Category Archives: The Lists

The 25 Greatest Grand Prix Drivers of All-Time

British actor Peter Egan once said “Racing makes heroin addiction look like a vague wish for something salty.” Think about it, what is grand prix racing- two dozen men driving in 1000 lb. metallic beasts round and round in circles at speeds that would make any sane man run for cover. Normal mortals don’t sign up for a life like this; it takes deranged and ambitious men to make something like this their life’s passion. Ever since grand prix racing began in its primitive format over a century ago, the sport has seen many great drivers. This is my attempt to chronicle the 25 greatest men to sit in the cockpit of a grand prix car.

First of all, this list is not limited simply to Formula One. It covers top-flight racing before the initiation of Formula One as well. However, for the sake of uniformity, I have only included single-seater cockpit cars (the kind used in Formula One), which excludes all sports cars, stock cars, and touring car championships like the NASCAR. Additionally, while IndyCar uses cars similar to the modern F1 cars, it is not an international series and with a few exceptions, has always been dominated by American drivers. Hence, performance in IndyCar and other American Championships is excluded from my criteria as well. In fact, I have only considered a driver’s performance in the following series:-

  • European Championship- Started in 1927 by the AIACR (which later became FIA), the “Grandes Epreuves” was the most prestigious GP series in the world in the 1930s. Although its winner was officially called the European Champion, he was considered a de facto World Champion.
  • Formula One World Championship- Initiated by the FIA in 1950, Formula 1 racing is considered the pinnacle of grand prix racing. The season champion in F1 is considered the World Champion in GP racing. It is the most prestigious and richest GP racing series in the world. The Formula One seasons had started as early as 1946 by the AIACR but there was no drivers’ championship till 1949. I have mentioned these seasons as “Formula-A” (the earlier name of F1) in order to avoid confusion.

It is not an easy task, comparing champions from different eras. Each era has its own challenges and pitfalls, along with some benefits. It is my opinion (not saying it’s a fact) that the period from the mid-70s to the mid-90s was the toughest for any driver in the history of top-flight grand prix racing. The cars were getting quicker but no safer. On an average, there was at least one fatality every year (a total of 13 drivers died in the 1970s alone); and there was simply no dearth of competition. I mean look at just some of the names who raced during this period; you had the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi, Niki Lauda, James Hunt, Mario Andretti, Ronnie Peterson, Gilles Villeneuve, Keke Rosberg, Jody Scheckter, Nelson Piquet, Nigell Mansell, and of course the forever at-war pair of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. You will find most of these names in this list and some, which probably you have never heard of.

The drivers in this list are from all eras, winning a total of 51 World Championships (out of 64) and five European Championships (out of six). The oldest driver here was born in 1892 and started racing in the 1920s, while at the other end of the spectrum are three names that are currently racing actively. I have attempted to be as objective as I can in ranking these drivers, but still personal preferences and bias has crept in to some extent. I say, keep an open mind, read about them, and for God’s sake, if your favourite driver isn’t here, please do not lynch me!

  1. JEAN-PIERRE WIMILLE (Fra) (1908-49) (Career- 1930-48) (European Championship, Formula-A)
Jean Pierre Wimille in his Bugatti at the 1939 Coupe de Paris

Jean Pierre Wimille atop his Bugatti at the 1939 Coupe de Paris

European Race Starts- 13; Formula-A Race Starts- 12, Wins- 4; Other Major GP wins- 18

One of the early masters of Grand Prix racing, Wimille began his racing career at the age of 22 in the prestigious French Grand Prix. Before the war, he did register a few major victories – 1936 French GP, the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1937 and 1939 – but his appearances in the European Championship were sporadic. Driving exclusively for Bugatti, he participated in 13 championship races but never finished on the podium. It was after the war in the newly started Formula-A that Wimille reached the peak of his driving skills. Driving an Alfa Romeo, he won two races each in the 1947 and 48 seasons. However, the absence of a Driver’s Championship meant that despite being the best driver in the world, Wimille was never officially crowned the World Champion. He died on the wheel during the practice runs for the 1949 Buenos Aires Grand Prix.

  1. JOCHEN RINDT (Aut) (1942-70) (Career- 1964-70) (Formula 1)
Jochen Rindt in his Lotus at the 1970 German GP

Jochen Rindt in his Lotus at the 1970 German GP

Race Starts- 60, Wins- 6, Podiums- 13, World Titles- 1

The only driver to win the Formula One Driver’s Championship posthumously, Jochen Rindt had a brief but memorable foray into the world of Formula One. Having made his F1 debut in 1964, the Austrian spent the first few seasons driving inferior cars and lagging behind the championship leaders. He did win the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1965 but F1 success eluded him. It was in 1969 when he switched to Lotus that Rindt found success. He won his first race at the 1969 US Grand Prix and finished 4th in the championship standings. The following year, the 28-year old won five races, including four in a row to take a staggering lead in the Championship race. Despite his tragic death during the practice for Italian GP, which meant he earned no points in the last four races, Rindt finished five points clear of his nearest rival, and became the only man be the World Champion posthumously.

  1. MARIO ANDRETTI (US) (b 1940) (Career- 1968-82) (Formula 1)
Mario Andretti celebrates his Indianapolis 500 victory

Mario Andretti celebrates his Indianapolis 500 victory

Race Starts- 128, Wins- 12, Podiums- 19, World Titles- 1

Andretti’s name is synonymous with speed in the United States due to his status as that rare American driver to achieve international success and fame. Andretti began his career in stock car racing before moving on to GP racing in the US. He was mostly a part-time racer in the Formula 1 between 1968 and 1974 and focussed more on IndyCar racing, where he won three titles. But from 1975, he became a full-time Formula 1 driver, and helped a struggling Lotus team revive its fortunes. In 1977, he won four races but still finished only 3rd in the standings due to reliability issues with car. The following year, having addressed Lotus’ consistency issues, Andretti dominated the field and won the title, becoming one of the rare drivers to win both the F1 World Championship and the IndyCar Championship. He returned to IndyCar after 1982 where he won another title in 1984, at the age of 44.

  1. BERND ROSEMEYER (Ger) (1909-38) (Career- 1935-37) (European Championship)
Bernd Rosemeyer in his Silver Arrow, c. 1935

Bernd Rosemeyer in his Silver Arrow, c. 1935

Race Starts- 12, Wins- 3, Podiums- 6, European Titles- 1; Other Major GP wins- 7

A darling of the German masses, Rosemeyer was one of the first superstars of GP racing. When he joined the Auto Union racing team in the 30s, he had no experience in racing cars, having only raced motorcycles before. But the young German was quick to learn the tricks of the trade. He debuted in the European Championship in 1935 and duelled with the great Rudolf Caracciola in only his second race at the Nurburgring. Later that year, he won his first race in Czechoslovakia becoming the first rookie to win a championship GP. The following year, he won three out of the four races of the season, decimating all competition and becoming the youngest European Championship at 26. He also won the prestigious Vanderbilt Cup in America and the German GP three times in a row. Rosemeyer died in January 1938 during a land-speed record attempt, having set a new world record of 432 km/hr.

  1. GRAHAM HILL (Eng) (1929-75) (Career- 1958-75) (Formula 1)
Graham Hill celebrates his 1966 Indianapolis 500 victory . Image © The Times

Graham Hill celebrates his 1966 Indianapolis 500 victory . Image © The Times

Race Starts- 176, Wins- 14, Podiums- 36, World Titles- 2

One-half of the only father-son pair to win the Formula 1 World Championship (his son Damon was the champion in 1996), Graham Hill remains one of the most successful drivers in GP racing history. In a long and distinguished career, Hill became the first (and till date only) man to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport – the F1 World Championship, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Indianapolis 500. The Briton entered F1 racing in 1958 and after a few quiet seasons, hit the jackpot by winning his first world title in 1962. Forming a great rivalry with Jim Clarke, Hill finished the runner-up in the championship standings in the following three seasons before winning his second world championship in 1968. He registered his last victory in 1969 but continued to compete even afterwards. Hill was still active in F1 at the age of 46 when he died when a plane he was piloting crashed in London.

  1. MIKA HAKINNEN (Fin) (b 1968) (Career- 1991-2001) (Formula 1)
Mika Hakinnen after winning the 1998 FIA World Championship. Image © F1

Mika Hakinnen after winning the 1998 FIA World Championship. Image © F1

Race Starts- 161, Wins- 20, Podiums- 51, World Titles- 2

The original ‘Flying Finn’, Hakinnen overcame a life threatening injury early on in his career to finish as a two-time world champion. Making his F1 debut with Lotus, Hakinnen joined McLaren in 1993, the team with which he would remain for the remainder of his career. In 1994, he became the team’s lead driver after the exit of Ayrton Senna but a near-fatal crash at the 1995 Australian GP put his promising career on a hold. A resilient Hakinnen made a remarkable comeback to Formula One the following season. With the McLaren team making considerable improvements, Hakinnen won the title in 1998 winning eight out of the 16 races, and repeated the feat the following year with five victories. In 2000, he narrowly missed out on making it a hat-trick of world titles due to a late charge in the season by Michael Schumacher. The Finn retired from F1 at the end of the 2001 season.

  1. NELSON PIQUET (Bra) (b 1952) (Career- 1978-91) (Formula 1)
Nelson Piquet. Image © F1

Nelson Piquet. Image © F1

Race Starts- 204, Wins- 23, Podiums- 60, World Titles- 3

Nelson Piquet rose through the ranks of GP racing as a teenager in the 70s breaking Jackie Stewart’s record of most Formula Three wins before making his debut in the big league in 1978. He signed up with Brabham in 1980 and finished second in the drivers’ standings. He won his first world championship in 1981 registering three victories and four podium finishes. After a disappointing 1982 where he failed to finish in as many as nine races, the Brazilian returned splendidly winning his second world title in ’83. Piquet moved to Williams in 1986 and won his third and final world title with them the following year. He finally signed up with Benetton in 1990 but despite advancing age, still remained competitive in his final years. He won two races in 1990 and one in 1991, his final season.

  1. EMERSON FITTIPALDI (Bra) (b 1946) (Career- 1970-80) (Formula 1)
Emerson Fittipaldi after winning the 1974 Belgian GP. Image © The Cahier Archive

Emerson Fittipaldi after winning the 1974 Belgian GP. Image © The Cahier Archive

Race Starts- 144, Wins- 14, Podiums- 35, World Titles- 2

Emerson Fittipaldi remains one of the few drivers to win the Formula One World Championship, the IndyCar Championship, and the Indianapolis 500. The Brazilian joined Lotus as the third driver in the late 1960s and became the team’s no. 1 driver in 1970, following the death of Jochen Rindt. In 1972 Lotus unveiled what was known as ‘the greatest Formula one design of all time’ – Lotus 72D, and Fittipaldi easily won the drivers’ championship that year, winning five out of the 11 races. He was then, the youngest champion in F1 history. An unreliable car cost him the championship next season and Fittipaldi left Lotus for McLaren in 1974. That year, he won his second world title and finished runner-up in 1975. The following season, he sprang a surprise by leaving a highly competitive McLaren to join his brother’s Copersucar-Fittipaldi team, where he stayed for the remainder of his career without any success.

  1. GILLES VILLENEUVE (Can) (1950-82) (Career- 1977-82) (Formula 1)
Gilles Villeneuve in his Ferrari

Gilles Villeneuve in his Ferrari

Race Starts- 67, Wins- 6, Podiums- 13

He may not have a Formula One world championship to his name but Gilles Villeneuve has something that several world champions can only dream of – an F1 racetrack named after him. The Canadian driver began his career racing snowmobiles and winning the Canadian and American championships in the sport. In 1976, Villeneuve beat world champion James Hunt and several other F1 drivers in a non-championship race. Promptly, he was signed by McLaren for the 1977 season. But it was for Ferrari that he won his first race – his home GP in Canada in 1978. He finished 2nd in the drivers’ championships in 1979 behind Jody Scheckter. Villeneuve continued to develop as a driver over the next few seasons and when many believed, he was reaching his best, he lost is life in a collision with Jochen Mass during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix. His son Jacques became the first Canadian to win the Formula One World Championship in 1997.

  1. JACK BRABHAM (Aus) (1926-2014) (Career- 1955-70) (Formula 1)
Jack-Brabham celebrates his victory in the 1973 World Championship

Jack-Brabham celebrates his victory in the 1973 World Championship

Race Starts- 126, Wins- 14, Podiums- 31, World Titles- 3

Jack Brabham’s contribution to Formula One is twofold – first as a three-time World Champion, and second as the founder and owner of the Brabham Racing Team. Somewhat of a late bloomer, the Australian driver began his F1 career in 1955 but it wasn’t until three seasons later that he became a regular driver for Cooper. He won his first world title the following year with two victories and three podium places. In 1960, Brabham put on his most dominant display yet, winning five back-to-back races and easily winning his second world championship. In 1962, he left Cooper to start his own team, where he drove himself. The Brabham racing side developed slowly and in 1966, Brabham became the first and only driver to win the world title driving his own car. He finished runner-up the following season and after a couple of indifferent seasons, retired in 1970.

  1. LEWIS HAMILTON (Eng) (b 1985) (Career- 2007 onwards) (Formula 1)
Lewis Hamilton, the youngest double world champion

Lewis Hamilton, the youngest double world champion

Race Starts- 152, Wins- 36, Podiums- 74, World Titles- 2

When he was ten years old, Hamilton famously told the McLaren team boss Ron Dennis, “I want to race for you one day, I want to race for McLaren.” He was signed by the team in their Young Drivers Programme and rose through the ranks winning titles in Formula Three and GP2 before making his F1 debut in 2007 at the age of 22. Hamilton took the F1 world by storm, registering seven podiums and two victories in his first nine races. He won two more races but lost out in the title race by just one point. It was the best performance by a rookie in F1 history. He made amends by becoming Formula One’s youngest world champion the following year. After a few dull seasons, Hamilton switched to Mercedes in 2013, where he roared to success the following year, beating team-mate Nico Rosberg to the title, winning 11 out of 19 races.

  1. NIGEL MANSELL (Eng) (b 1953) (Career- 1980-95) (Formula 1)
Nigel Mansell on the podium of the 1992 British GP

Nigel Mansell on the podium of the 1992 British GP

Race Starts- 187, Wins- 31, Podiums- 59, World Titles- 1

Nigel Mansell holds the unique honour of holding both the Formula One World Championship and the IndyCar title simultaneously. The British driver began his F1 career for Lotus in the early 1980s but it was after he moved to Williams in 1985 that he managed to register his first GP win. He finished runner-up in the championship with Williams in 1986 and 1987 before racing for Ferrari for two seasons. Mansell returned to Williams in 1991 and again finished runner-up with five victories in the season. The following year was his annus mirabilis as Mansell clinched his only world title with nine victories from 16 races. In a surprising move, he moved to IndyCar racing the next year where he promptly won the American Championship, becoming the only driver to hold both the titles. He made a brief comeback to F1, starting six races in 1994-95 and winning the 1994 Australian GP.

  1. FERNANDO ALONSO (Esp) (b 1981) (Career- 2001 onwards) (Formula 1)
Fernando Alonso after winning the 2005 World Championship. Image © Christine Blachford

Fernando Alonso after winning the 2005 World Championship. Image © Christine Blachford

Race Starts- 238, Wins- 32, Podiums- 97, World Titles- 2

When he began his F1 career for Minardi, at 19 years, Fernando Alonso was the third youngest driver to start a Formula One GP. The following season, he signed up as the test driver for the Renault team and in 2003, got his first start for the team. That year, he became the youngest man to achieve a pole position and the youngest to register a win in Formula One. In 2005, in a very competitive Renault car, Alonso ended Michael Schumacher’s five-year streak and became F1’s youngest world champion. The following year, he repeated his performance and again won the world title with seven wins in 18 races. Spending one season with McLaren, Alonso returned to Renault before moving to Ferrari in 2010 and finished runner-up in the championship on three occasions for the Italian team. Still only 33, Alonso has a very realistic chance of winning many more races and possibly, even the championship.

  1. ALBERTO ASCARI (Ita) (1918-55) (Career- 1947-55) (Formula-A, Formula 1)
Alberto Ascari poses for the camera. Image - The Daily Mail

Alberto Ascari poses for the camera. Image – The Daily Mail

Formula-A Race Starts- 9, Wins- 2; F1 Race Starts- 32, Wins- 13, Podiums- 17, World Titles- 2

The son of Antonio Ascari, himself a grand prix champion in the 1920s, Alberto put on his father’s racing shoes after the end of World War II. He raced in the Grand Prix circuit (Formula-A) with Maserati and dominated the field in the early years. Apart from winning one race each in 1948 and 1949, he won several minor races too. Ascari joined Ferrari towards the end of the 1949 season. In the inaugural Formula One season, Ascari finished 5th in the championship standings but immediately made improvements, finishing 2nd in 1951. The following year, he obliterated all competition, winning six races in a row (in a seven-race season) and won his first world title. He successfully defended his crown in 1953, winning five races. Ascari left Ferrari after this season and joined Lancia but only started five races for them over the next two seasons before his untimely death at Monza in 1955.

