by SAURAV TRIVEDI
Over the last four decades, Indian cricket has produced some great batsmen in ODI cricket. The Indian team had batting maestros who brought cheers to billions of die-hard fans with their exuberant batting.
While natural stroke makers like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli became the mainstays of batting line-ups, power hitters like Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni and Kapil Dev changed the course of a game in a blink of an eye. If Virender Sehwag pulled crowds with some mesmerizing shots, Mohammad Azharuddin was a treat to watch with those silken wrists.
Indian ODI teams have been batting heavy courtesy a plethora of world-class batsmen. Much of India’s success in ODI cricket has revolved around the batting exploits of their world-class batsmen.
With a galaxy of batting stalwarts over the years, it would be interesting to compile a list of India’s most destructive stroke makers in ODI.
Only those batsmen who usually batted from 1 to 6 in ODIs have been taken into consideration. To rank the batsmen from 1 to 10, I have considered their ability to score runs quickly on a consistent basis and penchant for scoring 100s.
Note: For selecting my top 10 Indian batsmen, I have only taken those batsmen who scored 2000 or more ODI runs with a minimum average of 30. To qualify as an attacking stroke maker, I have kept a career striker rate of 85 as the cut-off.
Before we run through the list, i must give my rationale as to why some of India’s premier batsmen did not make the cut in my top 10 list for the most destructive ODI batsmen.
Indian opener Sourav Ganguly was pretty aggressive in ODIs but he took time to settle down early in his innings before taking on bowlers. He had a fairly impressive ODI strike rate of 74 but it was well short of his contemporaries during the era he played cricket..
Indian cricket has been served by some exceptional strokemakers like Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Rahul Dravid and Ajay Jadeja who played the sheet anchor’s role to perfection and helped the other stroke makers build the innings around them. While they were masters at milking the singles in the middle overs, they often played second fiddle to the more aggressive stroke makers. Hence most of them ended up with career strike rates in the mid 70s. Meanwhile, Sunil Gavaksar, Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar were more on the defensive mode.
The likes of KL Rahul, Manish Pandey and Kedhar Jadhav have impressive ODI strike rates but they are relatively new to the ODI arena. It would not be fair to judge them with cricketers who played at least 100 ODIs for India.
Notable Mentions – Sandeep Patil – Strike Rate 82.17, Kris Srikkanth – Strike Rate 71.74 and Robin Singh – Strike Rate 74.30
#10 Navjot Singh Sidhu
Navjot Singh Sidhu was one of India’s most entertaining stroke-makers in ODI cricket. Dubbed as a ‘Strokeless Wonder’ during the early stages of his career, Sidhu answered back in emphatic style by scoring four consecutive 50s in the 1987 World Cup and establishing himself as a dependable opener in ODI cricket.
In the early 90s, Sidhu was India’s best bet when the team was struggling for a front line opener in the limited overs format.
As a batsman, Sidhu was capable of dodged defence and could wear out quality seam attacks. He was a good player of spin and danced down the tracks to hit spinners for some towering sixes. Although he never had a consistent run in the ODI team, he more often than not delivered the goods with the willow while batting up the order.
Navjot Sidhu ODI Career
Matches 136 Runs 4413 Average 37.08 SR 69.72 100s 6
#9 Kapil Dev
Way back in the 80s when most batsmen adopted a conventional style of batting, Kapil Dev batted with a carefree attitude, scoring runs at a brisk pace.
Coming to bat lower down the order, Kapil used to play some quick-fire cameos and help India put on fighting totals.
Kapil was a good player of the hook shot and played the drive equally well. The Indian all-rounder dint mind stepping down the crease and tonking spinners for big sixes.
India used ‘Haryana Hurricane’ as an effective pinch hitter to step up the momentum towards the later part the innings.
Dev’s standout ODI knock remains his unbeaten 175-runs against Zimbabwe which saved India from making an exit from the 1983 World Cup at England.
