Greatest Cricketers Of All Time
Cricket history is full of extremely talented cricketers and many of them have been exceptional. Let us try and figure out the greatest cricketers of all time that have graced the field of cricket. It does not reflect on their personal greatness. It is just about how great cricketers they were. A greater cricketer does not necessarily mean a greater human being than a lesser cricketer in the list or vise versa. The list is purely on cricketing skills.
1. Gary Sobers: Arguably the greatest cricketer of all time that has ever played the game of cricket as claimed by many related to the game of cricket and that was what the intuition suggests if you look at his abilities and statistic. Ability to play as long as to score 365 runs in test cricket, hit six times over the rope in a single over, end up with a test average of more than many of the great batsmen in the history of the game, be a fielder of class, and then being able to contribute with bowling, and you left wondering if there is anything in cricket that he could not do and that is what makes him the greatest all round cricketer and the greatest cricketer of them all. He could have earned a place in any great team only for his batting. He was skillful and versatile as a bowler. He is documented to have bowled pace as well slow bowling. He chipped in many times with his bowling and fielding. The thing with all rounders is that it is like having the privilege of playing an additional player in the team. Just look as to how many cricketers have scored a triple hundred in test match cricket. There are only three instances of six sixes being hit in a single over in the history of first class and International cricket. There have been barely a dozen of cricketers throughout the history of the game who could be hailed as all rounder of class and substance, and Gary is considered the best of them all. You keep on counting. The list goes on.
2. Don Bradman: Probably as strong a contender as Gary Sobers to be called as the greatest cricketer of all time. Don Bradman’s exceptional test average of almost 100 runs makes him a standout cricketer. If you consider the rarity of that feat of having an average of almost 100 runs, Don Bradman should be the greatest cricketer of all time. Where Gary scores over him is probably being able to contribute significantly in every department of the game. Otherwise I do not see any gap between Gary Sobers and Don Bradman as the two greatest cricketers of all time. But again you wonder he must be exceptional to be able to average 100 runs per innings. All those great batsmen throughout the history of the game who have played considerable number of tests has not gone beyond an average of in 60s, and most of these so called greats have averaged between 50s and 60s. So to outshine the next best in your category by 40% is quite unimaginable in any sport. In that sense Don Bradman can be considered not only the greatest cricketer of all time, but also the greatest sportsman of all time. To top it off he scored those almost 100 runs per innings in those days of hostile pitches and raw equipments. Everyone knows how bats and other cricket equipments have evolved over the years. The difference between the bats of today and the bats of say about 20 years ago is quite noticeable. What kind of bats Don Bradman must have played with. Some people say Don played on few grounds, and thus have such record. But even the worse of the pitches today among the many grounds on which cricket is played must be better than the pitches on which Don played. If that was the criteria, why none of the players of even his era could manage an average of even into 70s. All those modern greats of 90s and 00s could manage an average in 50s with all those well developed bat and other cricketing equipment on benign and batting friendly pitches. The pitches one used to see even during the 70s and 80s were much difficult to bat on compared to the pitches prepared today. If that is an indication what kind of pitches Don must have batted on. He still remains the only player to have scored a 300 runs in a single day of a test match.
3. Imran Khan: If Gary Sobers could do everything in the game of cricket then Imran could do even more as a captain. Imran Khan could have earned a place in any leading side just as a bowler, and is one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time. In addition he was as good as any good International batsman. He was a good fielder as well. He could win matches with his bowling, contribute significantly as a batsman, and could make significant contribution as the leader of the pack. He is considered the best among the greatest all rounders of his time who themselves are among some of the greatest cricketers of all time. There have not been too many bowlers who were better than him, and among the bowlers who might have been slightly better than him, not many are known for their batting capabilities. Wasim Akram was better bowler than Imran, but Imran was more dependable batsman than Akram, and may be Richard Hadlee was a better bowler than Imran, but Imran surely excelled him as a batsman, and excelled everyone in that all rounders category as a captain. Many people will disagree with me on putting Imran Khan ahead of Vivian Richards. My logic is if Gary Sobers could be greater than Don Bradman, logic says Imran Khan has to be greater than Vivian Richards as a cricketer. But it is so difficult to accurately measure the talent of the players and their value to the team. It is like you can put Don Bradman ahead of Gary Sobers without much fuss. You can as well put Vivian Richards ahead of Imran Khan in the list. But because of Imran Khan’s immense contribution in every department of the game, I opted for Imran Khan at #3 in the list of greatest cricketers of all time.
