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Former New Zealand batsman and captain

Fifty for the pantheon

What if you had to narrow all of cricket greatness down to 50 names?

Martin Crowe

April 11, 2014

Comments: 149 | Text size: A | A

Worrell (left) and Weekes: what's an all-time list without the Ws? © Getty Images

When Sachin Tendulkar was recently awarded the title of cricketer of the generation, it made me wonder who exactly the other greats are who preceded and surrounded him.

Firstly, what defines a great player? It has to be an exclusive club, the hardest to break into. A player who gets in has to reek of richness, genius, the extraordinary, excellence, the X factor. He must inspire reverence.

In this exercise of mine, which is highly subjective, the only rules are that the cricketers picked had to have played Test cricket for their country, that they are judged or selected by the standards of the eras in which they performed, and that they be retired. It's not an exercise in comparing eras, for that is too hard in a world where the landscape has changed so much, at times dramatically.

I will go back, towards the very beginning, back to 1877, in the search for my 50 greatest cricketers of all time. It's no easy task, yet it is highly enjoyable and enlightening.

At the ESPNcricinfo Awards in Mumbai recently, Tendulkar pipped Shane Warne and Jacques Kallis to the title of cricketer of the generation. Nominated alongside those three were Ricky Ponting, Muttiah Muralitharan and Brian Lara. I would like to add a few more from the Tendulkar-Warne-Kallis era to get my list of 50 going. I would include Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Allan Donald, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Curtly Ambrose. That makes it 14 greats from over the last 23 years.

It is easy to go to the records and see where they all sit - at the mountain top. However, it is necessary to add the dynamics of longevity, impact, influence, match-winning ability, opposition strength, versatility around the world, skill set, individuality, team work, and leadership.

On the batting side, Tendulkar, Kallis, Lara, Ponting and Dravid stand tall, fulfilling all these requirements. Their hunger for large scores, and for making them often, was unrivalled in this period. Lara scored the largest, Tendulkar the most, Kallis was the surest, Ponting the most energetic, Dravid the most stoic.

Gilchrist and Kallis stand out as the generation's greatest allrounders. Gilchrist, a fine wicketkeeper, stamped his mark on the game with breathtaking lower-order innings, often snatching the initiative back with clean counter-attacking strokeplay. The best tribute to Kallis, such was his incredible 18-year return, is that he is mentioned in the same breath as Garry Sobers.

Of the bowlers, Wasim Akram led the way with raw variety and skill. His left-arm swing, at pace, for long periods, made him one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest left-arm exponent ever. His cohort, Waqar, provided the other half of an irresistible combination: fast, late swing targeting the feet or the stumps with missile accuracy.

McGrath and Kumble were honest, resilient, tall, disciplined operators, relying on bounce and accuracy. They could not be moved or shaken. They kept coming in with purpose, steadfast focus and perseverance, nipping it this way and that, like a persistent dog at the heel.

Donald and Ambrose had the mongrel, the killer instinct and the wherewithal. They spent a lot of energy sneering and eyeballing, and never wavered from the role of the intimidator, looking to demolish all in their path. They tormented opposition batsmen and became feared the world over.

Dropping a generation back, we find arguably the finest era for allrounders. All-round as in the ability to be two players in one. Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Ian Botham stole the show through the period 1970 to 1990. They captivated crowds with their daring audacity to impose and dominate. The broke the back of the opposition with their constant presence: bowling feats of exceptional skill, then batting blitzes to steal the show. Take your pick, any one of these four would walk into any dream team.

Then came Vivian Richards. From 1976 to 1986, no one came close to the master blaster from Antigua. He, as his nickname stated, smoked the living Joe out of any fearful attack. And just to rubber-stamp his greatness, he smoked one DK Lillee, the finest fast bowler of this time, a few times too. Viv was way too hot to handle.

Then we have the genius of Greg Chappell, Barry Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Allan Border and Javed Miandad. This special quintet influenced any who saw them up close. They all offered different approaches to batting and run-scoring, showing that different backgrounds, cultures and learnings can succeed with a sure, uncomplicated mind driving them on. Incredible skill and courage.

Lillee, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding were undeniably the great bowlers of this era. Fast, clever, and downright scary to face. They sent the cricket ball on a journey never seen before.

And then there was Alan Knott, transforming the wicketkeeping bible, following the pioneering of Godfrey Evans prior.

Every generation is inspired by those who graced the great Test grounds in the decades prior. It seems likely that Sobers and Keith Miller inspired the allrounder boom. Or Fred Trueman the Lillee mode. Or Denis Compton the Chappell way. The three Ws, Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott, lit up the Caribbean; Graeme Pollock did the same for southern Africa; Jim Laker and Godfrey Evans the mother country.

Cricket took its time adjusting to a new way of life after the Second World War. It was at times slow in maturing, but by the turn of the '70s had kicked into a gear that would thrust it into a spectacular mode, and herald the advent of the shorter, faster formats. During this growth no one stood out more than Sobers. His awesome talent and attitude towards enjoying life and to self-expression as a sportsman, showed cricket as not just a gentleman's game but a vigorous, athletic sport.

Six generations of greats

Between the wars came the Bradman generation. There is no other way to describe it. It was a watershed. He broke the mould, the Don. No one before or since has dominated the game, and arguably an entire sport, as much as Don Bradman did. He left in his wake the three Hs: Wally Hammond a tenor, George Headley the magician, and Len Hutton the artist. In another world those three would have been the main act; instead, they played the supporting role. The mantle of the finest bowling wizards of the age belonged to Bill O'Reilly and Clarrie Grimmett, two unique legspinners who brought the most difficult art to the fore. On their day, which was often, they simply destroyed a batsman's spirit.

As we head back through time the lists get smaller. From 1900 to 1930, an era halted by war, four players dominated proceedings: Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe and Sydney Barnes from England, and Victor Trumper from Australia. Hobbs and Sutcliffe formed arguably the greatest opening partnership of all time, and Barnes and Trumper carved out a legacy in their respective roles that would leave an imprint on those to come.

Which leaves one more. From 1877 to 1900, there was only one who really stood out, the grandfather of the game - WG Grace. During that early period of the game's infancy, he gave it direction and meaning. Cricket came alive under Grace's watch, and for that we are forever grateful.

I believe all these gentlemen depict endowment, a gift of nature. They oozed influence over their time and place. Their impact on all those around them, all those who watched, was boundless and timeless. They left a colossal impression on the game. You don't need to look at statistics or records to know why these players stand out; they simply hit you between the eyes. Even the shortened careers of Pollock and Richards for South Africa, or the seemingly lesser deeds of Grace and Trumper in the early days, can't be ignored, considering the mana they carried everywhere. It's a formidable elite club, as it should be.

Overall these 50 - 23 batsmen and 23 bowlers (some who could also bat) and four wicketkeeper-batsmen - have all had an undeniable effect on cricket followers. There will be others who come and go in discussions, yet these folk are sealed, covering six generations, in my mind, for good.

Finally, to the greatest XI. I am going to choose a mix from the last five generations.

Hobbs and Gavaskar will open. Bradman, Tendulkar and Viv Richards come next. The batting allrounder is Sobers, who can provide spin or swing, the wicketkeeper-batsman is Gilchrist. The king spinner is Shane Warne. The opening bowling combination is Dennis Lillee and Malcolm Marshall, with Wasim Akram as the third prong in a lethal attack.

In a dream Test they can play the Rest. Trumper and Barry Richards to open. Headley, Lara and Greg Chappell control the middle order. Imran Khan is the bowling allrounder, Knott the keeper. The spinners are O'Reilly and Muralitharan. The opening attack is Trueman and Hadlee.

Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s and early '90s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

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Posted by kensohatter on (April 14, 2014, 22:00 GMT)

@Sauron... Its certainly an artcile that promotes discussion. In hoping to convince you to go with Walsh over Kumble I looked at the stats. Ill admit I was very suprised to see Kumble ending up with as many wickets as he did. In saying that I just cant remember a great Kumble performance aside from his century! Maybe thats because im australian and did not see enough of him at home but 619 wickets certainly puts his name in the conversation. Kumble also played for a longer period in the batsman era. I think this may be a matter of exposure I just never remember Aust going into a test series and seeing kumble as the threat. It was always Harbajian. End result his figures are impressive but IMO just was never dominant and lacked impact. He flies under the radar as he is not as flamboyant as warne or as contraversial as murali...tough one closer than I first thought. Id still take Walsh for his stats, longevity relative to other pacemen and threat v aust but you can make a case either way

Posted by jay57870 on (April 14, 2014, 16:44 GMT)

The 3rd K-star: Hanif Mohammad was also a rare product of his times. Born in Gujarat, his family emigrated to Pakistan after the 1947 India partition. It opened new frontiers for the 5 Mohammad brothers, 4 of whom played for the new nation. Hanif worked into world-class prominence over his stellar Test career (1952-69). Most notable was his 970-minute 337 vs WI in Bridgetown '58 - the longest Test innings ever (in the team's 2nd inngs at that)! He followed it a year later w/ a marathon 499 run out, surpassing Don's FC record of 452 n.o.! He could keep wickets & bowl with either arm. Later he captained Pakistan. This icon became so popular, he earned the original title of "Little Master", ahead of Gavaskar & Tendulkar. Along with Imran Khan & Miandad, he was in 2009 named in the inaugural batch of 55 inductees into ICC's Hall of Fame. So IMHO, this unique Kathiawari troika - Ranji, Mankad & Hanif - is worthy of a real close look for induction into Martin's "Fifty for the pantheon"!!

