Hopefully this thread can exist without getting out of control. This is definitely a contentious issue where there were be posters completely opposed to some of the selections. But it'll be interesting to get everybody's point of view I think.
The Ten Best Cricketers Of All Time
Firstly I want to explain different levels I see cricketers on. Bradman is on a level by himself and Sobers is below him on a level by himself. After that, I feel perfectly fine with my selections from three to eight, but not in their order. They could be ordered in any manner. My number #9 and #10 selections were selected from a pile of 15 cricketers who could have made the list...but in the end I was happy with my selections.
Doing this made me think about a few players who were stiff to miss out. The ones who I really wanted in were Lara, Marshall, Hadlee, Hammond and Gavaskar...
10. Keith Miller
The people who could have taken my 10th spot? Sunil Gavaskar, Richards Hadlee, Malcolm Marshall, Wally Hammond, Ian Botham, Graeme Pollock, Glenn McGrath, Wasim Akram, Greg Chappell, George Headley and Brian Lara. There's a few more, but those guys had the strongest cases. Why did I choose Miller? Firstly all-rounders are soo valuable in that their contributions go well beyond their stats. Keith Miller is arguably the most rounded of all the all-rounders in the game. By that I mean Gary Sobers was a far better batsman than he was a bowler, while Imran, Hadlee and Dev were better bowlers than they were batsmen. Only Botham strikes me as being as likely to make an equal contribution with bat and ball... and of course Miller may have been slightly better with the ball than bat. But his figures (and I'm not a stats man) suggest he's not far behind the best bowling all rounders. Miller was an incredibly fast opening bowler with a fine strike-rate and average... I don't think he as good as bowler as Imran, Imran is clearly better than him there, as is Hadlee. But Miller's batting was much better than Hadlee's, and I think better than Imran's. How do I know Miller made contributions with both bat and ball? Before Flintoff in the 2005 Ashes, Miller was the only cricketer in history to make over 400 runs and take 20 wickets in one series. That's phenominal. He sounds like a brilliant natural athelete, who even played Australian Rules Football I hear. In one respect I think he's the George Best of cricket in his natural ability, and his aura on the field as a superstar.
We know for a fact Miller was more inclined to make a contribution with bat and ball in the same game than Hadlee, who was better bowler than batter. From stories I've heard of Miller, he also had the ability to take wickets and make runs when most needed. I think of him like I do Flintoff in the 2005 Ashes, his contributions were immense, but when he took the wickets was always more important. That people talked about his bowling in the same sentence as Ray Lindwall says something of his talent. The only knock against Miller was that everybody felt he could have been better than he was. He was sometimes inclined to throw away his wicket with a rash shot etc. He played cricket for the fun of it, and although he could have been better, you have to respect that.
9. Muttiah Muralitharan
It could have been any one of 15 names in my 9th and 10th spots. I chose Murali because he's such a freak and he's still going. I tend not to talk about Murali much these days because any discussion weighing-up his greatness tends to bring up certain arguments. So it's difficult to put him at number #9 and yet not fully explaining it, because if I do fully explain why he's not higher or lower, it'll just open up a can of worms. Anyway, of all the people who could have taken my number #9 spot, I feel most comfortable with Murali. I considered Lara, especially since Lara had his measure of Murali. But that means little compared to Murali's overall achievements. What's scary is that he's still great, and could command a higher spot on my list one day. Who knows how high he'll climb?
The only thing that makes me feel iffy about putting Murali in my top 10 is Malcolm Marshall. For some reason I don't like having Murali in my top 10 and not Malcolm Marshall. Marshall is stiff to miss out.
8. Sachin Tendulkar
Sad how people are starting to forget his greatness. He doesn't deserve the criticism he gets. At his best in 1998, I remember a one day series against Australia (I think it was in 1998) and they never got him out until one game, and in that one game he took 5 wickets I think. He was just unstoppable. It's easy to understand why he was called "the second best after Bradman" in those days. They say Bradman was soo difficult because you could bowl slightly full and he'd drive you, and then you'd slightly bowl shorter, only just, and then he'd play a back-foot stroke. Tendulkar did that to McGrath back then... he put McGrath's most immaculate deliveries for four. In hindsight I don't really know what happened to him. He'd do the absolute impossible in some games... these days it's not hard for a bowler to have a measure of him. Still, at his best he was just unstoppable.
