Thursday, March 31, 2011

Muttiah Muralidaran - A statistical tribute

The final of ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is a fitting setting for Muttiah Muralidaran to take his leave of the international cricket stage. Having taken a total of 1347 wickets in all international cricket so far, he will be hoping to put even more daylight between himself and the chasing pack. Second-placed Shane Warne is the only other player with more than a thousand, and the leading other current player is Brett Lee with “only” 676. If Murali's total of wickets is unlikely to be broken, how has he performed in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings over the course of his long career?

Having made his Test debut in August 1992, his first three years brought him 81 wickets in 23 Tests at a respectable average of 33.88, but gave no real indication of the huge strides he was to make later in his career. However, 42 wickets in his next seven Tests propelled him to his first appearance in the top ten, which came in June 1997. At that time, the top four bowlers were all pacemen - Curtly Ambrose and Glenn McGrath led the way, tied on 861 points each, followed by Allan Donald and Wasim Akram. Murali had 715 points, but the only way was up from then onwards.

It was another five years before Murali first hit the top spot, after taking 9-51 and 4-64 against Zimbabwe at Kandy in January 2002. That first innings was the occasion when he nearly made cricket history. Having taken all nine Zimbabwe wickets to fall on the first day's play, he had Travis Friend dropped by Russel Arnold at silly-point the following morning to narrowly miss becoming just the third bowler to take all ten wickets in a Test innings.

That haul took him past Glenn McGrath at the top of the bowling rankings with a total of 907 points, and he scarcely dropped from the rarefied air of the 900-point mark for the next six and a half years. His peak came in July 2007 when he reached 920 points after taking 6-28 and 6-54 against Bangladesh at Kandy, a points tally only surpassed by three bowlers in the history of the game - Sydney Barnes, George Lohmann and Imran Khan. However, Murali's total set a new record for a spinner - going past Tony Lock's 912 points from 1958.

He spent a total of 1711 days as the top-rated Test bowler - a fair way down the list, but it should be noted that far more Test Matches are played now than in previous generations. This places him 13th on that particular list, which is headed by Bill O'Reilly - who had the Second World War to boost him up to 3643 days on top.

However, when we examine the number of Tests each bowler has spent in the number one position, Murali's total of 214 puts him on top. In fact the leading thee bowlers in this respect are all modern-day players, with Glenn McGrath (174 matches) and Curtly Ambrose (145 matches) filling the next two spaces on that list. By contrast, O'Reilly was top for just 24 matches.

Murali made his ODI debut a year after his first Test appearance and his first 21 matches brought just 19 wickets at a cost of 40 runs apiece. He came to the fore as Sri Lanka triumphed in ICC Cricket World Cup 1996 in the Subcontinent, and his star rapidly rose in the shorter form of the game at the same time. He first cracked the top ten in early 1997 during a successful series in Sharjah, and he spent the vast majority of the next 12 years in the world's top ten.

It was October 2000 when he first sneaked above Glenn McGrath and made it to top spot in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers. His figures of 7-30 against India at Sharjah were a world record for ODI cricket at the time and took him to 851 points. Two days later he took 3-6 in six overs against the same opposition to rise even further to 880 points, and he didn't move out of the top three for the next five years.

However, unlike his domination of the Test bowling rankings, this period provided a large amount of tussling for positions at the top. From the time Murali first reached number one to when he finally relinquished it in October 2004, a number of other bowlers also enjoyed top spot. In fact, that period could well be considered one of the golden eras of ODI bowling with the Sri Lankan maestro having to share the limelight with Shaun Pollock, Glenn McGrath and team-mate Chaminda Vaas.

Murali's peak points tally came in April 2002 when he had the astonishing figures of 10-3-9-5 against New Zealand at Sharjah. That performance propelled him up to 913 points, which is the fourth-highest achieved by anyone since ODI cricket started in 1971. Only Joel Garner (941), Richard Hadlee (924) and Shaun Pollock (917) have ever acquired more points, and by way of a comparison, today's top-ranked bowler Daniel Vettori has a total of 701.

Despite this fierce competition for the top spot, Murali spent a total of 244 matches and 731 days at the top ranked bowler in ODI cricket. Whereas these are a fair way behind the respective leaders in those fields - Shaun Pollock (844 matches) and Curtly Ambrose (2057 days) - this represents a massive contribution given that he hardly ever had the opportunity to enjoy the new ball.

By his own incredibly high standards, Murali's returns in One Day cricket in 2009 and 2010 were fairly modest, and it may have appeared as if his powers were somewhat on the wane as the effort of bowling more than 60 thousand deliveries in international cricket began to take its toll. But he roared back into action in ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 as 11 wickets in four matches helped Sri Lanka reach its third final.

