The 50 Greatest ODI Players of All Time: Part 5
Here’s Part 5 of a continuing series as our expert counts down to his list of 50 all-time ODI greats.
We are getting past the halfway point of this nine-part series and in this edition we’ll cover players from #28 to #23. At the end of this article, I’ll have a summary of the players we have ranked so far with all their stats in a single table for those interested in looking at the numbers in a single glance.
Let’s get started, we begin with four batsmen who scored at a frenetic pace in ODIs.
#28, #27, #26, #25
Let’s start with the stats - you’ll see four players with healthy averages and very positive scoring rates.
Ranking #28 as fourth on this list was straightforward. Despite the highest average and RPI, his lower quantum of achievement (about half the total career runs than the others in the table), coupled with his captaincy and selection challenges, despite all his talent, made it easy to put him behind the other three. #28 is Kevin Pietersen, incidentally the first English player on this list.
Deciding between players #25 and #27 was difficult. Based on stats, you’d think #27 should be ranked on top, with the highest RPI and the second best strike-rate of the three. I haven’t even mentioned his bowling yet, #27 is a handy bowler who has 156 wickets to date. #26 is an okay bowler with 95 wickets at an economy rate of 5.3, while #25 really didn’t bowl that much. But a deeper look at the batting stats (which we will get to in a minute) coupled with other intangibles made it hard to rank them any other way. #27 is Chris Gayle, #26 is Virender Sehwag and #25 is Brian Lara.
Let’s talk about Pietersen first before analyzing the Gayle-Sehwag-Lara debate. KP started his ODI career with a bang, equaling Richards’ record for the shortest time taken to reach 1000 runs in just 21 knocks. He averaged 65 at a strike-rate of 103 in his first full-year of cricket in 2005. He remained consistent over the next 3 years, with averages between 42 and 44 and strike-rates between 79 and 88 in the 2006-08 period. He had scored 7 of his 9 career centuries by 2008 as well, which started with a remarkable three centuries in a six-game stretch in his first big ODI series against South Africa. England won 4-1 (one game was tied) and Pietersen was named man-of-the-series. He also had two tons in the 2007 World Cup, one against Australia in Antigua in a Super Eight game and the other a match-winning 100(91) against the West Indies in Barbados where England chased down 301 and won by one wicket with a ball to spare! Had Pietersen sustained the ODI form he showed in the first half of his ODI career much longer, he would surely have featured higher on the list. Instead what followed was a lean patch - he only played 17 matches in 2009 and 2010 combined and had a below-20 average, with his place in the side under constant question. He bounced back in 2011 and then seemed to be back at his best with back-to-back hundreds against Pakistan in Dubai in February 2012 when he opened the batting. And then he announced a shock retirement from ODIs and T20s in May this year, only to change his mind a few weeks later and say he wants to play limited overs cricket for England over the next 3-4 years. Who knows if he will be picked…? To me, it’s a no brainer to have him in the XI in the opener role. England could use another few years of the prolific Pietersen.
On to the debate of the next three - Gayle, Sehwag and Lara. All of them are powerful batsmen - Lara the most stylish of the lot while you tend to think of Gayle and Sehwag as brute-strength hitters (though both are more than just that). All three have terrific hand-eye coordination. One of them, Brian Lara, was for a while considered the greatest batsman across all formats of the game. He singlehandedly carried the batting load for the West Indies through the 90s and took them to many a memorable victory. Lara won 30 man-of-the-match awards in ODIs. Sehwag and Gayle are match-winners in their own right, with 23 and 21 ODI man-of-the match awards respectively. From the numbers in the table above, Gayle might seem better statistically. But when you look a bit deeper, you’ll find Sehwag and Lara don’t have a drop-off in performance against quality oppositions.
Here are two tables - the first shows overall career stats. The second is stats against the other top 7 ODI cricket nations i.e. Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, England, New Zealand and India (for Gayle/Lara)/West Indies (for Sehwag).
You’ll see Gayle’s average drops by nearly 5 runs while Lara and Sehwag have a much smaller drop-off. Against the Top 7, Sehwag has a better average and a strike-rate of 103 vs. Gayle’s 85. Lara has the highest average and a strike rate close to 80, very respectable considering he played a major part of his career in the lower-scoring 1990s.You’ll notice 6 of Gayle’s 20 centuries and 17 of his 45 fifties have come against minnows, a much higher percentage than the other two. And now you see why he’s ranked below Sehwag and Lara.