Posted by jay57870 on (April 14, 2014, 16:32 GMT)

The 2nd K-star: Vinoo Mankad was a rare product of his times - pre-/post-Independence, his Test start delayed by WW II. Cricket took off in emerging India led by the new founding fathers: Merchant, Hazare, Amarnath, Phadkar & Co. What made Mankad (1946-59) stand out was his success in Eng & OZ, starting vs Hammond's team (1946) & Bradman's (1947)!! His superb performance - as a fine RH batsman/opener & a skilled left arm orthodox spinner - earned him world-class all-rounder status, second only to Keith Miller. Most notable were his 2 tons at MCG '48 vs Miller, Lindwall & The Don. As also his 72 & 184 (& 5 wkts) at Lord's '52 vs Hutton's stars: Trueman, Bedser, Laker, Compton & Evans! And his 12 for 108 at Madras '52 helped Ind beat Eng for the first time ever. His 413-run opening stint (his 231) w/ P Roy vs NZ in Madras '56 stood as a record for many years. Mankad also had "greatness thrust upon" him as he ran out Bill Brown at SCG '47 for what's now (in)famously called "mankading"!

Posted by jay57870 on (April 14, 2014, 16:18 GMT)

Martin - A memorable pantheon of 50! Subjective as it is, there's room for worthy gods waiting outside. Consider this unique troika of K-stars: All 3 hail from the same small corner of India - Kathiawar, Gujarat. Yet they bravely broke new frontiers in 3 different nations! The 1st K-star: Ranji was born a tad great, a prince; but achieved true greatness in England. Neville Cardus called him "the Midsummer night's dream of cricket". Debuting under WG, he burst into Tests in 1896 with 62 & 154 n.o. vs OZ at Old Trafford. That season his FC aggregate of 2,780 broke WG's record. The next year, batting at No 7 a frail Ranji hit a fighting 175 at SCG to help win the Test. He was a prolific & popular batsman with an unorthodoxy that revolutionised the game, especially his signature leg glance. True, the prince had his controversies. Still this icon is revered for his breakthrough cricket feats in an alien land. This Cambridge man even produced a cricket classic: The Jubilee Book of Cricket!

Posted by eggyroe on (April 14, 2014, 16:06 GMT)

One name I have yet to find in any list is Albert Trott,the only man so far in the history of the game to have cleared the Lords Pavillion.This feat was accomplished in 1899 with a bat which in this day and age would be considered a toothpick.Perhaps the modern day cricketer should give up their superlarge bats and return to the old fashioned 19 Century bats.This could possibly increase their averages and technique would overcome brute force and average modern day players getting an outside edge and the ball flying into the crowd would be a thing of the past.

Posted by Sauron_Of_Middle_Earth on (April 14, 2014, 9:43 GMT)

@kensohatter - Great discussion. I guess I can get myself to agree on Jayasuriya revolutionizing ODI cricket. But G.Smith still falls behind. He probably could have made it to the list if he did play a few more years, but by modern standards his career is still short in terms of longevity. Langer, Hayden, Laxman, M.Waugh, KP etc probably needed more runs to be on the list-agreed. Thomo's exploits did not last long enough-agreed, but still feel he warrants a place in the 50 best for his role in revolutionizing fast bowling (like Jayasuriya did for ODI batting). On Healy - I would still not have a keeper among legends for his pure keeping skills. Then again like fielding, it's not measurable. I guess that's why Jonty misses out. If there was place for only 2 spinners from the last era-Murali and Warne would definitely be the two. But given a third slot, Kumble would be an automatic choice in my opinion. I guess Kumble vs Walsh is the only front we totally disagree on.

Posted by kensohatter on (April 14, 2014, 2:53 GMT)

@Sauron... Yep agree current crop cant be judged till they retire was simply pointing out who would be in the mix. Hayden and Langer are tough to judge as they are one of the best opening partnerships of all time yet neither really has enough runs to be considered a true great. Same goes for Laxman. Sure he had class (much like Mark Waugh) but there just isnt the volume of runs required. KP falls into this catergory as well (so do about another 50 batsmen like crowe himself, or Gooch, Haynes, Inzi etc etc. Prob with Garner and Thommo is longevity. I may be wrong but im not sure they dominated for a long time like ambrose or walsh. Bedi I agree probably gets a place somewhere but if he was in the era of warne and murali he like kumble should miss out. Its a solid list and everyone will have their opinion. The one glaring omission is S.Waugh. Theres just no argument to not have him there 10,000 + runs, almost 100 wickets, best test capt all time + couple of ODI world cups

Posted by kensohatter on (April 14, 2014, 2:39 GMT)

@Sauron... Yep confused G and I Chappell.. My bad. Dont agree with assesment of wicket keepers though. Sure these days wicket keepers must also be able to bat (at the detriment to the art of keeper but thats a seperate issue) but this has only been the case since Gilchrist. In Healys era nobody was a keeper batsman therefore he should go down as a great of that era as he was clearly the most proficient keeper. Also Walsh carried the WI team for years after ambrose retired. He had longevity. Sure he lost some pace but he continued to add to the wickets tally when other pacemen were forced into retirement. Jaysuria and Smith I believe warrant a spot because of their impact on the game. Smith for captaining records and SA readmission and Jaysuria for revolutionising ODI cricket. Kumble just is/was not a great. He didnt change the game and was nowhere near best in his era as warne and murali were far better. The problem with jonty is that fielding isnt really measurable.

Posted by Sauron_Of_Middle_Earth on (April 13, 2014, 23:54 GMT)

@kensohatter - Jonty was brilliant, but no player would earn a place in a test XI for his fielding alone. Similarly, Ian Healy was brilliant behind the stumps, but a great keeper needs to bat as well as any batsmen - Healy in my opinion does not fit in the way Gilly does. As for Knott finding a place ahead of Healy-that is a close call. Kumble finding a place ahead of Walsh-The former was phenomenal towards the later part of his career (post 2003). Picked wickets everywhere. And as always was brilliant at home. Walsh was truly great early in his career. Him and Ambrose tore through batting line ups. But I feel he faded out as his career progressed (unlike Ambrose). But I agree, it's a close call. I don't think G.Smith and Jayasuriya deserve a place here. But S.Waugh does, although, not at the cost of Dravid. As for G.Chappell, I think you have him mistaken for I.Chappell. G.Chappell was part of R.Benaud's (a cricketer I have great respect for) greatest XI. That's good enough for me.

Posted by Sauron_Of_Middle_Earth on (April 13, 2014, 23:19 GMT)

Another great article from Mr.Crowe. As for people questioning the exclusion of Sanga,Chanders,Clarke,Sehwag,Steyn etc.-They are yet to retire. The list includes only players who are done with their international careers. You cannot label a cricketer 'legend' until he is done with his career. However, notable exceptions in order are - Hayden (never seen an Aussie bat like he did in India), Laxman (great innings against the best team of his time, very often when the team was in dire need), Walsh (the last of the great WIan pacers), J.Thomson (never seen him in live action, but, supposedly pioneered the great pace era), S.Waugh (if you think RD was stoic, watch the elder Waugh), BS.Bedi (not one spinner in the 1970-90 era, when he weaved his magic), J.Garner ('no one hits Joel'-IB) and KP (his century at Mumbai was as good as any). And Pak fans, I feel Inzy deserves a place ahead of Miandad. Then again, my opinions are a little biased towards modern players since I've seen them in action

Posted by   on (April 13, 2014, 16:11 GMT)

One of the most perceptive, intelligent, beautifully written and though-out pieces I have ever read about our great game.

John Woodcock published a book years ago of his 100 greatest cricketers. A book. It's a fantastic read and he put them in order (more discussion points of course), but this piece would have graced any book.

Of course it's subjective, and his own opinion, but it's pretty hard to argue with his choices.

For me the only controversial omission was one of the most stylish, wonderful batsmen of all time.

Himself.

Posted by   on (April 13, 2014, 12:02 GMT)

I would have thought Martin Crowe would have included Ritchie Benaud and bob Simpson of Australia in his 1950s -60s group . Perhaps an anti - Australian bias there Martin

Posted by kensohatter on (April 13, 2014, 2:29 GMT)

Also what about Sehwag? Is he still playing first class cricket though? Of the current crop Vettori, Clarke, Steyn, Chanderpaul, Sangakarra and Jawardene id say have done enough as is. Cook, Anderson just need to bounce back from the ashes and they would get a spot. Devilliers, Kohli, Johnson, Amla, McCullum, Dhoni, Bell prob need a few more runs and/or wickets or great pivitol performances. My test XI of my era of cricket would be this. 1. Sehwag, 2.Tendualker, 3. Ponting, 4. Kallis, 5. Lara, 6. S.Waugh, 7. Gilchrist 8. Akram, 9. Warne 10. Ambrose, 11. Mcgrath 12th Man - Jonty Rhodes.

