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.

Advertisements

The Hundred Gun Salute!

There have been many names that have captivated cricket lovers in this cricket-crazy nation called India. From Vijay Merchant and CK Nayudu to MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, Indian fans have always been blessed to have some wonderfully talented cricketers to call thier own. But none of them have managed to own the cricketing circles of India quite like Sachin Tendulkar. He has been the darling of Indian cricket, the man we all love to love and the man who gave us a generations’ worth of happiness and joy. As he turns 41 today, the Hatter pays tribute to arguably the greatest batsman (the greatest cricketer?) produced by India by looking at all the international hundreds scored by the Little Master.

It took Tendulkar 21 years and 220 days to reach the 100th century after hitting his 1st as a tiny 17 year old in Manchester. He is 29 clear of his nearest competitor (Ricky Ponting) and 38 clear of the next best (Jacques Kallis). By the looks of it, this is one record that will stay in the history books for a long, long time, maybe even forever. So here it is, Hatter’s tribute to the Master batsman, in the form of a pictorial representation of all the international hundreds scored by the Atlas of Indian cricket- the man who has shouldered the expectations of a billion people, and boy he has done a grand job at that.

1. 119* (189) Test vs England, Manchester, 9 August 1990

2. 148* (213) Test vs Australia, Sydney, 2 January 1992

3. 114 (161) Test vs Australia, Perth, 1 February 1992

4. 111 (270) Test vs South Africa, Johannesburg, 26 November 1992

5. 165 (196) Test vs England, Chennai, 11 February 1993

6. 104* (161) vs Sri Lanka, Colombo SSC, 27 July 1993

7. 142 (224) Test vs Sri Lanka, Lucknow, 18 January 1994

8. 110 (130) ODI vs Australia, Colombo RPS, 9 September 1994

9. 115 (136) ODI vs New Zealand, Vadodara, 28 October 1994 (TV grab- no image available)

10. 105 (134) ODI vs West Indies, Jaipur, 11 November 1994

11. 179 (322) (Test) vs West Indies, Nagpur, 1 Dec 1994

11. 179 (322) Test vs West Indies, Nagpur, 1 December 1994

12. 112* (107) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Sharjah, 9 April 1995

12. 112* (107) ODI vs Sri Lanka (Asia Cup), Sharjah, 9 April 1995

13. 127 (138) ODI vs Kenya, Cuttack, 18 February 1996

13. 127 (138) ODI vs Kenya (World Cup), Cuttack, 18 February 1996

14. 137 (137) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Delhi, 2 March 1996

14. 137 (137) ODI vs Sri Lanka (World Cup), Delhi, 2 March 1996

15. 100 (111) ODI vs Pakistan, Singapore, 5 April 1996

15. 100 (111) ODI vs Pakistan, Singapore, 5 April 1996

16. 118 (140) ODI vs Pakistan, Sharjah, 15 April 1996

16. 118 (140) ODI vs Pakistan, Sharjah, 15 April 1996

17. 122 (177) Test vs England, Birmingham, 6 June 1996

17. 122 (177) Test vs England, Birmingham, 6 June 1996

18. 177 (360) Test vs England, Nottingham, 4 July 1996

18. 177 (360) Test vs England, Nottingham, 4 July 1996

19. 110 (138) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Colombo RPS, 28 August 1996

19. 110 (138) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Colombo RPS, 28 August 1996

20. 114 (126) ODI vs South Africa, Mumbai, 14 December 1996

20. 114 (126) ODI vs South Africa, Mumbai, 14 December 1996

21. 169 (254) Test vs South Africa, Cape Town, 2 January 1997

21. 169 (254) Test vs South Africa, Cape Town, 2 January 1997

22. 104 (97) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Benoni, 9 February 1997

22. 104 (97) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Benoni, 9 February 1997

23. 117 (137) ODI vs New Zealand, Bangalore, 14 May 1997 (Photo: N. Sridharan)

23. 117 (137) ODI vs New Zealand, Bangalore, 14 May 1997 (Photo: N. Sridharan)

24. 143 (247) Test vs Sri Lanka, Colombo RPS, 2 aUGUST 1997 (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

24. 143 (247) Test vs Sri Lanka, Colombo RPS, 2 August 1997 (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

25. 139 (266) Test vs Sri Lanka, Colombo SSC, 9 August 1997

25. 139 (266) Test vs Sri Lanka, Colombo SSC, 9 August 1997

26. 148 (244) Test vs Sri Lanka, Mumbai, 3 December 1997 (Photo: V.V. Krishnan)

26. 148 (244) Test vs Sri Lanka, Mumbai, 3 December 1997 (Photo: V.V. Krishnan)

26. 155* (191) Test vs Australia, Chennai, 6 March 1998

27. 155* (191) Test vs Australia, Chennai, 6 March 1998

28. 177 (207) Test vs Australia, Bangalore, 25 March 1998 (Photo: Shaun Botterill /Allsport)

28. 177 (207) Test vs Australia, Bangalore, 25 March 1998 (Photo: Shaun Botterill /Allsport)

29. 100 (89) ODI vs Australia, Kanpur, 7 April 1998

29. 100 (89) ODI vs Australia, Kanpur, 7 April 1998

30. 143 (131) ODI vs Australia, Sharjah, 22 April 1998

30. 143 (131) ODI vs Australia, Sharjah, 22 April 1998

31. 134 (131) ODI vs Australia, Sharjah, 24 April 1998

31. 134 (131) ODI vs Australia, Sharjah, 24 April 1998

32. 100* (103) ODI vs Kenya, Kolkata, 31 May 1998 (Photo: V.V. Krishnan)

32. 100* (103) ODI vs Kenya, Kolkata, 31 May 1998 (Photo: V.V. Krishnan)

33. 128 (131) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Colombo RPS, 7 July 1998

33. 128 (131) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Colombo RPS, 7 July 1998

34. 127* (130) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, 26 September 1998 (Photo: V.V. Krishnan)