It would only be fair to make a passing mention of his batting. Always unorthodox, but occasionally very effective, he boasts 1261 Test runs and even has a fifty to his name with an innings of 67 against India at Kandy in 2001. He never quite made it into the world's top 100 in Test cricket, peaking at 102nd late in his career in 2009 after an innings of 29 against India at Kanpur.

With fewer batting opportunities in ODI cricket, he peaked early in his career with 266 points and 112th position late in 1998. However, he was responsible for winning at least a couple of matches for Sri Lanka with the bat - notably against Bangladesh at Mirpur in early 2009 and against Australia at Melbourne in late 2010.

And so he takes his leave from the international stage as the top wicket-taker in both Test and One Day International cricket, will we ever see his like again? Possibly not, but one of the joys of cricket is that we never know quite what is around the corner and records are always there to be broken.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A tribute to the Number Ones

Tell anyone who are the number one rated batsman, bowler and all-rounder in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI cricket going into ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and you may receive some inquisitive looks in return. However, on closer examination, the three players have earned their right to call themselves the current form players as the cricketing world meets on the subcontinent.

South Africa’s Hashim Amla had to wait until March 2008 to make his ODI debut – more than three years after his first Test appearance. However, he has swiftly made up for lost time and he currently boasts an average of just under 60 after 42 matches including seven centuries and 12 fifties. He recently became the fastest player ever to reach 2000 runs, five fewer innings than previous record-holder Kevin Pietersen. In a team of higher-profile players, some of whom have performed successfully on the highest stage in previous competitions, Amla is the leading man coming into this year’s event.

His current batting rating of 889 puts him in pretty exclusive company too. Only one South African batsman has ever sneaked through the 900-point barrier in ODI cricket, and he will be at the World Cup too. Surprisingly it isn’t captain Graeme Smith or even Jacques Kallis – who managed it in Test cricket. The man in question is Gary Kirsten, who will be coaching India as they try to recapture the crown they won so memorably at Lord’s in 1983. Still the holder of the highest individual score in ICC Cricket World Cup history with his unbeaten 188 against the UAE in 1996, his century against Australia at Indore later that year saw his points tally rise to 903.

Amla’s current Rating is the highest achieved by any batsman in ODI cricket since Brian Lara before the turn of the Millennium, and it will be interesting to see if he can push his way up to 900 points over the course of the tournament.

Whereas Amla currently enjoys a healthy lead of more than 100 points at the top of the batting tree, it is far tighter with the ball with that same 100 points covering the top 12 positions. However, the man in pole position has occupied that lofty perch uninterrupted since November 2009.

Daniel Vettori has led from the front for New Zealand over the past few years and he has developed into one of the most economical bowlers in ODI history. Over the past nine years, his worst economy rate in any year was 4.15 in 2007 - his busiest year. Over that same period of time, his fellow Kiwi bowlers have conceded an average of 4.81 runs per over, illustrating his value to the team. He is New Zealand’s leading wicket-taker in the shorter form of the game and also has more than 2000 runs. In Test cricket he is now less than 100 wickets away from Richard Hadlee’s national record of 431.

Vettori will be hoping to improve on his showings in previous ICC Cricket World Cups. His 17 matches covering the last two tournaments have brought him 18 wickets at a disappointing average of 39.22. If New Zealand are to achieve the semi-final place that has almost become theirs by right since the first competition in 1975, he will need to continue the form that took him to the top of the pile nearly 18 months ago.

Now is perhaps the time when Vettori will face the greatest challenge for his number one position with three other left-arm spinners in the top five. Since overtaking Shakib Al Hasan to reclaim top spot, his average points tally has been 748. Perhaps it is an indication of the volume of ODI cricket played around the world nowadays, but no-one has even achieved 800 points since the retirement of Shaun Pollock three years ago.

The leading all-rounder in the world has occupied that position for an even longer stretch than Vettori. Shakib Al Hasan became the first Bangladeshi to rise to number one in any form of the game with bat or ball when he sneaked above Jacob Oram in January 2009. And now – more than two years and 299 matches later – he is still there. It is not difficult to see why. While some of the world’s leading all-rounders have moved down to the table due to retirement, injury or loss of form, Shakib has gone from strength to strength. Since the start of 2009, his 46 ODIs have brought him nearly 1500 runs with three centuries and 72 wickets at less than 25 each with an economy rate of just 4.26 runs per over.