Posted by bundybear55 on (April 13, 2014, 2:10 GMT)

Very interesting article and being a subjective exercise it's hard to argue with any of your choices. Certainly all these fine cricketers mentioned are worthy of a place on your list. However, I did find it a little strange not to see Graeme Pollock's name in either of the teams you select at the end. With an average second only to Bradman he was banished from test cricket when his prime batting years (26-32) were still ahead of him. Having watched him take a hundred off a rebel Australian attack that included Hogg, Rackenham and Alderman (all still in their prime) at the ripe old age of 42, I have no doubt that he would only have improved on his test average of 60.97. I understand modesty would preclude you from having your name on this list of greats, but thought another of your countrymen, Glenn Turner, may have got a look in. Well done and great to see the 'good doctor' and Trumper get the recognition they deserve.

Posted by kensohatter on (April 13, 2014, 2:05 GMT)

This kind of list will always be subjective. Its also hard to compare players of different eras and to judge those many years ago in many cases not actually have seen players actually play. Its a decent list but im a bit miffed as to how Kumble gets in... and to a lesser extent Dravid, Chappell and Miandad. Kumble was even in the top 2 spinners of his era. Id swap him for Courtney Walsh. I also dont see how the best technical keeper of his era (and prob top 3 all time) I.Healy doesnt get a spot. He was the first to keep to warne and made more impact than Chappell (who I think gets his spot due to his name constantly being in the spotlight for commentary etc). Lastly S.Waugh, Jayasuria and prob G.Smith deserve a place ahead of Dravid or Miandad. They just impacted the game more. I also think Jonty rhodes cant be discounted. We are talking about greats and he was without doubt the greatest fielder in history.

Posted by ruester on (April 12, 2014, 23:03 GMT)

Having been forced to retire from international cricket by the geniuses at the ECB, think KP gets in as the best England player since Botham.

Posted by gandabhai on (April 12, 2014, 22:19 GMT)

Cricket is cricket, All you cricket lovers out there from all over the world, do not fight about your own preferences on who is the best so and so. Just be grateful, You know that we are so blessed . Doesn't matter which country your'e from. We are so lucky to have have been enthralled by tons of epic perfomances on the cricket field for many, many years. Lets be grateful of our luck to have witnessed mind blowing performances from such great talented cricketers in our lifetime. I know that my life would have been much poorer had i not been part of this wonderful sport. Thank you Sai Baba (My God).

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 22:12 GMT)

Awesome compilation, The best part i the all time great teams you give at the end of the assay. Have not seen such an awesome selection. :)

Posted by FreddyForPrimeMinister on (April 12, 2014, 21:07 GMT)

Wonderful article. Sad to see comments deriding MC's choices, especially those protesting bias. (Jayasuriya - really??) This is by nature a subjective view for which there is no right or wrong and I for one would not argue against any of the selections, albeit there are many others worthy of consideration. For me, it was just a delight to be reminded in eloquent prose of some of the truly outstanding individuals who have made our game the most beautiful on earth. Thanks Martin.

Posted by ARad on (April 12, 2014, 19:38 GMT)

My All-time XI: Hobbs, Gavaskar, Bradman, Viv Richards, Lara, Sobers, Gilchrist, Hadlee, Marshall, SF Barnes, Murali.

Second XI:, Hutton, Barry Richards, Headley, Tendulkar, Greg Chappell, Keith Miller, Imran Khan, Knott, Warne, Lillee, Ambrose.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 17:52 GMT)

Another wonderful article from one of the greats. Keep ´em coming. My surprise was to see that having included Barry Richards, he chose to leave out Mike Procter, who I honestly believe, had circumstances permitted, would have shown the world that only Sobers was above him in the all-rounder category. I think Andy Roberts should also have been included at the expense of Kumble or Bedser.

Posted by MiddleStump on (April 12, 2014, 16:45 GMT)

A team of eleven players not mentioned by Crowe. 1. Boycott 2. Greenidge 3. Hayden 4. Barrington 5. Kanhai 6. Tony Greig 7. Rod Marsh 8. Walsh 9. Roberts 10. Thomson 11. Bedi.

Posted by Prodger on (April 12, 2014, 16:15 GMT)

Great pastime picking Cricket elevens from the past, for what it's worth here is a decent team excluded from Martin's 50 Boycott,Ponsford,Chappell(I),May,Barrington,Lindsay,Procter,Lindwall,Davidson,Verity,Statham, to be skippered by Geoffery?

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 15:44 GMT)

One name missing from the 50 was M.D.Crowe of New Zealand.

No great English players since Botham?

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 14:04 GMT)

I find myself in agreement with 49 of the 50 names chosen by Martin, and, amazingly, both his First XI and the Rest in their entirety. The only exception is that I would have excluded Kumble and instead, if the list of 50 is confined to players who have ended their career, included Ranji.

If, however, the list allows inclusion of current players, then I would have excluded Kumble and Border, instead including Steyn and Sangakara, the only two contemporary cricketers who, in my opinion, warrant the tag "great".

Posted by MasterBlaster100 on (April 12, 2014, 12:00 GMT)

I like the 1XI but you cant leave out SF Barnes. He is the bradman of bowling. In fact bradman, barnes, gilchrist ought to be the first guys picked. Each the statistical master of their domain. Mind you I never saw Clyde Walcott keep..he was an even better bat than Gilly, and Sangakarra Nice to see Imran pickedin front of kallis

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 10:20 GMT)

both mahela and sangakkara have ordinary records overseas. so both are rightly excluded

Posted by harshthakor on (April 12, 2014, 10:01 GMT)

My top in order of merit 1.Grace/Sobers 3.Hobbs 4.Tendulkar 5.Bradman 6.Viv Richards 7.Imran Khan 8.Shane Warne 9.Brian Lara 10.Walter Hammond 11.Adam Gilchrist 12.Jacques Kallis 13.Muthiah Murlitharan 14.Dennis Lillee 15.Malcolm Marshall 16.Sydney Barnes 17.George Headley 18.Richard Hadlee 19.Ian Botham 20.Denis Compton 21.Glen Mcgrath 22.Len Hutton/Sunil Gavaskar 24.Barry Richards 25.Graeme Pollock 26.Greg Chappell 27.Wasim Akram 28.Ray Lindwall 29.Ricky Ponting 30..Alan Border 31.Curtly Ambrose 32.Victor Trumper 33.Everton Weekes 34.Waqar Younus 35.Javed Miandad.

Sobers and Grace for overall domination and impact.Hobbs for longevity dominating the game even after the age of 40 .Tendulkar for dominating every form of the game.Bradman for staistics.Viv Richards,Gilchrist and Imran for being such great match-winners .Hammond for his great prowess in the time of Bradman.

Posted by bender6 on (April 12, 2014, 9:55 GMT)

Can't believe no one has called Martin for not including himself as one of the 50 greatest, or a great from his era. Because he is NZ's greatest batsman, and 2nd greatest cricketer after Richard Hadlee, so good, so modest...

Posted by harshthakor on (April 12, 2014, 9:21 GMT)

The ultimate countdown should be who was the greatest of the 50 cricketers and the order of merit.

My winners for the title of the greatset would be jointly Gary Sobers and W.G.Grace.No cricketer could change the complexion of a game as much as Sir Gary who made the impact of a hurricane on a cricket field whether batting bowling or fielding.Statistics hardly did him justice and he was the equivalent of 2 great all-rounders combined.If you analyze the state of pitches in the last Century then W.G.Grace's performances are phenomenal.Imagine amassing 54,211 runs on pitches with uncut grass,scoring 1000 runs on 28 occasions in a season.In addition he took 2876 wickets.Adjectives cannot describe W.G's impact who was the equivalent of a great emperor.

Their closest rivals in order are Hobbs, Tendulkar,Bradman,Viv Richards and Imran Khan.Hobbs longevity and aggregate of 197 centuries wins him 3rd place.,while Tendulkar's domination of both forms of cricket wins him 4th place .

Posted by rustyryan on (April 12, 2014, 9:13 GMT)

@Paulk: Sanga is a mediocre batsman.. look at his avg outside SL... He could not be included in the list of other greats as others scored runs heavily all over the world.. Andy flower shd be included though..

Posted by CricFan24 on (April 12, 2014, 9:12 GMT)

Martins Greatest XI would be simply unbeatable over say 10 Tests spread out all over the world. The experience, Sheer class, virtousity, versatility in any conditions and genius of the players would be impossible to beat. Incidentally ,if you pick some other openers, the same team would be unbeatable in Limited overs cricket tool!

Posted by Nutcutlet on (April 12, 2014, 9:10 GMT)

Purely out of interest and as a point of comparison, Denzil Batchelor in his 'The Book of Cricket' came up with an all-time team to play' its timeless Test against Mars.' Significantly, he called his selection' Team of the Half Century', the book being first published in 1952: Hobbs, Trumper, Bradman, Fry, Worrell, Compton, M Tate, Oldfield, Lockwood, Larwood & Mailey. Even given the same time-frame, I think that the omission of Sid Barnes is astonishing (to replace Lockwood) and Fry surely could and should have been replaced by Hammond or, for me, George Headley. I'd be interested to see whether someone cares to come up with a team for 1950- 2000. Given the much larger pool of players from which to select, it would be another tricky exercise fit for a long rainy afternoon! And of the fifty selected here? No real quibbles at all, IMO.

