August 2, 2011

Which are the greatest dynasties of them all?

Is it possible to compare the Invincibles of 1948 to the West Indian teams of the '80s and '90s? After all they were simply products of their time
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ESPNcricinfo's editor has invited me to compare the "most dominant Test teams through the ages and the captains who fashioned them - Bradman, Chappell, Lloyd, Taylor, Waugh". It's the stuff of a thousand pub talks - good ones, too. But it's to be approached with some caution, out of respect for Test cricket's complex, protean and dynamic nature.

In examining great sides, you pretty soon realise you are not simply comparing apples and oranges but apples, pomegranates and brussels sprouts. How do you line up Bradman's 1948 Australians, a team, alongside the West Indians of the 1980s and the 1990s, properly a dynasty? Bradman's ensemble played together for one golden summer; the XIs generalled by Clive Lloyd and his successor, Viv Richards, combined and permutated for a generation. Bradman's pace attack of Lindwall, Miller and Johnston had the huge advantage of a new ball every 55 overs, a disastrous and short-lived experiment that meant the shine was never off the ball; just imagine the mayhem Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft, Marshall, Ambrose and Walsh could have caused under such a dispensation.

"Most dominant", too, is an expression unconsciously skewed towards the present, with memories of the West Indians and Australians of our lifetimes rubbing their opponents' noses in it day after day. In presupposing a regime of full-time professionalism and constant global competition, it leaves a great deal out of account. Until after World War Two, Test cricket was Anglo-Australian. One country "dominated" Test cricket by beating the other. Players turned over more frequently; not every player could afford to go on every tour. Bradman thought that there had been three great Australian teams: his own, Joe Darling's of 1902, and Warwick Armstrong's of 1921. But they never really played together again, and there were not the financial incentives to keep players such as Ted McDonald and Sid Barnes in the game.

"Domination" is also an unappealing concept. The best of Test cricket is seen not when a side is dominant but when two teams are powerfully well-matched. Test cricket, with the possibilities of four innings, is such a thorough examination of relative ability that an outstanding team will necessarily carry all before them. But the results can be ghastly. Who would willingly sit through Australia devouring West Indies 5-0 in 2000-01 again? The West Indians who won the hearts of the world 40 years earlier were not "the most dominant" of sides; they did not even win; but they continue to epitomise all that is stirring and noble about cricket.

If we leave the dominating to Charlemagne and Attila the Hun momentarily, however, there is some gold in that there pub talk. While it's hard to be definitive, a lot can be gleaned from looking at the teams who over the last 65 years have preserved prolonged and decided edges over their competition.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, Australia were megaparsecs ahead of opponents, winning 24 and losing only two of their first 31 Tests. That was not simply Bradman's work but also Lindsay Hassett's, in his role first as the buffer between the great man and his team, then as his successor. Having played in 26 Test wins and only five defeats, in fact, Hassett is a candidate for the title of Test cricket's most underestimated player, one of those small men like Gavaskar, Viswanath and Tendulkar with a disproportionately long shadow. The Australians were weak, perhaps, in spin alone, losing Cec Pepper, George Tribe and Bruce Dooland to English professional ranks - it caught up with them at last at The Oval in 1953.

The team that nudged Australia off their pedestal was England, who after succumbing to Hassett's men in 1950-51 did not lose another Test series for eight years, winning nine and drawing four rubbers in that time. It's odd that nobody now perceives England as having "dominated" cricket in the 1950s; it's unlikely that they conceived of it themselves; more likely they simply expected, and were expected, to win, having the advantages of the only full-time, professional first-class circuit. Yet they demonstrated a characteristic we associate now with great teams, of strength in depth, and a knack for replacing key personnel in a secure and timely fashion: Hutton gave way to May, Compton to Cowdrey, Bedser to Trueman, Statham and Tyson. In Bailey they had a flint-hearted and bloody-minded allrounder, in Laker and Lock one of the best of all slow-bowling partnerships, in Godfrey Evans an inspirational wicketkeeper.

At the end of the 1950s, the momentum shifted back to the Australians, who did not lose a series in the six years from the Ashes of 1958-59. If they were towards the end of that period rather better at not losing than winning, Richie Benaud was perhaps the most resourceful and ambassadorial of all Test captains: "the number one opportunist of all national cricket leaders", in Ray Robinson's words, and "in public relations… so far ahead of predecessors that race-glasses would have been needed to see who was at the head of the others".

The Australians overlapped, however, with a West Indian side as gifted and versatile as any, led first by Frank Worrell then Garry Sobers, who won 15 and lost three Tests over five years. In that time Sobers came as close as any cricketer has to being a team on his own. His leadership of West Indies to victory in England involved probably the most complete all-round performance of all time: 722 runs at 103, 20 wickets at 27 and 10 catches, all of it without a hint of strain. "Nobody has seen Sobers obviously in labour," observed Neville Cardus afterwards. "He makes every stroke with moments to spare. His fastest ball - and it can be very fast - is bowled as though he could, with physical pressure, have bowled it a shade faster."

For almost a decade, in fact, Test cricket was remarkably even - perhaps the most even it has been. Thanks to South Africa's rancid politics, a team who might have dominated were spinning towards oblivion. The Springboks' duffing up of the Australians in 1970, just before the boom fell, with the Pollocks, Barry Richards, Mike Procter and Eddie Barlow at their peak, is one of the most one-sided in history; with Clive Rice and Vince van der Bijl about to break through, they could very well have been the team to beat for the next decade. Even the Australian zenith, under the Chappells, was relatively short-lived: it just seems longer for all its characters and folklore, recapitulations and revisitations.

I should put in a personal word for those Australians, as they were the team I grew up watching, and therefore feel a certain unreasoned loyalty to - they are, in a way, my own reference point where other Test teams are concerned. Man for man, they actually don't match off all that well in comparison with other great teams. They were a core of stars (the Chappells, Lillee, Thomson, Marsh) fortified by hardworking sweats (Keith Stackpole, Ross Edwards, Rick McCosker, Max Walker, Ashley Mallett), plus a few who played above themselves for one crowded hour (Gary Gilmour, Bob Massie, Jeff Hammond, Alan Turner, Gary Cosier). Nonetheless they had "something" that expressed a common purpose - Mike Brearley called it a "lounging hostility". I suspect it emanated from their captain, Ian Chappell, who put you in mind of John Ford's famous comment about John Wayne: "The sonofabitch walked like a man."