34. 127* (130) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Bulawayo, 26 September 1998  (Photo: V.V. Krishnan) (ODI World Record 18th hundred)

35. 141 (128) ODI vs Australia, Dhaka, 28 October 1998

35. 141 (128) ODI vs Australia (Champions Trophy), Dhaka, 28 October 1998

36. 118* (112) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Sharjah, 9 November 1998 (Photo: N. Sridharan)

36. 118* (112) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Sharjah, 9 November 1998 (Photo: N. Sridharan)

37. 124* (92) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Sharjah, 13 November 1998

37. 124* (92) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Sharjah, 13 November 1998

38. 113 (151) Test vs New Zealand, Wellington, 26 December 1998

38. 113 (151) Test vs New Zealand, Wellington, 26 December 1998

39. 136 (273) Test vs Pakistan, Chennai, 28 January 1999 (Photo: John MaCDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

39. 136 (273) Test vs Pakistan, Chennai, 28 January 1999 (Photo: John MaCDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

40. 124* (235) Test vs Sri Lanka, Colombo SSC, 24 February 1999

40. 124* (235) Test vs Sri Lanka, Colombo SSC, 24 February 1999

41. 140* (101) ODI vs Kenya (World Cup), Bristol, 23 May 1999

41. 140* (101) ODI vs Kenya (World Cup), Bristol, 23 May 1999

42. 120 (141) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Colombo SSC, 29 August 1999

42. 120 (141) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Colombo SSC, 29 August 1999

43. 126 (248) Test vs New Zealand, Mohali, 10 October 1999

43. 126 (248) Test vs New Zealand, Mohali, 10 October 1999

44. 217 (344) Test vs New Zealand, Ahmedabad, 29 October 1999 (Photo: SK/CC)

44. 217 (344) Test vs New Zealand, Ahmedabad, 29 October 1999 (Photo: SK/CC)

45. 186* (150) ODI vs New Zealand, Hyderabad, 8 November 1999

45. 186* (150) ODI vs New Zealand, Hyderabad, 8 November 1999

46. 116 (191) Test vs Australia, Melbourne, 26 December 1999 (Photo: Jack Atley/ALLSPORT)

46. 116 (191) Test vs Australia, Melbourne, 26 December 1999 (Photo: Jack Atley/ALLSPORT)

47. 122 (138) ODI vs South Africa, Vadodara, 17 March 2000

47. 122 (138) ODI vs South Africa, Vadodara, 17 March 2000

48. 101 (140) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Sharjah, 20 October 2000

48. 101 (140) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Sharjah, 20 October 2000

49. 122 (233) Test vs Zimbabwe, Delhi, 18 November 2000

49. 122 (233) Test vs Zimbabwe, Delhi, 18 November 2000

50. 201* (281) Test vs Zimbabwe, Nagpur, 25 November 2000

50. 201* (281) Test vs Zimbabwe, Nagpur, 25 November 2000

51. 146 (153) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Jodhpur, 8 December 2000

51. 146 (153) ODI vs Zimbabwe, Jodhpur, 8 December 2000

52. 126 (230) Test vs Australia, Chennai, 18 March 2001 (AFP Photo, Raveendran)

52. 126 (230) Test vs Australia, Chennai, 18 March 2001 (AFP Photo, Raveendran)

53. 139 (125) ODI vs Australia, Indore, 31 March 2001

53. 139 (125) ODI vs Australia, Indore, 31 March 2001

54. 122* (131) ODI vs West Indies, Harare, 4 July 2001 (AFP Photo)

54. 122* (131) ODI vs West Indies, Harare, 4 July 2001 (AFP Photo)

55. 101 (129) ODI vs South Africa, Johannesburg, 5 October 2001 (Photo: N. Sridharan for Sportstar India)

55. 101 (129) ODI vs South Africa, Johannesburg, 5 October 2001 (Photo: N. Sridharan for Sportstar India)

56. 146 (132) ODI vs Kenya, Paarl, 24 October 2001

56. 146 (132) ODI vs Kenya, Paarl, 24 October 2001

57. 155 (184) Test vs South Africa, Bloemfontein, 3 November 2001 (Photo: AFP/Yoav Lemmer

57. 155 (184) Test vs South Africa, Bloemfontein, 3 November 2001 (Photo: AFP/Yoav Lemmer)

58. 103 (197) Test vs England, Ahmedabad, 11 December 2001 (Photo: ECB)

58. 103 (197) Test vs England, Ahmedabad, 11 December 2001 (Photo: ECB)

59. 176 (316) Test vs Zimbabwe, Nagpur, 21 February 2002 (Photo: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

59. 176 (316) Test vs Zimbabwe, Nagpur, 21 February 2002 (Photo: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

60. 117 (260) Test vs West Inides, Port-of-Spain, 19 April 2002 (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

60. 117 (260) Test vs West Inides, Port-of-Spain, 19 April 2002 (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

61. 105* (108) ODI vs England, Chester-le-Street, 4 July 2002

61. 105* (108) ODI vs England, Chester-le-Street, 4 July 2002

62. 113 (102) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Bristol, 11 July 2002

62. 113 (102) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Bristol, 11 July 2002

63. 193 (330) Test vs England, Leeds, 22 August 2002

63. 193 (330) Test vs England, Leeds, 22 August 2002

64. 176 (298) Test vs West Indies, Kolkata, 30 October 2002

64. 176 (298) Test vs West Indies, Kolkata, 30 October 2002

65. 152 (151) ODI vs Namibia (World Cup), Pietermaritzburg, 23 February 2003

65. 152 (151) ODI vs Namibia (World Cup), Pietermaritzburg, 23 February 2003

66. 100 (119) ODI vs Australia, Gwalior, 26 October 2003

66. 100 (119) ODI vs Australia, Gwalior, 26 October 2003

67. 102 (91) ODI vs New Zealand, Hyderabad, 15 November 2003

67. 102 (91) ODI vs New Zealand, Hyderabad, 15 November 2003

68. 241* (436) Test vs Australia, Sydney, 2 January 2004

68. 241* (436) Test vs Australia, Sydney, 2 January 2004

69. 141 (135) ODI vs Pakistan, Rawalpindi, 16 March 2004 (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)