None of the above should take away from the fact that Gayle is a phenomenal batsman who on his day can destroy even the best of bowling attacks. T20 is the format he is now most famous for, with a memorable performance in the opening match of the inaugural ICC WorldTwenty20 and two glorious seasons for Bangalore in the Indian T20 League. In ODIs, he has 20 centuries and now that he’s back in the squad he’ll be looking to add to the tally. His most important ODI hundred was his 133* against South Africa in the 2006 Champions Trophy semi in Jaipur. Chasing 262 for victory, Gayle took his side home to a comfortable win, staying unbeaten till the end. He’s had three super years in ODIs - 2002, 2003 and 2008 where he averaged about 50 or more, with strike-rates ranging from 80 to 91 in those years. Pretty stellar aggregate numbers, and watching him bat these days gives you the feeling he’s not letting up any time soon. That West Indies team is getting better with some match winners (Gayle, Pollard, guys like Russell and Sammy that can pull off one-off cameos) that will make them dangerous in limited overs cricket over the next few years.
If you think Gayle is a quick scorer, Virender Sehwag is at a whole other level. His strike-rate has exceeded 100 for each of the past five calendar years (and it should be six after 2012, he’s at 102 for the year so far). His best run came between 2008 and 2011, averaging 50, 45, 40 and 54 in each of those calendar years. He was part of the World Cup winning squad in 2011, his best knock in the event was his 175 in the opening game against Bangladesh. He also set the ODI world record for the highest score that year with his 219 off 149 balls against the West Indies in Indore. And the thing with Sehwag? He made scoring 200 in an ODI game look easy!
From the ODI record holder to the Test record holder, Brian Lara. For the longest time, he was West Indies cricket. With the side struggling in the 90s, Lara was the man who always gave them a puncher’s chance in Tests and limited overs. His ODI talent was on display early in his career; in 1993, he set the record at the time for most runs in the calendar year with 1349 runs at an average of 50 with four centuries. Back-to-back centuries came in South Africa in a tri-series that also involved Pakistan; Lara was man-of-the-series as the West Indies won the event. He also scored an epic 153 at Sharjah against Pakistan in the final of a tri-series, in a game I remember vividly. The West Indies were chasing an at-the-time mammoth 285 for victory after Basit Ali’s 79-ball 127* put Pakistan in a winning position. West Indies lost Haynes early, but Lara never put a foot wrong. He really went after Waqar Younis early on and used his feet brilliantly against a tricky Mushtaq Ahmed. He had support from Simmons and Aurthurton, and led the side to a comfortable six-wicket victory with 4.3 overs to spare. Lara was named man of the match (for the record he also won the award for “fielder of the series”). From there, Lara continued to flourish in ODIs and was at his best in the mid-90s where he averaged 67, 58, 58, 50 and 55 over a five-year span that included the 1996 World Cup. His most famous innings in that tournament was the 111(94) against the strong South Africa squad in the quarters and then of course the Proteas choked to give the Windies a 19-run win. His form dipped in his later years, and he retired after the 2007 World Cup. But there is no questioning the impact Brian Lara had on West Indies cricket and he is without a doubt one of the greatest batsmen the game has ever seen.
A couple of all-rounders are up next, one who is still in the midst of his career and can climb even higher. The other, a great English all-rounder (much better then Botham in ODIs), who did not do full justice to his talent because of injuries.
|#23- Shane Watson||154||4563||41.48||88.3||34.1||155||28.8||4.80||36.0||52|
|#24- Andrew Flintoff||141||3394||32.02||88.8||27.8||169||24.4||4.39||33.2||47|
Shane Watson is still in the middle of his career. But man, look at those numbers. A batting average of 41.5 at a strike-rate of 88 for an all-rounder! And an effective bowling strike-rate of 36, which happens to be better than Shane Warne and Wasim Akram. Andrew Flintoff is a tad behind as an overall player. He was a much better bowler; that strike-rate of 33.2 is much better than Watson (and therefore better than those other bowlers I mentioned above), and it puts him fifth on the list of all the bowlers on this list, three of whom we have already covered - Bond, Lee and Waqar. That actually shows you Freddie was a very effective wicket-taking bowler at a more than decent economy rate (for instance, Lee and Waqar had economy rates at 4.8 and 4.7). And he was no slouch with the bat, looking at that average and very high strike-rate. In the end, Watson’s better batting coupled with his longevity (and he’s still playing today) trumped Flintoff.
Let’s start with Freddie. With the bat, his peak came in 2004 when he hit all three of his career centuries, and averaged 57 at a strike-rate of 102. That included scores of 123, 106, 104 and 99 against four different teams that summer (albeit all in England). Like Kapil Dev, he’s had some hard-hitting 50s in the lower order that have propelled his side to big scores - like his 84(60) against Pakistan in Karachi to help England chase 305 for victory. With the ball, he has 8 hauls of four or more wickets including 2 fifers. One of those was his 5/19 in the deciding match of a bilateral series where he triggered a West Indies collapse from 124/3 to 146 all out in their chase of 173 in a rain-affected game. The thing about Flintoff’s bowling is that he was a ridiculously consistent and economical bowler in the late 2000s, going between 4.2 and 4.4 runs per over between 2006 and 2008 - one of the better marks of the time. His best bowling year came earlier though, in 2003, where he averaged 18.6 at an economy rate of 3.3 in 20 matches. Had injuries not plagued his career, Flintoff could have gone on to become the greatest ODI all-rounder of all-time. He still comes pretty close to the top, but he wasn’t as good as this next guy.