What's interesting in hindsight is the comparative brevity of that Australian dominance. We tend to pass over Ian Chappell's standing down as captain after the Oval Test of 1975, forgetful that he was only 31, and, it turned out, had another five years of good cricket in him, in and around a temporary retirement. In memory, one Chappell seems to segue naturally into the other: on reflection, the slippage from Ian the leader into Greg the virtuoso might have been a greater shift than we grasped at the time.

Cricket was also making itself over, and two related exogenous factors underlay the rise of Clive Lloyd's West Indians, who became a kind of universal marker for cricket excellence. The first was professionalism. The 1968 deregulation of qualification for overseas players in county cricket offered unparalleled opportunities for ambitious cricketers to finish themselves, and Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Joel Garner, Gordon Greenidge, Andy Roberts and Malcolm Marshall all made themselves English institutions on their way to becoming Caribbean crusaders (something rather overlooked in Stevan Riley's thrilling new film Fire in Babylon). They could thank, too, a couple of Australians: entrepreneur Kerry Packer, who made them suddenly wealthy through World Series Cricket, and physiotherapist Dennis Waight, who made them steadily fit - the acme of athleticism, in fact, long before other teams caught up.

The other key externality was the rise of a second form of international cricket - the one-day international. West Indies' dominance of Test cricket was consolidated and ratified, as it were, by their limited-overs success: it became part of their aura, their presence. They belied the concept of format specialists, playing basically their best XI cricketers regardless of the circumstances. They made a mockery of the worldwide allocation of resources, too, insofar as they dominated the world from a tiny, fragmented and neglected corner of it. Great players retired; some excellent ones peeled off to undertake two ignominious tours of South Africa. But somehow West Indies would always come together again, reforming like a droplet of mercury.

It took something similarly dynastic to overtake West Indies - again not so a much a team as an entire system, made in Australia, from, it must be said, that country's many natural advantages. The 1980s recession in Australian cricket was chiefly about two indicators: performances against the new benchmark, West Indies, and the old, England. But it animated a sense of crisis and resolve unprecedented in this country: a root-and-branch commitment to climbing back to No. 1, manifest in the institution of the AIS Cricket Academy. To digress momentarily, it is damning that no such collective will can be found today, when Australia languishes so far from its traditional standards yet the stock of players, coaches, administrators and selectors remains almost entirely unchanged.

The story of Australian dominance in this period, and its accumulation of the Ashes, the Worrell Trophy, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in addition to three World Cups, is perhaps too recent to require a detailed retelling. But it was qualitatively different from the regime it usurped: the shrewdness of the captains, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, and the greatness of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Mark Waugh, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden forming an identifiable and exportable culture. "Australianism", if you will, became a kind of cricket ideology. Australia's first-class competition was held up as a model for the world. Australia's administration was meant to be a model of streamlined efficiency. Australia's sledging was a secret of their success. Remember how it was vitally important to learn to sledge back? Sheesh.

The perceived success of Bob Simpson, Geoff Marsh and John Buchanan stimulated a stampede for Australian coaches: Rod Marsh, Dav Whatmore, Tom Moody, Geoff Lawson, Wayne Clark, Bennett King, John Dyson, Jamie Siddons, Bruce Yardley, Troy Cooley and most controversially Greg Chappell (that's another trend that has petered out lately, the coaches that aren't home-grown seeming to come from Africa: Kirsten, Fletcher, Flower). Nobody during the West Indies' belle époque went out and tried to retrace their path to greatness - rightly so. But everyone wanted to be like Australia: it was cricket's version of the managerialist herd mentality of the early 1980s, when every chief executive had their nose in a copy of In Search of Excellence.

Number one today is India, which is a happy event, because they also happen to be the most attractive team to watch. And for all the hypermodernity of Indian cricket, MS Dhoni's team is full of genuine five-day cricketers, not jumped-up one-day players and Twenty20 non-entities. Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan, Dhoni himself, would succeed in any age; when you watch them excel at their craft, time seems almost to stand still. That is an illusion, as you realise when you range back over the generations and grasp the way that the leading teams of their time have been just that: creatures of their time. But it's an appealing and warming illusion, and a comforting one to nurture at the pub.

There's even a little more to it, for the very fact that we rejoice in these debates is one of Test cricket's special and enduring qualities. Test cricket impresses itself on us. Its records are ineradicable, its events are monumental, its characters are lasting. It is not a passing feast for the eye but a permanent fixture in memory. Administrators have grown indifferent, even contemptuous of this, because it is not something readily monetised. What's the use to them of people debating whether Arthur Morris was a better opening batsman than Gordon Greenidge, or whether the 2001 India-Australia series was better than the 1988 West Indies-Pakistan series, when they should be buying Mumbai Indians replica gear? The quality endures, though, precisely because T20 offers us so little to hold onto, so little to remember or care about.

Sir Robert Menzies once described cricket talk as "the best talk in all the world". I hesitate to make so bold, but there is hardly a meatier and juicier game for debate than Test match cricket, with so much past, so many skills, such huge alterations to its conditions, such unfathomable depths to its meanings. What sort of cricket talk does T20 inspire? Duh, that was a big sixer? Will anyone sit around in 20 years' time and grow rheumy-eyed about the mighty Chennai Super Kings team of 2010, or the sublime Southern Redbacks of 2011, or the super-dooper Sydney Sixers of 2012? Yet people will still be brooding on the Australians of 1948, West Indies of 1984, and the Australians of 2000 - and they will be no closer to agreement than they are today.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • F1959 on August 5, 2011, 13:41 GMT

    Gideon, The way I look at this is that there was only one team that other were actuall scared and terrified to play against ......... and that was the West Indies team of the 1980's .......... to me that sets them apart from all the others ...... what say you?? Interesting concept eh?