  1. TAZIO NUVOLARI (Ita) (1892-1953) (Career- 1924-49) (European Championship)
Tazio Nuvolari in the pits. Image © National Media Museum, UK

Tazio Nuvolari in the pits. Image © National Media Museum, UK

Race Starts- 25, Wins- 4, Podiums- 7, European Titles- 1; Other Major GP wins- 20

With over 150 career victories including 24 GP races, Nuvolari was a giant of the game; the man whom Ferdinand Porsche called ‘the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future’. He began his career racing motorcycles in 1920 and even won the 350cc European Championship before moving to cars in 1931. Driving for Alpha Romeo in the newly started European Championship, Nuvolari won the title in 1932. The Italian then moved to Ferrari but despite a memorable victory in the German GP, he lost out in the title race to the superior German cars. After his relationship with Enzo Ferrari took a turn for the worse, Nuvolari drove for the Auto Union, with whom he won the 1938 Italian GP. Even though he was in his 50s after the war, Nuvolari returned to GP racing and even won some minor races. During his long career, he also won five Coppa Cianos, two Mille Miglias, two Targa Florios, two RAC Tourist Trophies, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

  1. STIRLING MOSS (Eng) (b 1929) (Career- 1951-61) (Formula 1)
Stirling Moss aka the 'Runner-Up'

Stirling Moss aka the ‘Runner-Up’

Race Starts- 66, Wins- 16, Podiums- 24

Widely acknowledged as ‘the greatest driver never to win the World Championship’, Stirling Moss was a force to be reckoned with in the early years of Formula One. He first drove in the 1951 Swiss GP for Hersham and Walton but remained on the fringes for the next few seasons driving for different teams. He was signed by Mercedes for the 1955 season and finished runner-up in the drivers’ championship, registering his first GP win in the process. Moss was the runner-up in the next three seasons as well, losing out to Juan Manuel Fangio in ’56 and ’57, and Mike Hawthorne in ’58. Not to be undone, the Briton continued his consistent performance finishing 3rd in the championship from 1959-61, making it seven years in a row where he finished in the top three. In 1962, he suffered a life-threatening accident that put him out of action for a year. Even though he recovered, he retired from racing after that.

  1. SEBASTIEN VETTEL (Ger) (b 1987) (Career- 2007 onwards) (Formula 1)
Sebastien Vettel, the youngest to do a hat-trick of world titles

Sebastien Vettel, the youngest to do a hat-trick of world titles

Race Starts- 143, Wins- 40, Podiums- 69, World Titles- 4

One of the most dominant drivers in motorsport, the German is one of the leading lights in Formula One currently. Having made his F1 debut for Sauber in 2006 as a 19-year old, he drove for Red Bull’s secondary team Torro Rosso in 2008. The following year, Vettel graduated to the main team and finished the season as runner-up in the drivers’ standings. Beginning his most dominant phase, he then went on to win the world title from 2010 to 2013 (one of only three men to win the world title four years in a row). He holds the records for several ‘youngests’ in F1 – youngest to lead a race, youngest to win a GP, youngest to win pole, youngest world champion, and youngest multiple world champion. Additionally, he also holds the record for most consecutive GP wins (9). For all his accomplishments, it is remarkable that Sebastien Vettel is only 27 years old and has ample time to rewrite the record books further.

  1. NIKI LAUDA (Aut) (b 1949) (Career- 1971-85) (Formula 1)
Niki Lauda in one of his post-accident victories

Niki Lauda in one of his post-accident victories

Race Starts- 171, Wins- 25, Podiums- 54, World Titles- 3

If they had a world title for resilience and determination, Niki Lauda would win it hands down. Lauda made his way up from Formula Two to the big leagues in the early 1970s, racing for Mach and BRM. But it wasn’t until his move to Ferrari in 1974 that his true genius emerged. He won his first world title in ‘75. The following season, Lauda started imperiously, taking the fight away from his rivals to a point where it seemed a second Championship was a mere formality. But at Nurburgring, the Austrian suffered a horrific crash that caused extensive burns to his face and head. Remarkably, a far from fit Lauda returned to racing in just six weeks in an effort to salvage his championship hopes. He lost out that year to a resurgent James Hunt but won the title again in 1977 and retired two seasons later. In 1982, Lauda made a surprise comeback to racing for McLaren, racing for four more seasons and winning yet another world title in ’84.

  1. RUDOLF CARACCIOLA (Ger) (1901-59) (Career- 1931-39) (European Championship)
Rudolf Caracciola, the most decorated race-car driver in history

Rudolf Caracciola, the most decorated race-car driver in history

Race Starts- 24, Wins- 10, Podiums- 17, European Titles- 3; Other Major GP wins- 13

One of the earliest masters of wet weather conditions, Rudolf Caracciola remains one of the most dominant drivers in the history of grand prix racing. Having won several minor GP races in the late ‘20s, Caracciola debuted in the 1932 European Championship for Alpha Romeo. He won his first Grandes Epreuves that year in Germany and finished 3rd in the standings. After Alpha Romeo withdrew the following season, Caracciola was left without a drive and spent two seasons in the wilderness racing for his own team in minor races. He made a comeback in 1935 for Mercedes and promptly won his first Championship. He won lost out to a young Bernd Rosemeyer in the championship standings in 1936 but dominated the field in the following two seasons, winning back-to-back Championships. Caracciola was third in the standings in ’39 when war interrupted the season. He attempted a comeback after the war but at 45, he was way past his prime.

  1. JACKIE STEWART (Sco) (b 1939) (Career- 1965-73) (Formula 1)
Jackie Stewart, who retired from F1 as the reigning World Champion. Image - Fox Sports

Jackie Stewart, who retired from F1 as the reigning World Champion. Image – Fox Sports

Race Starts- 99, Wins- 27, Podiums- 43, World Titles- 3

In a brief but dominant career, Jackie Stewart established himself as one of the quickest drivers in the history of Formula One. Within one year of his Formula Three debut, Stewart signed with BRM in F1. He won his first race in that very season at Monza and finished 3rd in the Championship, giving indication of things to come. After two indifferent seasons with BRM, he switched to Matra in 1968, and promptly finished as the runner-up in the drivers’ championship that year. Having earned the nickname, ‘the Flying Scot’, Stewart won six of the 11 races in 1969 to win his first world title. Making a move from Matra to Tyrell in 1970, he won the Championship again the following season. Despite four wins in 1972, the Scot had to settle for a runner-up place behind eventual Champion Emerson Fittipaldi. But Stewart made amends in 1973 beating Fittipaldi for his third world title and earning the rare distinction of retiring from the sport as the reigning world champion.

  1. JIM CLARK (Sco) (1936-68) (Career- 1960-68) (Formula 1)
Jim Clark, the only driver to win the F1 World Championship and the Indianapolis 500 in one year

Jim Clark, the only driver to win the F1 World Championship and the Indianapolis 500 in one year

Race Starts- 72, Wins- 25, Podiums- 32, World Titles- 2

A hugely talented and versatile driver, Jim Clark’s genius lay in his ability to adapt to the demands of different types of races and cars. He finished runner-up in his class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 and 1960, before making his F1 debut mid-season in 1960 for Lotus. After finishing runner-up in the Championship in 1962, Clark won his first world title the following year with seven victories from 10 races. He finished 3rd the following season before fighting back to win his second crown in 1965. This year, he also won the prestigious Indianapolis 500, making him the only driver ever to win the F1 World Championship and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year. After two bad seasons, Clark and Lotus were all set for resurgence in ‘68 with Clarke winning the opening race of the season. However, he was killed in a fatal crash driving in a Formula Two race in Germany the same year. At the time of his death, he held the records for most wins and pole positions in Formula One.

  1. ALAIN PROST (Fra) (b 1955) (Career- 1980-93) (Formula 1)
Alain Prost, often dubbed the 'Professor' for his calculative racing style

Alain Prost, often dubbed the ‘Professor’ for his calculative racing style

Race Starts- 199, Wins- 51, Podiums- 106, World Titles- 4

Alain Prost drove in an era that included some of the most talented and successful drivers in history. That he managed to win four world titles amidst such fierce competition speaks volumes about his talent. After making his debut for McLaren, Prost moved to Renault in 1981 where he finished as the runner-up in the Championship in 1983. He moved back to McLaren the next year, where he again finished 2nd in the standings. Establishing himself as the best driver of his generation, Prost won back-to-back world titles in 1985 and ‘86. He finished 2nd again in 1988 before being crowned the World Champion for a third time in 1989. The Frenchman, known as ‘The Professor’ for his intellectual approach to competition, moved to Ferrari in 1990, winning his fourth and final world title for them in 1993, his final season. It is noteworthy that apart from his four title wins, he also finished second four times, and each time to a fellow all-time great (Piquet in 1983, Lauda in 1984, and Senna in 1988 and 1990).

  1. MICHAEL SCHUMACHER (Ger) (b 1968) (Career- 1991-2012) (Formula 1)
Michael Schumacher, the most successful and popular driver in Formula One history

Michael Schumacher, the most successful and popular driver in Formula One history

Race Starts- 307, Wins- 91, Podiums- 155, World Titles- 7

The most successful driver in the history of grand prix racing, Michael Schumacher dominated Formula One for close to a decade, rewriting record books and earning the sport new fans worldwide. The German began his career for Benetton in 1991, where he won back-to-back world titles in 1994 and 1995, beating Damon Hill both the times. In 1996, Schumacher moved to Ferrari and his stay there was instrumental in the resurgence of the Italian giant. He finished runner-up in the standings in 1997, only to be disqualified later, but repeated the feat the following year. It was at the turn of the century that the Schumacher legend began. From 2000 to 2004, Schumacher won an unprecedented five back-to-back Championships, winning 48 races in the process. This included the 2002 season where he finished on podium in all 17 races and the 2004 season where he won a record 13 times. The Alonso-Renault combine dethroned Schumacher in 2005 as he finished a distant third but the German great made a spirited charge for the title in 2006, only to end up runner-up again. He retired at the end of the season but made a comeback for Mercedes in 2010. However, in the three seasons that he raced for Mercedes, he finished on podium only once. Schumacher comfortably holds the records for most race starts, most wins, most world titles, most podiums and most pole positions in Formula One.

  1. JUAN MANUEL FANGIO (Arg) (1911-1995) (Career- 1949-58) (Formula 1)
Juan Manuel Fangio, the sport's earliest superstar

Juan Manuel Fangio, the sport’s earliest superstar. Image – Associated Press

Race Starts- 51, Wins- 24, Podiums- 35, World Titles- 5

The epitome of dominance in motorsport, Juan Manuel Fangio ruled Formula One in its formative years, winning race after race with unparalleled ease and unprecedented efficiency. The Argentine genius made his debut in top-level Grand Prix racing in 1949, winning five out of the seven races he competed in. In 1950, the FIA started the F1 World Championship and Fangio signed for Alfa Romeo. He won all three races he finished but lost in the title race to Guiseppe Farina. The following season, driving more consistently, Fangio won his first world title before moving to Maserati in 1953. He won only a single race that season and again finished runner-up before winning his second crown in 1954, winning six out of the eight races. The remarkable thing about Fangio’s 1954 season is that he drove the first two races for Maserati and the remaining for Mercedes, making him the first driver to win a world title despite switching teams mid-season. Fangio won his third title in 1955, again for Mercedes before switching to Ferrari the following year. The Argentine continued his dominant form winning his fourth world title in five years. Fangio won his fifth and final world title in 1957, this time for Maserati, making him the only driver ever to win three titles in three years for three different teams. His ability to win the title with virtually any team settles the debate that at least in this case, it was the driver and not the car that won titles.

  1. AYRTON SENNA (Bra) (1960-94) (Career- 1984-94) (Formula 1)

Race Starts- 161, Wins- 41, Podiums- 80, World Titles- 3

Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna

Senna differed from other Formula One drivers in a number of ways. First of all, he wasn’t dependant on the car for his performances; then he was never afraid to take risks in order to win; and he was arguably the most fiercely competitive driver in the history of the sport. From the moment he chased the reigning world champion Alain Prost in a rain-hit 1984 Monaco Grand Prix in a Toleman, people knew this Brazilian was meant for bigger things. Debuting for Toleman in 1984, Senna impressed one and all by securing three podium finishes in the season in a relatively inferior machine. The following year, he signed on with Lotus, where he registered his maiden win at Portugal. Senna stayed with Lotus till the end of the 1987 season, winning five more races and securing 12 other podium finishes. But his dream of winning the Championship was only realised in 1988 with his move to McLaren, where he was partnered with the reigning World Champion, the Frenchman Alain Prost. During his record-breaking season, Senna secured 13 pole positions and won eight races to win his first world title, leaving Prost behind in a cloud of dust and igniting a great rivalry.

Senna's trademark insignia

Senna’s trademark insignia

In 1989, Prost won back his crown and Senna finished a distant second despite winning six races. With Prost moving to Ferrari in 1990, Senna became McLaren’s number one driver. This was the peak of his racing abilities as the Brazillian won back to back word titles, winning 13 races in the two seasons. But McLaren’s failure to keep up with Williams and Benetton in 1992 meant that Senna finished a distant fourth that season, despite winning three races, including the prestigious Monaco GP. Senna finished his McLaren career the following year by winning five races and finishing second in the championship behind Prost’s Williams. In 1994, Senna moved to Williams as his great rival retired. In the third race of the season at San Marino, Senna collided with a concrete wall at around 233 kmph. He died later that day at the age of 34. To this day, Ayrton Senna remains the last fatality in the sport of Formula One.

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Cricket’s Almost Men- The Unlucky XI

Cricket is full of tales of ‘almost men’- players who missed out on making it big, mostly through no fault of their own. There is no abundance of talent in the cricketing world, but in the end, only 11 players make a team, which leaves room for several talented individuals to grind it out in the first-class circuit, hoping for their shot at glory. On many occasions, these cricketers are just as talented as international cricketers. Long after they finish their careers, experts and cricket enthusiasts continue to argue what sort of numbers they would have achieved had they got a regular run in international cricket.

The examples of such phenomenon are abundant in world cricket. Cec Pepper was an Australian all-rounder who began his career after the Second World War. Playing for the Australian Services team on their tour of England and the subcontinent, Pepper amassed close to a thousand runs and grabbed 71 wickets in just 18 games. His contemporaries labelled him as the next great all-rounder in Australian cricket. However, a devil-may-care attitude and an argument with Don Bradman meant that Pepper never played for Australia. Similarly, Haryana’s left-arm spinner Rajinder Goel was unlucky to be born in an era where India already had their famed spin quartet of Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan. Goel never played Test cricket even though he took a record 644 wickets in Ranji Trophy at an average of just 18.

Despite scoring 36,000 first-class runs, Glamorgan's Alan Jones never played Tests.

Despite scoring 36,000 first-class runs, Glamorgan’s Alan Jones never played Tests.

Here, I have attempted to make a team out of the numerous ‘almost men’ in cricket history. First of all, I would like to clarify that the players here are not who succeeded at first-class level but failed internationally (like Messrs Ramprakash and Hick) but rather those who either did not play any Test cricket, or had extremely limited careers where they never got the chance to shine properly. It is my opinion that had any of these 11 men been allowed to play Test cricket regularly, they would have ended up as all-time greats. Secondly, this is an XI for Test cricket alone, and not limited overs. This is because that gives us a level playing field to judge players from before the 1960s, who never played any limited over cricket.

The eligibility criteria for the players is simple-

  • The player must have an impressive first-class record, and must have played first-class cricket for a considerable amount of time.
  • There is no minimum threshold of first-class games since many countries did not have structured tournaments before the 1970s and as a result, even good players played few games every season.
  • The player must have played no more than 10 Tests and performed decently. If a player has failed to perform in Test cricket, he cannot be considered an ‘almost man’.
  • The reason for the player being dropped from Tests must not be performance-related i.e. poor form, underwhelming performances, etc.

Before beginning, I would like to mention a few players who were good enough for this team but ironically enough, missed out here as well.

After a phenomenal start to his Test career, Archie Jackson succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 23.

After a phenomenal start to his Test career, Archie Jackson succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 23.