At 17 for 5 against Zimbabwe, India had their backs against the wall when Kapil’s whirlwind knock saved India the blushes and helped them advance to the title clash.
KAPIL DEV ODI CAREER FOR INDIA
Matches 225 Runs 3783 Avg 23.79 SR 95.07 100s 1
#8 Suresh Raina
Suresh Raina has been a pocket dynamite for India in the limited overs arena. The hard-hitting left-hander is a destructive stroke-maker lower down the order. A leg-side bully, Raina is known to bludgeon medium pacers over the mid-wicket region for huge sixes.
The Uttar Pradesh lad charges down the wickets to spinners, hitting them inside out for some lusty blows. Raina has played some blistering cameos to finish off games in a no-win situation.
Raina has five ODI tons to his credit but his best knock till date remains 100 off just 75 balls against England on a green top at Cardiff in 2014.
SURESH RAINA ODI RECORD FOR INDIA
Matches 223 Runs 5568 Avg 35.46 100s 5 SR 93.77
#7 Shikhar Dhawan
Shikhar Dhawan has been India’s most explosive left-handed opener in ODI cricket. The Delhi lad has provided India with the opening salvo up the order. Dhawan likes to dominate bowlers in the power plays by playing his free-flowing game.
Dhawan is particularly strong on the off side and likes to cut. Dhawan plays a unique cut shot in which he leaps in the air and has his feet off the ground. Like most other lefties, Dhawan also likes driving through the square and the covers.
‘Gabbar’ has formed a lethal opening duo with Rohit Sharma and provided India with stability at the top of the innings.
Dhawan’s finest moment under the sun came in the 2013 Champions Trophy where when he scored two breezy centuries against South Africa and the West Indies to spearhead India’s successful title-winning campaign.
Shikhar Dhawan ODI Record for India
Matches 102 Runs 4361 Avg 45.90 SR 93.4 100s 13
#6 MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni would go down as India’s most clinical finisher in ODI cricket. Dhoni can give the ball a real whack as he possesses brute force in those powerful forearms.
A brilliant reader of the game, Dhoni knows just when to change gears. Dhoni uses his bottom hand to great effect in smashing those rocket-like sixes. He builds his innings by running quick singles between wickets and saves his arsenal of shots for the end.
Unconventional yet effective, Dhoni’s belligerent hitting down the order has helped India win many nerve-racking games. Much to his fans liking, Dhoni can carve out yorkers and hit those much famed ‘helicopter shots’ over the mid-wicket region.
Dhoni has produced some memorable match-winning knocks down the order but his 183 not out against Sri Lanka at Jaipur was an exhibition of how destructive he could be with the willow.
MS DHONI ODI RECORD FOR INDIA
Matches 315 Runs 9793 Avg 51.00 SR 87.94 100s 9
#5 Yuvraj Singh
Yuvraj Singh has been arguably India’s most cleanest strikers in the limited overs arena. When on song, Yuvraj makes looks batting look effortless with his power hitting.
Blessed with sublime timing, the elegant left-hander has produced some breathtaking innings to win games for India at major tournaments.
With a high backlift, ‘Yuvi’ packs a punch while hitting the ball on the rise. Yuvraj is known for playing those expansive cover drives and lofting spinners for massive sixes.
Yuvraj has always saved his best knocks for the big stage. As a teenager, he exploded on the international stage with an enthralling 84-run knock against Aussies in the ICC Champions Trophy in Kenya.
Yuvraj packed a punch with the willow as he contributed significantly to the Indian team’s 2011 World Cup win by scoring 362 runs with a century against the West Indies.
Yuvraj Singh ODI record for India
Matches 301 Runs 8609 Avg 36.47 SR 87.43 100s 14
#4 Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma has been one of India’s most elegant batsman in the limited overs arena. Rohit looks to have that extra bit of time to play his shots.
As an opener, Rohit has a wide array of scoring shots and can decimate the best of bowlers with utter disdain. He is one of the best pullers and can execute the shot against the best of bowlers. Sharma looks classy while playing the drive or cutting the ball behind square.
