Pre-Christmas commitments meant I wasn't able to finish this yesterday like I planned to so it will have to be a Christmas Eve finale instead. As everyone knows who the top 3 are, it made little sense to draw it out into three separate posts...so without further ado, here are CricketWeb's Top 3 greatest cricketers of all time.
W.G. Grace | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 85% of voters - highest ranking no.1
Whether or not Dr William Gilbert Grace - simply known as The Champion - was the very greatest cricketer ever to play the game, what is surely not in doubt for all time is that he is the most important and influential. No other individual has ever had such an impact on the development and popularisation of the game of cricket as Grace, who bestrode the cricketing world as its dominant figure for the better part of half a century. Virtually throughout that period, his status was unrivalled - when one cricket writer in the 1880s dared to suggest Grace was slightly past his best and that Australia's Billy Murdoch had taken his place as the world's best batsman, the commotion was tremendous. To question the great man's supremacy was tantamount to heresy. With his tall, imposing frame and trademark long, black bushy beard Grace was one of the most recognisable men in the British Empire and, as has often been quoted, for many years ranked alongside Prime Minister WE Gladstone as the best known of all Englishmen. Grace was officially designated an amateur - or Gentleman, if you will - and yet made more money out of the game than any professional of his or many subsequent eras. He was a man who more than knew his worth and stories are legion of the good doctor's propensity to collect testimonials and appearance fees. Such was his status that it seems such payments were always gladly paid, and match organisers were rarely too much out of pocket - it has passed down into legend that admission prices for tickets doubled for matches in which Grace was playing.
His numbers are nothing short of staggering, particularly given the era in which he played - over 54,000 First Class runs and nearly 3,000 wickets. While Grace was a very successful bowler at FC level it is really his batting which truly assured his immortality. In 1866 at the age of 18 he scored 224 not out for England against Surrey, in 1876 he hit 839 runs - including two triple centuries - in the space of 8 days when only one other batsman made 1,000 runs in the entire season, he scored 1,000 runs before the end of May in 1895, when he was 47 and was still opening for England at the age of 50. At Test level, even though the Test era came slightly after his peak, Grace made two of the biggest scores in early international cricket - 152 against Australia and 170 against South Africa. Not remotely averse to pure, cheeky gamesmanship, The Champion often resorted to all kinds of tricks and techniques to gain an advantage for himself or his team - the kind of things a lesser man would be crucified for, one feels, and yet such was Grace's pre-eminence that such matters were invariably accepted and it is rare to find a contemporary who did not write or speak of him with genuine warmth and affection. When he died of a heart attack in 1915, the empire paused from the horrors of war to remember and mourn the man who transformed cricket from a weekend pastime into England's dominant summer sport.
Sir Garry Sobers | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 97% of voters - highest ranking no.1
The perfect cricketer? Widely acknowledged as the greatest all round player the game has ever produced, Sir Garfield Sobers was a bona fide cricket genius and the man against whom all other all rounders will always be compared. He has been described as five cricketers in one - batsman, fast bowler, SLA bowler, chinaman bowler and fieldsman - and he peformed each role at a level from Test class to all time great. As a batsman alone he ranks as one of the very, very finest of all time - a left hander of both tremendous power and exquisite elegance, one of those batsman who were as good to watch as their figures suggested. More than 8,000 Test runs at an average of nearly 58 would get him into most all time sides even if he had no other skills, but Sobers was also a world class left arm fast-medium bowler who at his peak in the 1960s was among the most dangerous new ball practitioners in world cricket. As a spinner he was capable without being brilliant, but his ability to bowl both finger and wrist spin was invaluable for its versatility and variety. Finally, as a fieldsman he ranks also among the greatest of all time - stunningly quick, with a superb pair of hands and a deadly accurate pick up and throw. There was simply nothing the man couldn't do on a cricket field.