69. 141 (135) ODI vs Pakistan, Rawalpindi, 16 March 2004 (AFP Photo/Jewel Samad)

70. 248* (379) Test vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, 10 December 2004

70. 194* (348) Test vs Pakistan, Multan, 28 March 2004

71. 248* (379) Test vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, 10 December 2004 (Test World Record 35th hundred) (AFP Photo/Sh. Tenku)

71. 248* (379) Test vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, 10 December 2004 (Test World Record 35th hundred) (AFP Photo/Sh. Tenku)

72. 123 (130) ODI vs Pakistan, Ahmedabad, 12 April 2005

72. 123 (130) ODI vs Pakistan, Ahmedabad, 12 April 2005

73. 109 (196) Test vs Sri Lanka, Delhi, 10 December 2005

73. 109 (196) Test vs Sri Lanka, Delhi, 10 December 2005

74. 100 (113) ODI vs Pakistan, Peshawar, 6 February 2006

74. 100 (113) ODI vs Pakistan, Peshawar, 6 February 2006

75. 141* (148) ODI vs West Indies, Kuala Lumpur, 14 September 2006

75. 141* (148) ODI vs West Indies, Kuala Lumpur, 14 September 2006

76. 100* (76) ODI vs West Indies, Vadodara, 31 January 2007

76. 100* (76) ODI vs West Indies, Vadodara, 31 January 2007

77. 101 (169) Test vs Bangladesh, Chittagong, 18 May 2007 (Photo: Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP/Getty Images)

77. 101 (169) Test vs Bangladesh, Chittagong, 18 May 2007 (Photo: Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP/Getty Images)

78. 122* (226) Test vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, 25 May 2007

78. 122* (226) Test vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, 25 May 2007 (Photo: Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP/Getty Images)

79. 154* (243) Test vs Australia, Sydney, 2 January 2008

79. 154* (243) Test vs Australia, Sydney, 2 January 2008

80. 153 (205) Test vs Australia, Adelaide, 24 January 2008

80. 153 (205) Test vs Australia, Adelaide, 24 January 2008

81. 117* (120) ODI vs Australia, Sydney, 2 March 2008

81. 117* (120) ODI vs Australia, Sydney, 2 March 2008

82. 109 (188) Test vs Australia, Nagpur, 6 November 2008 (Photo: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

82. 109 (188) Test vs Australia, Nagpur, 6 November 2008 (Photo: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

83. 103* (196) Test vs England, Chennai, 11 December 2008 (Photo:  Julian Herbert/Getty Images)

83. 103* (196) Test vs England, Chennai, 11 December 2008 (Photo: Julian Herbert/Getty Images)

84. 163* (133) ODI vs New Zealand, Christchurch, 8 March 2009

84. 163* (133) ODI vs New Zealand, Christchurch, 8 March 2009

85. 160 (260) Test vs New Zealand, Hamilton, 18 March 2009

85. 160 (260) Test vs New Zealand, Hamilton, 18 March 2009

86. 138 (133) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Colombo RPS, 14 September 2009

86. 138 (133) ODI vs Sri Lanka, Colombo RPS, 14 September 2009

87. 175 (141) ODI vs South Africa, Hyderabad, 5 November 2009

87. 175 (141) ODI vs South Africa, Hyderabad, 5 November 2009

88. 100* (211) Test vs Sri Lanka, Ahmedabad, 16 November 2009 (Photo: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

88. 100* (211) Test vs Sri Lanka, Ahmedabad, 16 November 2009 (Photo: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

89. 105* (166) Test vs Bangladesh, Vhittagong, 17 January 2010

89. 105* (166) Test vs Bangladesh, Chittagong, 17 January 2010

90. 143 (182) Test vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, 24 January 2010 (Photo: Munir uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

90. 143 (182) Test vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, 24 January 2010 (Photo: Munir uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images)

91. 100 (179) Test vs South Africa, Nagpur, 6 February 2010 (Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

91. 100 (179) Test vs South Africa, Nagpur, 6 February 2010 (Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

92. 106 (206) Test vs South Africa, Kolkata, 14 February 2010 (Photo: Deshakalyan Chaudhary/AFP/Getty Images)

92. 106 (206) Test vs South Africa, Kolkata, 14 February 2010 (Photo: Deshakalyan Chaudhary/AFP/Getty Images)

93. 200* (147) ODI vs South Africa, Gwalior, 24 February 2010 (ODI World Record for Highest Score)

93. 200* (147) ODI vs South Africa, Gwalior, 24 February 2010 (ODI World Record for Highest Score) (Photo: Getty Images)

94. 203 (347) Test vs Sri Lanka, Colombo SSC, 26 July 2010

94. 203 (347) Test vs Sri Lanka, Colombo SSC, 26 July 2010

95. 214 (363) Test vs Australia, Bangalore, 9 October 2010

95. 214 (363) Test vs Australia, Bangalore, 9 October 2010

96. 111* (241) Test vs South Africa, Centurion, 16 December 2010 (Photo: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images)

96. 111* (241) Test vs South Africa, Centurion, 16 December 2010 (Photo: Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images)

97. 146 (314) Test vs South Africa, Cape Town, 2 January 2011

97. 146 (314) Test vs South Africa, Cape Town, 2 January 2011

98. 120 (115) ODI vs England (World Cup), Bangalore, 27 February 2011

98. 120 (115) ODI vs England (World Cup), Bangalore, 27 February 2011

99. 111 (101) ODI vs South Africa (World Cup), Nagpur, 12 March 2011

99. 111 (101) ODI vs South Africa (World Cup), Nagpur, 12 March 2011

100. 114 (147) ODI vs Bangladesh (Asia Cup), Dhaka, 16 March 2012

100. 114 (147) ODI vs Bangladesh (Asia Cup), Dhaka, 16 March 2012

Bonus

125 (114) for Rest of World vs MCC, Lord's, 18 July 1998

125 (114) for Rest of World vs MCC, Lord’s, 18 July 1998

100* (66) for Mumbai vs Kochi (IPL), 15 April 2011 (AP Photo/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

100* (66) for Mumbai vs Kochi (IPL), 15 April 2011 (AP Photo/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

 

Note: Special care has been taken to ensure that all copyright images are credited properly. In case there is any discrepancy, or any other factual error in the article please do point out!

