Which cricketers as a result of their playing legacy, changed how the game or a certain aspect within the game was forever played/perceived?
This is by no means a list of the 5 best performers of all time but rather of individuals that brought something to the game that had never been seen before. My list with reasons.
1. Imran Khan
The pioneer of reverse swing, or at least the man who first perfected the art and made it famous. Because of what he brought to the game, every single test match that is now aired on tv, has this phrase mentioned at least 3 times on the commentary. It has now become the most potent art in fast bowling, a game changer. Widely acknowledged as what brought the Ashes back to England for the first time in 19 years in 2005 to the extent that the Aussies even poached England's bowling coach.
2. Adam Gilchrist
Before him, every team had a keeper batsmen (Marsh, Knott, Dujon etc). After him every team now has a batsmen keeper (Sangakarra, Dhoni, Prior, De Villiers). Before him the position was viewed only for specialists who could keep to perfection. After him as long as you have a safe pair of hands, you're ok .It is now your batting that is assessed before you're considered worthy and keeping comes second. Not only do you have to be primarily a batsmen, you also have to be considered attacking (Dhoni, Maccullum, Prior, Akmal). What is expected form wicketkeepers has changed forever thanks to Gilchrist who redefined the role completely.
3. Ian Chappell
The team he captained was known as the ugly Australians. They are acknowledged as the first team that specialized in tactics of mental disintegration. The legacy Chappell left behind resulted in the coining of the term 'sledging' with the great Aussie team of the 90s and 00s having this as their trademark. Since then, sledging has become more widespread and now nearly all teams apart from the Kiwis use this tactic regularly and face offs between opposition players are to be expected every test series and is part of the reason why we tune into a tv sets so religiously.
4. Saqlain Mushtaq
The man who gave the world the 'Doosra', a ball that leg spins disguised as an off spinner. This was vital for off spinners at the time who needed there own variation to combat Warne and Kumble's googlies. This prompted many spinners to learn and perfect the Doosra (Muralitharan, Harbhajan, Ajmal) and the offspinners (who are the most common breed of spinner) are considered to have something extra if they possess this delivery. The Doosra also prompted other variations to be created such as the carrom ball (Mendis, Ashwin). I feel because of the success of Saqlain's doosra, new innovations (switch hit, Dil scoop, Morgan's reverse paddle) are not frowned upon in cricket, a sport that traditionally prided itself on orthodoxy.
5. Virender Sehwag. Test openers were traditionally required to take the shine off the new ball and see the team through to lunch with steady starts, a run rate of 3.5 per over would suffice. However, with this man's arrival the definition of the role has changed and openers are now more prepared to free the arms and take their chances against the new ball and set up tests. A fantastic way to bring back time into test match. As this man's career has not ended, I feel his true contribution to cricket can not yet be measured. The changes have already started (Dilshan, McCullum moving up the order), but I'm sure in ten years time such openers will be common place.