Lala Amarnath waged a constant battle against authority and destiny. A free-flowing strokeplayer, he went against the grain when, in his first Test against England, with the score on 21 for 2, he chose to counter-attack rather than stonewall.
Those who saw this supreme batting artist at his peak will never forget him - sinewy wrists transforming a slender piece of willow into a magician’s wand. Azhar’s leg-side play was reminiscent of Zaheer Abbas and Greg Chappell - a Michelangelo in the midst of housepainters.
Bishan Singh Bedi
The purity and perfection of Bedi's art was a connoisseur's dream. He was stealthy, silent and deadly, a master of deception who conjured variations in flight, loop, spin and pace without any perceptible change in action.
For a nation starved of wins abroad, Chandra was a rare jewel: he remains India's biggest matchwinner overseas with 42 wickets in five Tests. Batsmen didn't know quite what to expect from him and sometimes neither did Chandra himself, as he once admitted.
Dinkar Balwant Deodhar was arguably the greatest Indian cricketer never to play Test cricket; he was 40 when India played its first Test in 1932, and was passed over for selection. But he was already an icon in domestic circles, an aggressive strokeplayer and no-quarter-given captain who shaped an entire philosophy towards cricket among his many followers, including his close friend, and India's first captain, CK Nayudu.
Kapil Dev was the greatest pace bowler India has produced, and their greatest fast-bowling allrounder. If he had played at any other time - not when Imran Khan, Ian Botham and Richard Hadlee were contemporaries - he would surely have been recognised as the best allrounder in the world.
Sunil Gavaskar was one of the greatest opening batsmen of all time, and certainly the most successful. His game was built around a near perfect technique and enormous powers of concentration. It is hard to visualise a more beautiful defence: virtually unbreachable, it made his wicket among the hardest to earn.
Vijay Hazare was a short man, but he had all the strokes and a very strong defence. Square-shouldered, with sinewy wrists and forearms, he would move his right foot back outside the leg stump and hammer his square-cut through the covers.
No bowler in India’s history has won more Test matches than Anil Kumble. Unorthodox, he trades the legspinner’s proverbial yo-yo for a spear: the ball hacks through the air rather than hang in it, and then comes off the pitch with a kick rather than a kink.
Mulvantrai Mankad, better known by his schoolboy nickname of Vinoo, was one of the greatest allrounders India ever produced. His most famous feat was against England at Lord’s in 1952 when he scored 72 and 184, and took 5 for 231 off 97 overs – surely the greatest ever performance in a Test by a member of the losing side.
If figures count, Vijay Merchant’s first-class average of 71, is a worthy second to Don Bradman, even though his Test average was only 47.72. Merchant had fine footwork, and a stroke repertoire featuring a lovely cut, grass-cutting drives, a delicate glance and late-cut, and a brilliant hook.
CK Nayudu was India's first homegrown cricketing hero. A scintillating strokeplayer – his first scoring shot in first-class cricket was a six – Nayudu first came to international attention with a devastating innings of 153 against a Test-class MCC bowling attack in 1926. The innings lasted 116 minutes, included a then-world-record 11 sixes, and sent an unambiguous message to the world: you couldn't take India for granted.
Pataudi remains, unarguably, India’s greatest captain ever. Taking over the reins of the Indian team at the age of 21, barely months after being involved in a car accident that would impair the sight in his right eye forever, he led India in 40 of 46 Tests he played in, and won 12 of them. But more than anything else, he led Indian cricket out of its morass of defeatism and instilled in his fellow cricketers a belief that winning was possible.
When he became the first batsman to score 50 hundreds in international cricket, Sachin Tendulkar established himself as the greatest of all Indian cricketers. Recognised by Sir Donald Bradman as his modern incarnation, Tendulkar has a skill – a genius – which only a handful have possessed.
The mere mention of Dilip Vengsarkar's name evokes images of the cover-drive played with imperious ease, the batsman tall and upright as he leans into the stroke. Images too from three successive centuries at Lord's, and a magnificent series-winning hundred at Headingley in 1986.
Gundappa Viswanath was a true artist with the willow – his strokeplay, particularly the late-cut executed with lumberjack-strong wrists, was nothing less than divine. Though statistics don't convey it, Vishy was every bit as crucial as Sunil Gavaskar to the Indian team of the 1970s.