Former Pakistani legendary fast bowler and now outspoken cricket commentator Shoaib Akhtar made some surprising selections in his all-time ODI XI excluding the likes of Virat Kohli and Viv Richards while including as many as a total of 8 Indian and Pakistani cricketers in the team. Akhtar also named spin giant Shane Warne as the captain of this world XI.
Tendulkar was not a surprising choice as Akhtar had played against the Little Master and the Indian legend had showcased some of his best performances against Pakistan with Akhtar in the XI - the most memorable being the 2003 World Cup encounter between India and Pakistan at Centurion.
The interesting choice though was the other opener - Gordon Greenidge. Akhtar had never played in the same era as Greenidge and though the West Indian is one of the all-time great openers of the ODI format, there were a few other contenders including the likes of Rohit Sharma and Matthew Hayden for the position.
Akhtar then went for home flavour at number 3 and 4 picking Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saeed Anwar for the positions. While Inzamam is widely regarded as the greatest Pakistani batsman of all-time and Anwar was an ODI specialist, there are questions about these selections. Akhtar left out both Viv Richards and Virat Kohli - regarded by most pundits as the two greatest ODI batsmen of all-time and who dominated from number 3 - from the XI. There was also no place for AB de Villiers at number 4. Moreover, as fine a batsman as Anwar was in the format, he was an opener and not a middle-order player.
However, Akhtar defended his selection.
“People might be surprised by seeing Saeed Bhai in the middle but in today’s day, he would have murdered the bowlers," stated Akhtar.
Akhtar made another peculiar selection and named both MS Dhoni and Adam Gilchrist - both wicket-keepers- in his XI. While both these batsmen justify a place purely on the basis of the record as batsmen in ODI cricket, Gilchrist was an opener in the format and did not bat in the lower middle order (which he did in Test cricket).
There was another strange pick for the number 7 slot. Instead of going for an all-rounder - someone like a Flintoff or Stokes - Akhtar picked Yuvraj Singh for the position. Yuvraj is one of the leading batsmen in ODI cricket history but batted at number 4 for most of his career.
It is difficult to go against his choice of the two fast bowlers he chose for his XI - the two Ws with whom he played during his career - Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.
But again, his choice for the third seamer was India’s legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev. While Kapil is an all-time great, he was a bowling all-rounder and does not slot in at number 10. Also, Akhtar ruled out considering some fine pacers such as Glenn McGrath or Curtly Ambrose in his XI.
Shane Warne was named skipper and the only spinner in the XI and there can be no doubting that selection.
Shoaib Akhtar’s all-time ODI XI: Gordon Greenidge, Sachin Tendulkar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Saeed Anwar, MS Dhoni, Adam Gilchrist, Yuvraj Singh, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Kapil Dev, Shane Warne (c)