  • Jimmy Cook- South Africa’s no. 1 opener during the 1980s, he played only three Tests due to the ban. Harvested runs for Transvaal and Somerset.
  • David Hussey- One of the most underrated batsmen of his generation; dubbed a one-day specialist despite having a more than impressive first-class record.
  • Archie Jackson- Many say that had he lived, Jackson would have rivalled Bradman himself. Played only 8 Tests in failing health and yet averaged 47. Died aged 23!
  • Mohammad Nissar- Undoubtedly the fastest bowler produced by India. Played only 6 Tests due to the War, and destroyed English and Australian touring sides.

The XI

BARRY RICHARDS (Hampshire, Natal, South Australia) – Opening Batsman

Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Offbreak (1964-83) – 4 Tests

Photo courtesy thecricketragics.com

A giant of the game, Richards remains one the most aggressive batsmen the game has seen. Image courtesy thecricketragics.com

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

339

28358

54.74

80/152

356

2886

77

37.48

0/1

7/63

367

The fact that Barry Richards is regarded as one of the best opening batsmen in the history of the game even though he played only 4 Tests, speaks volumes about his talent. Richards scored over 500 runs in his debut series. However, it was also his last due to South Africa’s apartheid ban. After that, Richards played around the world, scoring runs in abundance (15600 at 50 for Hampshire, 8300 at 59 for Natal, and 1500 at 109 for South Australia). Richards also played 4 games for World XI in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, scoring two big hundreds. He was one of the openers in the all-time XI selected by Don Bradman.

 

VIJAY MERCHANT (Bombay, Hindus, Indians) – Opening Batsman

Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Fast-Medium (1929-51) – 10 Tests

Photo by Central Press © Getty Images

Merchant boasts of the second best career average in first-class cricket, behind Bradman. Image by Central Press © Getty Images

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

150

13470

71.64

45/52

359*

5087

65

32.12

0/1

5/73

115

To partner Richards, we needed someone who is not just technically correct but can play the quick bowlers well. Merchant remains one of the best players of pace India have produced. On his two tours of England, he scored over 4000 runs with 12 hundreds. Back home, his record was Bradmanesque. He averaged over 100 for both Bombay (in the Ranji Trophy) and the Hindus (in the Pentangular Tournament). Due to the war and injury problems, his Test career was restricted to only 10 Tests, in which he scored three hundreds, including 2 in England. Merchant’s last Test hundred came in his last game, at the age of 40.

 

STUART LAW (Essex, Lancashire, Queensland) – Top-order Batsman

Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Medium (1988-2009) – 1 Test

Photo courtesy Courier Mail

Law scored double hundreds for three different teams in his first-class career. Image courtesy Courier Mail

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

367

27080

50.52

79/128

263

8433

83

51.03

0/1

5/39

407

Moving on from the openers, the number 3 spot requires a batsman with good technique and skill, someone who can play in all kinds of conditions. Stuart Law was quite unfortunate not to have played for Australia in this spot due to one Ricky Ponting. He scored an unbeaten half century on his Test debut in 1995, was dropped promptly and never played Tests again. He did, however, score prolifically for Queensland, Essex, and Lancashire, scoring over 7000 runs for each of these teams. Law scored 1000 runs in an English season five times in a row, and continued to churn out runs right until his retirement.

 

MARTIN DONNELLY (Canterbury, Wellington, Middlesex) – Middle-order Batsman

Left Hand Batsman, Slow Left Arm Orthodox (1936-61) – 7 Tests

Donnelly raises a bat after his hundred at Lord's

Donnelly raises the bat after one of his many hundreds at Lord’s

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

131

9250

47.43

23/46

208*

3484

43

39.13

0/0

4/32

76

There might be a couple of batsmen who could have been here instead of Donnelly but he merits a place on account of being the best left-hander among the probables. Even though Donnelly played only 7 Tests for New Zealand (where he averaged 52), he is considered one of their best batsmen ever. He remains the only person to score centuries on Lord’s for four different teams, which included a masterful 133 for Dominions against England in 1945 and a Test double ton in 1949. He averaged 65 for Oxford University, and also scored a double century for MCC. In 2011, Donnelly was selected in ESPN’s New Zealand All-time XI.

 

BRAD HODGE (Leicestershire, Lancashire, Victoria) – Middle-order Batsman

Right Hand Batsman, Right-Arm Offbreak (1994-2009) – 6 Tests

Hodge celebrates his Test double century. Photo courtesy The Age

Hodge celebrates his Test double century. Image courtesy The Age

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

223

17084

48.81

51/64

302*

5583

74

41.70

0/0

4/17

127

If there has been a more talented and unlucky batsman in world cricket, I would like to hear more about him. Beginning his career for Victoria, Hodge punished Australian bowlers in the Sheffield Shield, before deciding to torture English bowlers in the County Championship for Leicestershire. Years of prolific scoring earned Hodge a Test cap at the age of 30. In only his 3rd Test, he notched up an unbeaten double hundred against a strong South African bowling attack. Sadly, the abundance of quality batsmen in the Australian side kept him out of the ranks, and he ended with a batting average of 55.

 

MIKE PROCTER (Rhodesia, Gloucestershire, Natal) – All-rounder, Captain

Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Fast (1965-89) – 7 Tests

Procter averaged 15 with the ball in Tests, the best for any post-war bowler. Image © Ken Kelly (The Cricketer International)

Procter averaged 15 with the ball in Tests, the best for any post-war bowler. Image from The Cricketer International © Ken Kelly

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

401

21936

36.01

48/109

254

65404

1417

19.53

15/70

9/71

325

If the apartheid ban hadn’t curtailed his international career, Procter would have joined the likes of Imran, Hadlee, Botham, and Kapil as one of the greatest all-rounders of the 70s and 80s. A genuine wicket taker, he bowled at express pace with a chest-on action, posing an ever-present threat to the batsmen with his pace and swing. As a batsman, he remains one of only three players (apart from Bradman and CB Fry) to score 6 consecutive first-class centuries. His true swansong was the World XI ‘Test’ series against England in 1970, where he averaged 48 with the bat and 23 with the ball. His experience of captaining Gloucestershire for several years makes him an ideal candidate for leading this team.

 

VALLANCE JUPP (Northamptonshire, Sussex) – All-rounder

Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Offbreak (1909-38) – 8 Tests

Jupp depicted on Wills' popular cigarette cards back in the 20s

Jupp depicted on Wills’ popular cigarette cards back in the 20s

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

529

23296

29.41

30/120

217

72574

1658

23.01

18/111

10/127

222

The real competition for this spot was between Jupp and Sussex’s left-arm spinner James Langridge. Both were spin bowling all-rounders who batted in the middle-order. Even though Langridge boasted of a superior batting average (35 to Jupp’s 29), I went for Jupp as his off-break will provide variety to the team’s bowling options. A balanced all-rounder, Jupp achieved the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in a year 10 times, and took five hat-tricks in his career. He also scored 30 hundreds, including a double hundred. Despite returning a tremendous bowling average of 22, Jupp only played 8 Tests for England.

 

RAY JENNINGS (Transvaal) – Wicketkeeper

Right Hand Batsman, Wicketkeeper (1973-93)

Before becoming a celebrated coach, Jennings was South Africa's number 1 wicketkeeper for many years. Image from the website 'St. George's Park History'

Before becoming a celebrated coach, Jennings was South Africa’s number 1 wicketkeeper for many years. Image from the website ‘St. George’s Park History’

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Ctchs

St.

159

4160

23.90

3/15

168

567

54

Jennings was unfortunate, like many others in this team that his entire career coincided with South Africa’s apartheid ban. As a result, despite being South Africa’s first-choice wicketkeeper for over a decade, he never played international cricket. Jennings played most of his cricket for Transvaal and Northern Transvaal in the Currie Cup. A capable lower-order batsman, Jennings scored 2 hundreds for Transvaal and one for Northern Transvaal. He played 14 ‘Rebel’ Tests for South Africa in the 80s, making 50 dismissals in all. His relative shortcomings with the bat are easy to ignore given his superior keeping skills.

 

VINCE VAN DER BIJL (Middlesex, Natal, Transvaal) – New-ball Bowler, Lower-order Batsman

Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Fast-Medium (1967-83)

Due to his height and bowling style, van der Bijl was often compared to his contemporary and West Indian great Joel Garner. Image © Martin Williamson

Due to his height and bowling style, van der Bijl was often compared to his contemporary and West Indian great Joel Garner. Image © Martin Williamson

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

156

2269

16.20

0/9

87

767

16.54

12/46

8/35

51

Leading the bowling attack for this team is the ‘best bowler never to play Test cricket’. Just like Procter and Richards, van der Bijl’s international career was hampered by the ban. Freakishly tall, he had the capability to generate enormous pace and bounce on any pitch. His international career was limited to 6 Rebel ‘Tests’ where he took 29 wickets, averaging under 20. He took over 500 wickets for Natal at an average of 16, and during his brief stint at Middlesex, he averaged just 15. On helpful batting pitches, he could be a handy batsman too. He scored 7 fifties for Natal and averaged 25 with the bat in England.

 

CHARLIE PARKER (Gloucestershire) – Spinner

Right Hand Batsman, Slow Left Arm Orthodox (1903-35) – 1 Test

Parker holds the record for most first-class wickets without a Test five-wicket haul. Image from The Cricket International

Parker holds the record for most first-class wickets without a Test five-wicket haul. Image from The Cricket International

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

635

7951

10.47

0/10

82

157059

3278

19.46

91/277

10/79

247

One of the finest and most successful slow bowlers in the game’s history has the honour of being this team’s lead spinner. With over 3000 wickets, Charlie Parker is 3rd in the list of most wickets in cricket history, behind only Rhodes and Freeman. He took 100 wickets in a season for 16 consecutive years from 1920-35, taking over 200 wickets on five occasions. He took all ten wickets once and nine wickets in an innings no less than eight times. On rain affected pitches, he was virtually unplayable due to his remarkable accuracy and control. In his only Test, he took 2 wickets and bowled 16 maidens in 28 overs- at the age of 39.

 

LES JACKSON (Derbyshire) – New-ball bowler

Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Fast (1947-63) – 2 Tests

Playing for an 'unfashionable' county also contributed to Jackson being ignored by England selectors. Image by Dennis Oulds © Getty Images

Playing for an ‘unfashionable’ county also contributed to Jackson being ignored by England selectors. Image by Dennis Oulds © Getty Images

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

418

2083

06.19

0/0

39*

83267

1733

17.36

20/115

9/17

137

Les Jackson’s career was a series of unfortunate events. He didn’t make his first-class debut till the age of 26 due to the Second World War. Since England already had a formidable new-ball pairing in Bedser and Statham, he found it hard to break through. Jackson was almost a certainty for the 1950-51 Ashes tour but was left out at the last minute. He only played two Tests, 12 years apart. But even then, he impressed with match figures of 3/72 in 1949 and 4/83 in 1961. A fit bowler with pace and stamina, he remained a loyal servant for his county Derbyshire for 16 seasons, taking 100 wickets in a season on 10 occasions.

12th Man

FRANKLYN STEPHENSON (Barbados, Orange Free State, Nottinghamshire, Sussex) – All-rounder

Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Fast (1981-97)

During his peak years, Stephensons was said to be just as good as the legendary fast bowlers playing for West Indies. Image by David Munden © Getty Images

During his peak years, Stephensons was said to be just as good as the legendary fast bowlers playing for West Indies. Image by David Munden © Getty Images

Mtchs

Runs

Avg.

100/50

Hs

Balls

Wkts

Avg.

10w/5w

Best

Ct

219

8622

27.99

12/43

166

40303

792

24.26

10/44

8/47

100

A brute of a fast bowler and a wonderful lower order batsman, Stephenson has been labelled the greatest cricketer never to play for West Indies. He played first-class cricket for seven teams over four continents but due to his involvement in the rebel tour to South Africa in 1982, he was never selected for his national side. He did play for a World XI in 1985 apart from 3 Rebel Tests against South Africa. In 1988, he became the last player to achieve the English double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in a season. In the process, he also became the first man in 90 years to score two hundreds and take 10 wickets in the same match.

This team can give any Test side in the world a run for their money. It not only possesses a good balance between bat and ball but consists of players who were as good as most Test greats, if not better. The batting line-up is formidable, to say the least. The two openers – Richards and Merchant – both have multiple Test centuries despite playing only 14 Tests combined. They are both considered one of the best opening batsmen from their respective countries. Our no. 3, Stuart Law, scored an unbeaten half-century in his only Test innings apart from scoring heavily for three different first-class outfits in two countries. The next two in line – Hodge and Donnelly – both have a Test double century each, as well as several other hundreds against Test-level opponents.

Our top-order is ably supported by two quality all-rounders. Mike Procter is a genuine middle-order batsman. He scored some of the fastest centuries in first-class cricket during the 80s. Plus, it’s no mean feat equalling a record originally set by Bradman (six consecutive centuries). At no. 6, he is a valuable counter-puncher for the team. At no. 7, we can have either Valance Jupp, or (in pace-friendly pitches) Franklyn Stephenson. Jupp scored over 20,000 runs and had a double century of his own. Stephenson was no mug with the bat either. He once scored a century in both innings of a game, and had 10 other centuries to boast about. The wicketkeeper Ray Jennings can also be expected to make useful contributions from the lower-order, and bat around the tail if required. In short, this is a batting line-up that you can expect to score 500 plus when they are on song; and the good thing about these gents is that they are almost always on song.

My new-ball bowlers for this team are Procter and van der Bijl, two contrasting and yet effective bowlers. Procter is sheer pace and accuracy, while van der Bijl brings with him bounce through his 6-feet, 7-inch frame. Imagine them as a 1980s version of Steyn and Morkel, if you will. Our third seamer Les Jackson is just as effective and lethal as these two. Occasionally, when the conditions favour his seam movement, he can be expected to take the new ball as well. In these three, we have three fast bowlers with different styles and different approaches to dismissing the batsmen- a complete pace bowling attack. The lead spinner Charlie Parker is a legend of the game, to say the least. Many have called him the greatest spinner to never have achieved international fame. For a man who has taken over 3000 wickets, he played very few Tests. His mastery of line, length, and spin will surely pose many questions to the batsmen.

The choice of fifth bowler depends on the match conditions. Ordinarily, I would like to go with three fast bowlers and two spinners, with Vallance Jupp as my fifth bowler. As an off-spinner, his style of bowling is quite different to the southpaw Parker. Bowling in tandem, they can form a very formidable spin bowling partnership. Moreover, Jupp is not just a support bowler. He did take all ten wickets in an innings once and nabbed no fewer than five hat-tricks. On dusty subcontinental pitches, Messrs Jupp and Parker can do the kind of damage that Bedi and Chandra did to touring sides in the 70s. However, on pitches like Perth and Durban, it would be nice (read: bitchin’) to have some extra firepower in the form of four fast bowlers. Jupp can be replaced by Stephenson, a thoroughbred Caribbean fast bowler. Stephenson played his cricket in four different countries- England, Barbados, Australia, and South Africa. This experience of playing in different conditions can come handy for this team. Asolid fast bowler, Stephenson is more than capable of cleaning out sides by himself. Imagine the damage he can do with the help of Procter & Co.

With that, I gift my side to the world. Let the arguments, criticisms, and angry rants begin!

The 20 Greatest Male Tennis Players of All-Time

In every day and age, people label the dominant player of that time ‘the greatest ever’. From Tilden in the 20s to Connors in the 70s, from Laver in the 60s to Federer in the 2000s, every generation has had its own ‘greatest tennis player’. But the question everyone asks is, “how will these all-time greats stack up against one another?” Any tennis lover would kill to watch a five-set Wimbledon final between Laver and Federer. Imagine the sight of Nadal slugging it out against Borg on the red clay courts of Roland Garros. Sadly though, up until we develop the technology to create robotic equivalents of these past greats and pit them against each other create live action simulations of the all-time greats, we will have to be content with more barbaric, primitive statistical methods.

This list, though, does not rely on statistics alone. Indeed, winning more tournaments (particularly the major ones) is a good benchmark to determine the greatness of any player; I have also tried to take into account their longevity, domination, impact on the game and of course, the calibre of the players they played against. So based on all these parameters (and whatever knowledge of tennis I possess), I present to you 20 of the greatest beings who took to tennis courts in shorts (or trousers in some cases).

