50 Greatest Batsmen in the History of Cricket- the Finale
So far, we have looked at 40 of the greatest batsmen that the game his seen in its history in parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. Culminating our series are the 10 greatest- the best of the best! These ten are the true masters of the art of batting. They include four players from the West Indies, two each from India and England and one each from Australia and South Africa. With that, our top 50 has 12 players each from Australia and England, 9 from the West Indies, 6 from Pakistan, 5 from India, 3 from South Africa, and 1 each from New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. The only Test nation not represented here is Bangladesh and unless we’re friggin’ kidding ourselves, that seems just about right.
Out of the 50, 14 are left-handed batsmen and the remaining 36 right-handed. Five of these stalwarts played predominantly before the First World War (1880-1914); 6 in between the two wars (1918-39) and 13 after the war till the beginning of the ODIs (1945-70). 11 players played in the first wave of one day cricket (1970-90) and 12 in the golden age of batting, the generation we grew up watching (1990-2000). Five cricketers from the 21st century (2000 onwards) also make the cut. Out of these 50, ten are still actively playing international cricket while one (Ganguly) plays in the domestic circuit. So, without much further ado, let us take a look at the 10 greatest batsmen in the history of cricket!
10. SUNIL GAVASKAR (IND) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Medium (1971-87)
Tests- 125, Runs- 10122, Avg- 51.12, 100s- 34, High- 236
ODIs- 108, Runs- 3092, Avg- 35.13, 100s- 1, High- 103*
25,834 FC runs with 81 centuries at 51.46
For a generation that has grown up watching the Pontings, the Kallises and the Tendulkars; it is hard to imagine what Sunil Manohar Gavaskar meant to the cricketing world. He was India’s first great batsman; the first man who inspired a nation to dream big and believe that they could rub shoulders with the giants of the game. He was one of the greatest opening batsmen the game has ever seen; with a game built around a near flawless technique and unprecedented levels of concentration. But most importantly, he was the only man who stood up against the phenomenal might of the West Indies in the 70s and 80s. Against what is arguably the “Best Team to Have Ever Played Test Cricket”, Gavaskar scored 2749 runs at 65 with 13 centuries.
9. SIR VIVIAN RICHARDS (WI) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Slow (1974-91)
Tests- 121, Runs- 8540, Avg- 50.23, 100s- 24, High- 291
WSC Matches- 14, Runs- 1281, Avg- 55.69, 100s- 4, High- 177
ODIs- 187, Runs- 6721, Avg- 47.00, 100s- 11, High- 189*
36,212 FC runs with 114 centuries at 49.40
Take an ounce of Sehwag’s aggression; mix 5 teaspoons of Tendulkar’s timing and add a pinch of Bradman’s aura on top- voila! You have Viv Richards on your plate. If Gavaskar was the most respected batsman of his generation and Bradman the most admired, then Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards has to be the most feared batsman the game has ever seen. Critics argue that there are many with greater records, but there is no one who has the power to intimidate, dominate and rip a bowling attack to pieces the way Richards did in his heyday. Arguably the greatest one-day batsman ever (his average and strike rate both exceed Tendulkar), Richards was a giant in the Tests too and his record for most runs in a year (1710 in 1976) stood for 3 decades.
8. JACQUES KALLIS (RSA) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Medium Fast (1995-2012)
Tests- 150, Runs- 12260, Avg- 57.02, 100s- 41, High- 224
ODIs- 317, Runs- 11372- Avg- 45.48, 100s- 17, High- 139
If world cricket was a museum and all the cricketers were priceless artworks, then Jacques Kallis would be this museum’s Mona Lisa- priceless and one in a billion. Kallis has to be the most consistent, if not the greatest all-round cricketer the world has seen. A batsman with almost perfect technique and an appetite for runs second to none, Kallis was destined to be cricket’s unsung hero. Despite the fact that he has more man-of-the-match awards in Tests than any other player in history, he was still overshadowed by his more flamboyant contemporaries (read Lara, Tendulkar and Ponting). With a record to die for and a mind impervious to all sorts of distractions, Kallis is a true cricket fan’s cricketer, classical in every sense of the word.
