India has produced some fine cricketers over the years and the 2000’s was no exception. Many of the truly world-class players they produced in the previous decade were still in fine form and new faces came to the fore also. This all made them into a tough team and one that flourished under the effective leadership it found in these years.
Here are 10 of the best Indian players from that era:
10 Yuvraj Singh
The first thing you have to admire about this player is the way he battled back from serious illness at the end of the decade to continue playing the sport. This shows just what a strong fighting spirit he has and how big his heart is. As a player, he was a very useful all-rounder for his country particularly with bat in hand. A left-handed middle order batsman, Singh was a great asset to India’s middle order, particularly in the shorter form of the game. He was also the perfect partner for people like M.S Dhoni to play their natural game.
Singh was no slouch either and could strike the ball powerfully and cleanly when in form. His trademark shot was a handy punch through the covers that would see the ball race away to the boundary for four or six. Although a fairly useful slow left-arm bowler, too, his other main importance to the team was in the field. His best position was at point or in the covers where he could use his agility and great throwing ability to superb effect.
Although prone to erratic form, Singh was a great contributor to the Indian team when he was at his best. A powerful 169 against Pakistan in 2009 was a particular highlight for him.
9 Zaheer Khan
One of the best bowlers for India during these years was this guy. Emerging onto the scene at the start of the decade in 2000, he would play all through it for his country. Khan was a fast bowler in the best possible way. He combined a fast delivery speed with a hostile approach which led him to bagging many wickets. He had a particular ability to swing the ball both ways and was great at getting reverse swing especially from the older ball.
What was really impressive about this player was how he bounced back from injuries. This was true after his first major injury that occurred in 2003/04 against Australia. After coming back from that in 2006, he had changed his run-up and looked much fitter overall. This not only brought him renewed success on the international stage but also showed just how mentally tough he was also.
In all he played 92 Test matches and took 311 wickets at a 32.95 average by the time he retired from the international game. Over that time, he had battled hard to showcase his talents and become one of his countries premier pacemen.
8 Rahul Dravid
There is no doubt that this player is widely considered by many cricket fans to be one of the finest batsmen the game has ever seen. From the minute he made his Test debut toward the end of the 1990’s against England, it was obvious what a talent India had uncovered.
It must be said that Dravid was a steady rather than explosive batsman but that was his appeal in many ways. Boasting a sound defence and superb focus, he would enable other more flamboyant players to flourish around him. In turn, this made him the bedrock of the Indian innings for many years, including all of this decade.
Of course, a player of this skill could cut loose when the situation arose as he showed on occasions too. Great in the slips, his powers of concentration made sure he was always alive to any chances that would come his way. Playing 164 Tests in all and making 13288 runs, he will be remembered for a long time by Indian cricket fans. One of his best innings in this decade was a stunning 270 against Pakistan in 2004 which showcased his many batting qualities.
7 Harbhajan Singh
What can you say about this player that hasn’t already been said?! Outspoken, passionate and fiery are just some of the descriptions attached to him and they are all spot on. Of course, he was also one of India’s premier bowlers in the 2000’s and ended up as their most successful offspin bowler ever. A real competitor with a will to win that shone through when he played, he took a massive 417 wickets in his 103 Test matches.
Although he didn’t possess great loop or flight, he did have other fabulous attributes in bundles. His deliveries all came with a whippy action that gave them a good pace. This was often seen in his trademark delivery that would rise off a length sharply to surprise the batsman. Singh also had a good knack of varying his length and pace for maximum effect when bowling.
In terms of figures, his 8 for 84 against Australis in 2001 deserves a mention for the way he ripped them apart. A stunning 7 for 48 against the West Indies in 2002 also showcased how dangerous he could be when on form.
6 M.S Dhoni
Although he didn’t make his Test debut until 2005, the standards he set in the 5 years of this decade that followed demand his inclusion on our list. Still widely praised by many cricket experts as one of the best wicket-keepers to have played, he was also a very handy middle-order batsman. He came into the Indian team on his debut to replace Dinesh Karthik and never looked back.
Coming into cricket at the late age of 23, a youngish Dhoni was a real sight to behold. Long of hair and with a unique batting style, his flowing range of improvised strokes were fantastic to watch. Who can forget his infamous helicopter shot that scored him many runs over the years? Allied to his powerful middle-order batting was a real skill behind the stumps. His agile reflexes and quick hands were a joy to behold and he made the spot his for many years.
Not only was he a brilliant player but he was a fantastic captain for India too. Tactically astute and able to mould the talented players he had into a real team, his leadership in the latter part of the 2000’s was superb. In total he played 90 Tests and made 4876 runs with 256 catches taken in that time. A blistering 148 against Pakistan in 2006 only served to show how good he was with bat in hand.