20. JACK CRAWFORD (AUS) (1908-1991) (Career- 1930-39)

Grand Slams- 6 Singles Titles, 6 Doubles Titles, 5 Mixed Doubles Titles

Image by australianopen.com

image by australianopen.com

One of the first Australian greats in tennis, Jack Crawford dominated the game in the early 1930s. He won his first Grand Slam in the form of the 1929 Australian Open Men’s Doubles, a title he won in 1930, 1932 and 1935 as well. He also won the Men’s Doubles title of the French Open and Wimbledon in 1935. Crawford’s prowess in the doubles is further evident by the fact that he won 5 mixed doubles titles as well- the 1931, 1932 and 1933 Australian Open, the 1933 French Open and the 1935 Wimbledon. He won the Australian Open singles crown in 1931 and successfully defended it in 1932. In 1933, he completed his hat-trick of Australian Open titles and added the French Open and Wimbledon titles as well, becoming the first man to win three Grand Slam singles in one year. In the process, he also became the World No. 1 amateur player.

19. TODD WOODBRIDGE (AUS) (b 1971) (Career- 1988-2005)

Grand Slams- 16 Doubles Titles, 7 Mixed Doubles Titles

Tour Finals- 2 Championships (Doubles)

Olympics- 1 Doubles Gold, 1 Doubles Silver

AP Photo/Dave Caulkin

AP Photo/Dave Caulkin

Todd Woodbridge is widely considered to be the greatest doubles specialist in men’s tennis history. He was never ranked higher than 19 in the singles world rankings but in the doubles, he was a force to reckon with, holding the No. 1 position for 204 weeks in 9 different reigns from 1992 to 2001. He holds the Open era record for most Men’s Doubles Grand Slam titles (16) and also the most Grand Slam titles by one team (12 titles with Mark Woodforde). In addition, Woodbridge jointly holds the record for most ATP doubles titles (83). Woodbridge played with compatriot Mark Woodforde for the majority of his career, winning 61 ATP titles and two Olympic medals with him (a Gold in 1996 and a Silver in 2000). He also won 7 mixed doubles Grand Slam titles- 3 US Opens, 2 French Opens and 1 each of Australian Open and Wimbledon.

18. FRANK SEDGMAN (AUS) (b 1927) (Career- 1946-76)

Grand Slams- 5 Singles Titles, 9 Doubles Titles, 8 Mixed Doubles Titles

Pro Majors- 2 Singles Titles

Image by australianopen.com

Image by australianopen.com

One of the greatest players in the post-war amateur era, Frank Sedgman took the tennis world by storm in the late-1940s. His first success came in the form of the 1948 Wimbledon Men’s Doubles crown. In the next four years, he won two more Wimbledon Men’s doubles as well as two each of the men’s doubles titles in the other three Grand Slams. In 1951, he partnered Ken McGregor to win the men’s doubles of all four Grand Slam tournaments. Sedgman also won eight mixed doubles Grand Slam titles, again two each from all the four Grand Slams. An accomplished singles player as well, Sedgman won the men’s singles of the Australian Open in 1949 and 1950, Wimbledon in 1952 and the US Open in 1951 and 1952. He was the World No. 1 amateur player in 1952. After turning professional in 1953, Sedgman won two professional majors as well, clinching the Wembley Championship in 1953 and 1958.

17. HENRI COCHET (FRA) (1901-87) (Career- 1920-55)

Grand Slams- 7 Singles Titles, 5 Doubles Titles, 2 Mixed Doubles Titles

Pro Majors- 1 Singles Title

World Championships- 3 Singles Titles, 3 Doubles Titles, 2 Mixed Doubles Titles

Olympics- 1 Singles Silver, 1 Doubles Silver

Image by © Bettmann/Corbis Images

Image by © Bettmann/Corbis Images

Henri Cochet was one of France’s “Four Musketeers” who dominated tennis in the 1920s and 30s. Cochet came to prominence by winning the singles and men’s doubles in both the Wold Hard Court Championships and the World Covered Court Championships in 1922. He also won the mixed doubles title in the hard court championships. In 1923, he defended both his covered court titles successfully. He then won a silver each in singles and doubles in the 1924 Olympics. His first Grand Slam title came in 1926 with the French Open, which he won again in 1928, 1930 and 1932. He added the Wimbledon to his kitty in 1926 and 1928, and the US Open in 1928. Cochet also won 7 doubles titles in Grand Slams and was an integral part of the French Davis Cup team that won 6 consecutive titles from 1927-32. As a professional, Cochet’s only major win came in the 1936 French Pro Championship.

16. ROY EMERSON (AUS) (b 1936) (Career- 1957-83)

Grand Slams- 12 Singles Titles, 16 Doubles Titles

Image by australianopen.com

Image by australianopen.com

Emerson is the most prolific champion in tennis, winning the most number of Grand Slams in singles and doubles combined. He held the record for most Grand Slam singles (12) for nearly four decades. He won a record 6 Australian Opens (1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967), 2 French Opens (1963, 1967), 2 Wimbledons (1964, 1965) and 2 US Opens (1961, 1964). He was the World No. 1 amateur player between 1964 and 1967. Emerson was also an accomplished doubles player winning the men’s doubles title in Australian Open thrice (1962, 1966, 1969), the French Open 6 times (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965), Wimbledon thrice (1959, 1961, 1971) and the US Open 4 times (1959, 1960, 1965, 1966). However, it is often argued that most of his titles came at a time when the top players (Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall) played in the professional circuit. In the Open era, he never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam.

15. FRED PERRY (ENG) (1909-1995) (Career- 1932-56)

Grand Slams- 8 Singles Titles, 2 Doubles Titles, 4 Mixed Doubles Titles

Pro Majors- 2 Singles Titles

Image by BBC

Image by BBC

Unarguably the greatest British tennis player ever, Fred Perry carried the Union Jack single-handedly for over a decade prior to the Second World War. He won his first Grand Slam at the 1933 US Open. The next year, he became the World No. 1 amateur player by winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon as well as defending his US Open title. He added the French Open to his list of conquests in 1935 along with a second Wimbledon title and rounded off the set with victories in Wimbledon and the US Open in 1936. He was a part of the British Davis Cup team that ended the French dominance by winning four consecutive titles from 1933-36. Perry also won two men’s doubles (1933 French Open and 1934 Australian Open) and 4 mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. As a professional, his career was hampered by the war and he won only two major tournaments- the 1938 and 1941 US Pro Championships.

14. JOHN NEWCOMBE (AUS) (b 1944) (Career- 1964-81)

Grand Slams- 7 Singles Titles, 17 Doubles Titles, 2 Mixed Doubles Titles

Image by australianopen.com

Image by australianopen.com

Newcombe arrived on the world tennis scene as a doubles specialist winning a record 17 doubles titles in Grand Slams, including the Australian Open 5 times (1965, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1976), the French Open thrice (1967, 1969, 1973), the Wimbledon 6 times (1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1974) and the US Open thrice as well (1967, 1971, 1973). He also won the mixed doubles title at the 1964 US Open and the 1965 Australian Open. But he soon developed into one of the finest singles players of his time, winning 7 Grand Slams and reaching the World No. 1 rank in 1974. He won the Australian Open twice (1973, 1975), Wimbledon thrice (1967, 1970, 1971) and the US Open twice (1967, 1973). Newcombe is one of the few men to be ranked the World No. 1 player in both singles and doubles rankings.

13. IVAN LENDL (CZE) (b 1960) (Career- 1978-94)

Grand Slams- 8 Singles Titles

Tour Finals- 7 Championships

Image from tennisfreaks.com

Image from tennisfreaks.com

One of the greatest forehand players ever, Ivan Lendl personified grit and longevity throughout his playing days. He became the World No. 1 player in 1983, even though he hadn’t won a Grand Slam by that time. His first major win came in the 1984 French Open. He went on to win the tournament two more times, in 1986 and 1987. Lendl also won the US Open three times in a row, from 1985-87 and the Australian Open in 1989 and 1990. He won the Grand Prix Masters (currently the ATP Tour Finals) 5 times (1981, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987) and the WCT Finals twice (1982, 1985). Lendl held the World No. 1 ranking for 270 weeks in 8 different reigns, setting a new world record in the process. His records for most ATP Tour Finals, most weeks as World No. 1, and most Grand Slam finals stood for over two decades.

12. ANDRE AGASSI (USA) (b 1970) (Career- 1986-2006)

Grand Slams- 8 Singles Titles

Tour Finals- 1 Championship

Olympics- 1 Singles Gold

Image from makefive.com

Image from makefive.com

Andre Agassi was grit personified. The way he dominated hard courts in the 1990s was unprecedented. Known as ‘The Punisher’ in his playing days, Agassi is widely regarded as one of the greatest all-round players the game has seen. His first major success came in the form of the Masters Cup (now the ATP Tour Finals) in 1990 and kick-started his legendary rivalry with fellow American Pete Sampras. He won the Wimbledon crown in 1992, followed by the US Open in 1994 and Australian Open in 1995. The wins, followed by a good clay court season catapulted him to the World No. 1 ranking. Agassi won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics before injuries took toll and his form deserted him. However, he made a stupendous comeback winning five more Grand Slams- the French Open and US Open in 1999, and the Australian Open in 2000, 2001 and 2003; with his last Grand Slam coming at the age of 32.

11. DON BUDGE (USA) (1915-2000) (Career- 1936-54)

Grand Slams- 6 Singles Titles, 4 Doubles Titles, 4 Mixed Doubles Titles

Pro Majors- 4 Singles Titles

Image by topfoto.co.uk

An excellent all-surface player, Don Budge sky-rocketed to fame in the late 1930s by winning the US Open doubles in 1936. He took the world by storm in the next two years by winning an unprecedented 13 Grand Slams (6 singles, 3 doubles, and 4 mixed doubles). He won the singles, doubles and mixed doubles of Wimbledon and the singles and mixed doubles of the US Open in 1937. In 1938, he defended all these titles and added the US Open doubles crown to his list of conquests. But his real claim to fame that year was the Grand Slam- winning all the four major tournaments in the same year. In 1939, Budge turned professional and celebrated in style by winning two majors- the Wembley Championship and the French Pro Championship. In the years to come, war curtailed tennis in the world and Budge could add only two more titles to his bag- the 1940 and 1942 US Pro Championships.

10. JIMMY CONNORS (USA) (b 1952) (Career- 1970-96)

Grand Slams- 8 Singles Titles, 2 Doubles Titles

Tour Finals- 3 Championships

Image from sporting-heroes.net

Image from sporting-heroes.net

Not many have played as well for as long a period as James Scott Connors did over the period of his 26-year long career. Connors was the most dominant player of his generation and his feuds with greats like Ashe, Borg and McEnroe are the stuff of legends. He holds the records for most tournament wins (109), and most matches won (1242). His first success in the Grand Slam arena came in the form of the doubles titles at the 1973 Wimbledon and the 1975 US Open. Connors began his singles winning streak by winning the Australian Open, the Wimbledon and the US Open in 1974. He won four more US Open titles in his career (1976, 1978, 1982, 1983) and another Wimbledon crown in 1982. From 1974-77, he was World No. 1 for 160 weeks straight, a record that stood for 30 years. Connors also won the Masters Cup in 1977 and the WCT Finals in 1977 and 1980.

9. RAFAEL NADAL (ESP) (b 1986) (Career- 2001 onwards)

Grand Slams- 11 Singles Titles

Olympics- 1 Singles Gold

Image by The Telegraph

Image by The Telegraph

Rafa Nadal is one of the most explosive and dominant players the game of tennis has ever seen. Barely 26, he already ranks as one of the all-time greats. Nadal won his first Grand Slam at the age of just 19 at the 2005 French Open. Solidifying his stature as a dominant clay court specialist, he successfully defended the title three more times (2006, 2007, 2008). Throughout the 2000s, he was the only real threat to the World No. 1 Roger Federer, laying the foundation for one of the greatest rivalries in sports. In 2008, he won his first Wimbledon crown, a feat he repeated in 2010. He added the 2009 Australian Open and the 2010 US Open to his bag of major victories. In 2012, Nadal broke the great Bjorn Borg’s record of most French Open titles by winning his seventh title at Roland Garros. He is also an Olympic gold medallist from the 2008 Olympics.

8. PANCHO GONZALES (USA) (1928-1995) (Career- 1948-74)

Grand Slams- 2 Singles Titles

Pro Majors- 15 Singles Titles

Image by Sports Illustrated Kids

Image by Sports Illustrated Kids

Pancho Gonzales put racial discrimination, a troubled youth and brushes with the law behind him to emerge as the finest tennis player of his generation and an all-time great. In his heyday, he was referred to as the greatest of all time. Gonzales won his first major tournament at the 1948 US Open and successfully defended it the next year. In 1950, he turned professional and began playing in the Pro Majors. He won the US Professional Championship a record 8 times (1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961) and the Wembley Championship 4 times (1950, 1951, 1952, 1956). In addition, he also won three editions of the Tournament of Champions, a precursor to the ATP Tour Finals (1956, 1957, 1958). He was the World No. 1 for eight years straight (1952-59). Even in the twilight of his career, Gonzales was good enough to reach the semi-finals of the 1968 French Open at the age of 40.

7. BILL TILDEN (USA) (1893-1953) (Career- 1918-45)

Grand Slams- 10 Singles Titles, 6 Doubles Titles, 5 Mixed Doubles Titles

Pro Majors- 4 Singles Titles

World Championships- 1 Singles Title

Image by Sports Illustrated

Image by Sports Illustrated

There is no doubt that Bill Tilden is the greatest tennis player from the pre-Open era. For over a decade starting with 1920, ‘Big Bill’ dominated the world tennis scene, first as an amateur and later as a professional. Somewhat of a late bloomer, Tilden won his first major at the 1920 US Open at the age of 27. He won six consecutive US Open titles from 1920-25 and added a seventh title later in 1929. His world record of most US Open titles still stands. He won three Wimbledon crowns in 1920, 1921 and 1930, the last coming at the age of 37. During his amateur career, he won 138 tournaments including the 1921 World Hard Court Championship, was the World No. 1 for seven years and won 93.6% of his matches (907 out of 969). As a professional, Tilden was the biggest superstar around, winning four majors- the US Pro in 1931 and 1935 and the French Pro in 1933 and 1934.

6. KEN ROSEWALL (AUS) (b 1934) (Career- 1949-80)

Grand Slams- 8 Singles Titles, 9 Doubles Titles

Pro Majors- 15 Singles Titles

Tour Finals- 2 Championships

Image by australianopen.com

Image by australianopen.com

No other player has stayed among the best in the world for as long as Ken Rosewall. Rosewall was already in the amateur top 10 ranks by the age of 17. In 1953, he won the Australian Open and French Open at the age of 18. He won the 1955 Australian Open and the 1956 US Open before turning professional in 1957. As a professional, his 15 major wins included 2 US Pro Championships (1963, 1965), a record 5 Wembley Championships (1957, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963) and a record 8 French Pro Championships (1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966). He was the World No. 1 player from 1960-64 and the first player to win all three majors in one year. In the Open-era, Rosewall won four more Grand Slams- the 1968 French Open, the 1970 US Open and the Australian Open in 1971 and 1972 (at the age of 38). Rosewall also won the WCT Finals in 1971 and 1972 beating arch-rival Rod Laver in the finals on both the occasions.

5. PETE SAMPRAS (USA) (b 1971) (Career- 1988-2002)

Grand Slams- 14 Singles Titles

Tour Finals- 5 Championships

Pete Sampras

Now anyone who has ever played any amount of tennis (read: watched it on ESPN) knows that it is a game that requires stamina. To play it professionally and win at the highest level, you need to be impeccably fit. So, say you have β-thalassemia minor, a genetic trait that sometimes causes mild anaemia; you really don’t stand a chance, do you? Well it seems Pete Sampras didn’t get that memo. Despite having a condition that makes exertion painfully difficult, Sampras racked up 64 professional titles, including a then World record 14 Grand Slam singles. In the course of 14 year long career, Sampras was World No. 1 for 285 weeks over 6 years. He won the Holy Grail of tennis, the Wimbledon Championship a record 7 times, including 4 times in a row. Sampras also won the US Open and the Masters Cup 5 times each (both Open era records). The only blemish on his amazing record was his modest record on clay, where he only won 3 titles, failing to reach the finals of the French Open even once.