Right to Reject: But What About the Practicalities?

The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission to give the voters an option of 'none of the above' in ballots. Image courtesy zazzler.com

The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission to give the voters an option of ‘none of the above’ in ballots. Image courtesy zazzler.com

The Supreme Court of India has been a favourite of the country’s citizens. In an age where the 1.3 billion of us are almost fed up of the legislature and the executive, our faith has naturally come to rest upon the judiciary, spearheaded by an actively involved Supreme Court. In recent years, some of the verdicts of the Court have reiterated the demands (both silent and vocal) of the general populace. We wanted someone to hold scamsters accountable for their actions, and the Supreme Court quashed all the licenses issued under the now infamous 2G spectrum. We wanted the system to be rid of criminals and the Supreme Court allowed for convicted legislators to be disqualified and banned. It’s almost like the Supreme Court has been in our corner in our no-holds barred sparring contest against the other two organs of the state. Hence, people naturally assume that the recent decision by the Court – that gives the voters in the country an option of not voting for any candidate in an election – has to be landmark and ground-breaking. The media coverage of the verdict gives the impression that it is the best thing to have happened to the Indian electoral system since sliced bread electronic voting machines. However, a closer examination of the decision reveals that the reality might be slightly different.

First of all, let me clarify that I am all for the ‘Right to Reject’ for a voter. Like the SC said in its decision, if MPs and MLAs have the right to abstain from voting in the House, then the voter needs to be empowered as well. Now, I agree that the context of voting in the House and for the House is quite different but the fact remains that the voter needs to have the right to vote for the candidate he chooses, and not the candidate that he is being forced to choose. It is a very important distinction. Most of the times, we- the voters of India, choose to vote for a certain candidate because s/he is simply ‘the best option’ from the rotten lot we have been provided by our loving political parties. With the right to reject, we stand to change that. However, for that, this right needs to be exercised in its purest form. If diluted, it shall negate the very basis for its existence.

The ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option, which the Supreme Court has provided for now, is something that is in practice in several countries around the world (most notably in Poland, students’ unions in the UK, and some constituencies in the United States). It is a practice that aims to force the political parties to introduce clean candidates, who are acceptable to the voters. There is certainly ambiguity in the definition of clean, but nobody can deny the fact that if the voters are empowered more, it paves the way for a more powerful and better functioning democracy. However, that is only possible if this NOTA option, or this Right to Reject, is successful in achieving its stated goal. The provision has a simple principle behind it- when the voters will reject the candidates put forward by the parties, they shall be forced to acknowledge that their candidates are not acceptable to the general public, and in order to win back their favour, they will have to present better candidates.

In the film 'Brewster's Millions' (1985), millionaire Monty Brewster enters the New York Mayoral electoral race urging a vote for "None of the Above."

In the film ‘Brewster’s Millions’ (1985), millionaire Monty Brewster enters the New York Mayoral electoral race urging a vote for “None of the Above.”

The only problem with this plan is the current silence of the Indian machinery on how the system will be implemented. Neither the SC, nor the Election Commission has clarified whether the votes polled in the ‘none of the above’ option will be counted or not. If they are not counted, then the entire purpose of having that option is defeated. In that scenario, choosing none of the above is just as good as not voting at all, as both the actions will have no consequence on determining the winner of the elections. Suppose, in a constituency of 100,000 registered voters, there is 60% turnout in an election i.e. 60,000 people vote. If 10,000 of these choose none of the above option and their votes are not counted, then the election is effectively being decided by the other 50,000 votes. In doing so, we will have turned the Right to Reject from a hero to a villain, because this way, instead of forcing the political parties to put forward better candidates, it will effectively silence those who are rejecting the candidates. Their choice will have no bearing on the election and hence, their opinion will cease to matter. That, my friends, is not a good example of a democracy.

However, chances are that the votes polled for the ‘none of the above’ option will, in fact, be counted. This clears some confusion, but creates a whole lot more. In order to understand what that confusion is, let us revisit the election in our fictitious constituency. Again, there are 100,000 voters with a 60% turnout i.e. 60,000 votes cast. Say, there are 8 candidates vying for the voters’ attention, who poll a total of 42,000 votes. Candidate A ‘wins’ the election with 15,000 votes as compared to candidate B who polled 10,000. However, one has to see that as many as 18,000 people chose ‘none of the above’. In short, more people rejected all the candidates than the number which voted for any one of them. If ‘none of the above’ was the ninth candidate, it would have won the election. This can be interpreted to imply that the voters would rather have none of these candidates represent them than go for any one of them. Again, the machinery is silent about what happens in such a situation. And mind you, it is not exactly a far-fetched situation. The growing discontent and disenchantment of the voting class with the political class means that this is a very likely scenario.

One of the suggestions doing rounds is that in case the ‘none of the above option’ polls the highest number of votes (or a certain pre-determined percentage of votes) in an election, the entire election in that constituency or for that seat will have to be re-done with fresh candidates. This suggestion uses the rationale that since the public isn’t ready to accept these candidates; the parties must come up with new ones. This is the only way the voters’ ‘right to reject’ will be exercised in a timely manner. Now, while this is a theoretically correct and seemingly correct suggestion, there are certain practical difficulties around it. First of all, elections are a costly affair. Declaring the results null and void and going through the entire process again for a constituency will certainly burden the taxpayers, even if it is the right thing to do. Secondly, the process will not be instantaneous. Parties will need to be given time to nominate their candidates, these candidates will have to be checked and verified by the EC, canvassing and campaigning will have to be done again, followed by the actual polling and counting. The actual time taken will depend on the scale of the election but it will normally run in weeks, if not months. These are certain practical aspects of this provision that need to be addressed if the real benefits of it are to be reaped.

