The Irani Cup is played annually between the Ranji Trophy winners and a Rest of India team.
“For selecting an all-time Ranji team, I looked at India’s domestic cricket history, and the first thing I noticed was the sheer dominance of Mumbai. The cricketing powerhouse has won the Ranji Trophy a record 41 times since it was launched in 1934. Few teams across sport have enjoyed this kind of success in a tournament. It’s clear an all-time Mumbai team, comprising only of their best-ever players, is the clear frontrunner to take on the Rest of India squad. For both teams, I have limited my choices to players who have graced the game since 1975,” Vengsarkar said.
Sunil Gavaskar (Captain): He was by far the best opening batsman I have ever seen in my life. He had tremendous appetite for runs. His levels of concentration and grit were exemplary. Besides that, he knew his game very well and as a result he hardly faltered in shot selection. He was a good judge of the game and always led by example.
Wasim Jaffer: Like Gavaskar, he had a great appetite for runs and played big knocks. He enjoyed batting for long hours and never got tired. A very graceful batsman while at the crease.
Dilip Vengsarkar: I would have batted at No 3. I played with passion and pride for Mumbai. If the wicket fell early and ball was swinging, it was always a challenge to see off the new ball and score runs and if there was a big partnership, I would have enjoyed to keep up the momentum when my turn came.
Sachin Tendulkar: One of the top three batsmen I have seen, the other two being Viv Richards and Brian Lara. He could be compared only to the great Richards and Lara, who both dominated the bowling around the world. He played for Mumbai with the same passion and commitment as when he represented the country.
Rohit Sharma: He has loads of talent and some of the shots he executes; one can do so only in one’s dreams. He has so much time to play the deliveries that he has options to put them away for runs wherever he decides to do so. Tremendous big-match player.
Ashok Mankad: ‘Kaka’, as he was fondly called, was a true blue Mumbaikar and an extremely proud one at that. His performance for Mumbai as a solid middle-order batsman is terrific. A product of typical Mumbai’s old school of batsmanship, he always put a price on his wicket. Jovial team man.
Ravi Shastri: Tenacious player. He took a lot of pride in playing for Mumbai. A khadoos player. His strong point was that he knew his limitations and always played within them. Strong mentally, he was a very good all-rounder.
Chandrakant Pandit: He was a product from the Ashok Mankad stable. He learnt a lot from Ashok while playing for Mafatlal Sports Club and tried to emulate him whenever he captained the team. Useful batsman and a safe wicket-keeper.
Karsan Ghavri: A great team man, a fighter to the core and an immensely talented all-rounder. He was very quick and had an awkward bouncer which the batsmen dreaded facing.
Zaheer Khan: A fine bowler who did extremely well both for Mumbai and India. Always willing to learn a thing or two, ‘Zak’ moved the new ball beautifully and was a master with the old ball too.
Padmakar Shivalkar: A consistent match-winner. Whenever Mumbai looked up to him to deliver, he did so time and again. He was the best left-arm spinner not to have played for India.
12th man: Sanjay Manjrekar. Raju Kulkarni and Balwinder Singh Sandhu make up squad of 14.
REST OF INDIA
Virender Sehwag: He literally redefined opening batsmanship. He did and succeeded at doing what the openers till then were told not to do. For example, leaving the ball outside the off-stump or ‘don’t go for the big drives when the ball is new’ or ‘play shots along the ground.’ Had great hand-eye coordination.
Gautam Gambhir: Underrated player. Had a lot of talent but couldn’t control his anger and emotions. I feel that for the kind of ability he had, he should have played much more for India.
Rahul Dravid: A solid player in all conditions. Fiercely focused and determined, Rahul had very high levels of concentration. He improvised as he played more. His last four years at the top were possibly his best years.
Virat Kohli: Presently, the best batsman in the world. The way he changed his focus as a promising young cricketer with sheer grit and hard work to become what he is today, is a lesson for youngsters.
GR Viswanath: ‘Vishy’ was extremely talented. He had so many shots in his repertoire that it was impossible to keep him quiet for long. He was a treat to watch and like Sehwag, played brilliantly square off the wicket.
Sourav Ganguly (Captain): I always believed he would have done better in Test cricket had he batted higher in the order. His innings at Brisbane was a class act. A terrific player against spinners, he relished playing shots on the off side. A very good student of the game and good at man-management, he led India with great success.
MS Dhoni: A tremendous striker of the ball, a great finisher and a superb runner between the wickets. He improved his wicket-keeping tremendously as he played more at the highest level. He possessed great temperament and was never flustered.
Kapil Dev: The greatest all-rounder India has ever produced. We played together and against each other many times and each time he had something different up his sleeve. A great athlete, he was very hard working and improved tremendously with every match and tour.
Erapalli Prasanna: The best off-spinner I have faced. He had more variety than any spinner I have ever seen. His control over his deliveries was exemplary and could deceive the very best with his guile.
Anil Kumble: Outstanding leg spinner with great record. A very good thinker of the game. Anil was a fighter to the core, and I’m glad that we made him India’s Test captain on a difficult tour of Australia in 2007-08. He grabbed the bull by the horns and India almost won that series Down Under. He’s a 100% team man. I wonder why he was not made the captain much before we actually elevated him to that position.
Jasprit Bumrah: A terrific bowler, he can generate tremendous speed if he wants to. I am glad he never changed his action (luckily he was not coached by somebody who has passed a coaching exam at the National Cricket Academy) and went on to improve his bowling by adding variety as per the format of the game. However, he is a real match-winner in all the formats of the game.
12th man: Mohammad Azharuddin. Dilip Doshi and Javagal Srinath would be the 13th and 14th members of the squad.