4. Vivian Richards: Most destructive batsman of all time, and in a time when attacking style of batting was not common. In the modern times, we had the pleasure of watching the likes of Gilchrist, Sehwag, Jaysurya, and occasionally Shahid Afridi destroying the bowling attacks, but none of them are known to be as intimidating as Vivian Richards. To have the fastest test hundred of all time with an average of more than 50, and in one dayers, an average of 47 runs at a strike rate of more than 90 speaks volume about the caliber of the man. None of the above mentioned destructive batsmen have an average of more than 40 compared to 47 by Vivian Richards. In fact many other great batsmen have less average than Viv’s 47 and far lower strike rate compared to Viv’s strike rate of 90. He never changed his batting style irrespective of the state of the match. Without an iota of doubt there has not been a greater batsman than Vivian Richards in one day format of the game. In tests too, he averaged 50 runs scoring those runs at a blistering pace. He was also an exceptional fielder and bowled occasionally. One of the greatest fast bowler of his time Imran Khan has said that Vivian Richards is the only batsman who has frightened him. Nobody else in the history of the game could play like Vivian and hence is probably the greatest batsman of all time save Don Bradman and thus he deserved fourth place in the list of the greatest cricketers of all time.
5. Adam Gilchrist: As a batsman, Adam Gilchrist was almost a Vivian Richards. In addition he would double up as a wicketkeeper. In that sense I was tempted to put Gilchrist ahead of Vivian Richards, but Viv being such an intimidating batsman and in those times when attacking style of play was not so common, I went with Viv at #4. Nonetheless, Adam Gilchrist is one of the greatest cricketers of all time. Adam Gilchrist has one of the highest strike rates in both forms of the game and has an average to match the greats of the game. Adam Gilchrist was one of the main reasons for the domination of the Australian cricket for the last decade and half. Adam Gilchrist was one of the three key players in the talent-laden Australian team. As a wicket-keeper batsman if someone can bat like Adam Gilchrist, he is definitely going to add substantially to the strength of the team. He played some of the breathtaking innings in his career. His blistering hundred against Sri Lanka in the 2007 World cup, which Australia eventually won, the innings he played in the semi-final of the IPL edition that his team eventually won, the innings at Mumbai in the first edition of the IPL, and his fastest test hundred off 57 balls, which is the second fastest hundred in the history of the game behind the ultimate Vivian Richard’s 56 ball hundred, and many such innings make you wonder if the Gilchrist was the greatest cricketer of all time.
6. Wasim Akram: Wasim Akram is one of those dream cricketers that even the great cricketers would like to reborn as a cricketer. Wasim is considered as the most naturally talented bowler by many former greats like Allan Donald and Mohammad Azharuddin. It is said that he could bowl six different types of balls in one over. With the bat he was capable of turning the game with his explosive batting. Those two wickets on successive deliveries in the 1992 world cup final against England at a very important stage of the game pushed England totally out of the game. What an occasion to produce probably the best two deliveries of his entire career. You can expect the greatest cricketers to rise to the occasion at the greatest stage. You see a player like Adam Gilchrist playing those extraordinary knocks on big stages like the World cup 2007 against Sri Lanka and sealing the win for his team. Wasim Akram is also the only bowler in the history of the game to have captured hat-tricks as many as four times in his International career. Wasim Akram has often won games for Pakistan singlehandedly. He formed a threatening bowling combination with Waqar Younis, and they together tormented many a batting line-ups. He was probably the greatest bowler of his time with the other one being McGrath. McGrath himself described Wasim Akram as a greater bowler than himself. If he was as great a bowler as McGrath and if you consider what he could do with the bat, and you know the value of Wasim Akram as a cricketer. In the 1992 World cup final before turning the match with his two magic balls, he was instrumental in setting a challenging total with his timely and explosive batting when he scored 33 runs off just 19 balls coming towards the close of innings. What a grand occasion for man of Wasim’s caliber to rise for his team and his country. Many people might not know Wasim also hit a timely six to win the Nehru cup for Pakistan. Many people knew about Miandad hitting a six off the last ball to win when four runs were required off the last ball of the innings. In the Nehru cup final, Pakistan required six runs to win from the last two balls, and Wasim Akram hit a six off the first of those two balls and won the cup for Pakistan.
7. Richard Hadlee: Inarguably the greatest of all New Zealand cricketers till date. One of the greats of all time who could make the grade to any great XI only for his bowling. New Zeeland had a very few match winners in their ranks when Richard Hadlee was around, and it was more often than not that Hadlee was their match winner. Richard Hadlee brought as many laurels to New Zeeland cricket as any of the other greatest cricketers of all time have brought to their own country. One of the ten greatest bowlers of all time. Plus, he was also more than handy with the bat, and perhaps one of the better batsmen in that New Zeeland team. One of the four great all rounders of 70s and 80s. Richard Hadlee was considered by many as the best bowler among the four great all-rounders of his time. Richard Hadlee was capable of creating havoc with his bowling. He also won and saved matches for New Zeeland with his batting. Overall, a very capable match winner.