4. JOHN MCENROE (USA) (b 1959) (Career- 1976-92)

Grand Slams- 8 Singles Titles, 9 Doubles Titles, 1 Mixed Doubles Title

Tour Finals- 8 Championships

AP Photo/Dave Caulkin

AP Photo/Dave Caulkin

McEnroe was known as much for his game as for his mercurial temper. His legendary phrase “you cannot be serious” (shouted at the chair umpire) later became the title of his autobiography. But his temper aside, Jonny Mac is indeed an all-time great. He is a rarity in modern tennis, as a player equally adept at both singles and doubles. He was the World no. 1 singles player for 170 weeks and the World no. 1 doubles player for 269 weeks (then a World record). A remarkably versatile player, McEnroe has often been called ‘the greatest doubles player ever’ and his partnership with Peter Fleming is one of the greatest in tennis history. Together, the duo won 57 titles including 7 Grand Slams. In singles, McEnroe won the US Open 4 times (1979, 1980, 1981, 1984) and the Wimbledon thrice (1981, 1983, 1984). He also won the year-end championships a record 8 times (3 Masters and 5 WCT Finals). What makes him so special is his amazing consistency. He was 20 when his first Grand Slam singles title (1979 US Open) and when he won his last major title (1992 Davis Cup), he was 33.

3. BJORN BORG (SWE) (b 1956) (Career- 1971-82)

Grand Slams- 11 Singles Titles

Tour Finals- 3 Championships

Image from imageslides.com

Image from imageslides.com

Champions don’t just amaze the audience; they inspire awe in us. It is that quality which makes Bjorn Borg the biggest rockstar in men’s tennis history. He was just 17 when he won his first Grand Slam at the 1974 French Open. He would go on to win this title 5 more times (1975, 1978-81) in his brief yet magnificent career. Borg was undoubtedly the ‘King of Clay’ with 6 French Open crowns and 29 titles overall; but that didn’t mean that he was weak on other surfaces. He won 63 professional titles in his career, which included 6 on grass, 7 on hard courts and 21 on carpet. From 1976-80, Borg won the Wimbledon singles title 5 years in a row, a feat repeated only by Federer. Most tennis experts consider the Wimbledon-French Open double as the most difficult in tennis. It is because the two tournaments are played only 3 weeks apart and on drastically different surfaces. No player has managed to repeat this feat for even two consecutive years; Borg did it for three straight years. Borg managed 11 Grand Slam singles titles despite playing in the Australian Open only once (as a 17-year old). Quite shockingly, in 1982 the great Swede retired at the age of 26. In fact, his last full season was 1981. Most players begin their conquests at 25; Borg had called a day by then.

2. ROGER FEDERER (SUI) (b 1981) (Career- 1998 onwards)

Grand Slams- 17 Singles Titles

Tour Finals- 6 Championships

Olympics- 1 Singles Silver, 1 Doubles Gold

Image by The Telegraph

Image by The Telegraph

The first decade of the 21st century belonged to Roger Federer in totality. No other player has dominated the game quite like him. Between 2004 and 2008, he was the World No.1 for a record breaking 235 weeks straight. He holds the records for most Grand Slam singles (17), most Grand Slam finals, most Grand Slam matches won, most titles in a calendar year (12), most weeks as World No. 1 (302), and many more. In his career so far, he has won a world record 7 Wimbledon titles (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012), an Open-era record 5 US Open titles (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008), an Open-era record 4 Australian Open titles (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010) and 1 French Open title (2009). Federer has also won a world record six ATP Tour Finals (2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011) giving him a total of 76 ATP titles (4th all-time). He is the only man to win five consecutive titles in two separate Grand Slams; the only man to win four titles in three different Grand Slams and one of only 5 men to have won all the four Grand Slams at least once. He partnered Stanislas Wawrinka to win the doubles Gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and also won the singles Silver at the 2012 London Games. Still only 31, Federer looks to strengthen his numbers even more and solidify his position as the greatest player in the Open-era.

1. ROD LAVER (AUS) (b 1938) (Career- 1957-79)

Grand Slams- 11 Singles Titles, 6 Doubles Titles, 3 Mixed Doubles Titles

Pro Majors- 8 Singles Titles

Image from vintagetennis.com.au

Image from vintagetennis.com.au

The word Grand Slam is often used to describe the four biggest tournaments in tennis- the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. ‘Grand Slam’ actually refers to a very rare and difficult accomplishment in tennis, viz. winning all these 4 titles in the same calendar year. Only 2 men have ever done it, and only one has had the audacity to do it twice. That man is Rodney George Laver! There is a reason why Laver has been ranked ahead of Borg (the one with the coolest game), McEnroe (The one with the amazing versatility) and Federer (the one with the mind-boggling numbers); and that reason is Laver’s unequalled achievement- the Slam. First of all, Laver won a phenomenal 200 professional titles in his career (42 of those in the ATP circuit). He won the Australian Open thrice (1960, 1962, 1969), the French Open twice (1962, 1969), Wimbledon four times (1961, 1962, 1968, 1969) and the US Open twice (1962, 1969). Astute readers will observe that both in 1962 and 1969, the man won all the four slams in the year (a feat no one has repeated since).

Image by The Sun

Image by The Sun

Laver would have easily won a lot more Grand Slams had he not turned professional in 1963 (professionals weren’t allowed to play in the Grand Slams till 1968). In the professional circuits, he won 8 Majors (the equivalent of Grand Slams) – The US Pro Championship thrice (1964, 1966, 1967), the Wembley Championship four times (1964, 1965, 1966, 1967) and the French Pro Championship once (1967). Here also, he achieved the Pro Grand Slam by winning all the three titles in one year in 1967. Despite having to compete against some of the greatest names in tennis history (Rosewall, Emerson, Hoad, etc.), Laver maintained an unprecedented dominance. He was the World No. 1 for two years as an amateur and four years as a professional. Summing up all his achievements is almost impossible. Laver remains the only man to achieve the Calendar Grand Slam twice, the only man to achieve both the Grand Slam and the Pro Slam, one of only two men to win all the four Grand Slams at least twice, and one of only two men to win all seven major titles (4 Grand Slams and 3 Pro Majors). He reached his first Grand Slam final as an unseeded 20 year old at the 1959 Wimbledon. A decade later, he was still good enough to win 38 titles in his 30s, including a world record 18 in 1969 alone. He was the World No. 3 at the age of 35 and still in the top 10 when he retired in 1975, aged 37. A legend through and through!!

All images are sourced from the Internet. Utmost care has been taken to respect the intellectual property rights of all the images

50 Greatest Bowlers in the History of Cricket- the Finale

So far, we have looked at 40 of the greatest bowlers this game has produced in parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this countdown. Now rounding up this mammoth list are the top ten bowling talents in the history of cricket. The ten greatest bowlers the world has seen till date- the Zen masters of the art of bowling. The ten consist of 4 Australians, 2 Caribbeans and 1 each from New Zealand, England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. This means that our top 50 contains 12 bowlers each from England and Australia, 9 from West Indies, 6 from Pakistan, 4 from South Africa, 3 from India and 2 each from New Zealand and Sri Lanka. This means that Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were the only top nations to miss out. Considering there is only one bowler to have taken over 300 international wickets from the two nations, it is hardly surprising.

Of these 50, 45 are right arm bowlers and 5 are left arm. If we classify them on the basis of bowling styles, there are 32 fast bowlers, 17 spinners and surprisingly enough 1 medium pacer as well. Right arm seamers rule the roost by accounting for 30 entries, followed by right arm spinners with 15. They are joined by 3 left arm seamers and 2 left arm spinners. The oldest player to make the cut is Fred Spofforth who made his debut in 1877 in the 2nd Test ever while the latest is Dale Steyn, the only active player on the list. Contrastingly, there were 10 active players in the corresponding batting list. This just goes on to show how lop sided modern game has become of late. Six of these stalwarts played predominantly before the First World War (1880-1914); 4 in between the two wars (1918-39) and 13 after the war till the beginning of the ODIs (1945-70). Thirteen players played in the first wave of one day cricket (1970-90) and 11 in the final golden age age of bowling, the generation we grew up watching (1990-2000). Only three cricketers from the 21st century (2000 onwards) make the cut. Of these 50, only one (Steyn) actively plays in international games while three others (Muralitharan, Warne and Vaas) play in domestic games around the world.

Before I commence, I want to give an honourable mention to five bowlers who could be in any list of the 50 greatest bowlers but missed out here, not because of any lack of talent but because of stiff competition. Had they been numbers 50-46, it still would have made sense. They are (in chronological order):

  • Brian Statham (Eng) 252 Test wickets at 24.84 and 2260 FC wickets at 16.37
  • Bishen Singh Bedi (Ind) 266 Test wickets at 28.71 and 1560 FC wickets at 21.69
  • Craig McDermott (Aus) 291 Test wickets at 28.63 and 203 ODI wickets at 24.71
  • Heath Streak (Zim) 216 Test wickets at 28.14 and 239 ODI wickets at 29.82
  • Brett Lee (Aus) 310 Test wickets at 30.81, 377 ODI wickets at 23.18 and 28 T20I wickets at 25.50

So now, without wasting time, let us take a look at the ten greatest bowlers in the history of cricket.

 

Top Ten

10. CURTLY AMBROSE (WI) Right Arm Fast (1985-2000)

Tests- 88, Wickets- 405, Avg- 20.99, 5W- 22, Best- 8/45

ODIs- 176, Wickets- 225, Wickets- 24.12, 4W- 10, Best- 5/17

941 FC wickets at 20.24 with 50 five-wicket hauls

The demolition man of cricket, Ambrose could cripple the most celebrated batting line ups of all-time with absolute ease and unprecedented menace. His legendary skills were made iconic and enigmatic due to his refusal to give interviews, citing his famous motto “Curtly talk to no man”. When your bowling analysis reads something to the tune of 5/32, 6/24, 7/25 (which included a spell of 7 wickets for 1 run) and 8/45, there is no doubt that you are wreaking havoc on batsmen around the globe. At 6 feet 7 inches, Ambrose could generate deadly bounce and enormous pace (fastest recorded at 96mph), which helped him snare 405 Test wickets at an average lower than all others in the 400 club. Ambrose was truly the most dangerous bowler of his generation.

 

9. BILL O’REILLY (AUS) Legbreak Googly (1927-46)

Tests- 27, Wickets- 144, Avg- 22.59, 5W- 11, Best- 7/54

774 FC wickets at 16.60 with 63 five-wicket hauls

His Wisden obituary called him ‘probably the greatest spin bowler the game has ever produced’. Tiger O’Reilly was a spinner unlike any the game had ever seen. He released the ball close to medium pace and still managed to extract a surprising amount of turn from the pitch. He was a ruthless spinner; aesthetics were not for him. The combination of bounce and pace he generated managed to not just befuddle batsmen but knocked many wicketkeepers off their feet. His figures become even more impressive when one considers the kind of batsmen he bowled against (he dismissed Wally Hammond ten times) and in an era where batsmen regularly dominated the bowlers.

 

8. WASIM AKRAM (PAK) Left Arm Fast (1984-2003)

Tests- 104, Wickets- 414, Avg- 23.62, 5W- 25, Best- 7/119

ODIs- 356, Wickets- 502, Avg- 23.52, 4W- 23, Best- 5/15

1042 FC wickets at 21.64 with 70 five-wicket hauls

881 List A wickets at 21.91 with 46 four-wicket hauls

Undoubtedly the greatest left-arm fast bowler ever and arguably the greatest left-arm bowler of all time, Wasim Akram was the best thing to have happened to the world of cricket in a long, long time. When he emerged on to the scene has a tall 18-year old, many thought Pakistan had found another Imran Khan. But Akram wasn’t satisfied with the tag; he went on to surpass even his great master. It was Akram who put the reverse into the swing. He was a genuine match-winner, unlike any Pakistan had ever seen, and his was his world record haul of 18 wickets which carried Pakistan to its first and only World Cup triumph in 1992. Oh, and did I mention he scored a Test double century as well.

 

7. MUTTIAH MURALITHARAN (SL) Right Arm Offbreak (1989-2011)

Tests- 133, Wickets- 800, Avg- 22.72, 5W- 67, Best- 9/51

ODIs- 350, Wickets- 534, Avg- 23.08, 4W- 25, Best- 7/30

T20Is- 12, Wickets- 13, Avg- 22.84, Best- 3/29

1374 FC wickets at 19.64 with 119 five-wicket hauls

682 List A wickets at 22.39 with 29 four-wicket hauls

Back in the 1930s they thought that no one would ever divide cricketing opinion quite like Douglas Jardine. But in their defence, they did not know that one Muttiah Muralitharan would spin his way into record books and public conscience six decades later. No other player has had his bowling action scrutinized to such an extent and no other player has emerged unscathed from each criticism and allegation quite like Murali. The man from Kandy snares wickets at a rate faster than fathomable. He turns the ball a country mile, regardless of the surface. He single-handedly carried the load of the Sri Lankan attack on many occasions and his treasure trove of five-wicket hauls shows how little support he received from others around him. He is undoubtedly the greatest sportsman his country has ever produced and a flag bearer for modern spin bowling.

 

6. GLENN McGRATH (AUS) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1992-2007)

Tests- 124, Wickets- 563, Avg- 21.64, 5W- 29, Best- 8/24

ODIs- 250, Wickets- 381, Avg- 22.02, 4W- 16, Best- 7/15

T20Is- 2, Wickets- 5, Avg- 15.80, Best- 3/31

Here was one fast bowler who terrorised batsmen despite of the fact that he did not possess express pace, enormous swing or frightening variations. McGrath simply relied on the age-old formula of bowling in the right areas. No other bowler could psyche the batsman like McGrath did (ask Lara, Ganguly or Atherton). McGrath’s specialty was not that he took wickets, but he took the most important wickets. He had a penchant for dismissing the biggest batsman the opposition had and left it for his deputies (Gillespie, Fleming, Lee et al.) to clean up the tail. Remarkably fit (in an age where fast bowlers drop like tenpins every now and then), he was 36 when adjudged Man of the Series in the 2007 World Cup, having taken 21 wickets in the tournament. Fittingly, this was his last ODI appearance.

 

5. SIR RICHARD HADLEE (NZ) Right Arm Fast (1971-90)

Tests- 86, Wickets- 431, Avg- 22.29, 5W- 36, Best- 9/52

ODIs- 115, Wickets- 158, Avg- 21.56, 4W- 6, Best- 5/52

1490 FC wickets at 18.11 with 102 five-wicket hauls

No other bowler has had to carry the load of the entire team quite like Richard Hadlee. When he played, New Zealand did not possess even a single other player worthy of being called world-class. Hadlee was New Zealand. It was a monumental responsibility but Hadlee carried it with the concentration, grace and determination of an Olympic gymnast. His bowling was more art than sport. It was his bowling performances that earned New Zealand their first wins against England (1978), Australia (1981) and even the mighty West Indies (1984). Even at the time of his retirement, Hadlee was very much fit and definitely in form, returning figures of 5/53 in his last bowling performance, taking a wicket off the last ball he bowled in international cricket.

 

4. SHANE WARNE (AUS) Legbreak Googly (1991-2007)

Tests- 145, Wickets- 708, Avg- 25.41, 5W- 37, Best- 8/71

ODIs- 194, Wickets- 293, Avg- 25.73, 4W- 13, Best- 5/33

1319 FC wickets at 24.61 with 69 five-wicket hauls

When Shane Warne bowled Mike Gatting in his first Ashes Test with what is now called the “Ball of the Century”, the world knew that a great had arrived. When Warne arrived on to the scene, the art of spin had been wrapped in a body bag, locked in a trunk, thrown into the dungeons behind fortified doors and long forgotten. He John Ramboed it back into action. Charismatic, eccentric and spectacular to watch, Shane Keith Warne was a broadcaster’s delight. With him bowling, there was never a dull moment on the field. Those who played him often say that he was trying to get a wicket of each ball. His phenomenal strike rates (57 in Tests and 36 in ODIs) are testament to this. As long as he played (and for quite some time after that), he was the biggest headline grabber in cricket. But no one minded, because Shane Warne had the talent to match his appetite for fame.

 

3. SYDNEY BARNES (ENG) Right Arm Medium (1894-1914)

Tests- 27, Wickets- 189, Avg- 16.43, 5W- 24, Best- 9/103

6229 wickets in all cricket (Test, FC and Club) at 08.33

In 1901, the English captain AC Maclaren plucked a 28-year old medium pacer playing in a local league from obscurity and picked him for the English side. Thus began an unbelievable career where Sydney Francis Barnes demolished the best batting line-ups of his time with utmost ease. There had never been anyone quite like him till then and there hasn’t been one since. Till date, Barnes remains the only English cricketer to be regularly picked for the national side from league games as he hardly ever played first-class cricket. In the words of the great Clem Hill, Barnes could “swing the new ball in and out very late, could spin from the ground, pitch on the leg stump and miss the off.” He was Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath rolled into one.

