In a piece on Cricinfo just five months before his death, Peter Roebuck asked Who are cricket's future greats?
Roebuck concurs that cricket has seen its fair share of great players since the emergence of the formidable West Indies side of the late seventies. He goes on to name half a dozen current batsmen deserving of the great tag: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Jacques Kallis, Kumar Sangakkara and Ricky Ponting, before adding the caveat that all are within a few years of retirement.
When it comes to bowlers, Roebuck argues that only Dale Steyn is worthy of a place in the pantheon of bowling greats. This is hard to contradict as those closest to Steyn like James Anderson, Graeme Swann and Zaheer Khan would seem to fall into the ‘very good’ rather than ‘great’ category.
We’d concur with Roebuck that of the current crop of batsmen, Hashim Amla seems the most likely candidate to attain greatness in the coming years. His Test career took a while to get into top gear, but his sublime style and appetite for runs has grown and he averages over 70 since the start of 2010. Judging by his recent hundreds against Australia in Cape Town and Johannesburg the best is yet to come.
The past week has thrown up two more fledgling candidates, albeit two at the outset of their careers but whose promise seems unlimited.
A lot of people are getting very excited about Australia’s new fast bowling discovery Patrick Cummins. Even as thoughtful, respected and usually restrained observer like Christopher Martin-Jenkins writes in today’s Times that Cummins is a gem in the mould of Dennis Lillee and Glenn McGrath.
New Australian coach Mickey Arthur also sees comparisons with Steyn and it has to be said that it is hard to recall a more impressive entry into Test cricket than the one made by Cummins in Johannesburg. His six-wicket haul almost single-handedly brought Australia back into the game and more than that it was the manner in which he bowled that marked him as something special. The fact he is only 18, and with just a handful of first-class matches under his belt is mind-boggling. Australia would appear to have found the basis from which to rebuild.
Another to provoke comparison with a recent great is the 22 year old West Indian batsman Darren Bravo, who with back to back centuries in the current series with India has the same batting average and just one run less than Brian Lara at the same stage of his career.
Bravo has reputedly based his batting on Lara and there is no mistaking the panache, style and manner of his fellow Trinidadian at the crease. Of the many promising players that have emerged in the Caribbean such as fellow batsman Kirk Edwards, speedster Kemar Roach and spinner Devendra Bishoo, Bravo stands at the head of the pack. A West Indian resurgence could be in the offing at last.
There are other promising young players – Virat Kohli to name but one, but the positive impression left by Cummins and Bravo in the last week means that they will be the ones to watch most closely over the next few years.
Cricket Heroes: Hashim Amla
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