An Elegant Eleven

Written by  //  October 19, 2010  //  Sport  //  Comments Off on An Elegant Eleven

In the lead-up to Cricinfo’s selection of the best test team of all time, Suresh Menon picked an Elegant XI, ‘a group who couldn’t be graceless if they tried’. The Eleven while boasting players of renowned elegance, such as David Gower and Gundappa Vishwanath, does not contain a single player who I have witnessed live on T.V., let alone in flesh. Hence, the present exercise to list an Elegant XI comprising mostly of players that I have seen, at least on occasion, from the stands.

  1. Saeed Anwar: In the most graceful manner, Anwar could combine crafty placement and expert timing to devastating effect. His drives through cover-point – using his sinuous wrists to guide the ball – were in particular a sight to cherish. Most of his 194 runs at Chepauk in an ODI against India were made with the aid of a by-runner, but by god, was it gorgeous!
  2. Michael Vaughan: Although a crisp driver through the offside, Vaughan’s stand out stroke was the one-legged pull shot. Invariably timed to perfection, he made full use of this expertise on the fast tracks of Australia. Quick to grasp the length, he always seemed to have time to play his strokes – something, which he utilised in an artfully pleasing manner.
  3. V.V.S. Laxman: Perhaps nobody can boast of having played as many aesthetically appealing knocks under the most trying circumstances, as Laxman has. Australia and a crisis seem to bring out the best in him – causing what may have otherwise been a pretty 30 or 40 to turn into a knock of majestic beauty, and decisive importance.
  4. Mark Waugh: A batsman of extraordinary grace and ability, the younger Waugh made batting look ridiculously easy, so much so that it was sometimes mistaken for carelessness. The flick off the toes and the square drive hit with purity were, in particular, pleasing to the eye. Waugh also had the rare quality of being both languid and imperious at once. Even his sashay down the track against the spinners was a thing of beauty – almost balletic in its execution.
  5. Mohammad Azharuddin: Forget the supposed technical deficiencies; Azhar at his best was a sight for the gods. He used his supple wrists to generate spectacular results. Balls from several inches outside the off-stump would be despatched to the mid-wicket boundary with contemptuous ease.
  6. Damien Martyn: Of them all though, Martyn was the finest. He could make batting look both ludicrously, easy and beautiful. Irrespective of the format, his batting remained pristine; unbothered it seemed from the outside happenings. His cover drive could be so brutal that it is embarrassing to call it pretty, but it certainly was the jewel in his crown of splendid strokes.
  7. Kumar Sangakarra: I have picked Sangakarra more for his batting than for his wicket-keeping. With keepers increasingly focusing on their willow-work as opposed to their glove-work, the days of the elegant wicketkeeper are, perhaps, long gone. Amongst the recent lot, though, none has batted more pleasingly than Sangakarra. A top-handed player, Sangakarra has some of the typical left-hander’s elegance about him. Although effective on both sides of the wicket, it is his flamboyant drives through the offside, which stand out as the hallmark of his batting.
  8. Wasim Akram: Akram, when in full flow was magnificent to watch. The things he could do with the ball boggled the mind. With only a short run-up to the crease and a whiplash of an action, he generated prodigious swing. He not only conquered an art form, but also thickened its horizons.
  9. Shane Bond: The fine art of swing bowling has always fascinated me. And nobody in recent times has performed it with such graceful aplomb as Shane Bond has. Boasting a fluid run-up and a classical action, Bond at his best could frighten with pace as well as swing.
  10. Daniel Vettori: Let’s make no mistake about this: Vettori is no Bedi. But in his pomp, he performed his skill with polish and precision. In recent times, his action has undergone much tweaking, a result largely of persistent back problems. But the younger Vettori, bowled classically, defeating batsmen both in flight and with turn.
  11. James Anderson: Anderson does not possess a fancifully elegant run-up or an action that can lure, but his ability to swing the new-ball has its own mesmerising charm. With a brand new Duke in his hand, in overcast conditions in England, he can provide the grace through the swing.

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