Statistically, no bowler can ever match him. He took 7 wickets per game throughout his international career, taking a phenomenal 24 five-wicket hauls in just 27 games. For his local side Staffordshire, he took 1441 wickets at just 08.15. For his club, his bowling average was just 06.03 (4069 wickets). His record of 49 wickets in a single series (against South Africa, 1914; his final series) still stands, almost a century later. He bowled to some of the finest batsmen ever in Trumper, Hill, Taylor, Nourse, Armstrong and Bardsley and he emerged victorious in his battles with all of them. The biggest testament to his greatness is perhaps that his reign was the only period in cricket history when a bowler, and not a batsman, was the greatest player in the world.

 

2. MALCOLM MARSHALL (WI) Right Arm Fast (1977-96)

Tests- 81, Wickets- 376, Avg- 20.94, 5W- 22, Best- 7/22

ODIs- 136, Wickets- 157, Avg- 26.96, 4W- 6, Best- 4/18

1651 FC wickets at 19.10 with 85 five-wicket hauls

How do you stand out in a side filled with bowling legends? When Malcolm Marshall was first selected for West Indies in 1978, the side had been crippled by the World Series Cricket. Four of its biggest bowlers- Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Wayne Daniels had left the national ranks to join the cash rich Packer Circus. No one would have thought that this tiny express bowler from Barbados would one day surpass not only his illustrious contemporaries but also several greats of the past to be called one of the finest fast bowlers ever. To be called the finest bowler from West Indies is a monumental compliment. It means you beat giants like Hall, Griffith, Gibbs, Ramadhin, Valentine, Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft, Walsh and Ambrose. No single team has given the world more ferocious quickies than the West Indies. And Marshall is simply the best of the lot.

No one with over 200 Test wickets has a better average than Marshall and few have a lower strike rate. He took 4 or more wickets in an innings 41 times in Tests and 6 times in ODIs despite having to compete with three of the greatest bowlers ever for his scalps. In ODIs, his economy rate made him even deadlier and his combination of accuracy, pace and aggression made him one of the most dangerous bowlers ever. He lacked in height but turned that handicap into an asset by developing one of the deadliest bouncers ever seen in the game. His enormous cricketing intelligence, massive heart and boundless talent made Marshall the greatest bowler of his generation; and mind you, his generation had some pretty great ones.

 

1. DENNIS LILLEE (AUS) Right Arm Fast (1969-88)

Tests- 70, Wickets- 355, Avg- 23.92, 5W- 23, Best- 7/83

WSC Matches- 14, Wickets- 67, Avg- 26.87, 5W- 4, Best- 7/23

ODIs- 63, Wickets- 103, Avg- 20.82, 4W- 6, Best- 5/34

In 1972, the Haslingden Club in the Lancashire League picked a 23-year old former Australian international as their overseas player. Barely a year later, Dennis Keith Lillee was terrorising the English batsmen with enormous pace and unrivalled aggression. Barely two years ago, stress fractures of the back had all but ended this young bowler’s career. His back had broken in three places and it was unsure if he would ever walk again, let alone play. But he came back with a bang by cutting down his pace (only relatively; he still bowled at 95mph) and increasing his accuracy. Critics call him the most complete bowler of all time. He had everything a fast bowler should have- a sound action, quick pace, fierce aggression, heart and bravado, spotless technique and most importantly- the ability to take wickets in wholesale quantities.

He modelled himself on West Indies’ great Wes Hall and broke through the ranks as an express quick in the 1971 Ashes. Armed with a copybook action, he went on to break all sorts of bowling records through his career. He is still the fastest bowler to reach 200, 250, and 300 wicket milestones. Had he not lost 3 years of his career to World Series Cricket, he would surely have been the first man to cross 400 as well. Every captain’s dream and every batsman’s nightmare, Dennis Lillee was known for taking wickets just when the team needed and just how the captain asked. Along with the supremely quick Jeff Thomson, he formed one of the most feared new ball pairs in history. Lillee was much more than just his numbers. He was an all-time great, a true performer in all conditions, against all opponents, in all sorts of settings. A legend for all times!

50 Greatest Bowlers in the History of Cricket- Part 4

Last time around, we took a look at bowling legends no. 30-21 in the Hatter’s list of the 50 greatest bowlers in the history of cricket. Now is the time to look at the big boys in numbers 20 to 11. Here are the next ten greatest bowlers the game has ever seen.

20-11

20. COURTNEY WALSH (WI) Right Arm Fast (1981-2001)

Tests- 132, Wickets- 519, Avg- 24.44, 5W- 22, Best- 7/37

ODIs- 205, Wickets- 227, Avg- 30.47, 4W- 7, Best- 5/1

1807 FC wickets at 21.71 with 104 five-wicket hauls

At 6 feet 7, Courtney Walsh was not just any fast bowler; he was perhaps the scariest of the lot- the bogeyman of his generation. Express pace bowlers have a limited shelf life. In order to survive longer, they either drop their pace or reduce their workload. Walsh did neither. No other bowler has managed to bowl with such fierce pace and accuracy for such long on the international scene and that too, with such remarkable consistency. His untiring vigil earned him the world record for most test wickets in 1999 and he later became the first bowler to reach the mark of 500 Test wickets. In the ODIs too, he was a formidable combination of pace, aggression and accuracy making him one of the most economical bowlers around.

 

19. IMRAN KHAN (PAK) Right Arm Fast (1969-92)

Tests- 88, Wickets- 362, Avg- 22.81, 5W- 23, Best- 8/58

WSC Matches- 5, Wickets- 25, Avg- 20.84, 5W- 0, Best- 4/24

ODIs- 175, Wickets- 182, Avg- 26.61, 4W- 4, Best- 6/14

1287 FC wickets at 22.32 with 70 five-wicket hauls

507 List A wickets at 22.31 with 18 four-wicket hauls

No one can challenge Imran Khan for the spot of being Pakistan’s finest cricketer ever. He was the man who took cricket from a hobby to a craze in the country. Handsome, suave, outspoken and phenomenally talented, Imran was just the role model the Pakistani youth were looking for. As a bowler, it was him and Intikhab Alam who pioneered the reverse swing and took the world by storm in the 80s. His reverse swinging yorkers were the best thing to have happened to bowling since Larwood’s bouncers half a century ago. Just like wine, Imran got better with age. He averaged just 19 with the ball in his last 10 years in Test cricket.

 

18. JOEL GARNER (WI) Right Arm Fast (1975-92)

Tests- 58, Wickets- 259, Avg- 20.97, 5W- 7, Best- 6/56

WSC Matches- 7, Wickets- 35, Avg- 24.77, 5W- 1, Best- 5/52

ODIs- 98, Wickets- 146, Avg- 18.84, 4W- 5, Best- 5/31

881 FC wickets at 18.53 with 48 five-wicket hauls

397 List A wickets at 16.61 with 23 four-wicket hauls

The ‘Big Bird’ was the scariest bowler who ever lived. When he delivered those 90mph bouncers from those giant shoulders and a frame of 6 feet 8 inches, it was indeed an intimidating sight to say the least. Garner was fast and menacing, possessing the ability to make the ball bounce from short of length rendering the batsman incapable of offering any shot to it. His toe-shattering Yorker was another lethal weapon in his arsenal and was used in abundance in the finishing overs of a one-day game. In Tests, few bowlers have a better average than him but in ODIs no one comes anywhere close to his figures.

 

17. FRED TRUEMAN (ENG) Right Arm Fast (1949-69)

Tests- 67, Wickets- 307, Avg- 21.57, 5W- 17, Best- 8/31

2304 FC wickets at 18.29 with 126 five-wicket hauls

In 1964, Fred Trueman became the first man to claim 300 Test wickets. In the five decades since, 23 more men have crossed that mark but only two have a better average than Freddie Trueman’s 21.57. In his heyday, Trueman was the best bowler in the world and that too by a country mile. Run-ins with the authorities meant that he was forced to miss many Tests, or else his tally might have been closer to 400. Trueman had great control over his swing and his solid and fluid action gave him a great amount of pace along with that swing, making him a dangerous bowler to face on all sorts of surfaces.

 

16. ALAN DAVIDSON (AUS) Left Arm Fast-Medium (1949-63)

Tests- 44, Wickets- 186, Avg- 20.53, 5W- 14, Best- 7/93

672 FC wickets at 20.90 with 33 five-wicket hauls

Davidson was a big game performer. Some of the best performances of this New South Welshman came when the odds were stacked against him. He took 11 for 222 in the Tied Test of 1960 (and scored 124 runs) even though he was playing with a broken finger. Starting as a lower order batsman and part-time bowler, Davidson graduated to the role of strike bowler in 1957. After that change, he took 170 wickets in 32 Tests at 19.25. For almost half a decade in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was the most feared fast bowler in the world. Remarkably consistent (he averaged below 24 against all opponents) and exceedingly menacing, Davidson was the greatest left-arm seamer the world had seen till then.

 

15. JIM LAKER (ENG) Right Arm Offbreak (1946-65)

Tests- 46, Wickets- 193, Avg- 21.24, 5W- 9, Best- 10/53

1944 FC wickets at 18.41 with 127 five-wicket hauls

Laker shall always be remembered as the man who took 19 wickets in a single Test, a feat achieved in the Old Trafford Test in 1956 taking 9/37 in the first innings and 10/53 in the second. No other bowler has taken more than 16 wickets in a single Test, which speaks volumes of what Laker did in that game. What makes that feat even more impressive is that the other bowlers (Statham, Bailey and Locke) managed just one wicket between them in 123 overs. But Laker was much more than that single feat. He took 46 wickets in that series in 5 Tests at a mind-boggling average of 9.60. He averaged below 20 in a series on four more occasions (14.85 vs. South Africa, 1951; 19.50 vs. Pakistan, 1954; 12.00 vs. South Africa, 1955; and 10.17 vs. New Zealand, 1958).

 

14. ALLAN DONALD (RSA) Right Arm Fast (1985-2004)

Tests- 72, Wickets- 330, Avg- 22.25, 5W- 20, Best- 8/71

Rebel Tests- 2, Wickets- 12, Avg- 18.67, 5W- 0, Best- 4/29

ODIs- 164, Wickets- 272, Avg- 21.78, 4W- 13, Best- 6/23

1216 FC wickets at 22.76 with 68 five-wicket hauls

They don’t make bowlers like the ‘White Lightning’ anymore. They just don’t. For much of his international career, Donald was not just the spearhead of the bowling attack but the only world class performer in his team. There were several talented players in South Africa but Allan Donald was head and shoulders above all of them. A genuine wicket taking bowler, Donald lost some of the best years of his playing career due to South Africa’s exile from Test cricket. But as soon as the ban was lifted, Donald broke free and all hell broke loose. Between 1995 and 2001, he had only 1 bad series out of 20. He performed fabulously against all opponents and in all conditions, making him one of the greatest match-winning bowlers ever.

 

13. CLARRIE GRIMMETT (AUS) Legbreak Googly (1911-41)

Tests- 37, Wickets- 216, Avg- 24.21, 5W- 21, Best- 7/40

1424 FC wickets at 22.28 with 127 five-wicket hauls

Grimmett started plating cricket at a time when there was a complete drought of spin bowlers in the world. Born in New Zealand, Grimmett made his Plunkett Shield debut at just 17. Sadly though, the First World War deprived him of any chance to play Test cricket. After the war, he tried his luck across the Tasman Sea but had to wait till the age of 33 to make his Test debut. He remains the only man to take 200 Test wickets after playing his first Test post-30. He took almost 6 wickets per game in an era dominated by batsmen, bowling to the likes of Hobbs, Hammond, Sutcliffe, Headley and Nourse. Amazingly, in his last series, playing at the age of 44, Grimmett took 33 wickets in 3 Tests at an average of 11.

 

12. MICHAEL HOLDING (WI) Right Arm Fast (1972-89)

Tests- 60, Wickets- 249, Avg- 23.68, 5W- 13, Best- 8/92

WSC Matches- 9, Wickets- 35, Avg- 23.09, 5W- 1, Best- 5/48

ODIs- 102, Wickets- 142, Avg- 21.36, 4W- 6, Best- 5/26

They called him the Whispering Death, referring to his long, mesmerising, stealthy and rhythmic run up. But make no bones about it; his bowling was even more lethal. Many swear that no one in the game has bowled faster with such accuracy- not Akhtar, not Larwood and not Thomson. His ability to take wickets on flatbeds and batting-friendly wastelands made him a legend in his playing days itself. His 14/149 at the Oval in 1976 remains the best bowling performance by a West Indian till date. A big game player, Holding was West Indies’ best bowler during their World Cup campaigns bagging 20 wickets in 11 games at just 17. Holding also shone in the World Series Cups in Australia taking 74 wickets in 50 matches at 16.70.

 

11. WAQAR YOUNIS (PAK) Right Arm Fast (1987-2004)

Tests- 87, Wickets- 373, Avg- 23.56, 5W- 22, Best- 7/76

ODIs- 262, Wickets- 416, Avg- 23.84, 4W- 27, Best- 7/36

In the 80s, fast bowlers bowled fast and short, aiming outside the off stump. Waqar Younis said, “To hell with that” and bowled full, aiming at either the base of the stumps (read: clean bowled) or the batsman’s feet (read: broken ankle). It earned him unprecedented success and made him the youngest to take 200 Test wickets with the best strike rate for any bowler with these many wickets (a record later stolen by Dale Steyn). Waqar took 4 or more wickets in an innings a phenomenal 50 times in 154 innings in Tests and 27 times in 258 innings in ODIs. Considering he had to share the bowling workload with the likes of Imran, Wasim and Saqlain, this is a mighty impressive record.

 

Well folks, hold on to your hats. With four installments done and dusted, it is time for the finale next, wherein we look at the 10 greatest bowlers in the history of cricket. Till then, peace out!

50 Greatest Bowlers in the History of Cricket- Part 3

In part 2 of our countdown for the greatest bowler ever, we looked at numbers 40-31. Now let us move forward ten paces and look at bowling legends no. 30 t0 21 in the Hatter’s List of the 50 Greatest Bowlers in the History of Cricket.

30-21

30. BOB WILLIS (ENG) Right Arm Fast (1969-84)

Tests- 90, Wickets- 325, Avg- 25.20, 5W- 16, Best- 8/43

ODIs- 64, Wickets- 80, Avg- 24.60, 5W- 4, Best- 4/11

If there was an award for courage in the cricketing world, it should very well be named after Bob Willis. When he was 26, he had operations on both his knees, which meant he was in constant pain whenever he played. In fact, on certain days, he needed to run five miles in order to generate the strength to play. It was only through his will that Willis managed to play and succeed at the top level for nine more years. At 6 feet 6 inches, Willis was an intimidating fast bowler, one of the fastest England have ever produced. His pace, bounce, aggression and swing made him deadly on all kinds of pitches across the world.

 

29. RAY LINDWALL (AUS) Right Arm Fast (1941-62)

Tests- 61, Wickets- 228, Avg- 23.03, 5W- 12, Best- 7/38

Lindwall was Australia’s post-war bowling spearhead; a genuine all-rounder, a master of pace and swing and a bowler who could extract anything and everything from the pitch in all sorts of conditions. His opponents both feared and revered his devastating opening spells, reminiscent of pre-war greats like Larwood (on whom he modelled his action and bowling style). His peak came at a time when the world was abundant with quality batsmen like Hutton, Compton, Hazare, Worrell, Mankad, Weekes, Walcott and Hanif. Even then, Lindwall managed favourable returns against all the teams of his time, barring Pakistan against whom he only played 3 Tests. For those still in doubt about his bowling skills, his autobiography is called ‘Flying Stumps’.

 

28. BHAGWATH CHANDRASEKHAR (IND) Legbreak (1963-80)

Tests- 58, Wickets- 242, Avg- 29.74, 5W- 16, Best- 8/79

1063 FC wickets at 24.03 with 75 five-wicket hauls

Among the famed Indian spin quartet comprising of Chandra, Bedi, Venkat and Prasanna, no one could turn the ball like Chandra; no one could take wickets in demanding overseas conditions like him, no one could master the bouncy pace-friendly pitches of Australia and South Africa like he did; but most importantly no one could win matches like him. Others might have better records than him but Chandra was a true match-winner, delivering when the team needed his services the most. Remarkably consistent across the globe, Chandra did not let a childhood outbreak of polio deter him from achieving his dream. He turned this handicap into a gift, delivering legbreak rippers and baffling googlies at near medium pace and cementing his place as one of the greatest bowlers ever from his country.

