50 Greatest Batsmen in the History of Cricket- Part 1
Batsmen have always dominated the game of cricket. Through their elegant stroke play and ruthless hitting, they have captivated the hearts of many a fair maidens (read: Sharmila Tagore, Neena Gupta, Sangeeta Bijlani, etc.) and have given countless bowlers sleepless nights (for more info, google Shane Warne). Batsmen are undoubtedly the crowd pullers in the game, the big-ticket draws, the heavyweights of the game and even though a bowler might silence a roaring MCG or Eden Gardens by rattling the off-stump of a Ponting or breaking the jaw of a Ganguly, it’s the batsmen who have the power to command the 50,000 odd in attendance (or the dozen sultry cheerleaders) to go berserk after every boundary or six. This is my magnum opus- a tribute to the best batsmen to have wielded a willow, regardless of the form or era. So here is an exhaustive list of the 50 greatest batsmen in the history of cricket.
50. KEVIN PIETERSEN (ENG) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Off Break (2004-12)
Tests- 78, Runs- 6361, Avg- 50.48, 100s- 19, High- 227
ODIs- 123, Runs- 3903, Avg- 40.23, 100s- 7, High- 116
Hold your hats, it’s Kevin Pietersen. KP is the youngest member of this elite club of batting stalwarts. In his brief yet sparkling career, this South Africa-born dashing right hander has shown immense potential silencing many critics and demolishing several world-class bowling attacks. His heroics in the 2005 Ashes are what legends are made of. With superb timing, immaculate footwork and a boldness to die for, KP looks set to conquer many English batting records by the time he hangs his gloves.
49. CLEM HILL (AUS) Left Hand Batsman, Leg Break Bowler (1896-1912)
Tests- 49, Runs- 3412, Avg- 39.21, 100s- 7, High- 191
17,213 FC runs with 45 centuries at 43.57
Clem Hill was one of the very first Australian greats and arguably the first true great southpaw in international cricket. At 16, he shot to prominence with a triple century in an inter-collegiate match, giving the world glimpses of his immense talent at a very early age. After the turn of the century, Hill combined with opener Victor Trumper to become the mainstay of the Aussie batting. During this period, he outshone his English counterparts such as Ranji and Archie MacLaren and even the much more illustrious Trumper. In the era of uncovered pitches, his average of 39.21 was nothing short of phenomenal. An expert at batting with the tail, he still holds the Australian record for the best eighth wicket partnership, a full century after his last Test appearance.
48. GORDON GREENIDGE (WI) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Medium (1974-91)
Tests- 108, Runs- 7558, Avg- 44.72, 100s- 19, High- 226
ODIs- 128, Runs- 5134, Avg- 45.03, 100s- 11, High- 133*
37,354 FC runs with 92 centuries at 45.88
Destruction was Greenidge’s middle name it would seem. Although he was often overshadowed by his more flamboyant team mates like Viv Richards, Richie Richardson and Desmond Haynes, Greenidge was a more accomplished batsman than his statistics show. One of the greatest one-day players of all time, Greenidge was no bunny in the longer version of the game as well. Through the 80s, he formed cricket’s most memorable opening partnership with Desmond Haynes, racking up 16 century stands in Tests- the most by any opening pair. Greenidge’s ability to launch brutal onslaughts against quality bowling contributed majorly in making the West Indies the dominant side that it was in the 1980s.
47. PETER MAY (ENG) Right Hand Batsman (1951-61)
Tests- 66, Runs- 4537, Avg- 46.77, 100s- 13, High- 285*
27,592 FC runs with 85 centuries at 51.00
Tall, handsome and the epitome of English batsmanship and sportsmanship, Peter Barker Howard May was an exemplary captain, perhaps the greatest England have ever had. But before all that, Peter May had been the best young thing English cricket had seen since Hutton. By 18, he was the best schoolboy cricketer in the country. He exploded on to the international scene with a century on debut at the age of 21. However, it was only after 1953 that May really found his golden touch. During 1955-58, May captained England and scored over 2200 runs in 30 Tests at 54 with 10 centuries. England did not lose a single series during this period.
46. ARTHUR SHREWSBURY (ENG) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Bowler (1882-93)
Tests- 23, Runs- 1277, Avg- 35.47, 100s- 3, High- 164
26,505 FC runs with 59 centuries at 36.65
When WG Grace was once asked to name the one player he would definitely want in his side, he simply said “Give me Arthur.” In a time when pitches resembled the pothole filled roads of Indian countryside, Shrewsbury was the best in the world. He towered above rivals like Grace and Australia’s Billy Murdoch, especially on the sticky wickets where his peers were found lacking. Shrewsbury dominated world cricket before the advent of Australian giants like Trumper and Hill and was still averaging 50 in his final first class season in 1902 at the age of 47. He was the first player to cross 1000 Test runs and held the record for most Test runs and centuries for over a decade.