  • Beertjie on August 4, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    One small point of difference with @Meety who makes many excellent points. Where is the evidence of "the the strong Poms of the 50s & 60s"? OK, Gideon mentions the "dynasty" of the 50's, but the 60's? Give me a break! Only regained the Ashes in '70-71 against an Aussie team crushed 4-0 the year before. Won in the WI in '68 because of a crazy gamble by Sobers. Otherwise mostly a decidedly inferior team. But the point about the Saffas will remain a great pub argument.

  • Bollo on August 4, 2011, 8:34 GMT

    shan156, as I`m sure many others have noticed, you seem to have an extremely exaggerated belief in the abilities of many of the Indian cricketers you mention.

    `Zaheer had poor stats at the beginning of his career. Otherwise, he is as good as any WI bowling great.` - comments such as this reveal the depth of your delusions.

  • harshthakor on August 4, 2011, 3:23 GMT

    my best teams in order of merit.

    1.1948 Aussie team led by Bradman 2.1984 and 1980 West Indies team led by Clive Lloyd 4.Aussie teams led by Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting 6.West Indies teams led by Sobers in 1966 and Worrell in 1963. 8.1969 South African team

    Bradman's team would have beaten Lloyd's West Indies team in a photo -finish because of greater versatlity in bowling ,the phenomenal talent oif Bradman himself and inclusion of a great all-rounder in Keith Miller.No team had greater killer instinct and professionalism than the recent Aussie teams led by Ponting and Waugh..1970 Springboks were almost as good as anyone with Graeme Pollock,Barry Richards and Mike Procter.

  • Bollo on August 4, 2011, 1:20 GMT

    Lots of interesting questions to ponder...how would the West Indians have fared if required to bowl more than 70 overs a day? The modern Aussies without helmets against the West Indians? Bradman`s team in the professional era? As I`ve said before, I think any of these teams would have been at a significant disadvantage if asked to play under the rules/playing conditions of a different era. Each team was exceptionally well-adapted to how cricket was played at a particular time.

  • Bollo on August 4, 2011, 0:59 GMT

    @shan156. a composite of the great recent Aus team/current India would probably look like this; Sehwag, Hayden, Ponting, Tendulkar, S.Waugh, Laxman, Gilchrist, Warne, Gillespie, Zaheer, McGrath. Not bloody bad at all.

    An ODI compsite of the same teams, maybe; Tendulkar, Gilchrist, Ponting, M.Waugh, S.Waugh, Ganguly, Symonds, Lee, Warne, Zaheer, McGrath.

  • Meety on August 4, 2011, 0:48 GMT

    @Bodhi Das - the Saffas possibly COULD of had the greatest team of all time except for their isolation. Since then though - they have never come CLOSE to being a dominant team, always very good, never great! @Razzi2003 - LOL! Good gee up! @Parikshit Kulkarni - LOL! It is a bit like that!!!!! @Shan156 - look after that one eye of yours! One of the WORST analysis I've ever seen! Whatever the individual statistics say, the fact remains that Oz use to WIN matches ANYWHERE, so did the Windies. India don't - they draw series away from home.

  • __PK on August 3, 2011, 22:21 GMT

    Very fine article, except for the overly-opinionated bits, like the "Sheesh" and the digs at T20 right at the end, to leave a sour final impression.

  • Shan156 on August 3, 2011, 20:34 GMT

    A more appropriate comparison would be with the Aussie team of the 90s/noughties:

    Sehwag > Hayden (but, just) Gambhir > Langer (look at the average) Dravid > Ponting Tendulkar > S.Waugh Laxman > M.Waugh Ganguly = Martyn Dhoni < Gilchrist (but Dhoni has better stats in the sub-continent and is also the captain) Harbhajan < Warne (but Indian players play Warne better than Aussies play Harbhajan) Khan < McGrath (only because Khan had poor stats at the beginning of his career but he is deadly against left-handers and would swallow the left-handed Aussie openers every time) Ishant = Lee (potentially) Praveen = Gillespie (potentially)

  • Shan156 on August 3, 2011, 20:29 GMT

    @khiladisher,

    How can you say that about this great Indian team? Let's do a quick comparison with the great WI team of the 80s:

    Sehwag >>> Greenidge, (at least, potentially) Gambhir = Haynes, Dravid >>>> Gomes/Richardson/Logie, Tendulkar > Richards, Laxman > Lloyd, Raina < Kallicharran, Dhoni > Dujon/Murray, Harbhajan > Harper, Ishant < Garner, Praveen << Holding, Khan < Marshall

    If you take Ganguly instead of Raina, then he would be better than Kallicharran. Similarly, had West Indies played Roberts instead of Harper, then it would be equal since Roberts has better stats but Harbhajan is a spinner and so can add more value in some wickets, especially sub-continent wickets. Besides, Harbhajan has taken more than 400 wickets.

    Also, Ishant and Praveen are youngsters and can potentially emulate the great West Indian quicks. At the moment, they may not be as good though. Zaheer had poor stats at the beginning of his career. Otherwise, he is as good as any WI bowling great.

  • F1959 on August 5, 2011, 13:41 GMT

    Gideon, The way I look at this is that there was only one team that other were actuall scared and terrified to play against ......... and that was the West Indies team of the 1980's .......... to me that sets them apart from all the others ...... what say you?? Interesting concept eh?

  • Beertjie on August 4, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    One small point of difference with @Meety who makes many excellent points. Where is the evidence of "the the strong Poms of the 50s & 60s"? OK, Gideon mentions the "dynasty" of the 50's, but the 60's? Give me a break! Only regained the Ashes in '70-71 against an Aussie team crushed 4-0 the year before. Won in the WI in '68 because of a crazy gamble by Sobers. Otherwise mostly a decidedly inferior team. But the point about the Saffas will remain a great pub argument.

