat as several of the Pakistani players were collapsing from brain inactivity. Manjrekar valiantly declined and went on to score an astounding century in just under a fortnight.

Venkatpathy Raju: With tremendous movement off the pitch especially in windy gusty weather, Venkatpathy Raju is one of the lightest players to have ever played the game. His bowling, on the other hand, was tricky especially because of a complete lack of speed. Raju bowled with such little pace and his ball took so long to come that batsmen often practiced facing him by getting friends and relatives to courier cricket balls overnight to them through local courier companies.

That was the first edition of this special blog series on Indian cricket greats. Hope you enjoyed these brief character profiles and you often burst out, like Azhar, with the words: “Wow!! This I will do for free…” More exciting profiles of Indian cricketing heroes coming soon. Stay tuned.

(p.s. Before anyone gets worked up I know they were all brilliant cricketers and all this is just a joke. Except of course in case of Venkatesh Prasad. So please relax. And dont send hate mail please…)

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