7. Imran Khan
I think Imran is a little overrated here at CW. Why? Take Ian Botham as an example. Beefy was, for anybody who saw him, a much greater cricketer than his stats show. Why? He might take 3-80, not great figures, but certainly a good contribution, and then make a 60 in one innings and then fail in another. But the point is that he made a sustainable contribution with both bat and ball in a lot of games. Imran was a better batsman at the start of his career than a bowler, and hence most of of his great batting contributions came at the start of his career. By the early 80s he was at the height of his powers and his 1982 season was just sensational. But I don't think he ever hit the balance of batting and bowling as often as Beefy. I don't recall him making a century in one game and taking a fiver, which he probably did once or twice. But while Beefy was more likely was make an all-round contribution in one game, Imran might only make one kind of contribution. That's not a great knock on Imran because his bowling was infinitely better than Beefy's, and his batting probably only a shade behind his. I do think his bowling is overrated due to the fact that he never shouldered a massive bowling responsibility for a lot of his career. Clearly in 1982 he did, and there were periods where he carried his team in the bowling, but he averaged around four wickets a test I think, which isn't a massive load. I think once he became captain he used himself a little less.
I feel horrid saying all that about Imran, after all he is my number seven pick and can only be a genius to be placed so high. But my points are that:
1. He didn't always shoulder a great bowling responsibility. Of course he did at one point and he did it as well as anybody, but not always did he have such a large responsibility.
2. Either bowled or batted well, but not always together in one game like Beefy. Though of course he did have games where he did both exceptionally well, just not as often as you'd think.
I'd like to say a few nice things about Imran now:
1. Best captain of all time and that only adds to his greatness
2. A freakish bowler at his best, one of the best ever
3. Most of all, in an era where great all rounders could be found in many places, Hadlee, Botham and Dev have all said, I believe, that Imran was the best. While his stats maybe exaggerate his greatness, I don't think many would deny he had a little something over the rest of the all-rounders in way of flair.
6. Dennis Lillee
I don't particularly want to go into Lillee again since I'm burnt out from arguing how great he is. All I'll say is what I've always said, ask the best (both batsmen and bowlers) from the 70s and 80s who the best bowler ever was, and most unhesitatingly say Lillee.
5. Sir Jack Hobbs
The stories of the horrid nature of wickets he had to bat on are incredible. People may not like this choice since he's a golden oldey, and perhaps didn't face the best attacks. But I think it's impossible for someone to make the runs he did, one some of the worst pitches of all time (where the ball might not bounce more than a few inches) and make a century.
4. Sir Vivian Richards
Aside from being one of the great entertainers of all time, Viv was the man who stole games from teams. Does anybody remember Adam Gilchrist when Australia was 5-200, and he'd come in and blast an attack and all of a sudden Australia were past 400. That's the closest you can get to Viv after he retired. West Indies could be 3-30, but he'd come in and demolish attacks and not a bit of panic. Only he did it far far more often than Gilchrist, to such an extent that his commanding presence became the defining attribute of the West Indies greatness. Probably the best thing I can say about Viv is that 80s team was probably the best team ever, and his propensity to destroy attacks was, for me anyway, the defining feature of their greatness. He was more important to their success than anybody. You couldn't stop the Windies if you couldn't stop Viv from stealing the game from you. He was the most important person in their team. Saying that reminds me of the absolute joy and relief of the Australians when Dennis Lillee bowled him out in 1981. They knew the game had changed! A bit like Tendulkar, his lack of incredibly high scores sort of belies his greatness when you look at stats. But a Viv Richards century was all it took to win a game and to do so was an immense dominance.
3. Shane Warne
This selection will surely anger a few people here, while a few will agree with me. I picked Warne because like Pele and Maradonna, he left us such a potent memory of greatness. Someone once said to be, "it's unfair to say Warne is greater than others based on his team's success, because he was apart of a great team". But the memories I have of Warne are of him metamorphesising into an unstoppable force whenever Australia's dominance was challenged. In the 1999 world cup semi final, Australia were gone, completely dead and dejected. He changed that game. In the 2005 Ashes it was a miracle that he nearly salvaged the series for Australia when the rest of the bowlers were going for a run a ball. In Sri Lanka 2004 Australia wouldn't have come close without him. I have little doubt had Warne played for South Africa or Sri Lanka, they would have an extra world cup, or a famous historic test series win etc. Warne was like that, he became irresistable as a bowler when his team was down. You can argue there have been some better than him, but Warne, in my opinion, became some incredible force of will when the moment needed a genius, and he'd redeem Australia with his force of will. I like it how people say he had a script writer, because he etched himself into Australia's most vital wins when they had no right to win. When he became that irresistable force, he was a champion unlike any bowler I've seen.
2. Sir Garfield Sobers
I enjoyed what Richie Benaud said when he mentioned that when Wisdon picked the 5 best players of the century, Bradman got all 100 votes, Sobers 90, and then it was Hobbs at 30. That sounds about right to me as well.
1. Sir Donald Bradman
Needs no explanation.