Who are the greatest batsmen ever? (Part 1 20-11)
The recent imperious form of Ricky Ponting has further highlighted his claim to be recognised as the best batsman of his generation. We are indeed fortunate that this era has seen three great batting champions in the shape of Ponting, Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar. Although there is and will continue to be debate and conjecture as to who is the best of the three, for my money it is the Australian captain who is the pre-eminent force. It’s obviously a difficult choice, but in my view Ponting has played the greater number of match winning or game saving innings during his career.
Whoever is the best modern day batsman (and there will never be common consensus on this one!), all three princes must rank amongst the twenty best batsmen to ever play the game. This leads rather aptly to my own list of the greatest batsmen ever.
Being in my mid-thirties, I obviously do not have the benefit of seeing the great players of yesteryear live at the crease. Thus, I have relied on my extensive collection of Wisden and other cricket books, plus newsreel footage and general knowledge of the game in order to arrive at my final list.
The twenty names are based primarily on Test cricket, which is undoubtedly the real barometer of a batsman’s ability and greatness. In any case, international limited overs cricket was not played before 1971 so we will never know how Bradman, Hammond and other such great batsmen will have fared in this form of the game. Naturally, comparing players from different generations is difficult as the game has changed irrevocably over the course of its history with covered pitches, faster scoring rates and changes to the laws of the game. As such, Ponting will never play on a ‘sticky dog’, but can be adjudged leg before to a ball pitching outside off-stump, which would not have been the case before 1935.
It has been an agonising process to come down to the final twenty names and several great names have not made the cut. Hopefully, it will provoke some discussion and debate amongst Cricket fans worldwide.
Here are numbers 20-11 in reverse order:
20. Kumar Ranjitsinhji (England) – 15 Tests, 2 100s, 6 50s, Average 44.95, HS 170
An Indian prince and giant of Victorian and Edwardian cricket, Ranji was credited with bringing several new strokes into the game including the late cut and was an early exponent of back foot defence. Widely considered to be one of the greatest batsmen of all time prior to World War I, Neville Cardus aptly described the stylish and unorthodox Ranji as “the midsummer night’s dream of cricket”.
19. Clyde Walcott (West Indies) – 44 Tests, 15 100s, 14 50s, Average 56.68, HS 220
The second of the ‘three Ws’ on this list, Walcott played an instrumental role in the first West Indian victory on English soil at Lord’s in 1950 scoring 168 not out. Along with Weekes, he was arguably the best batsman in the World during the mid-1950s reaching his peak with an incredible five hundreds and 827 runs during Australia’s first Test series in the Caribbean.
18. Greg Chappell (Australia) – 87 Tests, 24 100s, 31 50s, Average 53.86, HS 247*
The best Australian batsman of the seventies and early eighties, Chappell allied steadfast concentration with attractive stroke making. Despite his excellent Test record, perhaps his best batting was during the World Series Cricket schism where he made 621 runs at 69 in five ‘Super Tests’ versus the mighty West Indies in the Caribbean in 1979.
17. Sunil Gavaskar (India) – 125 Tests, 34 100s, 45 50s, Average 51.12, HS 236*
Gavaskar was one of the best openers of all-time and the pre-eminent Indian batsman before Tendulkar – the man who broke his record of most Test match centuries. A brilliant batsman against fast bowling, Gavaskar scored a superlative 13 centuries at an average of 65.45 against the formidable West Indies side of the seventies and eighties.
16. Javed Miandad (Pakistan) – 124 Tests, 23 100s, 43 50s, Average 52.57, HS 280*
The greatest Pakistani batsman ever, Miandad was a precocious teenage prodigy scoring a century on debut and in the same series breaking George Headley’s record as the youngest player to score a Test match double century. His non-textbook style, pugnacity and ability to rile bowlers made him a thorn in the side of most opponents during a long and glittering career.
15. William ‘W.G’ Grace (England) – 22 Tests, 2 100s, 5 50s, Average 32.29, HS 170
Until Bradman, Grace was regarded as the greatest cricket player ever and was certainly one of the most competitive. Over the course of a 44 year career, he transcended the sport and in the words of John Arlott “created modern cricket”. Amongst other nicknames, Grace was known as “the Champion” and one of his contemporaries and fellow all-time great batsmen Ranjitsinhji said of him in the Jubilee Book of Cricket “I hold him to be not only the finest player born or unborn, but the maker of modern batting”.
14. Graeme Pollock (South Africa) – 23 Tests, 7 100s, 11 50s, Average 60.97, HS 274
Of those that have played at least 20 Test match innings, Pollock holds the second highest average after Bradman, who described the South African as the best left hander along with Sobers that he had ever seen. Widely recognised as his country’s best ever player, Pollock’s Test career was cut short abruptly at the age of 26 due to the sporting boycott of South Africa.
13. Everton Weekes (West Indies) – 48 Tests, 15 100s, 19 50s, Average 58.61, HS 207
The highest ranked of the immortal ‘three Ws’, Walcott believed that Weekes was the best all-round batsman of the three. An attacking batsman with a vast array of strokes, Weekes made an electric start to Test cricket, reaching 1,000 runs in only his 12th innings, one fewer than Bradman. During this run he also scored five centuries in five consecutive innings against England and India – still a Test record.
12. Leonard Hutton (England) – 79 Tests, 19 100s, 33 50s, Average 56.67, HS 364
Despite World War II robbing him of six years of cricket from the age of 23, Hutton is still considered amongst the giants of English batters. Before the War and at the age of 22, he scored the then highest Test match score of 364 against Australia. Afterwards, he continued to amass runs for Yorkshire and England and became the first professional player to captain his country.
11. Sachin Tendulkar (India) – 159* Tests, 42 100s, 53 50s, Average 54.58, HS 248*
The ‘Little Master’ holds a number of prestigious Test batting records including most runs and most centuries; and he hasn’t finished yet. Other than Hobbs, Tendulkar is the only player to score ten centuries or more against Australia. Many would have him higher in this list – certainly Wisden ranked him behind only Bradman as the second greatest batsman of all time in 2002.
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