We asked over 30 players (current and former), commentators, cricket writers and other insiders to pick their top three cricketers of the 2000s. Each No. 1 vote fetches a player three points; No. 2, two; No. 3, one. The results will be announced on January 14. Meanwhile, a look at some of the contenders.
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Audio/Video: From Launceston to the top of the world
Players/Officials: Shivnarine Chanderpaul | Rahul Dravid | Adam Gilchrist | Matthew Hayden | Inzamam-ul-Haq | Mahela Jayawardene | Jacques Kallis | Brian Lara | Mohammad Yousuf | Muthiah Muralidaran | Ricky Ponting | Kumar Sangakkara | Graeme Smith | Sachin Tendulkar | Shane Warne
He was West Indies' leading run-scorer in Tests in the 2000s, and the second-highest in ODIs. He was also West Indies' go-to man in crises - and there were several - through most of the last 10 years. His golden period was in 2007 and 2008, when he averaged more than 100 in 13 Tests, scoring centuries in England, South Africa and New Zealand, and contributed more than 22% of the runs scored by his team. His ODI form has been outstanding as well - his run tally for the decade is second only to Chris Gayle among West Indians - with his average soaring to 67.36 in the last three years of the decade.
Only Ricky Ponting scored more Test runs than Dravid in the decade, but the context in which Dravid scored the runs was as important as the sheer number. He was one of the biggest contributors in ensuring India won consistently away from home, starring in Test victories in England, Australia, Pakistan and West Indies. He averaged 70.51 in Test wins against the top teams, with eight centuries in 29 matches. His ODI stats were pretty good as well - an average of 51.23 in wins against the top teams, and 57 in 14 World Cup matches in the decade.
He became the first wicketkeeper to score more than 5000 runs and could have played as a specialist batsman alone. Most of those runs were scored at No. 7, which made him the most successful batsman at that position in the decade, and gave the Australians enviable batting depth. His strike rate in Tests was an astonishing 82. He also scored more than 7000 ODI runs at a strike rate of 100. His World Cup record was exceptional - 861 runs at 43.05 and a strike rate of 104.61.
Only Ponting, Dravid and Kallis scored more Test runs than Hayden in the decade, and only Ponting had more centuries than Hayden's 29. He also notched up the second-highest Test score of the decade. With Justin Langer and Ponting, Hayden formed the most dominant top three in Tests, scoring almost 11,000 partnership runs with them. He was also immense in the subcontinent, averaging 50.39 in Tests in the subcontinent (excluding Bangladesh). His one-day record in the decade was excellent too, even more so in the big matches - he averaged 51.94 in 22 World Cup matches, and 58.66 in tournament finals.
Inzamam was Pakistan's biggest match-winner of the decade in Tests, scoring 2684 runs in victories at an amazing average of 83.87. Among all Test batsmen who scored at least 2500 runs in wins, no one averaged as much. His one-day stats were impressive too - an overall average of 39.57, which shot up to 52.49 in the matches that Pakistan won. He was especially prolific in home Tests, averaging 68.02. Apart from his batting exploits he also led Pakistan to more than a third of their wins in the decade - 11 out of 30 in Tests and 51 out of 151 in ODIs.
He was one of five batsmen to score more than 8000 Test runs in the decade, and only Ponting, Hayden and Kallis got more hundreds. His 374 against South Africa was the third-highest score of the decade. Like Inzamam, he was prolific at home, averaging 66.35 and scoring 16 of his 25 hundreds in Sri Lanka. He also led the side to 15 of their 44 Test wins and 54 out of 155 ODI wins, including an appearance in the 2007 World Cup final.
In terms of sheer numbers Jacques Kallis was unmatched in the decade - he had the third-highest run aggregate in Tests and the fifth-highest in ODIs, but apart from that he also took 205 wickets in Tests and 192 in ODIs. His Test average was the highest, and ODI average the second-highest, among batsmen who scored at least 5000 runs, while only Ponting and Hayden scored more Test hundreds. He also did well against tough opponents and in different conditions, averaging almost 47 against Australia and 54 in Asia. He also won 36 Man-of-the-Match awards - 15 in Tests, 20 in ODIs, and one in Twenty20s - which is only one short of Ponting's mark.
He made 6380 Test runs in this decade, of which 400 came in one innings, which remains the highest score in Tests. Chanderpaul was the only West Indian to score more runs than Lara in the 2000s. His best phase during the decade was a three-year period from 2003 to 2005, when he averaged more than 63, and scored 13 hundreds in 31 Tests. In 13 Tests against Australia over the decade, he scored four hundreds and averaged almost 48. He was also immense in the subcontinent, averaging 103 in six Tests, with five centuries.