45. STEVE WAUGH (AUS) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Medium (1985-2003)
Tests- 168, Runs- 10927, Avg- 51.06, 100s- 32, High- 200
ODIs- 325, Runs- 7569, Avg- 32.90, 100s- 3, High- 120*
One of the most successful captains of all time and the grittiest and most resilient batsman of his generation, Steve Waugh was the model cricketer for one and all. Waugh had a baptism with fire when he was thrown to the wolves at the age of 20, making his debut against the mighty West Indies. He did impress as a flashy middle order batsman and a useful medium pacer but it was in his second innings as a more patient patriarchal figure in the Australian team that he achieved new heights. It was only fitting that he exited the international stage with a performance befitting his reputation- a fighting innings that prevented India from winning their first ever series down under. Even in his last act as captain and batsman, Waugh was the embodiment of courage.
44. HANIF MOHAMMED (PAK) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Off Break (1952-69)
Tests- 55, Runs- 3915, Avg- 43.98, 100s- 12, High- 337
The original “Little Master”, Hanif carried the mantle of being the subcontinent’s greatest batsman through the 1950s and 60s. Known for his rock solid defence and flawless technique, Hanif could give seminars on patience in batting. His 16-hour long marathon 337 against the fiery West Indies is testimony to that. The fact that he scored that as a 22-year old only adds to the legend of this tiny man from Junagadh. His penchant for making huge scores brought him a then world record 499 for Karachi in 1959. Probably one of the most innovative and versatile batsmen ever, it was him who invented the reverse sweep (popularised by Andy Flower four decades later). He could also keep wickets and at one point, bowled both right- and left-handed in Test cricket.
43. SOURAV GANGULY (IND) Left Hand Batsman, Right Arm Medium (1992-2007)
Tests- 113, Runs- 7212, Avg- 42.17, 100s- 16, High- 239
ODIs- 311, Runs- 11363, Avg- 41.02, 100s- 22, High- 183
The Prince of Kolkata has to be one of the most colourful characters to have graced this gentleman’s game. Not many have the cajones to wave their shirts from the Lord’s balcony. No single player has had cricket pundits so much divided in their opinions. Some swear that he was a sucker against the short delivery while others have hailed him as the God of off-side. For some he was the arrogant and ill-mannered batsman who would resort to biting nails in tricky situations. Others remember him as India’s greatest Test captain. But despite all this, no one can deny the enormous batting talent of Sourav Chandidas Ganguly. That he managed to stay and prosper in a team filled with greats like Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid is nothing short of an achievement in itself.
42. SAEED ANWAR (PAK) Left Hand Batsman, Slow Left-Arm Orthodox (1989-2003)
Tests- 55, Runs- 4052, Avg- 45.52, 100s- 11, High- 188*
ODIs- 247, Runs- 8824, Avg- 39.21, 100s- 20, High- 194
Like all Pakistani batsmen, Anwar relied more on stroke play than brute force. However, this did not mean that he could not provide the team with some whirlwind starts as arch rivals India found out all so often. One of the greatest one-day specialists the game has scene, Anwar cemented his place as an all-time great with his mind-boggling 194 against India in 1997. With time, Anwar achieved the same amount of success in the Test arena as well, averaging a healthy 45 and scoring 11 tons in his 55 Tests. During the 90s, Anwar’s majestic timing and placement were what provided Pakistan the perfect starts to their innings.
41. ADAM GILCHRIST (AUS) Left Hand Batsman, Wicketkeeper (1996-2008)
Tests- 96, Runs- 5570, Avg- 47.60, 100s- 17, High- 204*
ODIs- 287, Runs- 9619, Avg- 35.89, 100s- 16, High- 172
One of the most devastating batsmen of all-time, Adam Gilchrist embodied the Australian steamrolling agenda in the late 90s and early 2000s. One of the most exhilarating stroke makers in the history of the game, Gilchrist holds the records for most Test runs and centuries by a wicketkeeper. What is even more amazing is the rate at which he got them- an average of 47.60 and a tremendous strike rate of 81.95 (the highest in Test cricket). In ODIs, Gilly was an even more accomplished juggernaut as he shredded bowling attacks to smithereens with partner-in-crime Matthew Hayden, forming one of the most feared opening partnerships of all time.
More batting greats to follow. Next time, we take a look at nos. 40 to 31.