  • Bollo on August 4, 2011, 8:34 GMT

    shan156, as I`m sure many others have noticed, you seem to have an extremely exaggerated belief in the abilities of many of the Indian cricketers you mention.

    `Zaheer had poor stats at the beginning of his career. Otherwise, he is as good as any WI bowling great.` - comments such as this reveal the depth of your delusions.

  • harshthakor on August 4, 2011, 3:23 GMT

    my best teams in order of merit.

    1.1948 Aussie team led by Bradman 2.1984 and 1980 West Indies team led by Clive Lloyd 4.Aussie teams led by Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting 6.West Indies teams led by Sobers in 1966 and Worrell in 1963. 8.1969 South African team

    Bradman's team would have beaten Lloyd's West Indies team in a photo -finish because of greater versatlity in bowling ,the phenomenal talent oif Bradman himself and inclusion of a great all-rounder in Keith Miller.No team had greater killer instinct and professionalism than the recent Aussie teams led by Ponting and Waugh..1970 Springboks were almost as good as anyone with Graeme Pollock,Barry Richards and Mike Procter.

  • Bollo on August 4, 2011, 1:20 GMT

    Lots of interesting questions to ponder...how would the West Indians have fared if required to bowl more than 70 overs a day? The modern Aussies without helmets against the West Indians? Bradman`s team in the professional era? As I`ve said before, I think any of these teams would have been at a significant disadvantage if asked to play under the rules/playing conditions of a different era. Each team was exceptionally well-adapted to how cricket was played at a particular time.

  • Bollo on August 4, 2011, 0:59 GMT

    @shan156. a composite of the great recent Aus team/current India would probably look like this; Sehwag, Hayden, Ponting, Tendulkar, S.Waugh, Laxman, Gilchrist, Warne, Gillespie, Zaheer, McGrath. Not bloody bad at all.

    An ODI compsite of the same teams, maybe; Tendulkar, Gilchrist, Ponting, M.Waugh, S.Waugh, Ganguly, Symonds, Lee, Warne, Zaheer, McGrath.

  • Meety on August 4, 2011, 0:48 GMT

    @Bodhi Das - the Saffas possibly COULD of had the greatest team of all time except for their isolation. Since then though - they have never come CLOSE to being a dominant team, always very good, never great! @Razzi2003 - LOL! Good gee up! @Parikshit Kulkarni - LOL! It is a bit like that!!!!! @Shan156 - look after that one eye of yours! One of the WORST analysis I've ever seen! Whatever the individual statistics say, the fact remains that Oz use to WIN matches ANYWHERE, so did the Windies. India don't - they draw series away from home.

  • __PK on August 3, 2011, 22:21 GMT

    Very fine article, except for the overly-opinionated bits, like the "Sheesh" and the digs at T20 right at the end, to leave a sour final impression.

  • Shan156 on August 3, 2011, 20:34 GMT

    A more appropriate comparison would be with the Aussie team of the 90s/noughties:

    Sehwag > Hayden (but, just) Gambhir > Langer (look at the average) Dravid > Ponting Tendulkar > S.Waugh Laxman > M.Waugh Ganguly = Martyn Dhoni < Gilchrist (but Dhoni has better stats in the sub-continent and is also the captain) Harbhajan < Warne (but Indian players play Warne better than Aussies play Harbhajan) Khan < McGrath (only because Khan had poor stats at the beginning of his career but he is deadly against left-handers and would swallow the left-handed Aussie openers every time) Ishant = Lee (potentially) Praveen = Gillespie (potentially)

  • Shan156 on August 3, 2011, 20:29 GMT

    @khiladisher,

    How can you say that about this great Indian team? Let's do a quick comparison with the great WI team of the 80s:

    Sehwag >>> Greenidge, (at least, potentially) Gambhir = Haynes, Dravid >>>> Gomes/Richardson/Logie, Tendulkar > Richards, Laxman > Lloyd, Raina < Kallicharran, Dhoni > Dujon/Murray, Harbhajan > Harper, Ishant < Garner, Praveen << Holding, Khan < Marshall

    If you take Ganguly instead of Raina, then he would be better than Kallicharran. Similarly, had West Indies played Roberts instead of Harper, then it would be equal since Roberts has better stats but Harbhajan is a spinner and so can add more value in some wickets, especially sub-continent wickets. Besides, Harbhajan has taken more than 400 wickets.

    Also, Ishant and Praveen are youngsters and can potentially emulate the great West Indian quicks. At the moment, they may not be as good though. Zaheer had poor stats at the beginning of his career. Otherwise, he is as good as any WI bowling great.

  • anikbrad on August 3, 2011, 18:56 GMT

    I BELIEVE THAT THE TEAM OF AUS 2000 WAS THE BEST TEAM AS THEY WER MOST COMPLETE 3 GOOD PACERS MCG,LEE AND GILI, 2 GOOD SPINNERS WA & MCGL, 2 GREAT OPNS HAY/LANG- BEST POSSIBLE MID ORDER PONT, STEVE, MARTIN, ALONG WITH BEST WK OF AL TIME GILLY. EVEN THE WI WOULD BE 2ND WITH LOYED TEAM WITH BEST PACE QADRET EVER, BEST EVER OPR PAIR AND GRET MIDDLE ORDER. I KIP THEM 2ND ONLY BECAUSE OF NO SPIN AND WK WISE GILLY OR HEALY IS FAR AHEAD. 3RD IS THE BRADMAN TEAM THEY WERE NOT REALY TESTED AS OTHER TEAMS EXP ENG WERE ALL TOO POOR FOR TAT BREAT TEAM, WHEREAS THE 1ST 2 TEAMS HARD TOP SA, ENG, PAK AND IND TO COMPETE 70 WI HAD ALL THE TEAM IT PLAYED AT THEY PRIME BUT THEY EVEN BEAT THEM. 4TH IS THIS TEAM OF 70S SA THAT WE LOST THEY IF PLAY COULD B THE BEST TEAM EVER. BUT ALAS WE LOST TEM. IND IN 2007 WAS THE BEST TM WITH GAM/SWE/DRA/TEND/LAX/GANG/DHONI/ ZAK/KUMB/BHAJJI. BUT THEY PLAYED TOGETER MAY BE ONLY 2 YRS. IN THAT PRD WE LOST 2 OUT OF 20 TEST ABROAD. AND WON EVERY THING 2006-2008

