Sir Donald Bradman, Australia
Most cricket lovers would rank Donald Bradman as the greatest cricketer of all time. This is because in one discipline of cricket – batting – he is undoubtedly head and shoulders above anyone who has ever played the game. In fact, you’ve to go a long way to find anyone who has dominated their sport as much as Bradman did in the 1930s and 1940s. Perhaps Jack Nicklaus in golf and Michael Johnson in 400 metre running are two other examples.
Time and again Bradman won matches and test series for Australia, literally off his own bat. His batting average is about 50 per cent better than any other batsman in the 130-year history of test cricket. Normally a player who scores one century every four tests is considered a legend. Bradman hit 29 centuries in 52 test matches. He would have played far more tests and set ever greater records if the Second World War hadn’t meant that test match cricket wasn’t played for six years.
Sir Jack Hobbs, England
Up until the emergence of Bradman, Hobbs was undoubtedly the finest batsman cricket had ever seen. He was simply known as ‘The Master’ and some die-hard England fans argue that he was actually better than Bradman
Statistically he was a colossus. He scored more runs and centuries than any other player in the history of the game (see Chapter 16 for more on his mindboggling achievements). Like Bradman he lost potentially the best years of his career to a World War. In Hobbs’ case the First World War ate into his career as test cricket stopped for the duration of hostilities. It was said that only one player was finer than Hobbs after the First World War, and that was Hobbs before the First World War.
Sachin Tendulkar, India
At age 16 – when most youngsters are fretting about their acne or what ring tone to have on their mobile – Sachin Tendulkar was making his debut in a test match for India. He was an instant hit; a master batsman while still only a boy. In the decade and a half since his debut, Tendulkar’s bright light of talent has remained undimmed.
He has won test matches almost single-handed and is an Indian cricketing and cultural icon. Donald Bradman said that Tendulkar plays the game as he used too – praise comes no higher than that. To date he has scored more than 10,000 runs and made 34 test match centuries.
Sir Gary Sobers, West Indies
Garfied St Auburn Sobers – or just Gary Sobers for short – is probably the only man to have a justifiable case to be considered a greater cricketer than Donald Bradman. He was a bit of cricketing freak, because he could do just about anything. He could bowl fast.
He could swing the ball and he could bowl both varieties of spin. In addition, he was, undoubtedly, the finest left handed batsman to have ever played the game. In test matches he scored more than 8,000 runs and took 235 wickets. But the raw statistics do not do full justice to how great a player Sobers was.
As a batsman he was capable of laying waste the bowling. One of his most famous exploits was to hit six sixes in one over delivered by Glamorgan bowler Malcolm Nash in 1968. Sobers was also a very astute captain of the West Indies and a top class fielder. In short, he had it all and stands out as a genius.
In 2000 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack named Warne as one of the five most important cricketers of the twentieth century and some would suggest that he should be ranked number one. He re-invented the art of leg-spin bowling – see Chapter 6 for more on this type of bowling – and has been key to Australia’s success over the past decade