Six bowlers took more Test wickets than McGrath, but in terms of effectiveness, he was second to none: among bowlers who took 100 Test wickets in the decade, McGrath's average was the best. It's hard to spot a kink in his record, for he did well in all conditions, against all opposition: his away average was a superb 19.96, and he was even better in Asia, averaging 17.08. In ODIs he had an economy rate of 3.78, among the best in the decade; his World Cup stats were outstanding - 47 wickets at 14.19 - while he was equally impressive in finals of ODI tournaments, averaging 15.20.
No bowler achieved the kind of numbers that Murali did in the decade - he took more wickets than anyone else in Tests and ODIs, and in Tests he was far ahead of his nearest competitor. His average is only marginally higher than McGrath's in Tests, while his ODI economy rate of 3.74 is next only to Shaun Pollock's 3.62. He took 49 five-fors and 20 ten-fors in Tests, both light years ahead of his nearest competitor. Even if you exclude matches against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, he took 428 wickets in 67 Tests at 23.25 apiece. In 20 World Cup matches he took 40 wickets at 16.75. He won 16 Man-of-the-Match awards in Tests, more than any other player.
He scored more runs and centuries in both forms of the game than any other batsman in this decade and was the only one to go past the 9000-mark in both forms. Ponting was one of only three batsmen - Kallis and Mohammad Yousuf were the others - to average more than 58 in Tests. He scored 55 centuries in international cricket, 13 clear of second-placed Sachin Tendulkar. The only team against whom his Test average was less than 50 was Sri Lanka (40.50 in six Tests). His World Cup record was exceptional - in 19 innings he scored 954 runs at an average of 59.62 and a strike-rate of 91.99. Apart from his phenomenal batting exploits, he also led Australia to 192 wins (40 Tests, 145 ODIs and 7 Twenty20s), including two World Cups and two Champions Trophies.
He was Sri Lanka's second-highest run-getter in both Tests and ODIs, and also contributed as captain and wicketkeeper. Kumar Sangakkara was Sri Lanka's most consistent batsman, averaging more than 40 in Tests against every team (41.91 against Australia, and 65.16 in Australia). When he didn't keep wicket, his average in Tests jumped to almost 74, with 14 centuries in 40 matches. He was easily Sri Lanka's best batsman in overseas Tests, and the only one to average more than 50. In ODIs too he did very well against the Australians, averaging 43.61 in 28 matches.
Among South Africans, only Kallis scored more runs than Smith. In this decade, Smith's overseas record was especially impressive - he averaged 56.06, the highest by a South African. He averaged more than 40 in ODIs too, and it increased to 47 in World Cup matches. Even more impressive, though, was what he achieved as captain, leading his team to 33 Test wins - more than any other South African captain - and 74 ODI wins. Under his leadership South Africa recorded historic Test series wins in Australia and England, and also briefly became the top-ranked Test team.
He was India's second-highest run-getter in Tests, and the world's second-highest in ODIs. His 42 centuries in international cricket was next only to Ponting's 55. The two aspects that stand out about Tendulkar are his performances against the best team of the decade, and in the biggest ODI tournament. He averaged 54.67 in 18 Tests against Australia, and 66.07 in Australia. In 44 ODIs against Australia he averaged 41.21. In all, he scored nine hundreds against Australia, next only to VVS Laxman's 10. His World Cup record was outstanding - average of 56.69 in 14 games - and he also brought out his A game in tournament finals.
He was the third-highest wicket-taker in Tests, after Murali and Makhaya Ntini, and also had the third-highest number of five-fors. His record away from home was particularly impressive - 226 wickets in 36 Tests at an average of 22.65. He struggled in India, but despite that his overall record in Asia was excellent - 88 wickets at 23.73. He won nine Man-of-the-Match awards, none of them against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe. However, he took only 81 ODI wickets, and didn't feature in either of the two World Cups during the decade.
Yousuf's biggest achievement came in 2006, when he scored 1788 Test runs, the most by any player in a year. His performances tapered thereafter, but he still finished with a decade average of more than 58, one of only three players to achieve this feat. He scored 23 hundreds in Tests and 13 in ODIs for a total that was the fifth-highest of the decade. His home record was superb in both forms of the game - he averaged 68.17 in Tests and 49.92 in ODIs.
Stats do not include scores in the Melbourne and Durban Tests, which started on 26 December 2009
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo
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