Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid at a nets session

This batting line-up ain't messing around

© Getty Images

Best XI

Bat till you can't bat no more

Harbhajan Singh picks a team from among the best cricketers he played against

As told to Scott Oliver  |  

Harbhajan Singh played 103 Tests for India, taking 417 wickets. Here he picks a team from the best red-ball players he played against.

Virender Sehwag
He was someone you could compare with Viv Richards. He wasn't afraid to take anyone on, and he would score at a pace where he would set the match up for the bowlers. I played a lot of cricket with and against him from the Under-19 days, when he was a middle-order player, and maybe that's why he was really good against spin, using his feet, sweeping, reverse-sweeping. He was very hard to bowl to. He could rip you apart. If you didn't get him out early, you would be in for a long day.

Matthew Hayden
I thought about Alistair Cook, who played very well in India, but in the end it had to be Hayden. He was a tall batsman who would sweep anything you bowled at him because he had a very good reach. He would also step down [the wicket] and because he was a big, big fella, to beat him in the air was very tough. He was a really difficult man to bowl to because he didn't allow my length to be "correct". If I pitched slightly up, he would drive the ball hard, and he was a very good player not just on the off side but on the leg side as well, so he would score against the turn.

Rahul Dravid
He is the most dependable batsman that I've ever played against or bowled to. In any conditions, whether you talk about playing fast bowling, seam bowling or spin, he had the technique to cope with it. Any country, any bowler, any conditions, he was the man for the job. They didn't call him "The Wall" for no reason. He was always really calm, which made you feel calm as well. And he was a great slip fielder.

Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin was obviously Sachin. The most correct batsman I've ever bowled to. I played for Rest of India v Mumbai in the Irani Trophy a couple of times and he always got runs. To get him out was always a difficult task, like a puzzle. You have to bowl double the number of good balls that you would bowl to a normal batsman to get him out. He would have answers for everything you tried. And he was a great student of the game, who always tried to stay one step in front of the opponent. He would read everything you bowled from the hand and play accordingly.

He would even change his game in the middle of a match if he was finding it difficult: his trigger movements, where he stood on the crease, that sort of thing. For different bowlers he would have different techniques. He just adapted to the moment. And then there is the pressure he was always under as the most loved cricketer in India, all eyes on him all the time, but he had the strength of mind to cope with all that pressure.

Jacques Kallis
Jacques is my allrounder, although just as a batsman he averaged over 55 in Test cricket. He was a proper, proper batsman. He was another one that could play in and adapt to all conditions. He scored runs in every country, including India. With the bat he averaged more than Sachin and with the ball about the same as Zaheer Khan. He was two players in one, probably the best allrounder the world has ever seen.

There was an innings he played in Cape Town, where he saved the game for South Africa. We got them 100 for 5 in the second innings, and they were in big trouble, but he got a hundred playing reverse sweeps - even though there was a big hole in the wicket outside off stump. We had a fielder there, but he would play fine of him, and if we moved the fielder, he would reverse-sweep harder. An unbelievable player. To get him out was very, very satisfying because it was so difficult.

Four 2006-07 Ashes winners in the XI? Yes please

Four 2006-07 Ashes winners in the XI? Yes please © Getty Images

Ricky Ponting (c)
He had some difficulties in India but I've partly chosen him because he was a leader. Not many other bowlers troubled him as much as I did, but I'd still pick him in my side because he was a class, class player. He was a big fighter on the field and that's the kind of player you need leading from the front and inspiring his team-mates. Virat Kohli, Brian Lara and maybe Kevin Pietersen were close for this spot but I've gone with Ricky Ponting. If I choose Kohli - and maybe on a different day I would pick him, because he is also a great player - then Warne would be the captain.

Kumar Sangakkara (wk)
Obviously Adam Gilchrist was a great player but Sangakkara's record speaks for itself. He averaged 57 in Tests and it would have been a lot more had he not also been a wicketkeeper in the first part of his career. Just a class player, always in control. It was always challenging bowling to him, and he was without doubt the best wicketkeeper-batsman I played against. He was also a very smart player, someone who would give lots of good advice to the captain. No. 7 is a bit low for Sanga but I don't have much choice with this team!

Shaun Pollock
I would pick Shaun not just as a bowler but for his all-round ability. He was also a good leader on the field, and a very clever bowler. He could take the ball away, bring the ball back in, a very tight line. Really accurate, really disciplined. He bowled well in India, too. I wanted to pick Dale Steyn but then I thought Polly will give me another batting option.

Shane Warne
It was a tough choice to pick him over Anil Kumble and Muttiah Muralitharan, but you look at his record in all countries - maybe not so much in India, because we were the best players of spin - he's been successful everywhere. What can you say about him that hasn't already been said? He brings a lot to the table. Useful batsman, good slip catcher, a leader. He was a very big presence on the field and was always attacking, no matter the situation. He would always tell me, "You've got to look to be one step ahead of the batsman and concentrate on what you're going to do, not worry about what they're doing." He used to set unorthodox fields that you wouldn't see in a cricket book, but there was a good reason for it. If you can get the batsman playing where you want him to play, that's what you should try and do: that's the lesson I took from Warnie.

The best I played against in T20s

1. David Warner

2. Rohit Sharma

3. Virat Kohli

4. AB de Villiers

5. Ben Stokes

6. Andre Russell

7. MS Dhoni

8. Dwayne Bravo

9. Jaspreet Bumrah

10. Lasith Malinga

11. Kuldeep Yadav

12. Sunil Narine

Wasim Akram
Probably the best left-arm fast bowler who has ever played the game. Lethal with the new ball and even better with the old ball if it was reversing. He was someone we used to talk about a lot in the team meetings, especially the guys in the batting group. Whenever he had the ball in his hands, you had to be careful. He was always a challenge and you could never be relaxed. You were never set against Wasim. He was useful with the bat as well. A good No. 10!

Glenn McGrath
What a legend! A great, great bowler. He would talk a lot to the batsman, to try and get in your head, try and get you to play how he wanted you to play, but he was always backing it up. He tested your patience and made you work for runs.

He was the perfect role model - if you want to be a fast bowler, copy Glenn McGrath. Although I was a spinner, looking at him made me understand what discipline means. Keep doing what you know you have to do. Don't deviate. Stay focused. Pressure, pressure, pressure. You'll end up taking wickets no matter where you're playing. He was the best example of that.

Scott Oliver tweets @reverse_sweeper

 

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