 

27. FRED SPOFFORTH (AUS) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1874-88)

Tests- 18, Wickets- 94, Avg- 18.41, 5W- 7, Best- 7/44

853 FC wickets at 14.95 with 84 five-wicket hauls

Not only was Spofforth the first great fast bowler ever, he was also cricket’s first true fast bowler- one with deadly accuracy, overpowering aggression and good pace. His terrorising effect on the opposition batsmen earned him his larger than life nickname- ‘Demon’. It was his crippling 7/44 that gave England their first ever Test defeat and gave birth to the legend of Ashes. He was the first man to take a hat trick in Tests and his 14/90 at the Oval remains the second best performance by an Australian till date. Had business concerns not forced him to retire at the age of 34, Spofforth would surely have taken his already legendary career to even greater heights.

 

26. ANDY ROBERTS (WI) Right Arm Fast (1969-84)

Tests- 47, Wickets- 202, Avg- 25.61, 5W- 11, Best- 7/54

WSC Matches- 13, Wickets- 50, Avg- 24.14, 5W- 1, Best- 6/69

ODIs- 56, Wickets- 87, Avg- 20.35, 4W- 3, Best- 5/22

Had Sergio Leone seen Roberts bowl, Clint Eastwood would probably never have become the star that he is today. Roberts was the gun slinging cowboy of the cricketing world, intimidating batsmen with those penetrating and expressionless eyes. He was the first of the great Caribbean quicks, who helped West Indies dominate world cricket for over two decades. By the time, he joined Packer’s circus in 1977; Roberts was already one of the best in the world having taken 103 wickets in just 20 Tests at 22.56 as well as 17 wickets in 9 ODIs at 15.00. His pace was all about timing and accuracy and had no room for any showmanship. According to him, the measure of a good bowler was the wickets he took and not the bones he broke.

 

25. SHAUN POLLOCK (RSA) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1991-2008)

Tests- 108, Wickets- 421, Avg- 23.11, 5W- 16, Best- 7/87

ODIs- 303, Wickets- 393, Avg- 24.50, 4W- 17, Best- 6/35

T20Is- 12, Wickets- 15, Avg- 20.60, Best- 3/28

No one quite epitomizes the adage of “like father like son” like Shaun Maclean Pollock. His dad Peter made cut at no. 48 earlier in this list, while uncle Graeme was no. 16 in the corresponding batting list and Shaun rounds up the family gig here. Basically, Pollock was a line and length bowler, keeping the runs in check and the batsmen frustrated. An ODI economy rate of 3.67 speaks volumes of his expertise in this field. But there was never any doubt that he could take wickets as well. Partnering Allan Donald in the first half of his career and Makhaya Ntini in the second half, Pollock ripped through several celebrated batting line-ups, ending up as the leading wicket taker for South Africa in both ODIs and Tests.

 

24. SAQLAIN MUSHTAQ (PAK) Right Arm Offbreak (1994-2008)

Tests- 49, Wickets- 208, Avg- 29.83, 5W- 13, Best- 8/164

ODIs- 169, Wickets- 288, Avg- 21.78, 4W- 17, Best- 5/20

No country disregards its champions more than Pakistan and even then, somehow, they just keep producing more and more of them in each generation. Saqlain was a trendsetter, the pioneer of that H-bomb called the ‘doosra’. In his peak, Saqlain rivalled the likes of Warne and Muralitharan for the title of the best spinner in the world. Even though his career was peppered with controversies and injuries, he still managed to cement his place as the best spinner ever from his country. In Tests, he was a master, but in ODIs he was nothing short of a wizard. He raced away to 100 ODI wickets faster than anyone else in the game. Sadly though, apathy from his home association meant that his last international appearance came at the age of just 27.

 

23. DALE STEYN (RSA) Right Arm Fast (2003-12)

Tests- 54, Wickets- 272, Avg- 23.18, 5W- 17, Best- 7/51

ODIs- 63, Wickets- 91, Avg- 28.62, 4W- 4, Best- 5/50

T20Is- 21, Wickets- 29, Avg- 18.31, Best- 4/9

As the 21st century began, many feared that the art of fast bowling was slowly dying. Most of its flag bearers (Akram, McGrath, Walsh, Waqar, Donald, and Pollock) were aging and about to retire soon. The world needed a new fast bowling champion. Enter Dale Willem Steyn! Dale Steyn is the greatest bowler in the world today and he is far ahead of any competition that exists. He has already claimed enough records to be considered one of the all-time greats of the game and he is only 28 and at the peak of his bowling powers. Considering the stalwarts he bowls against (Tendulkar, Dravid, Ponting, Chanderpaul, Sangakkara, Pietersen, etc.) his performances become even more astounding.

 

22. GEORGE LOHMANN (ENG) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1884-97)

Tests- 18, Wickets- 112, Avg- 10.75, 5W- 9, Best- 9/28

1841 FC wickets at 13.73 with 176 five-wicket hauls

There have been very few bowlers who have dominated batsmen in their time and none have managed to match the extent of George Lohmann’s overpowering domination of the batsmen of his generation. His figures speak volumes of his bowling prowess but cricket is much more than just the statistics. He was purely a medium pacer but possessed the ability to seam the ball both ways. This ability, along with dangerous innovations and experimentations, made him the greatest bowler of his times and one of the greatest ever. He started slow, taking just 1 wicket at 87 in his first two Tests but never looked back after that, amassing 111 wickets in his next 16 games at 10.07, including four 8-wicket hauls and a world record 9/28.

 

21. ANIL KUMBLE (IND) Legbreak Googly (1989-2010)

Tests- 132, Wickets- 619, Avg- 29.65, 5W- 35, Best- 10/74

ODIs- 271, Wickets- 337, Avg- 30.89, 4W- 10, Best- 6/12

1136 FC wickets at 25.83 with 72 five-wicket hauls

For a spinner, Anil Kumble hardly turned the ball much. He did not possess a great amount of turn or variation but relied more on bounce and pace (typically the weapons of medium pacers and not spinners) but even then, this lion-heart from India emerged as one of the most successful bowlers of all time. His unusual action and bowling method made him virtually unplayable on wearing pitches (as Pakistan discovered at Kotla in 99). In a long and gritty career, Kumble revived spin bowling (along with Warne and Muralitharan) and claimed every Indian bowling record in the book. By the time he retired, Kumble was the third most successful bowler in international cricket history.

 

Next time, we move in the big league, looking at the back end of the 20 greatest bowlers the game has ever seen. The penultimate part coming soon!

50 Greatest Bowlers in the History of Cricket- Part 2

In the inaugural part of this list, we looked at numbers 50-41 of the greatest bowlers in the history of cricket. Now let us move further up in the list and glance at the next ten legends on the list. So, here numbers 40-31.

40-31

40. FAZAL MAHMOOD (PAK) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1943-64)

Tests- 34, Wickets- 139, Avg- 24.70, 5W- 13, Best- 7/42

466 FC wickets at 18.96 with 38 five-wicket hauls

One always wonders how Pakistan has produced so many great fast bowlers when India has struggled to find even a handful even though the two nations share the same culture and landmass. I might not have the answer to that question, but I can name the man who began the trend for Pakistan. Fazal Mahmood was Pakistan’s first great quick, spearheading their first attack to several memorable victories against arch-rivals India. Tall, fair and handsome, Mahmood was Pakistan’s very own poster boy of cricket. They called him Pakistan’s Bedser and the comparison was a compliment to both greats. The way Mahmood brought pace, swing and accuracy all together, it seemed as if he was – in the words of Neil Harvey – “making the ball talk”.

39. CHARLIE TURNER (AUS) Right Arm Medium Fast (1882-1910)

Tests- 17, Wickets- 101, Avg- 16.53, 5W- 11, Best- 7/43

993 FC wickets at 14.25 with 102 five-wicket hauls

Image: (c) Getty Images

They called him ‘Terror’ because that is what he invoked in the opposition batsmen. One of the most dominant bowlers of all time, Charles Thomas Biass Turner was one of the first greats of the game and the predominant great Australian fast bowler of his generation. His only rival for the throne of the greatest of his age was England’s George Lohmann and despite Lohmann’s unparalleled exploits, Turner gave the Surrey quick quite the run for his money. During his first tour to England, Turner wreaked havoc, taking 314 wickets at 11.12. In the Tests, he took 21 wickets in 3 games at 12.42. In fact, Turner never averaged over 30 in a Test series, a feat beyond belief in today’s time.

38. LANCE GIBBS (WI) Right Arm Offbreak (1953-76)

Tests- 79, Wickets- 309, Avg- 29.09, 5W- 18, Best- 8/38

Spinners from the West Indies are a rare sight indeed. So it was quite a shocker when Lance Gibbs, a Caribbean spinner (yes, they’re not a myth) ended up as the leading wicket taker in the world when he broke Freddie Trueman’s record of 307 Test wickets in his final Test. Throughout the 1960s, Gibbs was arguably the best spinner in the world, taking over the mantle of the first-choice Windies spinner from Ramadhin. He combined some amazing spin with fierce accuracy and steep bounce to confound batsman from across the globe for nearly two decades.

37. CHAMINDA VAAS (SL) Left Arm Fast Medium (1990-2012)

Tests- 111, Wickets- 355, Avg- 29.58, 5W- 12, Best- 7/71

ODIs- 322, Wickets- 400, Avg- 27.53, 4W- 13, Best- 8/19

T20Is- 6, Wickets- 6, Avg- 21.33, Best- 2/14

Undoubtedly the greatest fast bowler from his country, Vaas shouldered Sri Lanka’s new ball attack mostly single-handedly throughout the 1990s and 2000s and that too, with both style and substance. His bowling average might be on the wrong side of the 20s, but that is much die to the fact that he has bowled mostly on the bland and flat pitches of the subcontinent that offer no or little help to fast bowlers like him. Experts widely rate him as one of the best left-arm fast bowlers of all time, probably only behind Wasim Akram of Pakistan and Alan Davidson of Australia.

36. KAPIL DEV (IND) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1975-94)

Tests- 131, Wickets- 434, Avg- 29.64, 5W- 23, Best- 9/83

ODIs- 225, Wickets- 253, Avg- 27.45, 4W- 4, Best- 5/43

Just how good can a bowler perform with the new ball if he has no consistent support from the other end? Kapil proved that even in the absence of speed, bounce and support, one can go on to be one of the greatest ever, solely on the basis of one’s determination and discipline. He was no Hadlee or Imran with the ball, but he could generate enormous amount of swing and bowled with a pace unprecedented for an Indian fast bowler. He shouldered India’s attack longer than any other bowler in the country’s history and never faltered along the way. A big game player, Kapil reserved his best for the big occasions and it does not come as a surprise that it was him who led India to their first World Cup triumph.

35. KEITH MILLER (AUS) Right Arm Fast (1937-59)

Tests- 55, Wickets- 170, Avg- 22.97, 5W- 7, Best- 7/60

They say no one could turn around a match with both the bat and ball the way Keith Miller could. One of the greatest all-rounders the game has seen, Miller’s transition from a classical top order batsman to a tearaway opening bowler was unprecedented and remarkable at the same time. A remarkable average of below 23 is testament to his bowling prowess which time and again demolished batting line ups across the world. He feared no one and the world feared him. He once sent down several bouncers down Bradman’s throat in a provincial game just to prove he could the better of the great man. West Indies captain John Goddard once said, “Give us Keith Miller and we’d beat the world.” Such was his class.

34. SIR IAN BOTHAM (ENG) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1974-93)

Tests- 102, Wickets- 383, Avg- 28.40, 5W- 27, Best- 8/34

ODIs- 116, Wickets- 145, Avg- 28.54, 4W- 3, Best- 4/31

No one has contributed more to a team than Ian Botham. When he was there, England were world-beaters. In his absence, they looked like a bunch of lost pre-schoolers. Within a year of his first-class debut, he was playing for England and within three years of that, he was already one of the best bowlers in the world having taken 139 wickets in just 25 Tests at 18.52. But the best was yet to come. The 1981 Ashes series will always be remembered as Botham’s Ashes as England’s prodigal son took 34 wickets at 20.58 along with 399 runs at 36.27 to give England one of the greatest Ashes victories of all time.

33. SIR ALEC BEDSER (ENG) Right Arm Medium-Fast (1939-60)

Tests- 51, Wickets- 236, Avg- 24.89, 5W- 15, Best- 7/44

1924 FC wickets at 20.41 with 96 five-wicket hauls

More than all the batsmen that dominated his decade, Bedser was responsible for the revival of English cricket after the Second World War. He spearheaded a strong English attack comprising of himself, Brian Statham and Frank Tyson, and led them to several routs of a strong Australian side in the 1950s. He bowled England to an unforgettable Ashes triumph in 1953, snaring 39 wickets at an amazing average of 17.48. Powerfully built and extremely quick, Bedser was also incredibly fit for his age. Despite of the fact that he played Tests till the age of 37, he left the field only once in his entire career.

32. DEREK UNDERWOOD (ENG) Slow Left Arm Orthodox (1963-87)

Tests- 86, Wickets- 297, Avg- 25.83, 5W- 17, Best- 8/51

WSC Matches- 4, Wickets- 16, Avg- 25.87, 5W- 0, Best- 4/59

ODIs- 26, Wickets- 32, Avg- 22.93, 4W- 1, Best- 4/44

2465 FC wickets at 20.28 with 153 five-wicket hauls

On rain-affected pitches, Derek Underwood was a giant; virtually unplayable. His teammates at Kent conferred on him the nickname ‘Deadly’ and he proved them right in a long and consistent career with the English side. England’s last great spinner, Underwood was known for his accuracy, biting pace and stunning variation. He burst on to the scene taking 100 wickets in his debut first-class season at the age of 18. He went on to fulfil all the promises he displayed in this early age by finishing as England’s most successful spinner in Tests. Had he not dropped out of Tests for World Series Cricket and the rebel tour to South Africa (the moves cost him 5 years of international cricket), he would surely have added another 100 Test wickets to his tally.

31. WES HALL (WI) Right Arm Fast (1955-71)

Tests- 48, Wickets- 192, Avg- 26.38, 5W- 9, Best- 7/69

For any batsman in the 1960s, there was no sight more frightening than a charged up Wes Hall steaming down his run up to deliver his 90mph projectiles of terror. He showed his true class by claiming 46 wickets in 8 Tests at 17.76 in the 1958 tour to the subcontinent where he terrorised the Asian batsmen even on the flat and low pitches of India and Pakistan. In 1962, he demolished a strong Indian batting line up comprising of Pataudi, Umrigar, Jaisimha, Sardesai and Manjrekar as he nabbed 27 wickets in 5 games at just 15.74. He averaged just 20.05 on the flat Asian pitches (54 wickets in 11 Tests), a testament to his greatness.

In the next installment of the list, we take a look at numbers 30-21 in our countdown to the greatest bowler in cricket history.

50 Greatest Bowlers in the History of Cricket- Part 1

They say cricket has become a batsman’s game. The biggest superstars of the game have always been batsmen. From Grace to Bradman; from Hobbs to Richards; from Hammond to Tendukar, they have been the game’s big ticket draws. Bowlers have hardly dominated world cricket since the end of the 19th century (save for the Bodyline and a brief period in the 1970s). But even then, bowlers possess the ability to turn a game around much faster than a batsman. They can initiate those fourth day post-tea collapses to induce result in a seemingly dead Test. They can rip out that unbelievable spell of six overs to cripple that ODI chase just as it was gaining momentum. They can bowl a maiden at the death to take the target further away from the batsmen. No matter how many runs batsmen might score, you don’t win a game if the bowlers don’t take wickets. So, here is the follow up to my earlier batting list– a five part list of the 50 greatest bowlers in the history of modern-day cricket.

50-41

50. JOHN SNOW (ENG) Right Arm Fast Medium (1961-80)

Tests- 49, Wickets- 202, Avg- 26.66, 5W- 8, Best- 7/40

ODIs- 9, Wickets- 14, Avg- 16.57, 4W- 2, Best- 4/11

1174 FC wickets at 22.73 with 56 five-wicket hauls

Anyone who played alongside or against John Snow would vouch for the fact that he was a true character. For almost a decade starting the mid-1960s, he was England’s best fast bowler by a margin. But despite that, his Test appearances are limited to 49 only because he found himself on the wrong side of the administration very so often (like a typical fast bowler). He was selected for only three overseas tours but took 62 wickets in them at just 20.91. His performances came against the strongest sides of his age- West Indies and Australia. 155 of his 202 wickets came against these two teams including all of his 8 five-wicket hauls.