Elections in India are a grand affair, involving hundreds of millions of voters. It will be difficult to hold re-elections in multiple constituencies. Image by Reuters © Tom Heneghan

Elections in India are a grand affair, involving hundreds of millions of voters. It will be difficult to hold re-elections in multiple constituencies. Image by Reuters © Tom Heneghan

The truth is that the Supreme Court decision is not the final nail in the coffin for corrupt candidates, not by a long shot. There are a number of issues that plague this option, and a number of questions circling it. Until and unless these issues are sorted and these questions answered, the ‘landmark’ right to reject will remain just a pretty sounding but eventually ineffective proposition. The bottom line is that even though the right to reject is a wonderful new change that promises to transform the Indian electoral and political system, there are a number of practical issues that need to be addressed before it can be enforced. Unless these issues are sorted out at the soonest, the right to reject remains toothless. The coming Assembly elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, etc. will serve as the litmus test for the right to reject. Let’s all hope that the powers that be are able to come up with a feasible method to enforce the right to reject through these elections, so that it can be effectively implemented when the big guns come out. (read: Lok Sabha 2014)

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!

Forgotten Heroes- Amar Singh and Mohammad Nissar

In 1930 as Jack Hobbs retired, England were looking for a good, solid opening bat to replace the master and join another great opener Herbert Sutcliffe. Hobbs and Sutcliffe had opened for England for only 5 years but in that period, they had managed to rack up more than twice the runs of any other partnership in Test cricket. It was another Yorkshireman, Percy Holmes, who replaced Hobbs in the opening slot. In 1932, Holmes and Sutcliffe added a world record 555 for the first wicket for Yorkshire vs. Essex. They were truly the best two opening batsmen in the world. Ten days later, they faced a young Indian bowling attack in the country’s inaugural Test. They were expected to massacre the young Indians. What happened instead laid the foundations to a legendary new ball partnership.

(c) The Cricketer International

Scorecard of Homes-Sutcliffe partnership vs. Essex, 1932 (c) The Cricketer International

On the first morning, 21-year old speedster Mohammad Nissar sent England into disarray by knocking over the stumps of both Sutcliffe and Holmes. Soon, his new ball partner, Amar Singh (also 21) bowled the great Wally Hammond. Within a few hours, England were staring down the barrel of a huge embarrassment at 166/6 and it was two new bowlers who had inflicted that damage. Today, when we talk about Indian legends, names like Tendulkar, Gavskar, Kumble and Kapil pop up regularly. Some more informed and well-read folks dig up names like Mankad, Hazare, Prasanna, Lala Amarnath and Umrigar. But nobody remembers the original Indian heroes, India’s first – and possibly greatest – new ball pairing, Amar Singh and Mohammad Nissar.

Amar Singh (L) Mohammad Nissar (R)

Nissar was an out and out fast bowler, deadly quick and accurate. Those who played against him swore that he was the quickest they faced. Many international cricketers and commentators remarked that he was almost as quick – if not quicker – as the great Englishman Harold Larwood. He remains the only true express pace bowler produced by India till date. Nissar combined his speed with pinpoint accuracy to achieve great success in both England and India. However, as many pointed out, he was a gentleman fast bowler. He did not like to intimidate the batsmen. His job was taking wickets and boy, was he good at that job (he averaged 17 in first class cricket and 20 in all games for India). Former India captain Vizzy likened him to Australian great Ray Lindwall in that both were gentlemen cricketers, letting the ball do the talking instead of resorting to sledging or bowling unnecessary bouncers.

Amar Singh, on the other hand, was not as quick but equally potent with the ball. His fast-medium pace was well suited for off-cutters and leg-cutters that he used with deadly precision. The greatest batsmen of his time – Len Hutton and Wally Hammond – showered praises upon him, calling him the best in the world. In fact, in the mid-1950s, Singh was picked in an All-Time World XI by former England batsman Bill Edrich. He was the only Indian in the team that contained names like Bradman, Barnes, Laker, Hutton and Hammond. Edrich had played against Amar Singh in 1938, while touring India with Lord Tennyson’s XI. Singh was also a more than useful middle order batsman. He scored the first half century for India in Tests and played a handful of useful innings in his 7 Tests. He scored 5 centuries in first-class cricket and several more in the Lancashire League.

THE BEGINNINGS

Ladha Amar Singh was born in a cricketing family in Rajkot on December 4, 1910. His elder brother L Ramji* (b 1900) was a devastating fast bowler of some reputation. Nissar was born four months earlier in Hoshiarpur to a tribal Pashtun chief. After the partition, Shaikh Mohammed Nissar would go on to become the chief of the tribe himself. Nissar was the first to play first class cricket in 1929. He played mostly for Muslims in the Lahore Tournament. Amar Singh came to the fore when he toured Ceylon with Vizzy’s XI in 1930-31. The first match they played together was Mahrajkumar of Vizianagram XI vs Ghanshyamji of Limbdi XII in 1932. However, they were on the opposing teams. They first time they played alongside each other was a month later for the Maharaja of Patiala XI. Nissar took 7 wickets in the game while Amar Singh managed just one but a great partnership was about to begin. The duo was selected for the Indian team that was to tour England later that summer and play India’s first Test match.

THE SWANSONG

Indian Team in England, 1932

Both Amar Singh and Nissar had a dream tour of the British Isles in the summer of 1932. Nissar led the bowling averages with 71 wickets at 18.09, while Amar Singh took the most wickets- 111 at 20.78. Singh also scored 641 runs at decent average of 22.89. In the only Test played at Lord’s, Nissar became the first Indian bowler (and to this date, only fast bowler) to take 5 wickets on Test debut. He returned match figures of 6 for 135 while Singh’s analysis was 4 for 159. Batting at number 9, Amar Singh scored India’s first Test half century. By the time the tour ended, the British press was calling them the best new ball pairing in the world, even better than Larwood and Voce, who were to destroy Bradman’s Australia in a few months’ time.

