The Indian team has spawned several all-time greats over the decades. That’s why coming up with a list of just the top five is so tricky, as they also take Centre’s place as the top inspirers for generations to come. Here are the top five, and it is not a ranking.
Sachin Tendulkar, who made his debut at the early age of sixteen, is widely regarded as one of the best batsmen of all time, having amassed around 35,000 runs in all international matches. Tendulkar’s abilities were identified early on, and he made his international debut in 1989, against Pakistan, on their home turf at Karachi; Slowly but surely, Sachin rose to the top of the batting world in the 1990s. Two of his best innings in one-day internationals came in 1998 when he scored 143 and 134 against a formidable Australian unit in what is now known as the “desert storm.” His unbeaten 241 against the Australians in 2003–04 is also highly regarded, significantly because he refrained from playing cover- drives throughout the innings, a stroke that had previously been the cause for his wicket to fall.
But his finest hour arrived when he helped India win the 2011 World Cup at their home stadium, Wankhede, in Mumbai. No other cricketer has scored more runs or centuries than Tendulkar regarding the mega event. Tendulkar holds the record for most runs scored in any format, with 15,921 in Tests and 18,426 in ODIs. In 2010, he became the first player in the history of ODI’s to score a double ton; He did so against South Africa. After 24 years on the international stage, he retired after playing in his 200th and last Test for India. Many other cricketers have looked up to Tendulkar, and his name will go down in cricket history as one of the all-time greats.
While Tendulkar came close to accomplishing everything possible with the bat, he failed as a captain. He was only 23 years old when handed the captaincy, and it is speculated that the lack of talented players in the Indian squad at the time contributed to his poor performance. At the time, the success of Tendulkar dominated the conversation in Indian cricket. If India triumphed, the credit went to him, but if they lost, it was the fault of the ten players. In 1996, he began his captaincy on a high note with victories against the Aussies and the South Africans on home turf. However, the tough patch began with a hammering of India on tour in South Africa.
Before he relinquished captaincy during India’s home series against South Africa, Tendulkar had served two stints as captain. As captain, he played in 73 ODIs, winning 23 and losing 43. However, he only had four victories as captain out of 25 Tests played.
The BCCI drew up a team filled with inexperienced youth after their veteran players refused to compete in the 2007 T20 World Cup because it was a tournament for kids. Dhoni was named captain of the team that travelled to South Africa to compete in the first International Cricket Council (ICC) competition. The Indian selection committee took a chance, and it paid off. The ‘Dhoni era’ officially began when Dhoni’s India won the T20 World Cup.
The ODI captaincy was quickly added to his list of responsibilities. Dhoni’s calm demeanour and sharp tactical mind made him an enormous hit in the shorter versions of the game.
When Dhoni was captain, India also excelled at Test cricket. India’s home series victory over England (2008) was one of three consecutive series victories under his direction, including triumphs against New Zealand and Sri Lanka. India under Dhoni had lost two series abroad in his first five years as a Test player, propelling the team to the top of the ICC Team Rankings. However, the highlight of his career was undoubtedly the knock he played in the 2011 ICC World Cup final, bringing glory to Indian cricket after Kapil Dev’s 1983 win. Dhoni is the first captain in ICC history to have won all three of the organization’s significant tournaments (the Cricket World Cup, the Champions Trophy, and the Twenty20 World Cup).
However, not long after India’s impressive World Cup victory, Dhoni’s team hit rock bottom in Test cricket. They lost a series in Australia and England, making it eight Tests in a row. After that, Dhoni could never lead the Test team to victory, although he maintained his excellent ODI form. The 2015 Cricket World Cup demonstrated why he was a fantastic leader in the white-ball format of the game. Despite losing all their Test matches in Australia and their matches in the tri-series leading up to the ICC tournament, the Indian squad went on to have a fantastic World Cup. They swept their regular season and advanced to the semifinals but ultimately lost to Australia, who would prove to be the ultimate champions.
In 2014, Dhoni stopped playing in Tests, and in 2017, he stepped down as captain of the limited-overs side. By that point, he had prepared Kohli to take over as captain.
A lot of batsmen come into the league with high expectations and then fall short. Nonetheless, Virat Kohli has fulfilled his enormous potential and is on track to shatter every record in the book. The Delhi native’s life hasn’t been without difficulty; he lost his father during a Ranji Trophy match he played for his state. Instead of going to the funeral, a young Virat Kohli believed it was more important to stay and help Delhi earn a tie. From that point on, he stopped looking back. After leading India successfully to the 2008 Under-19 World Cup title, he made his India cap that year under MS Dhoni’s tutelage and became the team’s captain the following year.