  • on August 3, 2011, 16:17 GMT

    Now thats a great and classic article for all you bloggists- well balanced, factual ,objective,and well supported by RESEARCH.Being a proud West Indian i revel in the fact that we put the professionalism in cricket...and umpiring... after that dreadful 1975-76 Aus series...mikey holding did not have to kick down stumps again..Clive Lloyd did it on his own forget de jack asses at the board..it is he who is singlehandedly responsible for this ..it was he who created the model..and executed for 15 years of pure ecstssy in the Caribbean and all this done with the flamboyance of the West Indian batsmen..the bowlers seem to occupy most writers minds because it was the first time anyone dared to use 4 fast bowlers and no specialist spinner!...man ..just writing this evokes emotions that I experienced then ..sitting in the Queens Park Oval..thanks guys

  • on August 3, 2011, 15:54 GMT

    I've a deadline to my project by tonight (3 hrs away) & been slogging all day. Then just a bit of a break to relax & got onto this piece. Maaaann .. now I can't go back to work .. its only images of players, teams & eras that my mind wants to think of now. Curse on you Gideon if I'm fired tomorrow morning.

  • on August 3, 2011, 14:16 GMT

    u r da best cricinfo ...u team up something that happended ages bak and something that happend just afew days ago...continue this good work :)

  • harshthakor on August 3, 2011, 13:19 GMT

    I personally rate Bradman's invincibles and Clive Lloyd's West Indian team as the greatest of all time.Bradman's team may have had the marginal edge because of greater versatality in the bowling department , the batting power of the Don himself and because it also posessed a great all-rounder in Keith Miller.Lloyd's team had the best pace attack ever and great batsman.Very closely behind are the recent Australian champion sides led by Ponting and Steve Waugh ,who posessed more killer instinct and professionalism than any great team and the West Indian teams led by Worrell and Sobers.The South African team of 1970 too is in the bracket with the likes of Barry Richards,Mike Procter and the Pollock brothers .

  • on August 3, 2011, 10:18 GMT

    Believe,Asussies of the 2000 were staistically the best in living cricket history!They not only dominated but simply ripped the heart out of opposition!

  • on August 3, 2011, 8:57 GMT

    i guess west indies of 70 and 80 was greatest side and Aussies of 1999 till 2007 was equally good, in the last decade south africa too has done well to be there at the top, the current indian side have to win test series in south africa and australia to show that they too can be named with the best imran khan pakistan never lost to formidable west indies of 80 and 90

  • Bollo on August 3, 2011, 8:28 GMT

    @khiladisher. I hardly think `History will remember 2008-2011 as the Indian era`, considering Australia were ranked No.1 until mid-2009, followed by South Africa, then India, and soon, in all likelihood, England. 4 different teams at No.1 in a period of only 2 years or so will surely be seen as a period of transition.

    I agree with Meety, it`s extremely difficult to compare these teams, considering the very different rules/conditions they played under.

  • Ashwinthatha on August 3, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    Agreed, but India can boast of all time greats like Gavaskar, Kapil and now Sachin.

  • Ashwinthatha on August 3, 2011, 6:57 GMT

    What a nice and balanced article! The West Indies team during the 80s and 90s was certainly the greatest in all departments, be it batting, bowling or fielding. Remember Richards magnificient fileding in the 79 World cup. More commendable is the West Indies contribution to the Spirit of the game. How can one forget the greatnessofCourtney Walsh,when he refused to runout Abdul Quadir? They did not mind losing the match and getting knocked out. The other worthy of mention act, would be the great leadership of Allan Border, He was the one to start putting Aussies as the No 1. Taylor, Waugh and Ponting only followed.

  • Meety on August 3, 2011, 2:24 GMT

    Brilliant article Gideon! I think the 1970s were the best years of cricket, (slightly ahead of the 80s). The 70s would of been way ahead of every decade if it hadn't been for the Apartheid Sth Africa. Without possibly one of the greastest sides (Sth Africa), there was a strong England, emerging West Indies, & a strong Oz (allowing for the World Series defections). Add to that Pakistan & India were on the rise as well. The 80s were good but it realy was a case of good contests ONLY when it didn't involve the West Indies because they were so good (WI v Pakis being the only real exception). NZ were very strong during the 80s. In the end it is a mouth watering proposition Bradman's Invincibles v the Calypso Kings of the 70s & 80s v the Ozzys of '95 to 2005 v the great Saffas that never were v the strong Poms of the 50s & 60s. As stated above, the "dynamic" nature of cricket makes it impossible to fairly compare sides more than a few decades apart. Great pub arguements though!!!!!

  • RandyOZ on August 2, 2011, 23:41 GMT

    Good article Gideon. It's a shame the current administration in Australia is such a shambles, with only dollar signs in their eyes and what seems like little care for the state of our national team. If only they realised that the more we dwell in the doldrums of test cricket, the more fans and kids we are going to lose to other sports. The Don would be rolling in his grave at our selection policies and seeming lack of interest in coaching the basics of good test cricket technique. The one bright side is that, knownig how dominant Australia has been at test cricket over the past century, we should be able to ride our way out of this slump (and hopefully this is facilitated by a max exodus of the administration at CA after the Argus review is released!)

  • khiladisher on August 2, 2011, 21:22 GMT

    Compared to the great west Indian and Australian teams,that had great all round team in batting-bowling and fielding-the current#1 team India has champion batsmen like sehwag-sachin-rahul -laxman and gambhir-but the bowling and fielding are below par-the fitness levels of this Indian team is pathetic.History will remember 2008-2011 as the Indian era.The English team of 2011 looks set to take over the mantle from this Indian team. When zaheer khan retires,he will be known as the last great Indian swing bowler.The Indian shelf after champions retire looks pretty empty.