Posted by harshthakor on (April 12, 2014, 9:06 GMT)

The most unfortunate to miss out in the selection of 50 are in my order of merit.Clive Lloyd merits consideration being such a great leader and so does Barrington,a great batsman to bat for your life.

1.Ray Lindwall 2.Neil Harvey 3.Andy Roberts 4.Rohan Kanhai 5.Ian Chappell 6.Clive Lloyd 7.Graham Gooch 8.Joel Garner 9.Virendra Sehwag 10.Inzamam ul Haq 11.Ken Barrington 12.Gordon Greenidge.

My team excluding the 50 selected by Martin Crowe is

1.Virendra Seheaw 2.Graham Gooch 3.Rohan Kanhai 4.Ian Chappell 5.David Gower 6.Neil Harvey 7.Kumar Sangakaara 8.Joel Garner 9.Ray Linwall 10 Abdul Qadir 11.Andy Roberts.

A bowling combination of Roberts,Garner,Lindwall and Qadir could match or even overpower any great bowling attack while on their day the talent of Gower,Inzamam,Sehwag,Harvey or Kanhai could match any great batsmen be it Viv Richards or Sachin Tendulkar.This asserts my previous point that bar Bradman and Sobers you could have even 4 equally strong teams!

Posted by BillyCC on (April 12, 2014, 8:01 GMT)

One of the problems with Steyn is that he hasn't learned to bowl in partnerships, which is a real problem highlighted in the recent series loss. It's either zero or hero for him, he hasn't grasped the idea of keeping it tight and applying pressure. All the great bowlers who have had suitable bowling partners learned to bowl in partnerships and keep it tight for the other. And before, when Steyn was a one-man show, it was still zero or hero. Richard Hadlee was the king of the one-man show, he was either hero or pretty good. Steyn was not in that class. All in all though, he should be in the top 15 of all times, so he will make this list when he retires.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 7:19 GMT)

Wow ! My group, in Martin Crowe's lists of all-time-greats:

(1950-1970: Keith Miller, Denis Compton, Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott, Garry Sobers, Graeme Pollock, Fred Trueman, Jim Laker, Godfrey Evans ):

It is this group which got me hooked on to cricket; since then I never regretted about spending a lot of time in following cricket all around the world. Though many around me didn't like my obsession. First my parents, then employers, and then my own family of three generations(except a few honorable exceptions.

The turning point was West Indies beating England in England for the first time. The three great "W's, (Worrell, Weeks & Walcott were in that team. But the players who bowled out England were, believe me or not, were two spinners: Sonny Ramdhin & Valentine!

By the way, I can not think of the great Truman without Statham. The same way I can not think of Lille without the name of Jeff Thompson. The opening bowlers use to hunt in pairs.

Posted by BillyCC on (April 12, 2014, 7:12 GMT)

@MiddleStump, the problem is you said "In the case of Warne, his performance on all three tours of India in 9 tests was mediocre at best with an average of 40 plus!" If I substitute the name Murali instead of Warne and substitute 9 tests for 11 tests which is how many Murali played, the statement also holds true and yet you chose Murali ahead of Warne in your greatest XI.

Posted by Fourworldcups on (April 12, 2014, 7:05 GMT)

1. Hobbs 2. Warner 3. Bradman 4. G. Chappell 5. Waugh (c) 6. Sobers 7 Gilchrist 8. Marshall 9. Lillee 10. Akram 11. Warne 12. B O'Reilly.

Unbeatable team.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 7:00 GMT)

Not a single female cricketer?! Although later maturing as a sport (in the longer format at least, let's not forget that the women got their one-day World Cup up and running before the men), there are some names from generations past that stood so highly in the game that they transcended it. If you need a starter for the next time, try Rachel Heyho-Filint, I shan't list achievements here, but do take a look at her profile entry: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/53887.html.

Posted by Deuce03 on (April 12, 2014, 6:36 GMT)

I must admit I'm slightly surprised not to see Mike Procter in the list, but it's difficult to disagree with any of the choices.

I do wonder though whether we slightly overvalue modern cricketers in comparison to their forebears, even taking into account that they're being compared only to their contemporaries. Clem Hill, Warwick Armstrong, Frank Woolley and Wilfred Rhodes could all easily have found a place here, but absence of footage and the need to hold to a different statistical measure means they're often overlooked. From the generations before that, Arthur Shrewsbury, Fred Spofforth, Charles Bannerman, etc. iirc Hobbs (or was it Woolley) reckoned that before the 1920s a batsman of Hammond's calibre would have had a couple of dozen rivals for his spot!

It's a good and justified list overall, though; I don't recall having seen a better one, and it's certainly preferable to the user-voted "all-time teams" you get that are ten players from the last ten years and Bradman.

Posted by MiddleStump on (April 12, 2014, 5:53 GMT)

1.Hobbs 2. Gavaskar (toughest choice over B. Richards). 3. Headley 4. Bradman 5. Tendulkar 6. Sobers 7. Kallis 8. Gilchrist 9. Marshall 10. Lillee (or anybody until Steyn retires) 11. Muralitharan. Instinct and statistics come together in this team. There are five batsmen, 2 all rounders, wk, 2 pacemen and 1 spinner assuming a fair sporting pitch. Apologies to Graham Pollock whom I couldn't fit in. Kallis would make way for Akram/Holding in pace friendly conditions and for O'Reilly on spinning tracks. Had Barry Richards played a handful more tests, he would have been an automatic choice but 4 is far too few. Don't think any team would be able to beat this XI in a 5 test series. In terms of eras, 1900-30 = 1, 30-50 = 2, 50-70 = 1, 70-90 = 3, 90-13 = 4.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 5:44 GMT)

I think rameez raja should have been included because of his fielding

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 5:01 GMT)

Martin, if you say Warne is the King of Spinners, then Murali is the King of King of Spinners. Mind you, Murali is not an Australian, who plays floppy England ten times in 04 years, where you are certain of 60 - 70 English wickets.

Posted by Chris_Howard on (April 12, 2014, 4:58 GMT)

A good effort, Martin, but a bit top heavy with players from the last 40 years. It should show an even spread across all the eras.

I think the problem is exposure. TV has allowed us to see all players in the last 40 years, and put them under the microscope.

The further you go back in time, the less we know so the more we have to dig. I'm not sure you dug enough.

Posted by harshthakor on (April 12, 2014, 4:41 GMT)

Infact my 3rd xi could also be outstanding.Adding Bradman and Sobers it could overpower the 1st and 2nd xi's.

3rd xi.

1.Victor Trumper 2.Virendra Sehwag 3.Ricky Ponting 4.Walter Hammond 5.Greg Chappell 6.Ian Botham 7.Kumar Sangakaara 8.Ray Lindwall 9.Abdul Qadir 10.Andy Roberts 11.Curtly Ambrose

Imagine match-wiiners like Botham ,Ponting,Hammond,Ambrose all together.Remember Qadir had a more notorious and disguised googly than any bowler.The genius of trumper and Sehwag on their day could overhaul any combination.

Posted by harshthakor on (April 12, 2014, 4:34 GMT)

These are my 1st and 2nd xi's

1st team 1.Barry Richards 2.Jack Hobbs 3.Don Bradman 4.Viv Richards 5.Brian Lara 6.Gary Sobers 7.Adam Gilchrist 8.Richard Hadlee 9.Shane Warne 10.Wasim Akram 11.Dennis Lillee

2ndxi

1.Len Hutton 2.Sunil Gavaskar 3.George Headley 4.Sachin Tendulkar 5.Graeme Pollock 6.Jacques Kallis 7.Imran Khan 8.Alan Knott 9.Malcolm Marshall 10.Glen Mcgrath 11.Muthiah Murlitharan.

I have put Lara and Viv Richards instead of Tendulkar as they were better match-winners at their best and in the same light preferred Barry Richards to Gavaskar.Hadlee and Akram are a brilliant right-left hander combination of lethal control with variations of swing and their batting ability also comes handy.Lille's agression just edges Marshall.To me bar Bradman and Sobers there is virtually nothing between the other batsman or bowlers just like Lara-Tendulkar,Lillee-Marshall.Infact with Bradman and Sobers the 2nd xi could well beat the 1st xi!

Posted by harshthakor on (April 12, 2014, 4:20 GMT)

Another worthy omission was Ian Chappell,arguably the best skipper of all who motivated his team like a great military general,harnessing his resources to perfection.In a crisis he was the best batsman of his era,even overshadowing Viv Richards or brother Greg.Steve Waugh literally emulated the same qualities as a batsmen in his era.His brother Mark posessed the flair of Tendulkar and combined technique with style more than any batsman of his time.Inzamam was the best match-winning batsmen of his era and arguably deserves a place.Although supreme stylists bioth Zaheer Abbas and Gundappa Vishwanath miss out because of lack of consistency.Infact Vishy would often overshadow Gavaskar on bad wickets or in a crisis and at his best was a better batsman.