7. SIR GARFIELD SOBERS (WI) Left Hand Batsman, Left Arm Bowler (1954-74)
Tests- 93, Runs- 8032, Avg- 57.78, 100s- 26, High- 365*
28,314 FC runs with 86 centuries at 54.87
They call him the greatest all-rounder ever and his record substantiates that claim. He could have been in the team as a bowler alone (235 wickets at 34), but it is for his legendary batting that Garry Sobers came to be known. He broke Len Hutton’s world record for the highest individual score in Tests by scoring 365 in only his 14th Test as a 21-year old. Known for a rock solid technique mixed with the Caribbean flair of batsmanship, Sobers will be best remembered as arguably the greatest off-side stroke maker in the game’s history. He was the first batsman to hit six sixes in a single over (to the misfortune of one Malcolm Nash) and scored a magnificent 254 for Rest of the World in 1971 at the age of 35, against an Australian attack comprising of Dennis Lillee and Bob Massie.
6. BRIAN LARA (WI) Left Hand Batsman, Right Arm Leg Break (1990-2006)
Tests- 131, Runs- 11953, Avg- 52.28, 100s- 34, High- 400*
ODIs- 299, Runs- 10405, Avg- 40.48, 100s- 19, High- 169
When he made his debut at 21, Brian Lara was supposed to be the next great Caribbean batsman, carrying forward the legacy of Headley, Walcott, Sobers and Richards. Little did people know that this tiny man from Trinidad would one day outshine his illustrious compatriots. In 1994, within the space of two months, Lara broke the world records for the highest individual score in Tests and first class (375 and 501 respectively). Those who think that this was a fluke need to be told that he reclaimed the former record by becoming the first man to score 400 in a single Test innings a decade later. No one has scored more double centuries than Lara (apart from the Don of course) and along with Bill Ponsford, Lara remains the only man to cross 400 twice in his first class career.
5. SIR WALTER HAMMOND (ENG) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Medium Fast (1927-47)
Tests- 85, Runs- 7249, Avg- 58.45, 100s- 22, High- 336*
50,551 FC runs with 167 centuries at 56.10
If it was not for Bradman, Hammond would perhaps be the greatest pre-war batsman in the game, and certainly the greatest of his generation. It was by sheer coincidence that the careers of Hammond and Bradman ran almost parallel to each other in splendid fashion. He established himself firmly as not just Hobbs’ successor as the greatest English batsman but also the finest batsman in the world when, only in his second series (the 1928 Ashes), he shattered the record books by accumulating 905 runs in 5 Tests at 113. He kick-started a great rivalry with the Don when he broke his world record of the highest individual Test score by scoring an unbeaten 336 against New Zealand in 1933. Despite losing six of his best years to war, Hammond scored over 50,000 first class runs and at the time of his retirement, held the world record for most Test runs.
4. SACHIN TENDULKAR (IND) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Bowler (1989-2012)
Tests- 188, Runs- 15470, Avg- 55.44, 100s- 51, High- 248*
ODIs- 454, Runs- 18113, Avg- 45.05, 100s- 48, High- 200*
24,389 FC runs with 78 centuries at 58.62
Tendulkar’s greatness lies beyond his spectacular numbers, beyond his breath-taking strokeplay, beyond his towering records and even beyond his mind numbing consistency. The only measure of his true greatness is the ease with which he has shouldered the expectations of a cricket crazy nation for such a long period and with such amazing grace. From the prodigious 16-year old facing Wasim and Waqar on a torrid Faisalabad pitch to the dynamic 38-year old scoring an ODI double ton in Gwalior; from the determined 19-year old smashing Hughes and Reid in Perth to the overpowering 30-year old uppercutting Akhtar in Durban; Tendulkar has delivered series after series, year after year, decade after decade with amazing consistency. No other batsman has scored with this consistency over this long a period, playing so many international games. Even today, when his failures are magnified and often not tolerated, this Indian colossus continues to further his legend.