Rohit has a penchant for scoring big hundred and his three double ODI tons are testimony to the same. Sharma has good footwork and uses his feet well against spinners. The ‘Hitman’ of Indian cricket can be one of the most lethal customers with the willow when he gets his eye in.
Among Rohit’s many breathtaking knocks in ODI cricket, his monumental 209-run innings against Australia at Bengaluru ranks as arguably one of the most destructive innings played in ODI cricket.
Rohit Sharma ODI record for India
Matches 180 Runs 6594 Avg 44.55 SR 86.96 100s 17
#3 Virat Kohli
India’s run-scoring machine Virat Kohli ranks as one of the most explosive batsmen in ODI cricket. Kohli has taken batting to another level with his consistent run-scoring ability across different conditions.
Kohli isn’t one of the modern day power hitters but relies on his special ability to pierce the gaps to perfection.
A master at pacing his innings, Kohli accumulates his runs and then tears into the opposition by cracking some power packed shots.
Kohli is the best exponent of the cover drive and also uses his wrists to flick the ball to the square leg region.
Courtesy his supreme fitness levels, Kohli runs hard between wickets and has loads to stamina to play those marathon innings.
The ‘Master Chaser’ has shown time and again that he can grind the opposition by scoring match-winning centuries.
Kohli’s ability to score the big match winning ODI tons is no hidden secret. One of his finest innings with the willow came when he smashed 183 off just 148 balls against arch-rivals Pakistan in the 2012 Asia Cup at Dhaka.
Virat Kohli ODI record for India
Matches 208 Runs 9588 Average 58.1 Strike Rate 92.14 100s 35
#2 Sachin Tendulkar
India’s greatest ever batsman was also one of their most aggressive stroke-maker in ODIs. Sachin Tendulkar earned the nickname ‘Master Blaster’ for his exploits with the willow. Sachin could plunder the best of bowlers with his masterclass batting.
Sachin’s batting was a perfect blend of balance, sublime timing and exquisite footwork. He had the knack of picking the length early and dispatching good deliveries for boundaries.
He was strong on both sides of the wickets and could play the cut, pull or drive with the same ease. His trademark shot was the straight drive which went like a bullet past the bowler.
Equally strong against pace and spin, Sachin scored runs at a brisk pace in ODIs. Once set, he had the penchant to score big hundreds. The Mumbaikar became India’s batting lynchpin for more than a decade and was their greatest match winner with the willlow.
Out of the many glittering knocks Sachin produced in ODIs, his quick-fire 98 off just 75 balls against Pakistan in the semifinals of the 2003 ICC World Cup ranks as one his finest performances with the willow.
Sachin’s back to back centuries against Australia in the Coca-Cola Cup at Sharjah were instrumental in India lifting the trophy.
Sachin Tendulkar ODI Record
Matches 463 Runs 18426 Avg 44.83 SR 86.23 100s 49
#1 Virender Sehwag
Virender Sehwag would go down as arguably India’s most destructive ODI batsman. The ‘Nawab from Najafgarh’ had all the shots in his armoury to wreak havoc on the best of bowling attacks. ‘Viru’ went about his batting with the basic philosophy – Attack is the best form of defence.
Sehwag formed successful opening combinations with both Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly to provide India with some flying starts in ODIs.
Sehwag had a very uncomplicated technique and relied on his superb hand-eye coordination for delivering the goods with the willow.
He didn’t move his feet too much but picked up the length of the bowler early. He used the slice shot to great effect against the pacers to hit them over the third man area for sixes.
Sehwag became a nightmare for most bowling attacks and his mere presence at the crease sent down shivers in the spine of the opposition.
Out of Sehwag’s many whirlwind knocks, his double ton against the Windies where he smashed 219 off just 148 balls at Indore stands out as his most destructive ODI innings.
ODI Record (India)
Matches 241 Runs 7995 Avg 35.37 SR 104.44 100s 15
Do you agree with this list? Sound off your opinions in the comments section below!