5 Sourav Ganguly
This player probably polarised the opinions of Indian fans more than any in recent memory! His fans though will point to his natural leadership skills and magical off-side play in defence of him. He played right through the decade until 2008, so he obviously had something going for him. His captaincy was certainly effective as he led his country to a World Cup Final in 2003 after taking over. His ability to galvanise a collection of individuals into an effective team was something to behold.
As a batsman, he had a grace and style to his play that was superb to watch. Able to hit every shot in the book, he could handle most of the deliveries sent down to him. His hand to eye co-ordination was fabulous too and meant he was great at picking the line and length of the ball sent down to him.
In all he played 113 Tests and made 7212 runs which are fine figures to finish with. His best individual score in this decade was a sumptuous 239 against Pakistan in 2007. Many will also remember the away series against South Africa in 2006/07 where he was the highest Indian run scorer.
4 Virender Sehwag
Making his Test bow in 2001, Virender Sehwag went on to make a name for himself as one of the most skilled batsmen India has ever produced. Very destructive in his approach and style of play, Sehwag was a crowd favourite with his entertaining antics. Over the course of his international career, he built up a list of extra ordinary achievements such as the highest score made by an Indian Test cricketer and highest number of Test double-hundreds by an Indian batsman.
What is interesting in all this is that Sehwag did this without a great amount of footwork! He really used this feature to his advantage though and it almost gave him the extra room needed to play his shots. What shots they were too! Hard punches through the off side and wristy flicks off his legs were just two of the many strokes he had in his locker. Equally good against any bowling, he really seemed to enjoy playing against spin where he could hit out with ease.
Few batsmen in the history of the game have scored as quickly as him and at times it looked like he was almost playing a game in the street! His most memorable innings were a stunning 319 against South Africa in 2008 and a brutal 309 against Pakistan in 2008. Indeed, he almost became the first Indian to make three Test triple centuries in 2009 against Sri Lanka but fell 7 runs short with 293.
3 V.V.S Laxman
Right up there with the best batsmen the game has seen is this player. A truly magical member of the Indian team, he could dominate bowlers to the extent they didn’t know where to bowl to him! Equally adept on the on or off-side, his aggressive instincts were there for all to see when he was at the crease. Batting in the middle order, he gave the Indian innings a real element of danger and could hit the ball all over the ground when in the mood.
Boasting some fine stroke play and elegant, wristy flicks, many compared him with the best players India have ever produced. By the time he retired, he had scored tons of runs and many centuries for his country. Indeed, he should probably have scored more but for the tendency to give his wicket away early in his inning at times.
Many will remember the 281 he scored against Australia at the start of this decade but his smashing 200 against the same team in 2008 was also a special moment. Overall, he was a truly fabulous player who rightly has gone down in Indian cricketing history.
2 Anil Kumble
The first image that springs to mind for many when thinking of Indian spin bowling is the graceful combination of style and elegance. Anil Kumble was the latest in a long line of Indian bowlers in this tradition. A superb player for his country up until 2008, it could be argued he is India’s greatest spin bowler ever.
Instead of flight or turn, he instead made great use of his pace, bounce and accuracy to take wickets. Able to hit the cracks in wearing pitches, his deliveries would rear up at the batsmen who would often recoil in surprise. Probably best on the Indian pitches, he was nevertheless a great player. Able to continually develop new deliveries as he progressed, this quality made him able to carry on right through this decade.
In all he bagged 619 wickets in 132 Tests which leaves him as number 3 in the list of all time Test wicket takers ever. In this decade his stunning 8 for 141 against Australia in 2004 stands out the most.
1 Sachin Tendulkar
Arguably the most famous batsman in the history of the game, Sachin Tendulkar was simply immense for India and holds most of the batting world records worth having. The word legend can sometimes be overused, but in this case, it is true. He was so good, it is almost impossible to list his many sublime qualities with the bat in hand. Great agility, superb footwork, perfect balance and masterful stroke play all added up to make him the complete player.
There can no better recommendation than to say he had no real signature shot as he could play every one in the book. He would operate on pure instinct and simply hit the ball as demanded, depending on the delivery. Able to play on any wicket and face any kind of bowler, he really was a player that had it all. Playing through this decade for his country as well as the previous one, he notched up 200 Tests and made 15,921 runs. One of the best innings in this decade was surely his 248 against Bangladesh in 2004 where he simply destroyed the bowling attack.
The players above certainly showed they had some serious skills to call on when needed by their country in these years. From zippy bowling to powerful batting, they were able to put in some great performances that all Indian fans will remember for a long time.
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