3. GEORGE HEADLEY (WI) Right Hand Batsman, Leg Break Bowler (1930-54)
Tests- 22, Runs- 2190, Avg- 60.83, 100s- 10, High- 270*
9921 FC runs with 33 centuries at 69.86
In West Indies, they called Don Bradman the ‘White Headley’. Comparison to the great man is probably the ultimate compliment in the world of cricket. Statistically, Headley is the closest thing to Bradman that the world has seen. His rate of scoring both runs and centuries is faster than all others, save Bradman in Test as well as first class cricket. He made runs with a style and brilliance that have not been since. His amazing ability and remarkable consistency are best exemplified in the fact that between 1929 and 1939, the Black Bradman did not have a single bad series. These performances become even more remarkable in light of the fact that his team was solely dependent on him and in the 22 games he played, he scored a phenomenal 25.6% of his team’s runs as well as 10 of the 15 centuries. No other batsman has performed with such consistency while carrying such a burden for so long.
2. SIR JACK HOBBS (ENG) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Medium (1908-30)
Tests- 61, Runs- 5410, Avg- 56.94, 100s- 15, High- 211
61,760 FC runs with 199 centuries at 50.70
John Berry Hobbs is one of the game’s earliest superstars and the first batsman to be dubbed “The Master” (a moniker later used for the likes of Hanif Mohammed, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar). Hobbs holds the record for most runs (61,760) and most centuries (199) in top flight cricket, and he would have scored a lot more if not for his charitable tendency of retiring after scoring a hundred to give other batsmen a go at the bowling. He was the first batsman to average over 50 in Test cricket and the first professional cricketer to be knighted by the Queen. He remains the only man to score 7 Test centuries after his 40th birthday and is the oldest man to score a Test ton, a feat he achieved at the age of 46. Self-taught and without any formal coaching, Hobbs was a pioneer in the game, inventing and introducing several strokes that modern batsmen play. Many have challenged his achievements but few have rivalled his influence on the game.
1. SIR DONALD BRADMAN (AUS) Right Hand Batsman (1928-48)
Tests- 52, Runs- 6996, Avg- 99.94, 100s- 29, High- 334
28,067 FC runs with 117 centuries at 95.14
Headley was the “Black Bradman” and Zaheer Abbas was the Asian Bradman; Hobbs was the greatest before Bradman and Tendulkar is the best since. But there is only one true Bradman- the Don himself. Statistically, technically and by the virtue of sheer aura, nobody comes anywhere close to the great Donald Bradman. He is a benchmark in the game- the basis on which each and every great batsman is measured, regardless of the nationality or playing style. They argue that he never played one-dayers but conveniently forget that he played his Tests like one-dayers as well (his strike rate is only inferior to Gilchrist, Sehwag and Richards). Bradman was a one-man army, an unstoppable run machine that was world class even on a bad day. He announced his arrival in the 1930 Ashes, obliterating his rival Wally Hammond’s record of most runs in a series by scoring 974 runs in 5 Tests at 139. The English were so petrified that their captain Douglas Jardine devised the leg theory (popularly known as Bodyline) to counter the Don’s scoring.
By the time Douglas Jardine’s Bodyline series came around, Bradman was only 24 and had already scored 2695 runs in 19 Tests at 112.3 with 12 centuries, including the world record score of 334. The Bodyline was his weakest series but he still managed 396 runs in 4 games at an average of 56.75 (higher than the career averages of Lara, Tendulkar, Chappell, Gavaskar and Ponting). He scored 12 double centuries in just 80 innings and registered a further seven 150+ scores. His tragically legendary average of 99.94 is one of the most widely known sport statistics worldwide. He is not just the greatest batsman in cricket history but also one of the greatest sportspersons ever, with the Time magazine rating him alongside the likes of Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Juan Manuel Fangio and Pele. Bradman is much more than an icon or a hero; he is a figure that transcends the game he played and stands for something much greater than that. Bradman is the epitome of the pinnacle of human achievement in sports.
Posted on February 6, 2012, in The Lists and tagged batsmen, brian lara, cricket, don bradman, garry sobers, jacques kallis, sachin tendulkar, sports, sunil gavaskar, viv richards. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.