Thursday, January 30, 2014

Who are the best cricketers you have seen?

After listing my favourite cricketers last week, I thought the natural progression was to come up with the best players I have seen.

So Roarers, here are my all time top 5, but, who will be yours?

1, Garry Sobers (West Indies )

I always saw this great all rounder as being akin to a Chess Master, with every cricket ground his chess board, and all the opposition checkmated by his eclectic mastery. As seen in him being able to bat better than anyone, bowl both medium fast and two varieties of spin with equal effect, and was sublime brilliance in the field.

People often marvel at the exploits of India's Eknath Solkar as an in close fielder, but Sobers was every bit as good, with him cat-like in his catching at leg slip

His batting needs no explanation, with him having unrivalled skills and gears that meant he could play any innings, on any pitch. Whether it playing a back to the walls salvage operation or decimating attacks, Sobers was king.

I often thought when he was on a tear that the bowler was silently applauding under his breath out of awe of his brilliance.

2, Imran Khan (Pakistan )

This all rounders greatness etched in stone with him being one of the best fast bowlers ever seen, a resolute and skilled batsman, and one of the most influential Captains in the games history.

It was more how he changed the game that had me in awe of him.

His reintroduction of the lost art of traditional leg spin into the game in the late 1970's  was a spectacular success. At a time, when all were obsessed with having 4 pacemen in the hope of mimicking the West Indies dominance. The lovely irony in this was that one team that challenged the great Windies throughout the 1980's was Pakistan, mainly because of the effect that Abdul Qadir's leg spin had over affairs.

His other legacy was the creation and tutelage of reverse swing with fellow Pakistani pacemen Sarfraz Nawaz and Sikander Bakht. This revolution has changed the game, with reverse swing providing bowlers with a means to cut through batting line ups with the old ball in hand as well as giving redemption on unforgiving pitches.

3, Graeme Pollock (South Africa )

Many will vies ranking Graeme Pollock at three as being questionable with him playing only 23 test against selected opposition due to Apartheid restrictions. They will point to the many who have started their test careers in a blaze of glory, only to fade thereafter, or the fact that he never proved himself in Sub Continent conditions against class spinners. A trial of batsmanship that has been the undoing of many Western phenoms.

All irrelevant, when talking about the masterful Graeme Pollock

A left hander that had the rare ability to make the game look simple and stunning at the same time. He employed little footwork, but just enough to see him have immaculate balance when playing shots. In his stroke play their was a genius deception in how he always seemed to caress the ball, but the timing was such that it ended up highlighting his easy power. This was always seeing in his cover driving, which often dissected packed off side fields, and before the fieldsman could turn his head to chase, it had already rattled the pickets.

In full flow, he would not merely dominate, more so dismember and bludgeon attacks, but always in a velvet sledgehammer manner.

4, Adam Gilchrist ( Australia )

I have always thought that in rating,  any player that their influence on the game was key in deciding where they belonged.

In the case of Adam Gilchrist, he redefined the way the wicket-keeping/ batsman role was to be played and set a new benchmark for all. The fact that he was such a revelation in a role that I view as the most pivotal in any cricket team gives credibility to his rating.

If one doubts this, think of all the great teams in the history of the game, and one thing they had in common, a great keeper batsman. If one need examples, the great English team of the 1930's had Les Ames, the English juggernaut of the 1950's had Godfrey Evans, the peerless Windies of the 1980's had the acrobatic Jeffrey Dujon.

Culminating in Adam Gilchrist out doing them all as part of the dominating Aussies of the 00's. His effect was that he replaced one of the most respected keeper batsmen in Ian Healy, and this was the difference in the Teams fortunes.

1990's- 55 wins, 19 loses with 6 series loss

2000's- 87 wins, 16 loses with 3 series loss

The effect of Gilchrist was that he batted at 7 with the skill of a high calibre batsman coupled with Viv Richards type devastation. He gave such versatility to the team, as well as intimidation, with Gilly being the master of turning games on its ear by his decimating counter attacks

Lastly, one cannot laud about Gilly without remarking about how he became a true legend, all while playing the game with an integrity and charm that belonged in the gentleman's age

5, Malcolm Marshall (West Indies )

All players strive for completeness in the discipline that excel in with most coming to the realisation that it is an unattainable ideal.

In the case of West Indian fast bowler Malcolm Marshall, he was the epitome of it, and in a surreal sense, surpassed it.

He was a deceptive bowler in so many ways, which was what conceal his immense threat. Starting with his relative lack of height, no one expect the pace or rearing bounce he got, but with his violent windmill like arm action he skidded through the ball at a rate of knots. His main reputation was his skill coupled with his bowling smarts he relied mostly on his swing, but on under receptive pitches, he adapted like no other, with his mastery of cut becoming lethal.

Aside from his skill, It would not be amiss to label his bouncer as the most life threatening delivery the game has seen, with it delivered at hostile pace, and rearing at one like a lurching Cobra. One could make a case that Marshall's bouncer, and its deadly threat was the main reason why the ridiculous restriction in bouncers brought in

Away from Marshall's bowling genius, the was much unsaid about his cricketing pedigree, which centred around the fact that he was one of the most astute cricketing minds the game has seen.

In fact,  a natural leader, that would have made a great Captain if ever afforded the chance.

Sadly, lost to colon Cancer at the all too young age of 41.


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