When England visited in 1933-34, Nissar and Amar Singh again wreaked havoc on a very strong English batting line-up. The duo shared 13 wickets in the first two Tests. When Nissar missed the final Test, Amar Singh took it upon him to demolish the English side, taking 7/86 in the first innings. This remained the best bowling analysis by an Indian fast bowler for close to five decades. The next year, an Australian side visited India. However, as the full strength Australian side was touring South Africa at that time, the four India-Australia matches were not deemed official Test matches. The Australian team was led by veteran Jack Ryder and contained legendary players like Charlie Macartney. This series was Nissar’s swansong as he destroyed the Australian batsmen with unprecedented consistency, scalping 32 wickets in the 4 matches at a phenomenal average of 12.46. He took at least 6 wickets in every game, with four 5-wicket hauls and two 4-wicket hauls in 8 innings. Amar Singh only played 2 games but was equally impressive with 10 wickets at 19.80 and 96 runs at 24.00.

The following summer, India toured England for the last time before the war. They played 3 Tests and 25 other first-class games. Nissar shone again with 66 wickets at 25.13 in all games. Amar Singh was already playing in the Lancashire League and was released for only a very few games. He averaged 33 with the bat and 23 with the ball in the 7 games that he played. He took a brilliant 6-wicket haul in the Lord’s Test and ended up with 10 wickets in the series, apart from 143 runs at 28.60. Nissar was marginally more successful with 12 wickets at 28.58 including a 5-wicket haul in the final Test. Tragically, India did not play any official Test after this for over 10 years and this was the last official Tests for these two greats. This also meant that Nissar became the first player to take 5-wicket hauls in both his first and last Tests.

The Indian players did get another opportunity of playing top level cricket before the war when Lord Tennyson led an England team to India in the winter of 1937-38. Since this was not an official MCC tour, the 5 India-England international matches were not categorized as Tests. Despite that, Lord Tennyson’s team was quite strong with players like Bill Edrich, Joe Hardstaff, Jim Parks, James Langridge, Alf Gover and Norman Yardley. This time, it was Amar Singh’s chance to shine as he snared 36 wickets in the 5-match series at an average of just 16.66. This included three 5-wicket hauls and a splendid 11 for 96 in the 4th game at Madras. Nissar played in only 3 of the 5 games and took 12 wickets but was completely overshadowed by Singh this time around.

THE NUMBERS

Amar Singh

Official Tests- 7, Runs- 292, Bat. Avg- 22.46, Wickets- 28, Bowl. Avg- 30.64, 5W- 2

Unofficial Tests- 7, Runs- 162, Bat. Avg- 13.50, Wickets- 46, Bowl. Avg- 17.32, 5W- 4

Mohammad Nissar

Official Tests- 6, Runs- 55, Bat. Avg- 06.87, Wickets- 25, Bowl. Avg- 28.28, 5W- 3

Unofficial Tests- 7, Runs- 37, Bat. Avg- 03.36, Wickets- 43, Bowl. Avg- 16.49, 5W- 5

Amar Singh and Nissar played for India in 16 different international matches (7 Tests and 9 unofficial Tests). They played together 11 times, always sharing the new ball whenever they played.

Image from The Hindu (2002)

Amar Singh in action, Image from The Hindu (2002)

They shared the new ball in 6 of the 7 Tests India played before the war. Nissar led the wickets column here with 25 wickets at 28.28, while Amar Singh took 20 wickets at 35.85. In the unofficial Tests, they played together 5 times. In these 5 games, Amar Singh took 30 wickets at 19.46, while Nissar took 28 wickets at 17.78. In the 5th match against Lord Tennyson’s XI, they took all 10 wickets that fell, with both of them taking five apiece.

Amar Singh was ranked as high as 9 in the world rankings for bowlers even though he only played 7 Tests. Nissar’s highest ranking was 12. The next man to achieve a rank this high for India would be Vinoo Mankad, a decade and a half later.

THE ABRUPT END

After the 1937-38 tour, both players returned to playing first-class and club cricket. Amar Singh was playing in the Lancashire League when he was picked in an England XI to face the Australians as a warm up to the 1938 Ashes. He returned figures of 6/84 dismissing the likes of Bill Brown, Hassett and McCabe.

In 1939, the Second World War broke out and international cricket came to a halt. Teams could no longer travel safely and embark on tours. The Indian team hadn’t played any cricket since Lord Tennyson’s tour ended in February 1939 and in fact, their last Test was the Oval Test against England in August 1936. Both Singh and Nissar were only 29 and still in the prime of their physical forms. Many would have hoped that once the war ended and cricket resumed, these two would resume their legendary new ball partnership as well. However, all these hopes met an abrupt end in 1940 when Amar Singh died of typhoid. Some stories claim that the typhoid was a result of swimming/bathing in cold water after playing six sets of tennis. At age 29, one of India’s original cricketing superstars was lost.

Image courtesy ESPNcricinfo

Mohammad Nissar, 1932, Image courtesy ESPNcricinfo

Nissar continued playing first-class cricket in the Ranji Trophy for Southern Punjab and later United Provinces; and in the Bombay Pentangular for Muslims. After the partition, he moved to Pakistan where he worked as an administrator and a selector although he did play a couple of first class games when he was in his 40s. It is quite tragic that in his last game, this legendary fast bowler remained wicketless.

In 2006, Indian and Pakistan cricket boards started an annual match between the respective first class champions from the country (Ranji winners vs. Quaid-e-Azam trophy winners). This tournament was named Nissar Trophy.

TRIBUTES

“Two great Indians never to visit Australia were Nissar and Amar Singh, but my Test selector colleague and Test Captain Jack Ryder played against them in India. Many nights I sat with him into the small hours being enthralled listening to his stories of their skill.” – Sir Don Bradman (legendary Australian batsman) Bradman is surely the greatest batsman in cricket history. This statement was a part of his foreword to Rusi Modi’s book on Indian cricketers.