I had written a piece about Watson’s golden run back last year. In 2011, his bowling was off with an average of 41 but he made up for it with the bat averaging 57. In 2010, it was the other way round, his batting was okay at an average of 37 but his bowling made up for it where he averaged 23. In 2009, he was unbelievably good, a batting average of 51 and a bowling average of 21 - that is one of the best years for an all-rounder in ODIs. He has many career highlights:
- 136* in the 2009 Champions Trophy semi-final to go with his 2/35.
- 4/36 against Pakistan in Brisbane, a match where the visitors were running away towards a big score till Watson reined them in with key wickets of set batsmen Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi. Australia won with 9 balls to spare.
- 161* off 150 balls against England in Melbourne as Australia won in the last over chasing 295 for victory.
- 185* off 96 balls against Bangladesh with 15 sixes (a world record). Anyone who saw this will remember this innings, ridiculously good! It was like watching one of those video games, where every other ball goes for a six. Except this was live action!
And so that rounds off part five of the series. Here’s a table comparing the players on the list so far, with all their career stats. We’ll be on to part six next - with some bowlers, batsmen and two of the all-time great all-rounders.
|50||PA de Silva (SL)||308||9284||34.9||81.1||31.4||106||39.4||4.86||48.5||95|
|49||Yuvraj Singh (Asia/India)||274||8051||37.62||87.6||31.9||109||37.2||5.04||44.3||84|
|48||Javed Miandad (Pak)||233||7381||41.7||67.0||33.9||7||42.4||4.08||62.2||71/2|
|47||SE Bond (NZ)||82||292||16.22||76.0||7.3||147||20.9||4.28||29.2||15|
|46||G Kirsten (SA)||185||6798||40.95||72.0||36.7||0||-||4.60||-||61/1|
|45||DL Haynes (WI)||238||8648||41.37||63.1||36.5||0||-||4.80||-||59|
|44||AME Roberts (WI)||56||231||10.04||64.7||7.2||87||20.4||3.40||35.8||6|
|43||DK Lillee (Aus)||63||240||9.23||75.0||7.1||103||20.8||3.58||34.8||10|
|42||MA Holding (WI)||102||282||9.10||74.8||6.7||142||21.4||3.32||38.5||30|
|41||SR Waugh (Aus)||325||7569||32.9||75.9||26.3||195||34.7||4.56||45.5||111|
|40||KC Sangakkara (Asia/ICC/SL)||330||10636||38.25||75.5||34.3||-||-||-||-||324/81|
|39||SK Warne (Aus/ICC)||194||1018||13.05||72.0||9.5||293||25.7||4.25||36.3||80|
|38||CJ McDermott (Aus)||138||432||7.08||87.8||5.5||203||24.7||4.03||36.7||27|
|37||MJ Clarke (Aus)||216||7067||45.59||78.5||35.9||55||37.3||5.06||44.1||84|
|36||DM Jones (Aus)||164||6068||44.61||72.6||37.7||3||27.0||4.58||35.3||54|
|35||CG Greenidge (WI)||128||5134||45.03||64.9||40.4||1||45.0||4.50||60.0||45|
|34||B Lee (Aus)||221||1176||17.82||83.6||10.7||380||23.4||4.76||29.4||54|
|33||Waqar Younis (Pak)||262||969||10.31||67.1||7.0||416||23.8||4.68||30.5||35|
|32||N Kapil Dev (India)||225||3783||23.79||95.1||19.1||253||27.5||3.71||44.2||71|
|31||ST Jayasuriya (Asia/SL)||445||13430||32.36||91.2||31.0||323||36.8||4.78||46.0||123|
|30||Saeed Anwar (Pak)||247||8824||39.21||80.7||36.2||6||31.8||4.73||40.3||42|
|29||SC Ganguly (Asia/India)||311||11363||41.02||73.7||37.9||100||38.5||5.06||45.6||100|
|28||KP Pietersen (Eng/ICC)||127||4184||41.84||86.8||36.1||7||52.9||5.55||57.1||39|
|27||CH Gayle (ICC/WI)||234||8360||39.43||84.5||36.5||156||35.1||4.73||44.4||103|
|26||V Sehwag (Asia/ICC/India)||248||8204||35.21||104.6||33.9||95||40.2||5.26||45.7||91|
|25||BC Lara (ICC/WI)||299||10405||40.48||79.5||36.0||4||15.3||7.46||12.2||120|
|24||A Flintoff (Eng/ICC)||141||3394||32.02||88.8||27.8||169||24.4||4.39||33.2||47|
|23||SR Watson (Aus)||154||4563||41.48||88.3||34.1||155||28.8||4.80||36.0||52|