  • BillyCC on August 2, 2011, 21:09 GMT

    The only way you can compare teams is by their results, their balance and their opposition. The Australian dynasty of the 1990s and 2000s had the better balance, with a wicketkeeper who could win matches at No.7, arguably the greatest spinner of all time, and one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time. The West Indies dynasty had the better overall results; they did not lose a series. The Australian dynasty won more test matches and dominated more series. The West Indies had the better quality of opposition by a slim margin. Pakistan, India in India, New Zealand and England were decent sides back in those days (Australia were decimated after Chappell, Lillee, Marsh retirements). Australia in the 1990s and 2000s contended with South Africa, also India in India and the West Indies pre 2000s were still a decent side. Overall, it is very hard to judge who is the better dynasty.

  • crikkfan on August 2, 2011, 19:10 GMT

    Wow..what an article. Beautifully takes us down the memory lane. Gideon Haigh certainly sets the standards for quality cricket articles

  • on August 2, 2011, 18:31 GMT

    Beautifully Written Sir... I think Test Cricket Followers Would increase by Reading This Beautiful Piece Itself!! Too Good...

  • khiladisher on August 2, 2011, 16:46 GMT

    India is the current #1 ranking team in test match cricket-however its not a perfect team-its a collection of champion players like sehwag,sachin,dravid,laxman,zaheer and a very talented young player in gambhir,and on the other hand you have ordinary average test match players like harbhajan,dhoni,yuvraj ,raina[who have no clue whats happening on a cricket pitch with seam-swing and bounce}- The english team on the other hand do not have champion players or legends but have a great cricket team with 11 highly skilled talented and hard working players-take it from me 2-3 players from this english team will end up as legends in the future -If this english team beats india in india and sri lanka in srilanka in 2012-this team will be the undisputed cricket champion in the world.They are yet to prove their worth in slow spinning pitches,however this english team might prove all wrong.

  • on August 2, 2011, 16:12 GMT

    Good article . As a suggestion i like if you had mentioned about 96 WC winning Sri Lankan team.They had been dominated ODI cricket that time.. :)

  • NALINWIJ on August 2, 2011, 15:44 GMT

    Marvelous article on the greatest sides.For sustained greatness the west indies post packer and Australia between 1995 and 2007 stands alone. India""s hold on world number one is likely to be short with the soon to retire aging stars propping up the batting and India having to rebuild before next world cup. Will England be the next force and will they last any longer than the English of the fifties? For a collections of legends the Australians of 1902 and 1948 may be the most noteworthy and there will be justifiable comparisons with what could have been the great South Africans of 1970. Who cares about the T20 legends??

  • Razzi2003 on August 2, 2011, 15:44 GMT

    They are nothing, India's current team is all time great.

  • on August 2, 2011, 15:41 GMT

    It's strange.....we donot Find South Africa's name...who rose to the top of the table.....with some quality wins under their baggy..........

  • _NEUTRAL_Fan_ on August 2, 2011, 15:35 GMT

    I actually beg to differ that Ind is the most attractive to watch. I would say their BATTING is the most attractive especially with Sehwag in full flow. I think as a complete team, it would be SA. Steyn's bowling is beautiful and well complimented by a deadly Morkel. AB is extremely entertaining and skillful, Kallis admirable, Smith tough, Prince gritty, Amla silky, Alviro classical and Boucher tidy and their overall fielding tends to be quite thrilling. What SA lack is the mental toughness that Ind has and the confidence that Eng has.

  • Rakim on August 2, 2011, 14:42 GMT

    West Indies (70s/80s) are greatest of them all, and in 90s/00s Australians. India has great players like Dravid, Sachin and VVS Laxman but their bowling is ridiculous, so you can't put them amongst the greatest.

  • Steepy on August 2, 2011, 13:48 GMT

    Hear hear Gideon on your last comment. I can remember watching Doug Walters' 94 not out in Sydney in 1968 very clearly. Fast forward 40 some years - now as a television producer and director of cricket, I don't have much memory at all about the most recent T20 event or ODI event that I did. The nature of Test cricket lends itself to strong memories, and when one can remember a number of individual Tests, you can then establish the concept of 'dynastic' teams. I never thought I could see a better team than Ian Chappell's until Clive Lloyd's came along. And so it goes. Very few sports allow for this great arc of memory. Peter Steep

  • DwightR on August 2, 2011, 13:48 GMT

    as for your shot at T20, T20 can only be successful in a club format, in a system similiar to the american nba, nhl & nfl, the IPL & champions league could create those dynasties if they used a system similiar where teams draft n sign players rather than auction every year which does not lead to consistent teams with fan loyalty. the basic structure of the IPL needs to change and T20 needs to be given a proper window in the ICC calender to be given a chance to create its own legends, timeless moments and dynasty`s.

  • DwightR on August 2, 2011, 13:45 GMT

    great topic! I think the dynasty "finals" would be (80's- 95) West Indies vs (96- 2010) Australia. looking at all the other teams in your article, the had great players and timeless moments in history but pure domination consistently over a period of time is what makes you a dynasty which only these two teams fill. The fact is that the West Indies were feared n unbeatable for 15 yrs with legends being created during their run vs the Australian machine for 15yrs who churned out legends as well and was the model for cricket perfection. Unless we were able to see warne n mcgrath bowl to viv & clive or see the holding, garner, croft, roberts, marhsall, ambrose, & walsh tryin to take the heads of gilchrist, hayden, taylor, the waughs & pointing there is no way to settle who is the greatest dynasty but i can tell you Mr. Haigh that it is definetly one of these two teams.

  • vichan on August 2, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    Greatest post-war teams? Australia of 1948, England of 1954/55, South Africa of 1969/70, West Indies of 1984 and Australia of 1999/00. I have a feeling that, in the next two or three years, either the current England or South African sides will join this elite list...more probably the former, given their strength in depth and better balance.