I applaud Martin's choice of Gavaskar,who many experts often obliterate from their first team .However it was unfair to leave out Kallis from the 2nd xi,Graeme Pollock or arguably Ian Botham,who at his best was closest to Sobers.

Posted by harshthakor on (April 12, 2014, 4:10 GMT)

Great list ,Martin .However some important names are forgotten like Ray Lindwall,Andy Roberts ,Rohan Kanhai and Neil Harvey.

Lindwall,in the technical sense was more complete than Lillee or Marshall and had greater mastery in the art of swing ,control and pace.

The best batsmen of his day like Sunil Gavaskar,Barry Richards and the Chappell brothers as well as even Dennis Lillee rated Andy Roberts the best fast bowler they ever faced.Andy mastered the guile of variations with 2 bouncers at different speeds as well as the slower ball.He was more complete than Holding or Marshall,with a greater repertoire of deliveries.

Rohan Kanhai,was in the moral sense in the same class as Weekes or Viv Richards as a batsman.No batsmen ever posessed the creative skill or prowess of Kanhai who posessed more natural talent than even Bradman..

Neil Harvey had as much skill as Pollock and Sobers and could turn games like Brian Lara in a crisis.On bad wickets he was the ultimate master.

Posted by YogifromNY on (April 12, 2014, 3:41 GMT)

Typically well-written and well thought out piece, Martin. I honestly cannot quibble with the World XI or the Rest of the World XI. Regarding Warne vs Murali, if you ever saw them both bowl, Warne generated a kind of "frozen fear" amongst most batsmen (other than the Indians, who generally play spin well) and also had a menacing aura that Murali did not have. Warne's easily the best spinner we have ever seen, period. (For the record, I am not Australian.)

Posted by Charindra on (April 12, 2014, 3:02 GMT)

Why isn't Muralitharan in the greatest XI?? More wickets than Warne, without the support Warne got from batting or bowling, and without regular tests against spin bunnies England. Doesn't cut it? Because he's not Aus, Eng or Indian?

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 2:17 GMT)

er..... this is a TEST listing. No need to talk about ODIs.

Poor NZ and SL have only 1 player each.

Many young fans have trouble believing that WI were once so good, but they are 10 out of 50 players here, and indeed 7 of the 24 from 1950-1990!

England have zero after 1990.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 2:13 GMT)

Missed Steve Waugh, Courtney Walsh, Geoffrey Boycott, Neil Harvey, Kenneth Barrington, Andy Roberts, Wilfred Rhodes, Bishen Bedi.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 1:00 GMT)

@MiddleStump... yet another response by a person who doesn't bother to pay attention to what they're reading. Unless I missed some major news overnight (granted, the media here in NZ can be a bit slow, but still...), Mr. Steyn is still playing cricket. The players Hogan has chosen are all retired - one of only two criteria he lists (the other being that they have played Test cricket). I doubt anyone refutes Steyn's spot in the Pantheon, but that's irrelevant in this context. As for the suggested inclusion of Jayasuriya.... seriously? The only other Sri Lankan after Murali that has retired and would even merit a mention among the best players of his generation would be Aravinda de Silva, who was fantastic. Vaas was also very good, but not in the same league as some of his contemporaries (Waqar, Wasim, McGrath, Pollock - who I agree should have gained a mention at least).

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 0:46 GMT)

Why is the fast bowler with the most wickets in test cricket hardly ever mentioned amongst the greats? Walsh bowled magnificently in all conditions and helped Ambrose build pressure that is essential in any successful attack

Posted by Gowza on (April 12, 2014, 0:37 GMT)

Good list, wouldn't be my list but genuinely can't argue with any of the names on it.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 0:29 GMT)

If the fast bowler with the most test wickets can't get a gig I don't think it's a list. Courtney Walsh is a glaring omission

Posted by   on (April 12, 2014, 0:25 GMT)

Here we are missing the following - Derek underwood, prassana, lance Gibbs,,what about Len Hutton, Peter May, Doug Walters, Arjuna Ranatunge, Sanath jayasuriya who were superb world class batsmen. Why even our own Vishy who was rated as the best Indian batsman by none other than Sunil Gavaskar.

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (April 11, 2014, 23:20 GMT)

@Middle stump- Warne has been universally recognized as greatest spinner-if not bowler-of all time.'Blond bombshel'-1 of 5 cricketers of cent.-is automatic pick in any greatest 11 of all past/present players,all bit more knowledgeable than you,I think!

Posted by MiddleStump on (April 11, 2014, 22:43 GMT)

It is difficult to agree that there was only one great spinner in the whole world between 1950 and 1990! Yet Laker is the only one to be mentioned. Kumble is hardly the best spinner to come out of India to be placed on the list. Bishen Bedi has a better average and Chandrasekar, who bowled with a polio afflicted arm, has the same strike rate. Given that they generally bowled without the benefit of good fielding support and during the era of capricious lbw decisions, they must certainly rank higher than Kumble.

Posted by 4test90 on (April 11, 2014, 22:06 GMT)

I don't accept that Grace was the only one from 1877-1900. Surely Fred Spofforth revolutionised the game with his pace. The bowling figures of Ferris, Turner and Lohmann still make staggering reading today, albeit on some wet and uncovered pitches. The most significant omission though was for a man who played Test cricket over 5 decades (unique) and took over 4,000 first class wickets (again unique) - Yorkshire's own Wilfred Rhodes.

Posted by Insightful2013 on (April 11, 2014, 20:36 GMT)

I would place Muralitharan and Chanderpaul, top of my list. Both gentlemen operated with actions that were initially and ongoing, ridiculed. Both succeeded admirably, especially Murali. This man is absolutely special, with the stick, he took from Aussies and how he reacted. His humility marks him out as extremely special! His bowling, far exceeded, anyone else, incl Warne! I think Lara is also unique in that he went out and retook his record and significantly, the 501, signifies, for a period of time, a special mindset! Imran Khan, for uniting and managing, no offense, Pakistani cricketers. I don't think either bowling or batting were gifted to him, yet, through intelligence and analysis, worked out what was effective for him and was brilliant at both. Managing, knowing Pakistanis,sorry, is a feat, unequaled in cricket. I think Jayawardene and Miandad are the only batsmen, who I think, possibly KP, who really could have handled anyone, in any era! Wasim, Marshall or Waqar incl.

Posted by The_other_side on (April 11, 2014, 20:31 GMT)

In this esteemed list, I should say some more names need mentioning!! But understandably the list goes beyond 50... MD Crowe would do well to follow-up an article where he would explain why the following players (at least some of these!) could not be fitted in: V Sehwag, Kevin Pietersen, Zaheer Abbas, MD Crowe, Mahela Jaya wardene, K Sangakkara, GA Gooch, Neil Harvey and S Chanderpaul (Batsman). G Lohmann, CTB Turner, Fazal Mahmood, Dale Steyn and Andy Roberts ( Bowlers) Andy Flower, Rodney Marsh (Wicket Keepers) and Richie Benaud (All-Rounders). Some of these names may not be all-time greats, but the discussion would be worth reading!!!

Posted by tjsimonsen on (April 11, 2014, 20:19 GMT)

@MiddleStump: Read the article before your criticize. Crowe states that the players he picks has to be retired. Unless you know something I don't, that excludes Steyn.

A pretty good and well balanced 50 IMO. That said, I do miss a couple of bowlers: Spoffoth, Lohman and Lindwall, and a handy allrounder: Mike Proctor. But who to leave out? Hard pressed I'd probably say Bedser, Laker, Younis and Dravid.

My all time eleven: Hobbs, B. Richards, Bradman, Headley, Pollock,Sobers, Knott, Barnes, Marshall, Akram and Murali. With Barnes and Marshall opening the bowling.

Posted by DarthKetan on (April 11, 2014, 20:03 GMT)

I never saw Alan Knott play, and his stats are not in an all-time great category. Mark Boucher deserves the place ahead of Knott.

Other notable exceptions in my book: Shaun Pollock, Ray Lindwall, Alan Davidson

As to the All Time XI: I'd pick Hadlee (<25 v ALL & home & away) WAY ahead of Lillee (played 60 of his 70 Tests in hepful Eng/Aus conditions). By similar measure, Greg Chapell would be ahead of Viv Richards in my book (superiority over all opponents, home & away). But I guess they both miss out on the X-factor, Mr Crowe?

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 18:59 GMT)

Missed out Wilfred Rhodes, deserves to be in that list with Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Trumper & Barnes

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 18:31 GMT)

It's just a little nit-pick, but the list includes 11 fast bowlers and 3 wicket keepers (and not 10 and 4 as indicated).

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 18:13 GMT)

@Taraka Perera It wasn't Jayasuriya it was MARK GREATBACH who revolutionised Odi batting you're talking about. Tune in to some highlights of 1992 WC and see yourself.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 17:30 GMT)

Some people have missed that this list considers only retired cricketers - active cricketers have not been considered.

