All-time cricket greats based on an uncomplicated formula

New Delhi, January 17: Greatness in any sport is not something that can be measured by numbers alone – thankfully so. But that’s not to say all statistical Greats Sachin Tendulkar & Rahul Dravid. methods of arriving at a list of all-time greats are completely valid or invalid. Rubbishing the methods used by the official ICC rankings is all very well, but could there have been a better list? Check out one simple option for yourselves. We started from the premise that precocious talent by itself is not to be confused with greatness. High and sustained levels of performance are a bare minimum standard. For Test batsmen, therefore, we chose a minimum of 5,000 runs as the cut-off. That means the likes of Graeme Pollock or Barry Richards are excluded, but don’t blame us for that, blame apartheid. We chose batting averages as the parameter to rank the 5,000-plus batsmen by and what we got in the top 25 was a reasonable mix of batsmen from different eras. More to the point, there is nobody on that list who can be dismissed offhand as having no place in a list of all-time greats. The fact that 10 of the 25 are currently active and another two have only just retired does tell us something about how much more batsman-friendly the game has become in recent years – flatter pitches and better bats, for instance. But again, that is something no statistical method can weed out in a comparison across eras. The one name in the batting list which can make you squirm is KF Barrington’s who is ranked as high as No. 2. Barrington was a workmanlike accumulator of runs in the 1950s and 60s who was hardly ever talked about in the same breath as his famed England contemporaries like Dennis Compton, Peter May and Colin Cowdrey. Then, the names of three great West Indian batsmen – George Headly, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott are missing because they did not play enough to reach 5,000 runs. But then, it’s impossible to come up with an all-time greats’ list which will satisfy all criteria, more so in a sport like cricket. For bowlers, we chose a cut-off of 200 Test wickets. Again, we decided the average – number of runs conceded per wicket – was the single most telling indicator of a bowler’s quality. Strike rates – the number of balls per wicket taken – for some purposes could be better, but it tends to be significantly higher for spinners than for fast bowlers. As with the batsmen, the rankings by average done for those with 200 or more wickets threw up a list that seemed reasonable. Yet, there are some names you might find missing from the top 25. And you will certainly object to Shane Warne being pegged at 21. But, as we said, it’s not a perfect list. No Indian, for instance, is part of the list, though Bishan Bedi (34), Kapil Dev (39), Anil Kumble (40), Bhagwat Chandrasekhar (41), Javagal Srinath (45) and Harbhajan Singh (48) are all within the top 50. However, for every name you think should have been in the top 25, try to think of who should not have been there and we hope you will agree that there are no misfits. Interestingly, unlike in the batsmen’s list, only one of the all-time top 25 among bowlers is currently active in international cricket and that’s Muralitharan. If you needed confirmation on how much the game has turned in favour of batsmen, look