“In the game of cricket it has always been customary to accord more adulation to batsman than to bowlers. “-I.A.R. Peebles
Though many cricket fans would disagree, deep down in all our hearts, we have always been partial towards the “batting” part of a cricket game. It’s the fours and the sixes, the quick singles, the flair and beauty of the shot and the ultimate thrill of watching your favourite player come out to the middle. Born in Urban India, I like countless others was introduced to the world of cricket at a very early age. Growing up playing gully cricket, we all know how much we fight for a chance to bat. Cricket has had many eras and there have been batsmen who have defined each of these eras. I have witnessed some of these eras live or on television, and others I have read and heard about. Here are the 10 best Batsmen ever in this “Gentleman’s game” called cricket (list is arguable).
10. Sanath Jayasuriya
As an Indian Cricket Fan, Jayasuriya was the greatest threat to an Indian loss when playing against Srilanka. This man could take the game away from any opposition single handedly and he could do it in just the first 10 overs. He revolutionized One Day Cricket with his aggressive batting style. He showed other batsmen exactly how you hit the ball out of the park. Sanath Jayasuriya was the Most Valuable Player of the 1996 Cricket World Cup, and was one of the leading forces that took Srilanka to its first ever World Cup win. Glenn McGrath said that he redefined the role of an opener and also named him in the 11 toughest Batsmen he has had to bowl to. He hit a record breaking 340 in a test match against India including a 576 run stand. Before there was Gayle or Pollard or Dhoni, there was Sanath Jayasuriya.
9. Hashim Amla
Currently the Best ODI and Test player in the world, Hashim Amla is right now the most dangerous one down Batsman the world over. He has played a major role in anchoring South Africa’s position at the top of the Test Rankings. He is the first player of Indian origin to ever play for South Africa and is also their first ever triple centurion. His exquisite stroke play and near perfect textbook shots are a treat to watch for any cricket fan. He is quickly rising to be one of the greatest cricketers of all time and hence his inclusion in this list. He was named one of the Wisden Cricketers of the year in 2013. Bowlers are puzzled over how they can get him out. He beat Sir Vivian Richard’s record of being the fastest batsman to get 3000 ODI runs, taking 12 matches lesser than the former. A legend in the making, Hashim Amla is the man to be wary of for all the other teams. If he gets set, you might as well pack your bags and go home.
8. Ricky Ponting
Ponting was a fantastic leader but before that, he was an amazing batsman. Ricky Ponting became Australia’s most successful run-maker of this era and is held as the next best Australian batsman after the legendary Sir Don Bradman. His wide variety of shots and fluid movements made him a treat to watch for all cricket fans. Hailed as one of the most successful captains ever, his batting skills were often hidden from public view. But Ponting was always there when Australia was in trouble. Academy coach Rod Marsh once proclaimed that Ponting was the greatest teenage batsman he had ever seen. Ricky Ponting was one of the few captains whose performance on the field never decreased because of his captaincy pressures. He has made 30 ODI centuries, a feat that puts him second only to Sachin Tendulkar. He led one of the greatest cricketing teams ever to have played and was an integral part of that team’s success with his leadership and batting skills.
7. Jacques Kallis
Currently a veteran star, Jacques Kallis is hailed by many as the greatest all-rounder ever. The South African top order batsman is one of the few players that actually play classical cricket. His wicket carries the highest value for any opposition bowler, because if Kallis settles down, no target is too small for him. He holds the second highest test centuries and has often been called a calming figure in the South African dressing room. Kevin Pietersen says Kallis is the greatest cricketer, he has had the chance of playing with. He has a rock-solid technique and a mind free of distraction and this makes him a lethal player. His match saving innings of 101 against the best Australian side with the likes of Warne and McGrath is considered, even now, as one of the best test innings ever.
6. Rahul Dravid
The Wall stands tall at No. 6 as one of India’s greatest batsmen and is rightfully called the miracle man. Rahul Dravid a.k.a The Wall is literally a brick wall that bowler simply cannot get through. Standing tall through a batting lineup that is crashing and saving a match from the jaws of defeat is now simply called pulling a Dravid. Arguably the best No.3 batsman ever, Dravid is known to adapt to any situation and play like a hero. If only I had a dollar every time I have said “Don’t worry, Dravid is still there.”. Watching Dravid is equivalent to going to cricket coaching. His batting is just pure class, style and perfect. Countless kids have learnt their cover drives watching Dravid bat. Even in the IPL, Dravid was by far the best of the veteran players in adapting to the new format of the game. Even though Dravid’s captaincy is marred by the shocking 2007 World Cup exit, he is the man to set everything right when something goes wrong. He can keep wickets, captain a side, play anywhere in the batting order, bowl if needed, and above all bat like a champion. You may be the fastest bowler in the world, but if Dravid puts his front foot forward and defends the ball, it will simply drop dead in front of him.