49. TICH FREEMAN (ENG) Legbreak Googly (1914-36)

Tests- 12, Wickets- 66, Avg- 25.86, 5W- 5, Best- 7/71

3776 FC wickets at 18.42 with 386 five-wicket hauls

Alfred Percy ‘Tich’ Freeman was a great slow bowler, even though he wasn’t a regular in the Test side and even though he did not possess any great variations or surprise deliveries. He makes this list by the sheer weight and volume of his wickets. Wisden called him “one of the greatest slow bowlers the game has known”. His peers described him as a wizard of spin with unbelievable levels of stamina that allowed him to bowl an entire day unchanged. He missed many years due to the First World War but made up for all of it in grand style. From 1928 to 35, he took over 200 wickets each year (a total of 2,090 wickets in 8 years) and remains the only bowler to take 300 wickets in a year, a feat he achieved in 1928.

48. PETER POLLOCK (RSA) Right Arm Fast (1958-72)

Tests- 28, Wickets- 116, Avg- 24.18, 5W- 9, Best- 6/38

Pollock hails from one of the greatest cricketing families ever. His brother Graeme is widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen ever (no. 15 on Hatter’s list of the Greatest Batsmen) and his son Shaun also makes an appearance later in this list. Peter Pollock was the spearhead of one of the greatest bowling attacks in Test cricket history, the 1960s Springboks (South Africa, before they were called the Proteas). He was a tearaway fast bowler who had the ability to terrorize batsmen with pace alone, but his nagging line and accuracy made him even deadlier. Sadly, he was only 29 and the peak of his bowling powers when South Africa was forced out of international cricket due to their policy of apartheid.

47. BOBBY PEEL (ENG) Slow Left Arm Orthodox (1882-97)

Tests- 20, Wickets- 101, Avg- 16.98, 5W- 5, Best- 7/31

1775 FC wickets at 16.20 with 123 five-wicket hauls

Robert ‘Bobby’ Peel was one of the first great slow bowlers in Test cricket history and certainly the greatest of all 19th century left-arm spinners. He excelled both for his county Yorkshire as well as for MCC (as the English Test side was then called). A master of fine length who had splendid command over spin, Peel bowled England to several memorable Ashes victories. His partnership with Johnny Briggs haunted the Australian batting line ups throughout the 1880s and 1890s. Amazingly enough, Peel was no bunny with the bat. He was more than competent as a batsman, scoring over 12,000 FC runs with a highest score of 210.

46. SHANE BOND (NZ) Right Arm Fast (2001-10)

Tests- 18, Wickets- 87, Avg- 22.09, 5W- 5, Best- 6/51

ODIs- 82, Wickets- 147, Avg- 20.88, 4W- 11, Best- 6/19

T20Is- 20, Wickets- 25, Avg- 21.72, Best- 3/18

Here is the Greek God of cricket. Chiselled, blonde, lethal and fragile; Bond’s tale seems straight out of a Virgil or Homer epic. The unstoppable warrior single-handedly carrying the load of his troops, but tragically enough, his body lets him down so often on the battlefield that he cannot ensure victory for his side. No one has managed to leave such a lasting impression on world cricket in an international career so small. Batsman today shudder to think what he would have done had he played more than his measly 18 Tests and 82 ODIs. The greatest testament of his greatness is his success against the pre-dominant side of his times- the mighty Aussies. He took 50 wickets against them at an average of 20, across all forms of the game.

45. HAROLD LARWOOD (ENG) Right Arm Fast (1924-38)

Tests- 21, Wickets- 78, Avg- 28.35, 5W- 4, Best- 6/32

1427 FC wickets at 17.51 with 98 five-wicket hauls

Probably the fastest and most dangerous speedster of all times, Larwood remained an enigma throughout his playing career and an icon long after he retired. The mere mention of his name was enough to spread terror across the enemy ranks. He was England’s Goliath; their Kryptonite for the Australian superman named Bradman. He dismissed Bradman more times than any other bowler and restricted his legendary scoring prowess substantially. The main protagonist (or antagonist, depending on which side of the equator you live) of the infamous Bodyline series, he ripped through the celebrated Australian batting line up comprising of Woodfull, Bradman, Ponsford and McCabe, taking 33 wickets in 5 Tests at 19 and injuring almost the entire opposition at least once.

44. HUGH TRUMBLE (AUS) Right Arm Offbreak (1887-1904)

Tests- 32, Wickets- 141, Avg- 21.78, 5W- 9, Best- 8/65

929 FC wickets at 18.44 with 69 five-wicket hauls

Trumble was a dead-wicket specialist, perhaps the pioneer of the trend. He was a challenging bowler on normal wickets but almost unplayable on wet and sticky wickets. His off-spin was more like medium pace, much like Kumble and Afridi a century later. The pioneer of the slower delivery, he was the first man to take two Test hat tricks (a feat achieved only twice again). His variations in flight and pace were good enough to bamboozle the likes of Grace, Shrewsbury and Wilfred Rhodes. Trumble had the rare fortune of signing off his career with a remarkable performance, when he bowled Plum Warner’s England for 101 taking 7/28 in a memorable Ashes victory.

43. RICHIE BENAUD (AUS) Legbreak Googly (1948-64)

Tests- 63, Wickets- 248, Avg- 27.03, 5W- 16, Best- 7/72

Richie Benaud is a man of many faces. He is the charismatic captain, the champion all-rounder, the insightful cricket expert and the influential mentor all rolled into one. In this list however, we talk of Benaud- the shrewd leg spinner. His bowling was full of baits and traps for the batsmen, carrying forward the legacy of Grimmet and O’Reilly. His presence on the field was inspiring for the team mates and intimidating for the opposition. He was undoubtedly the greatest leg-spinner in the world during his heyday. His impact on the game can be gauged by the fact that one his protégés went on to play for Australia himself; a fat little bloke by the name of Shane Keith Warne.

42. ABDUL QADIR (PAK) Legbreak Googly (1975-96)

Tests- 67, Wickets- 236, Avg- 32.80, 5W- 15, Best- 9/56

ODIs- 104, Wickets- 132, Avg- 26.16, 4W- 6, Best- 5/44

If wrist-spin is alive and kicking (ass) today, much of the credit for that should go to Abdul Qadir- Pakistan’s spin wizard from the 80s. Qadir is the embodiment of mystique. Batsmen of his time had no idea what he was going to do next; there were just so many different arrows in his quiver. Many believe that with his temperament, he could very well have been a fast bowler but he chose spin and the gods of cricket thank him for it. A man who could bowl six different deliveries in an over, Qadir thrived on variety and spectacle, distracting and confounding the batsman at the same time; and that too in a way that no one had done before him and no one has done since.

41. SONNY RAMADHIN (WI) Right Arm Offbreak (1949-65)

Tests- 43, Wickets- 158, Avg- 28.98, 5W- 10, Best- 7/49

758 FC wickets at 20.24 with 51 five-wicket hauls

Ramadhin was the epitome of a ‘buttoned down’ cricketer. His shirt was always neatly tucked in and sleeves were always buttoned at the wrists. In more ways than one, he was more English in his style than Caribbean. Ramadhin shot to international prominence in 1950 when he baffled stalwarts like Hutton, Simpson, Edrich and Bailey with his ability to spin the ball both ways without any discernable change in action. He formed one of the most effective spin partnerships with his spin twin Jamaican Alf Valentine (who debuted alongside him) through the 1950s. A champion of long spells, Ramadhin brought out his best against England, troubling the likes of Colin Cowdrey and Peter May even when he was nearing the end of his career.

Stay tuned for the next ten bowling greats in part 2 of the list.

20 Hottest Female Athletes in History

Let’s be completely honest; when most of watch female sports, we are hardly concerned about the score. (We rather think about how nice it would be if we could score, if you know what I mean.) Female athletes have captured the imaginations and fantasies of men for generations now. The men might command more prize money and earn more through endorsements, but the women sure do generate the eyeballs. So, while the Rooneys and the Federers of the sport dominate the headlines, it is the Sharapovas and the Rawsons who adorn the walls of several (horny) adolescent boys (and often girls, we don’t judge). There have been countless women in sports who have set many a hearts racing, so let us find out who are the 20 most smoking female athletes of all-time.

20. GABRIELLA SABATINI (TENNIS) Argentina

Born- May 16, 1970, Professional Career- 1985-96, US Open Champion 1990

If you think the tennis players of today look like supermodels, then you should have seen Gabriella. She was the poster girl of tennis in an era when women’s tennis was trying hard to match up to its male counterpart. Sabatini was the first sportswoman to launch her own scent (back in 89) and she was the one who ushered in the era of tennis beauties (for which we are all very grateful to her).

19. KRISTI LESKINEN (SKIING) United States

Born- February 10, 1981, Professional Career- 2000 onwards, World Championship Silver Medalist 2005

There are athletes who are hot when they play and there are those who reserve this hotness for the camera. However, there are a select few who are just hot all the time. On the field, Leskinen was the first woman to pull off a Rodeo 720 (not a sexual position). Off it, she has established herself as the hottest thing on ice.

18. TATIANA GRIGORIEVA (POLE VAULT) Russia/Australia

Born- October 8, 1975, Professional Career- 1997-2007, Olympic Silver Medalist 2000

Her name might be a tongue twister of sorts but her looks are simply hot. She took up pole vaulting at the age of 21 and within 3 years, she had won silver at the Olympics. In a career that earned her a Commonwealth gold and a World Championship silver as well, Tatiana won fans over with both her aphrodisiac looks and her determined performances.

17. SARA GALIMBERTI (ATHLETICS) Italy

Born- December 1991, Miss Lombardia 2009, Track Career- 2008 onwards

If you’re thinking Sara who, then let me introduce this breath-taking buxom beauty. A college-level track star, former beauty queen and viral sensation, Galimberti is called Italy’s Allison Stokke (Stokke is another track and field hottie). She came to prominence in 2008 when someone (may the Lord bless his soul) posted her pictures online. Since then, she has been successfully sending online crazies into a perverted frenzy.

16. JENNIE FINCH (SOFTBALL) United States

Born- September 3, 1980, Senior Career- 2001-10, Most famous softball player in history

Finch is a sporting legend to say the least. In the 2000s, she was the world’s best pitcher and the Time magazine has called her the most famous player from her sport ever. Through her looks and performances, Finch brought Softball into the mainstream. Even though she kept a low profile throughout her career, her beach bunny looks brought her legions of admirers globally.

15. MALIA JONES (SURFING) United States

Born- March 27, 1977, Professional Career- 1991-98, US Amateur Surfing Champion 1992

Malia Jones is of Hawaiian, Spanish-Filipino, German and English descent, and she seems to have taken only the best-looking genes from all her ancestral gene pools. She has been labelled one of the 50 Most Beautiful People by People Magazine as well as one of the 10 sexiest athletes of Esquire. Well, if a woman designs and the models her own line of swimwear, then you can pretty well understand why she is on this list.

14. ANA PAULA MANCINO (VOLLEYBALL) Brazil

Born- November 21, 1971, Professional Career- 1990-2004

Anyone who does not live under a rock knows that women’s volleyball is the sport to watch. It’s got 6 girls on either side of a net in tight clothing pushing and slapping a ball around (no pun intended). Mancino began her volleyball career on the sunny beaches of Brazil (so we would like to imagine) and one fine day, decided that European men needed to be made aware of her smoking hotness as well. Hence, she moved to Italy in 1990 and has been raising the mercury there, ever since.

13. NATALIE GULBIS (GOLF) United States

Born- January 7, 1983, Professional Career- 2001 onwards, 3 Tour wins

Gulbis was a child prodigy, winning tournaments at the age of seven and competing with professionals at 17. One of the major highlights of the LPGA tour, Gulbis is an out and out sportswoman, but a breathtakingly pretty one at that. She shot to fame by placing in the top 10 of four consecutive golf majors at the age of 23 and continued to draw attention both for her game and her sex symbol status in golf.

12. ANA IVANOVIC (TENNIS) Serbia

Born- November 6, 1987, Professional Career- 2003 onwards, French Open Champion 2008

Ivanovic is known for her aggressive style of play, her ravishing good looks and (women tell me) a complexion to die for. She has adorned the covers of several fashion magazines including FHM, Cosmo, Grazia and Sports Illustrated. Some say that she is the hottest tennis player on tour right now, while others call her the hottest woman from Serbia ever. Whatever the case may be, Ana has sure managed to make men all over the world swoon over her.

11. ANNA RAWSON (GOLF) Australia

Born- August 5, 1981, Professional Career- 2004 onwards

It is tough to decide whether Rawson is a model who plays golf or a golfer who occasionally does modelling. She started modelling at 16 and turned to professional golf only at 23. She has been playing on the LPGA tour since 2009 and is one of the tour’s biggest draws due to her stunning looks and enormous popularity.

10. PEGGY FLEMING (FIGURE SKATING) United States

Born- July 27, 1948, Professional Career- 1961-68, Olympic Gold Medalist 1968

Peggy was the first, the very first female athlete whose appearance did not want you to throw up on a roadside. Before Peggy, female athletes were more athletes and hardly female. After her, they were all woman. In a career that brought her five US titles, three world championships and an Olympic Gold, Peggy became the pin-up girl of her generation, and that too, the first from the field of sports.

9. AMANDA BEARD (SWIMMING) United States

Born- October 29, 1981, Professional Career- 1996 onwards, 2 Olympic Golds

You know what’s good about summer? Swimming! Amanda Beard is one of the sport’s most popular names and also the most respected. This seven-time Olympic medallist has a body to die for and mesmerising looks that have made countless men across the globe go weak in their knees.

8. MARIA SHARAPOVA (TENNIS) Russia

Born- April 15, 1987, Professional Career- 2001 onwards, 3 Grand Slam singles

If you do not know who Maria Sharapova, then get the hell out of my blog. Sharapova is undoubtedly the most popular female athlete in the world today. This Siberian beauty is the embodiment of Russian sensuality, wrapped in a lithe, athletic figure. Her supermodel looks and million dollar smile have made her a darling of the tennis world.

7. TANITH BELBIN (FIGURE SKATING) Canada

Born- July 11, 1984, Professional Career- 2001-10, Olympic Silver Medalist 2006

The sport is called figure skating. It involves women skating and dancing over ice graciously and sensuously. Need I say anything else? Belbin’s movement exude a kind of grace and raw erotic energy that is unprecedented and has brought in many new fans to the sport. To say that she is the flag bearer of 21st century ice sports beauties would not exactly be an exaggeration.

6. STEPHANIE RICE (SWIMMING) Australia

Born- June 17, 1988, Professional Career- 2004 onwards, 3 Olympic Golds

The best part about the London Olympics will be that we will be able to watch Stephanie Rice in action in a swimsuit without having to explain to our women why we are ogling at this Aussie bombshell. Rice is the best thing that has happened to swimming since the introduction of shorter swimsuits.

5. DANICA PATRICK (MOTORSPORT) United States

Born- March 25, 1982, Professional Career- 1999 onwards, 3rd place finish at Indianapolis 500 (2009)

Here is one girl who can drive, and boy can she drive you nuts with those hypnotic eyes and perfect 10 body. Most people know her as the most popular and successful female race car driver ever, while others remember her as the sensuous “godaddy” girl from those commercials.

4. ANNA KOURNIKOVA (TENNIS) Russia

Born- June 7, 1981, Professional Career- 1995-2007, Australian Open Doubles Champion 1999

She was the Spice Girl of tennis and the most popular and desirable athlete of her generation. Anna introduced the glamour to women’s tennis, which has now become characteristic of the sport. Even though her accomplishments on the court were scarce, her looks and smoking sex appeal ensured that she would not be forgotten anytime soon.

3. LERYN FRANCO (JAVELIN THROW) Paraguay

Born- March 1, 1982, Professional Career- 2001 onwards, South American Championship Silver Medalist 2011

So Franco may not be a champion athlete but she does alright, having won a couple of medals at the South American Championships. However, she did finish runner up at Miss Paraguay 2006 and participated in Miss Bikini Universe to make up for all that. She has been called one of the hottest athletes by nearly all magazines and publications on this planet

2. BIBA GOLIC (TABLE TENNIS) Serbia

Born- November 9, 1977, Professional Career- 1998 onwards, 3 Titles

To think that one of the hottest female athletes of all-time would be from a game as unglamorous as table tennis is quite ironic. But this Serbian beauty is not just one of the most popular players in the sport, but also the most stunning. Her ravishing looks make her an immediate crowd puller (and crowd please as well), and establish her as one of the most desirable women in sports.

1. GABRIELLE REECE (VOLLEYBALL) United States

Born- January 6, 1970, Professional Career- 1989-2000

In 1989, Elle named her as one of the five most beautiful women in the world. She was the first major female athlete to pose nude for Playboy and has appeared on the covers of countless fashion and lifestyle magazines. Gabrielle Reece is arguably the hottest female athlete of all-time, not just because she is amazingly stunning, has a great body and exudes oomph all around; but also because she is still smoking hot at the age of 42.

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!

Top Ten

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.