Amar Singh

“There is no better bowler in the world today than Amar Singh.” – Sir Len Hutton (legendary England batsman) Hutton made this statement in 1970 implying that Singh was better than the leading fast bowlers in the world then, like Peter Pollock, John Snow, Graham McKenzie, Mike Procter or Garry Sobers. Hutton faced Amar Singh while playing for Yorkshire in 1936.

“He is as dangerous an opening bowler as I have ever seen, coming off the pitch like the crack of doom.” – Sir Wally Hammond (legendary England batsman) Hammond described Singh’s fabled in-cutters which were became quite potent due to his accuracy. Hammond scored a double century against Singh and Nissar in India’s last Test before the war, in 1936.

“He is the best bowler in the world today, after Bill O’Reilly.” – Joe Hardstaff Jr. (England batsman) Hardstaff rated Singh higher than the likes of Bill Voce, Learie Constanine, Gubby Allen and Bill Bowes. He made this statement while touring India with Lord Tennyson’s XI in 1937-38. Singh took 36 wickets in the 5 ‘Tests’, dismissing Hardstaff 7 times in 9 innings.

“”On his form on that tour (1932) and again in 1936, Amar Singh would have been a strong candidate for a World XI. I believe he is probably as good as Barnes.” ­– Pelham Warner (England captain and manager) Warner managed the England team in the early 1930s. A comparison with Barnes is arguably the highest compliment for any bowler. He took 189 wickets in 27 Tests for England and is widely considered to be the greatest bowler ever.

“I would love to have a bowler like Amar Singh to take with me to Australia to battle Bradman.” – Douglas Jardine (England captain) Jardine made this remark after India’s inaugural Test in 1932. Later that year, he captained England to an Ashes victory in Australia, using an intimidating fast bowling tactic called Bodyline. Many have said that he got the inspiration for the tactic by watching Nissar and Amar Singh in action.

(c) PA Photos

Douglas Jardine facing Amar Singh, Lord’s, 1932 (c) PA Photos

“He was easily in the Simpson or Hammond class in this specialist position and helped his bowling partner, Nissar, on several occasions by taking catches of the highest caliber in the slip cordon.” – Rusi Modi (Indian batsman) Modi described Amar Singh’s slip fielding with this statement in his book on Indian cricketers.

Mohammad Nissar

 “Nissar’s speed during half a dozen overs was really capital; in every over we saw half-hit defensive strokes, untidy, uncertain” – Neville Cardus (eminent cricket writer) Cardus is one of the most respected cricket writers ever. This statement highlights Nissar’s raw pace and the dangers he posed to the Australian batsman when Jack Ryder’s team toured India in 1937-38. Nissar took 32 wickets in the 4 ‘Tests’ at 13.

“Nissar was a magnificent bowler and a great sportsman, who was an asset to any team of his time. A great slip fielder who could bring off surprising catches in spite of his weight. I have not seen a faster bowler than him in this sub-continent” – Dr Jahangir Khan (Indian all-rounder) Dr Khan was a contemporary of Nissar and played in India’s first 4 Tests. He is the father of Pakistan cricketer Majid Khan and the uncle of Imran Khan.

“Early in his spells, Nissar was quicker than even Larwood.” ­– CK Nayudu (India’s first Test captain) Nayudu believed Nissar was quicker than England’s legendary fast bowler Harold Larwood, widely considered to be the fastest and most dangerous bowler in the history of the game. Nayudu faced both the bowlers during his career. This statement was made after India’s inaugural Test in 1932, where both the speedsters played for their countries.

“What a great fast bowler he was! He was the best and the fastest I have ever played against. In my time I played against Larwood, Voce, Bowes, Allen and Gover. The first two were past their best when I played them and the other three did not come up to the standard of Nissar. I have not seen a more accurate fast bowler.” ­– Vijay Merchant (legendary Indian batsman) Merchant played with Nissar, and is considered India’s first great Test batsman.

Image courtesy ESPNcricinfo

Herbert Sutcliffe bowled by Nissar, Lord’s, 1932, Image courtesy ESPNcricinfo

“He always believed in hitting the stumps and beating the batsman through sheer speed off the pitch and never intimidated the batsman. With the new ball, he was equally fast as Larwood.” – Naoomal Jeoomal (Indian batsman) Jeoomal played in India’s first three Tests in the 1930s and was India’s first opener. He later coached the Pakistan team, guiding players like Hanif, Saeed Ahmed and Fazal Mahmood.

 

*Amar Singh’s brother Ladha Ramji was a tall and well-built fast bowler who was known for his sheer pace. He was a legend in Kathiawar where he played first-class cricket. He once injured the Maharaja of Patiala with a ferocious bouncer and had to flee the state. Due to his run-ins with the administration, Ramji played only one official Test (in 1933, when he was 32 years old). After being repeatedly ignored for selection, Ramji quit cricket in the late 1930s. He died in 1949 after contracting gangrene in an injured leg.

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

The Verdict on Gangs of वासेपुर

Directed by-   Anurag Kashyap

Starring-         Manoj Bajpai, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Richa Chaddha, Piyush Mishra, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Vipin Sharma, Reemma Sen

There is difference between a great movie and great cinema in general. Anurag Kashyap’s gang war epic “Gangs of वासेपुर” earnestly tries to bridge that gap but falls just short on several counts. On the whole, Wasseypur is a brilliantly made movie, with stellar performances, great pace of story and some outstanding editing. It literally takes you on a ride (a gory and profane one albeit) to the heartland of the coal mafia- the morally loose, violently prolific and cinematically grey hamlet known as Wasseypur. Here is the Hatter’s verdict on one of the most highly awaited movies of this year.

