Last year we wrote a post for World Cricket Watch, where we named our top 20 batsmen of all time. Now seems a good time to revisit this. Firstly, so we can extend the list this time to 30. But secondly, because we are prepared to admit that we erred somewhat last time in placing Sachin Tendulkar behind Ricky Ponting in the all-time batting pantheon. Given that the Ashes were on at the time, we must have done it out of fear that Ponting would inspire his side to retain the little urn.
Like last time, the 30 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 luminaries would have fared in this form of the game; or Twenty 20 for that matter. 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, a modern day batsman will never play on a ‘sticky dog’, but unlike before 1935 can be adjudged leg before to a ball pitching outside off-stump.
One final caveat. Being the right side of 40, we obviously do not have the benefit of seeing the great players of yesteryear live at the crease. Thus, we have relied on our extensive collection of Wisden and other cricket books, plus newsreel footage and general knowledge of the game in order to arrive at the final list, which begins today with numbers 30-21.
30. Stan McCabe (Australia) - 39 tests, 6 100s, 13 50s, average 48.21, HS 232 - If the rest of the Australian batsmen had taken to Bodyline like McCabe, then the story of the infamous 1932/33 series could have been very different. His 187 in the 1st test out of 278 was as remarkable as it was courageous as he regularly hooked the fearsome pair of Larwood and Voce. As shrewd a judge as Len Hutton remarked that "it would be hard to think of a greater Australian batsman. He had qualities that even Bradman hadn't got." That gets him into our 30, just ahead of Zaheer Abbas, Jacques Kallis and Steve Waugh.
29. Andy Flower (Zimbabwe) - 63 tests, 12 100s, 27 50s, average 51.54, HS 232* - This is not a case of nepotism from a grateful England supporter, but one of admiration for a batsman who averaged over 50 for one of the whipping boys of international cricket. Two feats stand out. In 2000, in a two test series in India, Flower made scores of 183 not out, 70, 55 and his test best 232 not out in his four trips to the crease. But perhaps his greatest performance came a year later against South Africa when in a nine wicket defeat he scored 142 (out of 286) and 199 not out (out of 391).
28. Peter May (England) - 66 tests, 13 100s, 22 50s, average 46.77, HS 285*- One of England's greatest and arguably her most classical batsman. His erstwhile foe Richie Benaud called May not merely the greatest English batsman to emerge since the war but the only great one. May scored a hundred on debut against South Africa in 1951 and never looked back, with his career best 285 not out finally seeing an England batsman better Sonny Ramadhin.
27. Virender Sehwag (India) - 76* tests, 19 100s, 21 50s, average 53.52, HS 319 - Sehwag's stand and deliver style makes him the most exciting batsman currently playing test cricket. Indeed, he is so good that he has inspired a religion. He has certainly revolutionised the role of the opener from the dour one of the past with his remarkable 80 runs per 100 balls strike rate, which has already inspired the likes of Gayle, Dilshan and Tamim. And when he gets in, he stays in with 13 of his 19 hundreds being in excess of 150 with four doubles and two triples. His 319 off only 304 balls against South Africa at Chennai in 2008 was simply breathtaking. Could well go much higher in this list before he retires.
26. Sir Frank Worrell (West Indies) - 51 tests, 9 100s, 22 50s, average 49.48, HS 261- The first of the infamous 'Three W's' on this list, Worrell was the first black cricketer to captain West Indies and set in place a legacy of exhilarating cricket that would last for decades. In his Wisden obituary to Worrell, Learie Constantine wrote that "while Walcott bludgeoned the bowlers and Weekes dominated them, the stylist Worrell waved them away." Stylish is the word that always crops up when reading about Worrell and certainly when studying reports of the infamous 1950 tour to England when he topped the test batting averages with 539 runs at an average of 89.83, including his best Test score of 261 at Trent Bridge.
25. Barry Richards (South Africa) - 4 tests, 2 100s, 2 50s, average 72.57, HS 140 - We thought long and hard before including Richards on this list. The vile Apartheid regime and South Africa's subsequent exclusion from test cricket limited Richards to only four tests. His figures in those games are impressive to say the least, but not enough to get him in alone. But he stood out to such an extent in World Series Cricket, which at the time was unarguably tougher than test cricket, that there appears no doubt that the dasher Richards could have been one of the all-time greats if Nelson Mandela had been released 20 years earlier.
24. Rahul Dravid (India) - 139* tests, 29 100s, 58 50s, average 53.75, HS 270 - A classical player who has all the shots, Dravid has arguably been India's most important batsman during his career in terms of the matches his innings have won or saved - the wins at Adelaide, Headingley and Rawalpindi standing out. At his best, Dravid is impregnable; hence his nickname of The Wall. Until a poor 2008, he was averaging close to 60, which at the time was even higher than a certain Sachin Tendulkar, and he joins the little master and Sunil Gavaskar as the three best batsmen that India has produced.
23. Ken Barrington (England) - 82 tests, 20 100s, 35 50s, average 58.67, HS 256 - Of all the batsmen that didn't make our list last year, we got the most complaints about Barrington's exclusion. Indeed, only Herbert Sutcliffe and Eddie Paynter managed a higher test average for England than the obdurate Barrington, who changed his previous more carefree style after being dropped early in his international career. He particularly enjoyed facing the Aussies, averaging 63.96 in 23 matches against England's bitterest rivals. This may have provoked Ian Chappell to write that "Every so often you encounter a player whose bat seem about a yard wide. It's not, of course. It just seems that way. England's Ken Barrington was one."
22. Clyde Walcott (
21. Denis Compton (England) - 78 tests, 17 100s, 28 50s, average 50.06 HS 278- Robbed of six years of his career by World War II, Compton made up for lost time in his recordbreaking season of 1947 when he scored an incredible 3,816 runs with 18 centuries. As audacious as he was brilliant at the crease, Compton was a natural risk taker and as such was adored by those who watched him. Scored two hundreds in the test series against Bradman's 1948 invincibles, which is an indication of how good Compton was.Tomorrow, we count down numbers 20-11.