1. Viv Richards
Easy pick. The greatest character in cricket history. All people should be obligated to read that little piece on him at cricinfo because it sums him up quite nicely. The best thing I can say to describe Viv was the when I saw clips of him running out the Chappell's in the first world cup, he looked small, not even 6'0 (which he is). Then when I saw clips of him batting he looked about 6'4 and more muscular. That doesn't happen with hype, it comes with confidence and believability, and Viv was believable at the crease.
Everything from walking slowly, the chest out, swining arms, arrogent smirk when he chews the chewing gum, that glance.... and no helmet. The man is enough pride for any team. Viv's one of the very greatest because he had no fear, and when you take that away you have somebody who could come in at 3-30 and not care, he would take the game away from you. Imran Khan felt you needed a helmet bowling to him. It's not normally the batsman who intimidate, it's the bowler who had first chance to strike, but as a bowler you knew that Viv, with his eye, was not afraid and he's kill you. The walk to the crease in itself was an event.
The best character cricket ever had.
2. Shane Warne
Forget the scandels for a second because I remember back in 1993, during the Ashes, when the cricket world was captivated by him. I believe he was the first cricketer to get a multi-million dollar sponsorship. One of the great things about the episode of Warne in ESPN's legends of cricket was how they showed adds with Warne from the early 90s. You'd see Warne bowling a chainsaw down a pitch or bowling a ball Ian Botham can't pick or whatever. Warne was just in the spotlight and his magic brought intrigue into cricket. People who don't follow or know anything about cricket know him. Arguabky cricket biggest celebrity. Tim de Lisle said it best when he said he's just a captivating cricketer to look at and to listen to.
3. Ian Botham
A legend that will never die. He'll always be England favorite imperfect hero. When C4 did their top 100 sporting moments of the 20th century, Botham's Ashes was top 10, showing it's impact on English sporting history. Very much like Warne in his scandels, but also a great character that most love. He's someone you want to keep in the spotlight because people know and recognise him, and will listen to him.
4. Keith Miller
Closest thing to a hollywood star in cricket with flare and style. More of a charactmatic cricket who didn't greatly care about winning. Just as likely to try and hit six after six before getting stumped than trying to play a great knock. Probably could have been one of the five best cricketers ever had he wanted to, but Keith wasn't about success, he was about fun. The crowds loved him and his style, the slicked back hair, the powerful presence... liked to party as well.
5. Tony Greig
Love the bloke. Got unfairly criticised for being racist anytime he'd antagonise the West Indies, but he did the same to all countries. One of my favorite Greggy stories was how he psyched out the Aussies one day. He started a bouncer war, first day of the 74/75 Ashes, by bowling the most ferocious bouncers to Lillee. Lillee being a madman was always going to respond in kind. And when he did Greggy loved the ball going so short, so whenever he hit a four, he'd signall four just to annoy Lillee. Lillee bowled shorter and shorter and Greggy just punished him. For me, the number one antagonist in cricket and he's just somebody you look at with a cheeky grin.
There's others, but for now that's enough.