Posted by Gerry_the_Merry on (April 11, 2014, 17:28 GMT)

Batsmen in both teams will be relieved - no Ambrose, Steyn, Mitchell Johnson, Joel Garner, Shoaib Akhtar, Jeff Thompson, Andy Roberts... Roberts...for Christ's sake, not even a mention. Nor Gooch, Rodney Marsh, Dujon, Steve Waugh.

My World XI would be Gavaskar, Gooch, Richards, Pietersen, S Waugh, Sobers, Gilchrist, Marshall, Holding, Ambrose, Lillee. No need for spinners. 12th Man would be Warne, just in case the pitch takes spin.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 17:10 GMT)

It is funny how Neil Harvey often gets overlooked when lists like these are made. Australias greatest batsman since Bradman...

Posted by MiddleStump on (April 11, 2014, 17:05 GMT)

First it ignores Dale Steyn one of the greatest fast bowlers to have played the game. He has a better strike rate than most at 42. Compare this with Akram at 55, Waqar at 43.4, Holding at 51, Marshall at 47, and Lillee at 52. His average is also slightly lower to boot. I have watched them all and can't see how he has been left out. Of course, Warne is the most over hyped player of the century and his greatness has been thrust forcibly on fans. A fast bowler who did not succeed in England or Australia would be ridiculed if he was even nominated for greatness. In the case of Warne, his performance on all three tours of India in 9 tests was mediocre at best with an average of 40 plus! With that kind of performance, he would not have even made the Indian team of the 60's and 70's in an era of the spin quartet and a few outstanding backup spinners. Most of the remaining names are acceptable though some would be marginal choices.

Posted by BellCurve on (April 11, 2014, 17:02 GMT)

I like the mix between generation. Struggle a bit to understand the inclusion of Dravid and Kumble ahead of Sean Pollock...

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 16:53 GMT)

Martin crow is as usual biased against sri lanka. Where is sanath jayasuriya who revelutionized one day batting? Remember he also made a lot of test runs.he was responsible for making one batting interesting upfront. And to mr. Sriram murali was not in error. Rules were changed because many bowlers around the world were found to bend their arms at the investigation. Murali was never wrong as he had a bent a4m by birth but he never streightened it in bowling.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 16:40 GMT)

You are all leaning much too heavily on post-war and often recent players.

Here are 25 - apart from Grace and Jackson - who started their Test careers before 1914 :

Billy Murdoch George McCartney Jack Hobbs Tom Hayward Victor Trumper Herbie Taylor Aubrey Faulkner Dick Lilley Jack Blackham Frank Woolley George Giffen Bobbie Peel Wilfred Rhodes Colin Blythe Hugh Trumble George Lohmann Sidney Barnes Tom Richardson Charlie Turner Fred Spofforth Monty Noble Bill Lockwood Frank Foster Ernie Jones Warwick Armstrong

Here are 25 who started their Test careers between 1919 and 1939:

Len Hutton Herbert Sutcliffe Wally Hammond Denis Compton Eddie Paynter Maurice Leyland Don Bradman Lindsay Hassett Dudley Nourse Bruce Mitchell Stan McCabe George Headley Stewi Dempster Jack Gregory Ted MacDonald Maurice Tate Harold Larwood Bill Voce Jack Cowie Hedley Verity Clarrie Grimmett Bill O'Reilly Vinoo Mankad Les Ames Bert Oldfield

Posted by Engle on (April 11, 2014, 16:24 GMT)

If you're going to pick two teams, Mr. Crowe, why not split them into 2 by era. The pre-1970 XI : Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Bradman(c), Headley, Grace, Miller, Evans, Lindwall, Trueman, O'Reilly, Barnes

The post-1970 XI : Gavaskar, B.Richards, V.Richards, Tendulkar, Lara, Sobers, Gilchrist, Imran (c), Marshall, Warne, Murali

I've put Sobers in the post-1970 group, only because we can't have him and Bradman together. Also, he did play past 1970.

Would the greats of yesteryear be able to take on the more modern greats ?

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 16:22 GMT)

Another symptom of how the game has changed over the generations is that, with the possible exception of Godfrey Evans, all the keeper picks by Martin Crowe and the various commentators are keeper-batsmen, a relatively modern phenomenon. For balance there should be a place - in the 50 at least - for the likes of Strudwick or Oldfield. When it comes to keeper-batsmen, Denis Lindsay should also be in the shakeup.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 15:39 GMT)

W G Grace has a strong claim to be the most dominant of cricketers. Between 1871 and 1880 (when Grace was 32) he scored 16877 runs at an average of 49 - an average of 25 was considered first rate at this time - and took 1174 wickets at an average of 14.

Hence, Grace was as dominant as Bradman as a batsman and was also one of the leading bowlers of the day.

Another pre-1914 cricketer who deserves a mention is FS "Jacker" Jackson, who played 20 Tests, all of which were against Australia in England playing on uncovered pitches over only three days. Despite this he scored 1415 Test runs with five hundreds at an average of 48.

He was also a very useful RFM bowler.

Posted by py0alb on (April 11, 2014, 15:31 GMT)

Wait a minute, where on earth is KP?

Posted by Rahul17_1983 on (April 11, 2014, 15:20 GMT)

I think Best World 11 ever

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 14:50 GMT)

Courtney Walsh bowled well throughout the world unlike Kumble who struggled outside the subcontinent for the majority of his career. Muralitharan did not bowl and the rules had to be changed to allow him to bowl legally. I would have Steve Waugh on the list instead of Murali.

Posted by brusselslion on (April 11, 2014, 14:49 GMT)

@electric_loco_WAP4: Sorry, can't help you with Mr. Stakepoll. I'm just astonished that you have found room for 4 non-Aussies in your All Time XI. Never let it be said that you're not open-minded, mate.(:

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 14:48 GMT)

martin crowe, you narrowly missed that list yourself. enjoyed your uncomplicated batting, and now enjoy your uncomplicated analysis

Posted by ARad on (April 11, 2014, 14:42 GMT)

I'll make two changes. Instead of Alec Bedser and Alan Donald, I'd have Joel GARNER and Kumar SANGAKKARA. Bedser and Donald are fine players but these two deserve their spots in the 50.

Posted by londondoc on (April 11, 2014, 14:35 GMT)

and the indian spin quartet of Bedi Prasanna Chandra and Venkat? Lance Gibbs? Sanga? Jayawardane? Wes Hall? Gordon Greenidge?

Posted by RockcityGuy on (April 11, 2014, 14:23 GMT)

Virat Kohli will definitely join this list...Che Pujara might... Steyn and ABD will come in...Amla has tailed off in the last few months...Cook also...KP would've been a sure shot in a perfect world...Clarke and Sanga are good but not TOP 50 material...Now to the controversial ones...I would love to see Mohammad Amir come back and fulfill his promise...Also R Ashwin seems to veer btwn the best and the pedestrian...If he can do well abroad he has the time(unlike ajmal or herath) to get into this list...I personally do not rate Narine and don't think Johnson's form is gonna continue forever...

Posted by rajagopalann on (April 11, 2014, 14:19 GMT)

My XI Hobbs,Sutcliffe,Bradman,Headley,G.Pollock,Sobers,Gilchrist,Warne,Marshall,Barnes, Steyn. Sorry no place for Tenduker,Lara,Kallis and others who played with helmet and in mostly dead wickets

Posted by eggyroe on (April 11, 2014, 14:15 GMT)

A very subjective article that leads to different people,different selection criteria.With the number of retired Test Match Players there are numerous solutions to the final elevens selected.It all boils down to the person doing the selecting.We then have to work out which set of laws the imaginary game would be played under,1877 laws or 2014 laws.Would the game be played on an uncovered pitch.Would the equipment used be of the standard of 1877,personally I would like to see that happen,should sort out the men from the boys.The final thing should be the use of the whole of the playing surface,no boundary rope and definitely no D.R.S.

Posted by cloudmess on (April 11, 2014, 14:05 GMT)

It is nice to see a balanced, common-sense list. I would personally make one change - Ray Lindwall instead of Alec Bedser (1930 - 50). Bedser was a terrific medium-pacer on helpful English pitches, but Lindwall had the speed and ability to be deadly on any wicket. The other debatable selection is Godfrey Evans - why not Neil Harvey or Peter May instead? (Clyde Walcott could keep wicket instead...:)) Matt Hayden is unlucky to miss out - but I don't know which of the more contemporary crowd I'd leave out for him.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 13:50 GMT)

Wouldn't disagree with any of those but piled certainly consider Hedley Verity, Rhodes and Hirst and no I'm not a Yorkshireman but I am a Lancastrian!!! Others I've seen would include Clive Lloyd, Brian Statham and Rohan Kanhai but brusselslion no one replaces Sobers!!!

Posted by Ken-LBW99 on (April 11, 2014, 13:50 GMT)

Amazing - one of my favorite batsmen - Martin Crowe (cousin of Russell) recuses himself from this list! If there is to be a top 100, here are some cricketers that should be included: Sir Clyde Walcott, Leary Constantine, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd, Rowe, Andy Roberts (father of WI pacers), Gordon Grennidge (WI), Boycott, Underwood (UK), Zaheer Abass, Haniff Mohammed, Imzaman, Majid Khan (Pak), Gupte, Mandraker, Ranji, Duleep (Ind), Glenn Turner, Martin Crowe (NZ), Greg Chappell, Thompson, Walters, S.Waugh, Border (AUS), G&P Pollock, B.Richards, Proctor, Radley (SA). Andy Flower (Zim).