Dhoni believed in him, notwithstanding his early setbacks, and the team flourished under his leadership. His hunger for runs was insatiable, evidenced by his 183 against Pakistan in the 2012 Asia Cup and his 200 and 200 at Adelaide in 2014 and 2015. It was in 2015 that he succeeded Dhoni as captain, first in Tests and then in ODIs. India’s performance in all three variants has improved under Kohli’s leadership. With his leadership, they reached the 2019 WC semifinals and the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final.
While India has ranked numero-Uno in Tests thanks to their dominance at home, they are ranked second in the ODI format, behind England. India has not had sustained success on the international stage. It wasn’t until 2015, with Kohli at the helm, that India won a Test series in Sri Lanka for the first time since 1996. Not only did he become the first captain of India to clinch a Test series in Australia, but he also won Tests in South Africa and England in the same calendar year. So now Virat Kohli has more Test wins than any other Indian skipper in history. A record of 10000 plus runs in the shortest time and 43 centuries has inched closer to Sachin’s 49.
In 2015, Kohli took over as India’s undisputed Test captain and also took over as India’s ODI captain by 2017. He has been an excellent leader who has not buckled under the weight of responsibilities. Indeed, since he assumed control, his output across all mediums has only improved. After only a short time at the helm of the Indian cricket team, Kohli has already established himself as a record-breaker and record-maker. When India won the 2018–19 Test series against Australia, 2-1, he made history as the first Indian captain to accomplish this feat.
As unique as he was, Kapil Dev was not the best all-around cricketer of all time. However, he was and is still India’s most outstanding player. Even though he retired nearly thirty years ago, Team India still hasn’t found a substitute who can match his level of excellence. Even though talented all-rounders like Yuvraj Singh and Irfan Khan have come and gone, none of them has been able to surpass Dev’s performance. While players like Tendulkar and Gavaskar have made their names associated with Indian cricket thanks to their impressive batting records, Dev will always have a unique and irreplaceable position in the annals of the sport.
While captaining India, he helped them win the 1983 World Cup despite being the underdog against the West Indies. With his efforts, Indian cricket gained a more positive reputation. Before he arrived on the scene, no batsman anywhere in the world would even consider facing Indian bowlers. For the first time, an Indian pacer, Kapil Dev, was respected by his peers. He was one of the few bowlers of his era who could swing the ball both ways and deliver lethal deliveries.
Dev was competent not just with the ball but also with the bat. The likes of Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee, and Ian Botham were on par with his batting ability. They claim that if Dev had played in a different period, one without Khan, Hadlee, and Botham, he would have been considered the best all-rounder of all time by many cricket experts. It is significant to note that Dev became India’s first ODI century maker with his crucial unbeaten 175 against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup, which is often considered one of the best ODI innings of all time. Dev retired from professional cricket in 1994 and was later named India’s century-era cricketer of the century. After he officially retired, one of his jobs was to coach the Indian team. Sadly, that ended when ex-cricketer Manoj Prabhakar named him as one of the players in the infamous match rigging case.
Sunil Gavaskar’s 774 runs from just four Tests at an astounding 154.80 with four hundred and three fifties against the formidable West Indies cast him in the international limelight. From that point developed into a cricketing legend. His strategy relied exclusively on his highly developed skill set and intense focus. He was equally formidable with extraordinary footwork and a wizard of sizing up the length and distance before unleashing it. Bowlers toiled to dismiss him. He is unique among the best Indian batsmen since he played during an age when cricket’s fast bowlers were far more dangerous, and players did not have access to protective equipment like helmets.
Gavaskar had a 16-year Test cricket career, during which he set and shattered several records. He was the first player in Test cricket history to score 10,000 runs and 30 hundred. Against a West Indies team that featured one of the best fast bowling line-ups in history, he scored 13 of his 34 Test hundreds. He achieved this feat by being the first player to do it three times in a single Test match. While he will always be remembered for his contributions to the most extended format of the game, his white-ball cricket career was less successful. Throughout his career, he tried his hand at captaincy on multiple occasions, but to no avail. He finished his career with a total of 10,122 runs in Tests, with an average of 51.12. After retiring, he took on roles as a match official for the ICC, president of the BCCI, head of the ICC Cricket Committee, and analyst and pundit for the sport. He is still in the limelight, and nothing has changed much since 1972.