  • Mark00 on August 2, 2011, 13:33 GMT

    What a load of rubbish. Aside from Laxman and Dravid, no current Indian batsman has the technique or temperament to handle a squad of hostile fast bowlers. Even then, only Laxman has played the kinds of innings that could be considered, unquestionably, "great." I know BCCI owns the ICC, nowadays, but that doesn't mean that every other writer has to start tugging on their ... coat-tails with the misguided hope that trickle down economics isn't an entirely bankrupt concept.

  • harshthakor on August 2, 2011, 13:31 GMT

    Ultimately it was a photo-finish between Bradman's invincibles and Clive Lloyd's West Indies team of the 1980's.The latter had the best ever pace attck with great batsmen while the former had greater variations in bolwing with the likes iof Lindwall and Miller in addition to a great batting line -up and a great all-rounder in Keioth Miller.Very closely behind would be Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting's Aussie teams and the 1966 West Indies team led by Gary Sobers or the 1963 side led by Frank Worrell..The recent Aussise teams had greater professionalism and killer instinct than any team before but did not match the talent of the team's led by Bradman and Lloyd.

  • aa61761 on August 2, 2011, 13:30 GMT

    Comparing current Indian team with the greats of past, WHAT a Joke? Mr. Haigh - the ordinary England is rubbing the nose of your great Indian team in mud. The fact is the current Indian team has no world class bowler and only 3 great batsmen (Tendulkar, Dravid and Shewag, rest are just ordinary). It looks to me that BCCI has a lot of clout, every one feels obligated to kiss the behind of India.

  • WestIndies1987 on August 2, 2011, 13:25 GMT

    It's tough to compare teams from different eras but I am just glad that our little region known as the WEST INDIES was able to overcome all the odds and be one of the best sporting teams ever. One thing that was interesting about us compared to other top teams is that we did not have either a spinner or a genuine allrounder during our dominant period.

  • dh0922 on August 2, 2011, 12:54 GMT

    I see the current India team is mentioned on here. Are they considered one of the Dynasties?

    (Which are the greatest dynasties of them all? )

  • Bollo on August 2, 2011, 11:24 GMT

    I would suggest that if you asked any of the great teams to play under the rules/playing conditions under which another played they would have been at a significant disadvantage. Very difficult to compare, they were simply the great teams of their time.

  • on August 2, 2011, 10:46 GMT

    Brilliantly put. Thank you!

  • TomHastings on August 2, 2011, 10:39 GMT

    Gideon, terrific piece, but I can't believe you forgot the champion player who made Ian Chappell's Australians the superb team they were.

  • JimDavis on August 2, 2011, 9:44 GMT

    Gideon, In standing up for T20 I put forward the Victorian Bushrangers - 2006-2008. Who lost only once if the first 3 years. (A bit like Preston North End in English Football). A team including such (now regarded) T20 heavyweights as - Hodge, White, D Hussey, and Nannes. Plus handy support from the second tier - McDonald, Mckay, Quiney, Harwood... As the T20 revolution gathered pace, it really was a joy to watch these guys play without over analysing what they were doing.

  • kasyapm on August 2, 2011, 9:30 GMT

    Excellent post. Everything put so subtly. Thoroughly enjoyed the article.

  • SzlyAr on August 2, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    I think the West Indian team were highly powerful compared to the Superstars they possessed. There was no escaping from the 11 on the field and a some of them on bench. You were not only talking about a strong team but a brutally dominant team. Australia under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting I reckon would be on par with them for they did not had brutally dominating players but they had some of the dangerous players in their ranks.

  • on August 2, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    Thank you Gideon. This was a beautiful wander down memory lane and beyond.

  • ragomsk on August 2, 2011, 9:20 GMT

    It is due to writing like this that the changes in the game can be traced. Imagine if there were no Neville Cardus, Wisden, EW Swanton to write the immortal words of the games of their days for us to devour and ruminate!!! I think an assessment can be done by considering the romance that was involved.After the first tied test between Australia and the West Indies in 1961 Sir Donal Bradman told Mr. Richie Benaud "This match has saved Test cricket." You read about Doug Walters playing cards in the dressing room and when told he is due to bat next he picked up a set of darts threw them on the board and said he was warmed up! You read about Sir Colin Cowdrey batting with an arm in splints to save a test match. You do not get that kind of stories any more.I would pick the West Indies team of the 1960s and 1970s as the best names like Conrad Hunte, the three Ws, Sobers, Kanhai, Nurse, Hall, Gibbsi!! Immortals all!!!

  • farazzubair on August 2, 2011, 8:47 GMT

    An excellent article!If I were to chose one dominant era, it would for sure be the West Indian era of dominance. Its not the winning streak alone. Its the fear of the coming. In that pre-WI era of the late 70's and the 80's, a tour of or by the WI meant that scores of the greatest batsmen and allrounders of the rival team had weeks of sleepless nights. The fear of the pace attack, the would be pain and victimisation of the greatest batsmen, the fear of a failure against the pace attack and of physical injuries.The fear instilled in the best of bowlers by the dynamic batting line up of Richards, Greenidge, Lloyd and the wonderful support acts of Desmond Haynes, Roy Fredricks, kallicharan, Richardson and Dujon.The invincibles as rightly stated were only about a tour of a team, who knows how far they would have gone with the length of time.Australian dominance in the late 90's and early 2000's to me is basically of other teams fading out on challenging bowlers and very few genuine batsmen

  • Thebaldgit on August 2, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    As usual another excellent article by Gideon Haigh regarding the greatest team in cricket history. I expect it is just about impossible to come up with a definitive answer as the game has spread over 100 years. He is of course correct to say that Bradman's invincibles of 1948 had an incredible advantage with a new ball every 55 overs and that the West Indies 4 prong pace attack enjoying that added bonus would be even more frightening than they already were. It is obvious that any test team over the ages that could beat them would have to deal with that pace attack on any surface over a five test series.

  • on August 2, 2011, 8:23 GMT

    I don't know when this was written, but India the most exciting to watch? Must be from before their tour of England

  • TheCaptayne on August 2, 2011, 7:21 GMT

    I was thinking about the fact that at any one time there is rarely more than one great team, and wondered whether the pre-eminance of one great team actually prevents other teams from being great - stops excellent players in those teams from becoming great players, and hence stunts the growth of those teams.