5. Sir Gary Sobers
Sobers played cricket way before my time, in a different era, but no one can deny that he was the golden boy of West Indies. His batting had a wide variety of shots in all directions, but his elegant strokeplay was clearly visible when he hit on the off. You cannot overpitch to this guy, give him even little room on the off or stray down the leg on the pads. In other words, you have very small margin for error if you were bowling to him. He was knighted by the queen and was thence called Sir Garfield Sobers. He is well known for smashing six sixes of a Malcolm Nash over and is the first ever player to accomplish this feat in International cricket. He held the Test record for the highest individual score (365 against Pakistan) for a long time.
4. Brian Lara
The Prince of Port of Spain, Brain Lara stands at No.4 on this list. Many people regard him the best Test Batsman ever and some say he is second only to Don Bradman. Brain Lara still holds the highest individual score in a Test Match, of 400 not out against England in Antigua. Legendary bowler Muttiah Muralitharan says he is the toughest batsman he has ever had to bowl to. Lara scored 28 runs in a single over in Tests which is still an unbeaten world record. His match winning performance of 153 not out against Australia in 1999 is regarded by Wisden as the second greatest test innings only second to Don Bradman’s 270 in the Ashes. His batting strength on the off side is unmatched in tests and Brian Lara was successful in raising a huge fan base the world over. But his brilliance went to waste as West Indies lost most of their games in this period.
3. Sir Vivian Richards
King Viv, unequivocally the greatest ODI batsman ever, was the most feared and destructive batsman in the history of cricket. He defined limited overs cricket. Sir Vivian Richards was judged by the Wisden Almanack as the best ODI player and the third greatest Test Batsman behind Sachin Tendulkar and Don Bradman. He was ruthless in batting but was also one of crickets first ever showman. The way he walked into bat is still etched in all those people who craved to watch him play. He was devastating on the front foot. The slightest mistake from the bowler and the ball would find its way to the fence. He was by no means weaker on the back foot, his hook being one of the most beautiful and demoralizing shots depending on whether you were the bowler or not. Bowl on the leg side and he would simply flick it with ease to the fence. But what is most fascinating is that King Viv played his entire 17 year career without a helmet.
2. Sir Donald Bradman
The Don. He needs no introduction, and every single cricket fan, whatever their age may be, know of this great man and his contribution to this great game. Retiring with a Test average of 99.94, an improbable feat and something that can possibly remain unbeaten forever, no one will argue the fact that Bradman is the Big Bang of cricket. He was the beginning of a cricketing era that still hasn’t ended and that few people can even enter. He changed how the world saw the island continent- country of Australia. He was the man who attracted people to this sport, which till then, was not a popular sport. Gayle’s 100 of 30 balls made everyone remember Bradman’s Second class test century in 22 balls, a feat that he accomplished in a time when ‘big hitting’ was never part of cricket. Though his batting was not classically beautiful, it was always awesome. The Don, as he was fondly called, shaped the future of cricket.
1. Sachin Tendulkar
As the God of Cricket, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, arguably is the best cricketer of all time, beating Don Bradman in my opinion simply because of the time difference. Look at any list of records, and right on the top of it you will find this little master sitting pretty with the second placed guy centuries away. With a huge fan base the world over, he is the only man who can get a standing ovation when he walks out to bat in any stadium in the world. The backfoot punch is a delight to watch, and if you bowl short to this little guy, you can forget about the ball because he will hook it to kingdom come. If he hits a straight drive, the ball will rocket to the fence without any deviation. He plays cricket like he was born to do it. People flock to the stadiums simply to watch him walk out. In India, he is more than just a star or a celebrity, people worship him. His list of records is endless, most runs, highest number of centuries, most matches played, etc. He was the first man on the planet to score 200 in an ODI which he did against South Africa. His centuries have resulted mostly in Indian victories. He has won all the awards that can possibly be given to a cricketer both nationally and internationally. Who but God can take the No.1 spot on the list. In the words of Muttiah Muralitharan, “There will never be another Sachin Tendulkar”.