Five Indians featured in Wisden Almanack

Published: Sunday, May 2, 2004, 0:45 [IST]
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New Delhi :Swashbuckling Virender Sehwag along with batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, vice-captain Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and ace spinner Anil Kumble have made it to this year's Wisden's list of world's 40 top cricketers in which Australian captain Ricky Ponting has been named as the 'Leading Cricketer of the World'.

Only Australia with 14 players and South Africa (seven) have more players than India in the prestigious list that appears in the 141st edition of this cricketing bible.

Four Pakistanis -- captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, Shoaib Akhtar, Yousuf Youhana and Mushtaq Ahmed -- also figure in the book that has on its cover the picture of former and present Aussie captains Steve Waugh and Ponting.

Dravid had a phenomenal 2003, scoring 803 runs in five Tests at an amazing average of 100.37. In One-dayers he compiled 623 runs in 23 matches. Sehwag had an average of 52.20 in five Tests and 32.25 in 27 One-dayers. Tendulkar had a dismal outing in Tests managing just 153 runs from fiveTests but made up for it by his show in the One-dayers in which he scored 1441 runs from 21 matches at an average of 57.05. Laxman compiled 595 runs at an average of 85.00 in Tests and 232 runs at 29.00 in eight ODIs.

Kumble claimed 21 wickets in four Tests at an average of 36.42 and 13 wickets in 10 ODIs (25.76) during the year.

The glowing tributes that Wisden paid to the five Indians, who excelled during 2003, follows:


It was the year Sehwag forged his own identity. No longer was he just a Tendulkar 'doppleganger'. Now he was a big box-office in his own right. Though he was a year older, Sehwag was not necessarily a year wiser and he continued to open the innings the only way he knows how. His live-fast-die-young style of batting was exhilarating when it came off but with hits came the inevitable misses most notably during an underwhelming World Cup. Two breathtaking innings, however, stood out -- a match-winning 112 in a One-dayer in Auckland when no other Indian reached 25 and a glorious 195 on Boxing Day at Melbourne. For its relentless risk-taking mass devastation and pure unbridled talent, this was Sehwag at its most definitive.


In whites, an annus horribilis, in pyjamas mirabilis, it was hard to know which was greater. The peaks he touched in South Africa or until he redeemed himself with a consummate double-century at the start of 2004, Tendulkar was the player of the World Cup -- his genius in full unfettered glory displaying all the colours of the cricketing rainbow, his assault on Shoaib Akhtar in India's crunch match against Pakistan acquired immediate fame in his homeland. If his failures in the final when India needed a miracle from him but got only a mistimed pull, stimulated the begrudgers' juices. His Test match form drove them to distraction.

Statistically and actually it was the worst year of Tendulkar's Test career: six single figure scores in nine and the ignominy of being dropped down the order in the MCG bear pit -- a bit like Eliotness being taken out of the firing line for his own good. But as Tendulkar's scorching beginning to 2004 showed that gravity of genius cannot be defied forever.


Just when it looked like the man nicknamed 'The Wall' could not scale any greater heights after a run-laden 2002, Dravid took his batting to another level. It is not easy to stand out in the Indian top six -- who by the end of the year were established as cricket's answer to Real Madrid's footballing galacticos but Dravid began India's unusually light Test year with 222 and 73 against New Zealand at Ahmedabad and finished with a Man of the Series performance in Australia where his tally of 305 for once out at Adelaide was one of the all-time great performances. Few batsmen anywhere could match his blend of patience, elegance, strokeplay and modesty. Through it all he remained the backbone of the Indian line-up, as five unbeaten innings out of ten plus an average of over 63 at the World Cup -- despite the burden of keeping wickets -- confirmed.


At the start of the year, VVS Laxman was not good enough for India's World Cup squad: by the end, as he tormented his favourite victims Australia once more, he was one of the richest, purest sights in world cricket. Brought back into the fold in October, Laxman meant business from the off: two unbeaten, unusually disciplined innings saved the Mohali Test against New Zealand, then a beautiful 148 at Adelaide helped win one in sensational circumstances. Australian bowlers wondered just where to bowl to him. Like Viv Richards, he seemed to be able to choose where he wanted to hit a delivery: everybody else felt like they had been touched by something "very very special". And with every wristily sleek stroke, the question grew even more perplexing: how on earth had Dinesh Mongia played in the World Cup ahead of him.


It was the biggest turnaround of the year. Kumble spent most of the time in the shadow of Harbhajan Singh. He hardly featured in India's run to the World Cup final. And his career seemed to be winding down gently. But Harbhajan lost form, got injured and, by the end of 2003 Kumble was India's supersub, gunning down the Australians by the dozen and getting the respect that had been absent for much of his 14 years in international cricket. He added more variations, of pace especially, to his splice-rattling top spinners, and his control was magnificent. At Adelaide, his bowling was overshadowed by Dravid and Laxman but without Kumble there would have been no famous victory. That match took his tally of wickets in Test wins to 176: no other Indian had even one hundred.

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