Sobers initially came into cricket as a slow bowler and lower middle-order bat but it was against Pakistan in 1957/58 that his talent blossomed and he exploded into prominence - he hit 824 runs in that series including his first Test century, a monumental unbeaten 365 which remained the world record Test score for nearly four decades. As his batting then flourished and he became world cricket's outstanding batsman of the '60s, he then turned his hand to pace bowling and developed infinitely as a bowler as well. Sobers extraordinary talents culminated in England in 1966 when he scored 722 runs at 103, took 20 wickets at 27, held ten catches, and captained West Indies to a 2-1 series win. It is quite probable that no captain has ever dominated a Test series quite like Sobers did there. Even as the West Indian team declined sharply at the end of the decade, Sobers himself was still supreme. Outside of the Test arena he was also magnificent - he is the only player to score 1,000 runs and take 50 wickets in an Australian domestic season, and he did it twice. For Nottinghamshire he remains a legend and once hit Malcolm Nash for six successive sixes in an over. While captaining the Rest of the World against England in 1970 and Australia in 1971/72 he produced two of his greatest ever performances. In the first "Test" against England Sobers took 6/21 and then scored 183, while in the third match against Australia he made an epic 254 against a rampant DK Lillee, an innings which Sir Donald Bradman went to his grave claiming as the greatest exhibition of batting ever seen on Australian soil. A charming, laidback man with his toothy grin never far away, Sobers was as popular as he was brilliant, and was knighted for his services to cricket in 1973. The perfect cricketer? Probably.
Sir Donald Bradman | Cricket Players and Officials | Cricinfo.com
Nominated by 95% of voters - highest ranking no.1
And so we come to the man at the top of the pile and, to quote Highlander, there can be only one. Others may have been more influential to the development of the game, or had a wider range of skills, or played longer and succeeded against a greater range of opposition, but Sir Donald George Bradman remains the one single player in the history of cricket - and possibly of any major sport - who by the accepted realms of human achievement simply should not exist. That one number - 99.94 - is the most celebrated statistic in a sport that is obsessed with them, an almost transcendant figure which reflects not merely or mundanely the average number of runs Bradman scored per dismissal, but which is held up as an example of the impossible somehow being achieved. As has been said by Phillip Derriman, the wonder of Bradman is not simply that he was the best, it's that he was so much better than anyone else, and it is this which makes him such a source of fascination to us all. An intelligent, driven and sometimes stubborn man, Bradman was a world away from the mischievous, laidback larrikin type of man generally personified by the Australian cricketer, and because of this he could never really have been considered "one of the boys" and yet the respect and awe in which he was held as a batsman, even by those with whom he clashed personally, was unwavering. After his retirement from cricket in 1949 he became a hugely influential powerbroker, selector and Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, and for 50 years was the most powerful man in Australian cricket.
To try to condense Bradman's achievements into a short penpic such as this would be an exercise in futility, such were their scale and magnitude. The kind of innings that most batsman would become a legend for by playing once in their lifetimes were the kind of innings that Bradman played multiple times per season, every season, for two decades. Such was his dominance that England even created a tactic specifically to stop him - the infamous Bodyline campaign - and such was Bradman's extraordinary runscoring talents that reducing him to a series average of just under 60 was considered an overwhelming success. In one series against South Africa he averaged 201.50, and in a single rubber against India he averaged 178.75. However, 37 of Bradman's 52 Tests were played against England which, despite some criticism that he didn't face such a wide range of opponents as the modern cricketer, makes its own compelling counterpoint. Just think - the man averaged one boundary short of an even 100 in Test cricket, despite playing three quarters of his Test career against the strongest possible opposition. It beggars belief. After the Second World War there were questions over Bradman's health and whether he would continue as he now approached the age of 40, questions which Bradman answered in three Test series from 1946-1948 by scoring 8 centuries and averaging just over 100. The word phenomenon could well have been invented for Bradman, for surely there is no one for whom it has ever been a better fit. As a cultural icon in Australia he is unrivalled - a succession of Australian Prime Ministers have held him up as their hero, the ABC's mailing address in every Australian capital city is PO Box 9994, while laws have been passed to prevent any Australian companies or organisations suggesting a link to Bradman that they don't have to cash in on his name - the kind of protection hitherto offered only to the likes of national Governments and the Royal Family. For as long as the game of cricket is played, Sir Donald Bradman's name will be held up as the ultimate example of what can be achieved. The greatest of them all.
So there we have it, my friends - CricketWeb's Top 50 cricketers of all time. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it togther, and thank you once again to everyone who voted and contributed to the discussion and debate.
After the Christmas break I'll be sure to post the full list of all nominated cricketers and the order they came in. I'm not sure how much I'll be around in the next couple of days so I'll wish you all now a very merry Christmas.