8. Jacques Kallis: Some consider him to be the greatest cricketer of all time ahead of Gary Sobers, and there are others who rate him as the greatest cricketer from South Africa. Kallis is like a Rahul Dravid and Srinath combined into one unit. Besides being a technically sound, dependable batsman and a useful bowler, Kallis is an excellent fielder. Kallis gives South Africa an additional fast bowler besides being the lynchpin in the batting line up. Kallis has carried the South African team quietly and steadily for around decade-and-half and looks good enough to continue for at least another two to three years. By the time he retires his statistics could be monumental. To give a more significant picture one statistic that could more vital is that he has a higher average in both test and one day cricket than Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. Given that Sachin bats as an opener in one dayers and Kallis bats in the middle order, and for Kallis to have a greater average than Sachin Tendulkar is quite remarkable. Kallis though lacks on the flair aspect one day game, but has played crucial role in success of their one day unit. Jacques Kallis is also an outstanding fielder. He is a regular slip fielder for South African and I still remember his catch in Sharjah playing against Pakistan running from somewhere near extracover to almost near the boundary and then actually having to jump at the last minute to cover the distance with the ball and hold onto it. A Gary Sobers of different type.
9. Kapil Dev: Kapil Dev was the greatest cricketer that India has ever produced. He was equally good with both bat and ball. He was probably the best batsman among the great all rounders of his time. In fact it was his batting that carried India through most part of the 1983 world cup. Kapil was also first genuine fast bowler of Independent India considering Mohammad Nissar’s test career ended before independence, although he continued playing first class cricket for sometime after independence. Kapil Dev was very impressive as a hard hitting batsman and was the leader of India bowling attack for almost a decade-and-half.
10. Walter Hammond: Walter Hammond was an attacking batsman with rare ability to play long innings consistently. He is among those batsmen who consistently scored big and at an impressive strike rate. He almost had every shot in the book. To add to his batting skills, he was also a handy bowler who could make breakthroughs when required the most. A test average of 58.45, 167 first class hundreds, and two five wickets hauls in test cricket prove that he was one of the greatest cricketers of all time.
11. Brian Lara: Brian Lara is easily one of the five greatest batsmen of all time. Scores of 500, 400, and 300 are no ordinary feats. Not many cricketers compiled such huge scores as Brian did. That itself proves his outstanding abilities as a batsman. Probably Brian underachieved because he was part of a weaker West Indian team. Team’s strength and performance often has a bearing on an individual batsman’s performance. I can prove that. Look at Ponting’s performace when the Australian team was the strongest team, and now look at Ponting’s performance with a declining Australian team. Similarly with overall improvement in the Indian team and with the likes of Viru at the top, Sachin’s performance has improved remarkably this year. Being the only player to have scored 500 runs in first class cricket, and to be the only player in the history of the game to score 400 runs in a single innings of test, and to be one of those players to have scored most number of double hundreds makes Brian Lara one of the most outstanding batsmen of all time, and easily the greatest batsman of his time. Brian Lara also to his credit has a couple of entries at around the top of the list for the most number of runs scored in an over. No other batsmen in the history of the game has as many big scores as Brian has to his credit.If you compare his big scores to his contemporaneous rival Sachin Tendulkar, you will find that Sachin despite playing much more cricket has never scored a 400, which Lara did twice, once in test, and his 500 in first class. Brian Lara has significantly more number of double hundreds than Sachin Tendulkar despite playing lesser number of games. Sachin Tendulkar has a better record in one day International because he opened the innings and every time had the opportunity to play all 50 overs.
Shane Warne: The greatest slow bowler of all time. The best exponent of leg spin bowling. Shane Warne most often did magical things with the ball. His famous ball to Mike Gatting that came in sharply from out of the leg side to turn in sharply and dislodge the bail is regarded as the ball of the century. He has often provided the crucial breakthroughs for Australia when they needed the most. The Semi-final game against South Africa in 1999 was one such instance. Chasing Australia’s total, South Africa was one course with The South African openers off to a flying start, and particularly Gibbs was going strong. Shane Warne was brought into the attack, and he immediately got Gibbs with a peach of a delivery that bamboozled Gibbs and dislodged his stumps. From there on, South Africa was on a downslide. Shane Warne was one of the top three cricketers in that Australian invincible team of his time with Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath being other two of the three.
13. Sanath Jaysurya: It was Sanath Jaysurya’s promotion to the opening slot during the 1996 World cup that transformed the Sri Lankan cricket team from a mediocre side to one of the best sides in the world. Even though Jaysurya failed in the semi-finals and finals of the 1996 world cup, it was his exploits during the earlier part of the 1996 World cup that provided Sri Lankan team the momentum and confidence that they could win the World cup. Since then Sri Lanka has remained one of the strongest teams in the world. Jaysurya was an attacking and productive batsman, besides being a potent spin bowler, and an exceptional fielder.