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 13:46 GMT)

might agree or might not agree with the top 50 list. all of us might find at least one of our favorite players missing from Crowe's list. However much I agree with some names missing including Azharuddin, Inzamam, the Waugh twins, Hashim Amla, Gower and Crowe himself, I loved the way the piece is written. Very much like your batting sir. I wish you will also compile a list of top 50 cricket artists across the generations.

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (April 11, 2014, 13:45 GMT)

cont- @Brussel,hope that answers your Q.And who's this Stakepoll by the way? Was'nt he 1 of the openers for Bannerman's Aussie in 1st ever 'Ashes' test played way back in 1877,if I'm not wrong?

Posted by Paulk on (April 11, 2014, 13:39 GMT)

Perhaps Clive Lloyd and Steve Waugh deserve a mention for their leadership of the two outstanding teams of the last fifty years. Not to mention that they were pretty formidable batsmen as well. Indeed, in his playing days Steve Waugh was frequently bracketed with Tendulkar and Lara as the third wheel. Ponting himself said in an interview that Waugh was the best batsman of his team so he should have batted higher up the order. Clive Lloyd averaged almost 47 which in today's world would be worth at least 5 runs more, I believe. Were it not for one IVA Richards, he along with Gordon Greenidge would have been in the list of standout batsmen of that era. And yes, I mentioned Kumar Sangakkara earlier but he is still playing - my mistake.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 13:33 GMT)

It's a good list ! To balance the generations I would look at Larwood, Constantine and Lindwall at the expense of some of the more recent names - I'm not sure Kumble, Dravid and Waqar have quite the same cachet as the others.

Gary Sobers would want us to consider Collie Smith.

Geoff Boycott would want us to include...

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (April 11, 2014, 13:26 GMT)

@brusell- Hayden is 3rd greatest opening bat of all time just little below Hobbs,Gavaskar.Latter 2 apart from great recds. also played in much tougher 'times'-conds.,bowling,pitches etc.-,so are best w/o doubt.Need not say Hayden would've been in 'rest'.

Posted by atheros1672 on (April 11, 2014, 13:25 GMT)

perfecto!!!!!!! well said Mr Crowe

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 13:07 GMT)

Sad that a one world record holder, known for his humility as much being called a cunning wolf as being the first to breach the 500 wicket mark, one who's best figure in ODI was 5/1, one fast bowler called Courtney Andrew Walsh is not on the list.

Posted by endofageofaquarius on (April 11, 2014, 13:06 GMT)

What a wonderful article. Just enjoyed the read and the descriptions of the players. Finally, the final XI, how could one really argue with that XI?

Posted by Truemans_Ghost on (April 11, 2014, 12:57 GMT)

Doh! So he is! Forgive my blind spot

Posted by brusselslion on (April 11, 2014, 12:52 GMT)

@electric_loco_WAP4: Surely Hayden & Stackpole should replace Gavasker & Hobbs?; Miller replaces Sobers and Gilmour replaces Akram? One of the Chappells could be 12th man.

Posted by ToneMalone on (April 11, 2014, 12:45 GMT)

A well-compiled 50 IMHO, albeit I agree with @Venkatb - I suspect a couple of other players from the earliest era (Spofforth & Ranji especially) may have deserved a place.

Also, if it weren't for Bradman, I'd pick the "rest of the best" team to win more matches! Both sides are brilliant of course, but the difference to me is the spin pairings. I think O'Reilly and Murali would be an even more lethal combination than Warne and Sobers, and therefore the "rest of the best" has a better balanced side.

Posted by MZahid on (April 11, 2014, 12:12 GMT)

The only reason why Martin Crowe was not mentioned is that he himself wrote the article. I think the article has done justice.

Posted by CricketMaan on (April 11, 2014, 11:55 GMT)

Haven't seen all play but from those that i have watched (retired) Viv, Sunny, Imran, Kapil, Javed, Waqar, Wasim, Walsh, Ambrose, Marshall, Lara, Sachin, Dravid, Murali, Shane, McGrath, Boon, Waugh brothers, Flower, Pollock, Cornje, Jonty, Inzy, Anwar, Donald, Dada, Kumble, Swann, KP, Hadlee, Aravinda, Sanath, Vass to name a few.

Posted by Venkatb on (April 11, 2014, 11:49 GMT)

This age-pyramid selection indicates that we do not know enough about players from earlier eras - excluding Spofforth, Ranji, Clem Hill, Lohmann, Ponsford, or Harvey and Kanhai from later eras, is debatable - again these are Crowe's personal selections. If we are to include statistics into the equation, I would subtract at least 15 runs from batting averages of recent era batsmen to factor helmets and other protective gear, plus covered wickets and front-foot no-ball rules. Today's batsmen would not be able to get in line to play a fast ball but for all the protective gear.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 11:48 GMT)

An excellent selection. Whether it's 11, 50 or 100 players there will inevitably be some debate - fans will always try to argue for their favourite player over another - but the author successfully covers all countries and eras to produce a list with neither any glaring omissions nor any obviously wrong inclusions.

Posted by msnsrinivas on (April 11, 2014, 11:46 GMT)

Virat Kolhi will shoulder his way into that list in 12 years time. You read it here first.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 11:44 GMT)

@Truemans_Ghost - Murali is there.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 11:27 GMT)

Here is a list of another 50 greats:

Opening Batsmen (7): B Mitchell (SA), RB Simpson (Aus), ML Hayden (Aus), G Boycott (Eng), WM Lawry (Aus),WM Woodfull (Aus),DL Amiss (Eng) No 3: (8): RB Kanhai (WI),ER Dexter (Eng),WJ Edrich (Eng),IM Chappell (Aus),RB Richardson (WI),RN Harvey (Aus),DC Boon (Aus),C Hill (Aus) No: 4-6 (8): AD Nourse (SA),SR Waugh (Aus),A Flower (Zim),Mohammad Yousuf (Pak),PBH May (Eng),MEK Hussey (Aus),Zaheer Abbas (Pak),Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak) Allrounders (7): DL Vettori (NZL),SM Pollock (SA),AW Greig (Eng),CL Cairns (NZL),W Rhodes(Eng),R Benaud (Aus), TL Goddard (SA) Wicketkeepers (4): LEG Ames (Eng),AJ Stewart (Eng),PJL Dujon (WI),MV Boucher (SA) Fast Bowlers (10): CTB Turner (Aus),AK Davidson (Aus),J Garner (WI),RR Lindwall (Aus),CA Walsh (WI),JB Statham (Eng),RGD Willis (Eng),AME Roberts (WI),WW Hall (WI),JR Thomson (Aus) Spinners (6): SCG MacGill (Aus),BS Chandrasekhar (Ind),Saqlain Mushtaq (Pak),H Verity (Eng),DL Underwood (Eng),HJ Tayfield (SA)

Posted by gmsjgmsj on (April 11, 2014, 11:20 GMT)

Martin if you could put the two Test XIs into a cricket video game, there would be nothing like it!

Posted by Truemans_Ghost on (April 11, 2014, 10:59 GMT)

I do like this 50, but lack of Murali will raise an eyebrow or two.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 9:54 GMT)

where is shaun pollock. Good list nonetheless.

Posted by jw76 on (April 11, 2014, 8:40 GMT)

Sir Neville Cardus will be turning in his grave - only three players from the so-called Golden Age! (Plus Hobbs, but most of his career was later.) Surely Ranji at least MUST be in, and George Lohmann for the bowlers. I won't bore readers with any more names, but some of you may like to compile a team of eleven greats from before World War I, 1914. They would be limited almost certainly to England and Australia, but there are some long-forgotten giants (even apparently by Martin Crowe) in those days, and there are strong arguments for a few more between the wars. Charlie Macartney, for starters?

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 8:20 GMT)

anil kumble above walsh really. WG Grace disagree completely. Players like ranji averaged almost 45 in same era. Trigga - captaincy comparison cannot be made. Waugh had warne, ponting, mark waugh, gillespie, glen mcgrath, while dravid had an inconsistent batting line up with ganguly, sachin sehwag out of form, inconsistent vvs laxman and an inexperienced bowling line up with rookies like sreesanth, rp singh, munaf patel and out of form bhaji etc. To be honest I reckon dravid was india's best test captain. no one comes close. Maybe kumble but he only captained in about 10 tests.

Posted by Yentile on (April 11, 2014, 7:58 GMT)

im sure when he retires, steyn would be added to this list at the expense of one of the bowlers, maybe Kumble? Kumble hardly striked fear into the hearts of batsmen like warne. Nevertheless, a good list.

Posted by Critic7_mh on (April 11, 2014, 7:52 GMT)

@Sadeq Ali, thats true dude.

Posted by Vaughanographic on (April 11, 2014, 7:45 GMT)

Well done on a great list!! For those complaining about Steyn and Sangakarra's ommision, they don't count in Crowe's list as they are still playing

It says a lot about cricket that one can still have the following XI outside of the above

Gordon Greenridge Matthew Hayden Stan McCabe Ken Barrington Steve Waugh Andy Flower (w/k) Mike Proctor Richie Benaud (capt) Alan Davidson Ray Lindwall Wes Hall

(Not a bad little XI is it?!)

