Who is the greatest ever ODI cricketer?
Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Akram, Adam Gilchrist, Viv Richards and MS Dhoni are the leading contenders for the crown of the greatest one-day cricketer of all time, in an exercise conducted by the Cricket Monthly. The winner - determined by a jury of 50 players, commentators and cricket writers from around the world - will be announced in the March issue of the magazine, published next week.
The jury's choice of the five greatest comprise two gamechanging keeper-batsmen, a magician fast bowler, and two colossal batsmen.
Adam Gilchrist's ODI career spanned only 12 years - 1996 to 2008 - but he set a benchmark for his breed. He rattled along at 97 runs for 100 balls and confirmed his status as an all-time great with a whirlwind 149 that won Australia the World Cup final in 2007.
If Gilchrist reinvented the role of a wicketkeeper-batsman, MS Dhoni - the only current player in the top five - has emerged as one of the greatest finishers in ODI cricket. Mixing cheeky running with power-packed, inventive strokeplay, Dhoni has time and again taken India past the finish line. And he played a huge role in two big one-day finals - with the bat in the 2011 World Cup, and with inspired captaincy in the 2013 Champions Trophy.
Through the late '70s and '80s, one cricketer dominated the limited-overs game like no other, and helped his side to two World Cups along the way. Viv Richards averaged 47 (at a time when batsmen in the top seven averaged 29) and scored at a strike rate of 90 (in an era when the norm was 66). Well before Powerplays and fielding restrictions, Richards punished bowlers with a wide and devastating array of strokes. His electric fielding and fierce captaincy could torment opponents too.
If Richards could do anything with a bat, the same could be said of Wasim Akram with the ball. In a career that lasted nearly two decades Akram developed from a young tearaway to a masterful swing bowler who could bowl six different deliveries in an over. He finished with 502 wickets - still comfortably the most for a fast bowler. The day it mattered the most, in March 1992, he finished as Man of the Match.
In terms of longevity and batting numbers
The Cricket Monthly's 50-member jury includes legendary cricketers Ian Chappell, Clive Lloyd, Martin Crowe, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith; veteran commentators Tony Cozier, Mark Nicholas, Mike Haysman and Sanjay Manjrekar; and respected writers Gideon Haigh, Mike Coward, Suresh Menon and Mike Selvey.
"No one does numbers better than us," said ESPNcricinfo's editor-in-chief Sambit Bal, "but we also know that numbers don't always tell the full story. Which is why we rely on the cumulative wisdom of those who should know for our awards.
"And the World Cup was a good occasion to assemble a grand jury - drawn from different eras and countries - to pick the greatest ever one-day cricketer. It's hard to argue with the top five the poll has thrown up: between them they encapsulate the best of ODI cricket across the ages and also its evolution."
The March issue of the Cricket Monthly published on Tuesday, 10 March, will include full results of the poll, celebrations of the top five, an interview with the winner of the title, and more.