Plot and Narrative – 7/10

Basically Wasseypur is an epic; and like all epics, it starts in media res (read: just when the shit hits the fan). It has all the elements of a classical Indian epic- a plot traversing decades, a plethora of characters, sex and violence and a sutradhar (the rustic voice of Piyush Mishra doing justice the film’s feel). My biggest complaint with the plot is that it is a revenge saga minus the revenge. Here is the protagonist (Bajpai at his best) who vows to avenge his father, a la Michael Corleone, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter, but the problem with our hero is that he never gets around to extracting that revenge. Maybe, I’m being too harsh and part 1 (yes, there is a sequel expected in September) is just a prequel to all the bloody revenge that takes place in part 2. But despite its fast paced narrative, complex yet clear plot and layers of detail and rustic appeal, the plot of Wasseypur still left me a little underwhelmed.

Acting- 10/10

The acting is what separates Wasseypur from any other gangster movie. If ‘The Godfather’ has taught us something, it is that a great gangster movie is incomplete without great acting. All the characters are well sketched out and defined well, which makes it easier for the actors to portray them. The star of the show is the untiring Manoj Bajpai. Personally, I have been a fan of this wonderfully eccentric man ever since Satya and Shool exploded on to the screen a decade and a half ago. With this movie, though, Bajpai has given us Bollywood’s sex-crazed, blood thirsty equivalent of Don Corleone (apologies to RGV and the Big B). Richa Chaddha has proved that she is much more than Dolly of Oye Lucky…and as Nagma, she is the perfect foil for Bajpai’s Sardaar Khan. Young Nawazuddin Siddiqui is the find of the movie for me. As Faisal Khan, he brings in a youthful rustic enigma to his role, and hopefully, we will get to see a lot more of him in the future (starting with Wasseypur 2).

Piyush Mishra has proved that he is much more than just a poet and composer. We all remember his eccentric act from Gulaal but in Wasseyour, you get to see a much more sedate and sublime Mishra, who can surely act. The surprise package of the movie, for me, was Tigmanshu Dhulia as the politician Ramadhir Singh, the chief antagonist of the movie. I have always believed that directors can act whenever they wish to. And as Singh, the Haasil director proves that they can do a mighty fine job at it too. He looks menacing, calculative and every bit the authority figure that Singh is meant to be. The ensemble cast comprises of unknown but strong actors like Jaideep Ahlawat, Reemma Sen, Vipin Sharma, etc. But even in such a huge star cast, no one goes unnoticed here, which speaks volumes of their impactful performances. Even Yashpal Sharma (of Gangaajal fame) manages to make a lasting impression in a 2-minute cameo as a shrill-voiced wedding singer.

Action- 7/10

Kashyap’s films are known for their grittiness and truthful and unabashed use of blood and violence. Right from Black Friday, which drew heavily from The Battle of Algiers to No Smoking, which was Kafka-esque in its treatment, Kashyap’s violence is itself an homage to a particular style of filmmaking. In Wasseypur, he follows the Tarantino school of movie-making by using blood, gore and dark humour to propagate heavy violence in a typically Tarantino grey setting. There are no flying cars or chase sequences but loads of gunshots. There are no mushroom clouds or clashing blades but an abundance of blood. In its style of rustic action, Wasseypur resembles Vishal Bharadwaj’s Omkara and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns to some extent. But somewhere along the line, all the blood spilling starts to get a little repetitive and in parts, even overpowers the story line. My advice- do not take your girlfriend/wife to this one, unless you are looking forward to a lifetime of “why did you ever take me to that movie!”

Music and Background Score- 8/10

The musical soundtrack of this movie is less Bollywood than you might expect. If you believe that action movies are ruined by the presence of songs, then watch Wasseypur and allow this movie to whack that misconception out of your mistaken soul. At no point do the actors break out into song and dance involuntarily and shamelessly. The soundtrack has been cleverly used (those who know of Kashyap’s use of music in Gulaal would already know that). The tracks have been written by Piyush Mishra and Varun Grover, and wonderfully composed by Sneha Khanwakar. ‘Hunter’ has become the most popular track from the album but my personal favourites are “Keh ke lunga”, “Womaniya” and “Jiya Tu”. It is refreshing to see the music taking the movie forward rather than causing a break in its flow. The background score by GV Prakash Kumar is commendable and gels well with the mood of the movie. My personal favourite piece of music in the movie is the hilariously clever use of “Salaam-e-Ishq” from Muqaddar ka Sikandar.

Technical Elements and Treatment – 9/10

The story of Wasseypur begins in colonial India and continues up to the mid-1980s. Part 2 will take this story forward two more decades. Needless to say, the filmmakers had to do a lot of research about Wasseypur, Dhanbad, the coal mafia and the time. Well, if nothing, they got the lingo right. The film is replete with the choicest Hindi expletives and profanities and all ill-mannered viewers from the Hindi heartland will certainly find a piece of home there (I did). The sheer number of characters gives a lot of room for subplots but thankfully, Kashyap has steered clear of any non-linear development in the story. The best part of the movie, though, is the finesse with which the violence has been handles. I don’t know if the phrase ‘tasteful and artistic depiction of violence’ makes any sense but since it sounds classy, I’ll use it here. The bloodshed never reaches a gut-wrenching, puke-inducing level. It is more 300 than Hostel in that regard. The editing (done by by Shweta Venkat Mathew) is the backbone of the movie, complemented by some stunning cinematography (by Rajeev Ravi) that captures the gritty feel of Wasseypur and the earthy appeal of Dhanbad in equal measures.

THE VERDICT- 8.2/10

As far as gangster movies go, Wasseypur is more Omkara than Company, more Scarface than the Godfather. There is an earthy appeal to all its hatred, deceit, violence and love, It takes you to the heartland of the coal mafia and portrays the animosity between the Pathans and the Qureshis in a brutal yet magnificent fashion. The Hatter says this movie is for you if you love any of these- a) good cinema b) Manoj Bajpai and/or Anurag Kashyap c) gangster movies d) an abundance of Hindi profanities e) some blood with your popcorn.

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!