Posted by Vivek.Bhandari on (April 11, 2014, 7:43 GMT)

A really nicely composed list of 50 cricketers, realizing that limiting them to an XI or even a XV would be tough. Now, expecting lots of us to provide about their personal favourites :D, a usual exercise at such lists...

Posted by T20Fun on (April 11, 2014, 7:40 GMT)

Dale Steyn? I know he is still playing but I'd argue he is one of the greatest ever already.

Posted by Oxonion on (April 11, 2014, 7:36 GMT)

Three great pakistanis should ve made the fifty list; Hanif Mohammad and Fazal Mahmood in the 50s and Abdul Qadir in the 80s. Hanif scored 337 against the pace of Hall and Gilchrist as well as getting the highest first class score of 499 (that was chased by all batsmen for decades before lara got there) while the great Fazal got 12 wickets in his first outings in tests against Australia, England, India and West indies and was unplayable during the 50s. Abdul Qadir, well need not say much about him cause Mr Crowe has faced him and should ve known better!

Posted by kishen1912 on (April 11, 2014, 7:28 GMT)

I think the list is a good starting point for any debate. I think other writers should pick up their 50 and look at the differences to see why they feel a certain someone deserves a place in this list in the place of another..

I felt that Ranji should get the nod purely for the invention of the leg glance. Along with Wilfred Rhodes who is possibly the greatest all rounder of them all in terms of ability, longevity and impact he had on English cricket for 4 decades..

Also the likes of Merchant, Hazare, Hanif , Fazal need a mention because of the impact they had on how their respective countries played cricket.. Their sheer statistics might not suggest greatness, but they were pioneers of the game in their countries.

One glaring miss in the 70s 80s is Zaheer Abbas who truly was a great batsman. .. like I said, this list is a good starting point for any debate on the game

Posted by Drifting on (April 11, 2014, 7:22 GMT)

Great article, and a great way to stoke some debate ;-) I'd leave out Bedser, Grimmett, Evans, Barry Richards, Knott and replace them with Steyn, Andy Flower, Steven Waugh, Sangakkara, Hanif . B.Richards was incredible, but if 4 tests (+ 4 World Series games) is an acceptable criterion then how do you leave out Procter or Clive Rice? You could include Shaun Pollock for Kumble/Holding, but these guys are all terrific.

Gavaskar, Hobbs, Bradman, Kallis, Viv, Sobers, Gilchrist, Imran, Marshall, Warne, McGrath

Posted by st_aubrun on (April 11, 2014, 7:21 GMT)

Hard to argue with Martin here - although I feel Kumble doesn't belong in such a pantheon of 50. also, I would prefer Holding to Hadlee in the second team which lacks a truly express pace bowler.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 6:57 GMT)

I believe this is as good a list of 50 cricketers as any and shows the knowledge about the game that Martin Crowe possesses. Of cpurse, there will always be disagreements and people will feel some names have been left out. I myself feel the likes of Andy Flower, Kumar Sangakkara, Ken Barrington, and Dale Steyn deserved a mention. But then, 50 is a rather small number for 137 years of Test cricket! Kudis to Mr Crowe for undertaking this rather daunting task!

Posted by trigga315 on (April 11, 2014, 6:53 GMT)

Steve Waugh deserves to be there above Dravid specifically for his captaincy. Highest win percentage as captain, captain of winning world cup side, captain of the record breaking 16 consecutive winning test side for Aus and turning innings in the world cup semi final 1999 and responsible for Australia finally winning back the Frank Worrell trophy. He had an average of 50+ just below Dravid's but add in a handy 290 or so international wickets and a far superior ability to perform under pressue and being a much better captain. Richards only played 4 tests so he shouldn't of been considered, also Kumble averaged 29.65 which is too high to be considered in this elite bracket.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 6:45 GMT)

No Rodney Marsh? I would have him rather than Alan Knott. And somehow squeeze in Sangakarra too!

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (April 11, 2014, 6:41 GMT)

Crow's 'greatest 11' is an outstanding mix,pretty much unbeatable,but with 3 changes. 1- I'd replace Marshall with J Thommo. Marshall is w/o doubt a greater bowler but combo of Lillee/Thommo looks more appealing,also with their immense record as a p'ship with new ball shows they'ill have better understanding with each other. If any 1 of them is unfit ,Marshall automatically comes in to partner the other with new ball. 2 - A v tough choice between 2 of the greats Viv and Ponting. But Ponting is bit more suited to no. 5 spot as he began his carrier as m/o bat for Aussies and -barring couple of series played in absolute dustbowls early in his carrier,where young Ponting struggled to cope with his inexp. of vastly diff. conditions- has as good as a record as a top order bat later. 3- Young Aussie D Warner comes in place of Tendulkar.The best young bat in world is primed for greatness as his immense recd. in all forms shows. 2 100s in a test v 2nd best attack,Steyn and co. at home says all.

Posted by Bowlersholding on (April 11, 2014, 6:40 GMT)

Good list and team. Well thought out. One thing - why pick Imran as a bowling all rounder in 2nd XI if Hadlee is already there? Kallis would make much more sense.

Posted by shashank88 on (April 11, 2014, 6:28 GMT)

Allan donald ? as good a bowler as any!!

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 6:17 GMT)

I was hoping that "Vinoo Mankad" would be on the list

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 6:02 GMT)

One of the obvious names of the earlier era who has been missed out is Vijay Merchant.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 5:43 GMT)

Lovely reading :) Crowe was a great player and liked his writing too. There will always be a next 50 with names like Hanif, Fazal, Zaheer etc

Posted by India_boy on (April 11, 2014, 5:28 GMT)

@Mr. Martin Crowe, Sir, one question please....what does Chanderpaul have to do to be included in any list of greatest players of the last 20 years? Best consistency, surpassed only by RD and JK probably, most match saving inns., only WIan player to perform consistently in the last 15 years or so. Performed admirably in all conditions likewise specially Indian conditions where the likes of Ponting and Lara have failed. Just what more does he have to do ?

Posted by Andre117 on (April 11, 2014, 5:25 GMT)

I think Graeme Smith belongs up there. His technique has always been lambasted, but all of that did not prevent him scoring a mountain of runs against all opposition. He wasn't the greatest captain, but he was one of the better ones. He also has one of the best strikerates, comparable to Lara and Ponting.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 5:15 GMT)

Sangakarra and Andy Roberts notable absentees.

Posted by Bagapath on (April 11, 2014, 5:14 GMT)

superb list. can't really improve it until sangakara, steyn and de villiers retire and become eligible for selection - may be andy flower or matthew hayden can come in and alec bedser or mike holding can be left out. but it is just splitting hairs. Mr. Crowe has done such a good job with the 50 names that a third xi can easily be put together to match the quality of first two:

hutton, sutcliffe, g.pollock, kallis, hammond, miller, botham, evans (wk), barnes, grimmett, mcgrath

Posted by abhijit759 on (April 11, 2014, 5:12 GMT)

For me the most notable absentees include Ray Lindwall,Alan Davidson & Mike Procter

Posted by D.V.C. on (April 11, 2014, 4:41 GMT)

You've neglected hundreds of years of cricket before 1877! If you only mean cricket in the Test playing era you should say so.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 4:19 GMT)

Great 1st XI, but was surprised to see Wally Hammond and Len Hutton missing from the 2nd XI. Also was hoping to see the names of Ranji, Larwood in the greatest 50.Overall cant dispute a single name in the list!!!Also a case could be made for the inclusions of Hanif Mohammad, Dale Steyn, Courtney Walsh, Kumara Sangakarra, Ken Barrington, Bishen Bedi among a few others.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 4:08 GMT)

Sanath Jayasuriya is one of the greatest all rounder who change game style of cricket in 1996. His name should be mentioned in the above list.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 4:02 GMT)

i question your list that does not name the greatest captain ever Clive lloyd

Posted by Tangles74 on (April 11, 2014, 3:59 GMT)

As always a fun read, and always a few to argue with. Kumar Sangakarra, Steve Waugh, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Andy Flintoff as honorable mentions. But who do you remove?

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 3:17 GMT)

A match between those two teams would be well worth watching

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 3:09 GMT)

SNAP! How's that for a team? No arguments there.

1. Hobbs 2. Gavaskar 3. Bradman 4. Tendulkar 5. Viv Richards 6. Sobers 7. Gilchrist 8. Wasim Akram 9. Shane Warne 10. Dennis Lillee 11. Malcolm Marshal 11.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2014, 3:08 GMT)

If all cricket history were to be boiled down into era's defined by the games marquee names, it would quite simply boil down to: 1877 - 1900 - The era of WG 1900 - 1930 - The era of Sir Jack 1930 - 1950 - The era of Sir Don 1950 - 1970 - The era of Sir Garry 1970 - 1990 - The era of Sir Viv 1990 - 2010 - The era of Sachin

Note that batsman dominate, but I think thats just natural given that they have a longer career span.

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