This post was provoked by a question I saw posted on twitter yesterday: who was the greatest cricketer of all time. This question is of course unanswerable and to explain why this is so I have assembled a touring party of 17 all of whom were about as good as players of their type can be. All of these players have attributes that mean that the claim that they stand alone in cricket history is unassailable, and I explain why in the course of my look at that them.
FIRST XI IN BATTING ORDER
- JB Hobbs – right handed opening batter, occasional right arm medium pacer. ‘The Master’, scorer of more FC runs and more FC centuries than anyone else in the history of the game.
- *WG Grace – right handed opening batter, right arm bowler of various types through his career. The most dominant player of any era, towering over his contemporaries both literally and metaphorically.
- DG Bradman – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner. A test batting average of 99.94, maintained over 52 matches at level needs no further comment.
- SR Tendulkar – right handed batter, occasional bowler. The only player to have scored 100 centuries across formats in international cricket.
- FE Woolley – left handed batter, left arm orthodox spinner. The only cricketer to tally over 10,000 FC runs, take over 1,000 wickets and hold over 1,000 catches in the course of a first class career.
- GS Sobers – left handed batter, left arm bowler of every type known to cricket. The most complete cricketer the game has ever seen.
- GH Hirst – right handed batter, left arm fast medium bowler. Achieved the feat of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets in first class matches in each of 10 successive seasons, including the only ever instance of 2,000 runs and 200 wickets in the same FC season.
- +RW Taylor – wicket keeper, right handed batter. The most wicket keeping dismissals (1,649 of them – 1,473 catches and 176 stumpings) of anyone in first class cricket history.
- W Rhodes – left arm orthodox spinner, right handed batter. More first class wickets than anyone else in the game’s history, even though there was a phase in his career when he hardly bowled. He also scored almost 40,000 runs in FC cricket.
- SF Barnes – right arm fast medium bowler, right handed batter. The best wickets per game ratio of anyone to play 20 or more tests – 189 in 27 matches, at 16.43 each = seven wickets per match. Generally regarded as the greatest of all bowlers.
- T Richardson – right arm fast bowler, right handed batter. The fastest to the career landmarks of 1,000 FC wickets (134 matches) and 2,000 (327 matches). From the start of the 1894 season to the end of the 1897 season he took just over 1,000 wickets, a period of wicket taking unique in cricket history.
This is a well balanced XI of awesome power. Now onto…
These are my six designated reserves:
- H Sutcliffe, right handed opening batter. My reserve opener was the ultimate big game player. His overall FC average was 52.02, his overall test average 60.73 and his overall Ashes average 66.85. As he himself once said to Pelham Warner “ah Mr Warner, I love a dogfight”.
- JH Kallis, right handed batter, right arm fast medium bowler. Has a fair claim to be regarded as the best batting all rounder ever to play the game. He didn’t master the full range of skills that Sobers did, hence his place as a reserve rather than in the starting XI.
- GA Faulkner, right handed batter, leg spinner. The only cricketer to have finished a career of over 20 test matches with a batting average of over 40 and a bowling average of less than 30.
- GL Jessop, right handed batter, right arm fast bowler. The most consistently fast scorer ever to play the game.
- +LEG Ames, right handed batter, wicket keeper. The only recognized keeper to have scored 100FC hundreds, also holds the record for most career stumpings in first class cricket – 418.
- GA Lohmann, right arm medium fast bowler, right handed batter. The man with the lowest career bowling average of anyone take 100 test wickets – 10.75.
This little collection of players fully illustrates why there is no definitive answer to the question I saw on twitter yesterday. I also missed the taker of 800 test wickets (Muralidaran), the only player to score 5,000 test runs and take 400 test wickets (Kapil Dev), the holder of the record test and first class individual scores (Lara), and quite a few others who have and deserve to have legions of fans. If forced to provide a single player as answer to this question I would consider WG Grace to be less far wrong than any other single answer.
My usual sign off…