    So on that basis, the Aussies of the 1990s and 2000s could only become great once the Windies of the 70s and 80s had started to fade.

  • johnathonjosephs on August 2, 2011, 5:42 GMT

    LOL at the author trying to include India's current team as one of the all time greats ( or even mentioning them)..... Even the current Sri Lankan team had a similar record at home (Indians only played at home btw) during that period.... That being said, nobody can compare to the West Indian team, and I haven't seen the "invincibles" but I can assure you the Australian empire of last 20 years was better, judging by the fact that we have more factors these days like reverse swing, doosras, more than 2 countries playing, etc.

  • Mark00 on August 2, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    The author wrote "Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan, Dhoni himself,woudl succeed in any age."

    Surely a serious dose of hyperbole there. The only batsmen on that list whose average hasn't been inflated by bouncer restrictions are Dravid and Laxman who are the only Indian batsmen who can play the pull and hook with control and authority. To be fair, Sachin, one could argue, would have had the discipline to be a gavaskar and simply duck the bouncers until the bowlers got tired. Zaheer Khan is no world-beater either. A solid performer at best. India's number one status is due to the rules, from bouncers to UDRS, being catered to their benefit as well as unprecedented weakness in other teams from aging australia to ban-ridden pakistan.

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  • Mark00 on August 2, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    The author wrote "Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Zaheer Khan, Dhoni himself,woudl succeed in any age."

    Surely a serious dose of hyperbole there. The only batsmen on that list whose average hasn't been inflated by bouncer restrictions are Dravid and Laxman who are the only Indian batsmen who can play the pull and hook with control and authority. To be fair, Sachin, one could argue, would have had the discipline to be a gavaskar and simply duck the bouncers until the bowlers got tired. Zaheer Khan is no world-beater either. A solid performer at best. India's number one status is due to the rules, from bouncers to UDRS, being catered to their benefit as well as unprecedented weakness in other teams from aging australia to ban-ridden pakistan.

  • johnathonjosephs on August 2, 2011, 5:42 GMT

    LOL at the author trying to include India's current team as one of the all time greats ( or even mentioning them)..... Even the current Sri Lankan team had a similar record at home (Indians only played at home btw) during that period.... That being said, nobody can compare to the West Indian team, and I haven't seen the "invincibles" but I can assure you the Australian empire of last 20 years was better, judging by the fact that we have more factors these days like reverse swing, doosras, more than 2 countries playing, etc.

  • TheCaptayne on August 2, 2011, 7:21 GMT

    I was thinking about the fact that at any one time there is rarely more than one great team, and wondered whether the pre-eminance of one great team actually prevents other teams from being great - stops excellent players in those teams from becoming great players, and hence stunts the growth of those teams.

    So on that basis, the Aussies of the 1990s and 2000s could only become great once the Windies of the 70s and 80s had started to fade.

  • on August 2, 2011, 8:23 GMT

    I don't know when this was written, but India the most exciting to watch? Must be from before their tour of England

  • Thebaldgit on August 2, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    As usual another excellent article by Gideon Haigh regarding the greatest team in cricket history. I expect it is just about impossible to come up with a definitive answer as the game has spread over 100 years. He is of course correct to say that Bradman's invincibles of 1948 had an incredible advantage with a new ball every 55 overs and that the West Indies 4 prong pace attack enjoying that added bonus would be even more frightening than they already were. It is obvious that any test team over the ages that could beat them would have to deal with that pace attack on any surface over a five test series.

  • farazzubair on August 2, 2011, 8:47 GMT

    An excellent article!If I were to chose one dominant era, it would for sure be the West Indian era of dominance. Its not the winning streak alone. Its the fear of the coming. In that pre-WI era of the late 70's and the 80's, a tour of or by the WI meant that scores of the greatest batsmen and allrounders of the rival team had weeks of sleepless nights. The fear of the pace attack, the would be pain and victimisation of the greatest batsmen, the fear of a failure against the pace attack and of physical injuries.The fear instilled in the best of bowlers by the dynamic batting line up of Richards, Greenidge, Lloyd and the wonderful support acts of Desmond Haynes, Roy Fredricks, kallicharan, Richardson and Dujon.The invincibles as rightly stated were only about a tour of a team, who knows how far they would have gone with the length of time.Australian dominance in the late 90's and early 2000's to me is basically of other teams fading out on challenging bowlers and very few genuine batsmen

  • ragomsk on August 2, 2011, 9:20 GMT

    It is due to writing like this that the changes in the game can be traced. Imagine if there were no Neville Cardus, Wisden, EW Swanton to write the immortal words of the games of their days for us to devour and ruminate!!! I think an assessment can be done by considering the romance that was involved.After the first tied test between Australia and the West Indies in 1961 Sir Donal Bradman told Mr. Richie Benaud "This match has saved Test cricket." You read about Doug Walters playing cards in the dressing room and when told he is due to bat next he picked up a set of darts threw them on the board and said he was warmed up! You read about Sir Colin Cowdrey batting with an arm in splints to save a test match. You do not get that kind of stories any more.I would pick the West Indies team of the 1960s and 1970s as the best names like Conrad Hunte, the three Ws, Sobers, Kanhai, Nurse, Hall, Gibbsi!! Immortals all!!!

  • on August 2, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    Thank you Gideon. This was a beautiful wander down memory lane and beyond.

  • SzlyAr on August 2, 2011, 9:21 GMT

    I think the West Indian team were highly powerful compared to the Superstars they possessed. There was no escaping from the 11 on the field and a some of them on bench. You were not only talking about a strong team but a brutally dominant team. Australia under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting I reckon would be on par with them for they did not had brutally dominating players but they had some of the dangerous players in their ranks.

  • kasyapm on August 2, 2011, 9:30 GMT

    Excellent post. Everything put so subtly. Thoroughly enjoyed the article.