Bangladesh will be relying on him if they are to repeat their successes of the 2007 tournament when they beat India and South Africa, but if he slips up, Australia’s Shane Watson is lurking just behind him, hoping to become the first Australian to top the all-rounders table since Mark Waugh in December 1996.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit

The main focus of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings is to determine who the peak performers in world cricket are, be they in Test cricket or in the One Day format of the game. However, as we enter the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, we examine the other end of the scale – the true ‘rabbits’ with the bat – those batsmen who can often be found lurking at number eleven praying they are not required to make it to the crease with a bat in their hands.

Firstly, we need to set some parameters. It is relatively straightforward to discover the players who have achieved the highest number of Ratings points, but how should we judge the lowest? A player who debuts and fails to score has a total of zero points, but that isn’t really a fair way of measuring his lowest point. So we have two points of reference in order to help us discover the true ‘rabbits’ of the world game.

Secondly, it is probably only really fair to limit our investigations to the Test arena. This is due to the fact that in the One Day game, players batting down the order only have a limited amount of time in which to make an impression, and often they fall early on in the quest for quick runs. In addition, they bat far more irregularly than their top-order colleagues.

In order to have a ‘full’ rating, a player has to have batted at least forty times in his career. To date, a total of 551 players have managed this, so more than enough to be getting on with. They range from Sachin Tendulkar with his 290 innings – 51 of which he has converted into centuries – to the fifteen batsman including George Headley and Dilhara Fernando to have batted on exactly forty occasions in their Test careers.

Of these 551 players it will probably come as no surprise to discover the names of the players with the best and worst batting averages. Don Bradman’s average of 99.94 is more than 50% better than anyone else, and at the other end of the spectrum, Chris Martin’s current average of 2.53 is comfortably worse than anyone else. In fact he would need to score 71 in his next innings to edge ahead of Bhagwat Chandrasekhar.

Returning to the Ratings, whereas when we look at the high flyers we examine their highest-ever points totals, here we are interested in their lowest points totals, once the player has qualified for a full Rating. So – how do they stack up? Here are the lowest batting Ratings achieved once a player has played the required forty Test innings:

PlayerCountryLow point
Chris MartinNew Zealand22
Fidel EdwardsWest Indies45
Phil TufnellEngland47
Bhagwat ChandrasekharIndia48
Alf ValentineWest Indies53
Danish KaneriaPakistan58
Pedro CollinsWest Indies62
Terry AldermanAustralia62
Devon MalcolmEngland63
Glenn McGrathAustralia63
Corey CollymoreWest Indies64

The first thing that comes to mind is that Chris Martin really is a long way adrift of the rest of the pack. His Rating of 22 came after his 35th Test at which point his batting average stood at precisely two. A recent relative surge of form has seen his points total rocketing up to a career-best 33 – still a fair way adrift of Fidel Edwards in second place.

There are three modern-day West Indian pacemen on this list. Whereas Messrs Holding, Roberts and Garner combined for a total of ten Test fifties, the recent trio of Edwards, Collins and Collymore have never even reached 25 in an innings between them. Comprising one of the greatest tails of all time, all three of them played three Tests against England in 2004. Two of those matches were lost, but they were not required to bat in the third as Brian Lara amassed 400 not out all by himself, more than half the combined career totals of the three tail-enders in their 105 Tests.

The second method of analysing Test cricket’s ‘rabbits’ is to see who has the lowest ‘average’ Rating over the course of their career. This method enables us to include players who have not necessarily acquired the minimum forty innings used in the first method and those who played in the earlier days of Test cricket, when matches were somewhat fewer and farther between.

This now gives us a total of 1134 players who have had at least fifteen innings in Test cricket. Don Bradman’s Rating averaged 855 over the course of his 52 Test matches, but we are not interested in that here. Let’s see who were at the bottom of the pile:

Mohammad AkramPakistan11.44
Cuan McCarthySouth Africa13.00
Pommie MbangwaZimbabwe13.07
Geoff AllottNew Zealand13.10
Rubel HossainBangladesh17.25
Jack SaundersAustralia18.29
Ian SmithSouth Africa19.11
Reon KingWest Indies19.58
Enamul Haque jrBangladesh21.07
Bert IronmongerAustralia22.36

Chris Martin just misses out on the ‘top’ ten, with his average of 23.23. However, if he were to add to his current total of 29 ducks he just might edge his way into the leading pack.

There is perhaps a surprising name at the top. Mohammad Akram played 9 Tests for Pakistan between 1995 and 2000 batting a total of thirteen times. However, in eight of those he failed to score, with his only double-figure effort an undefeated innings of ten against Australia at Perth in November 1999. That kind of batting pedigree meant that his points total never made it out of the teens.

Cuan McCarthy was arguably even worse, although his points tally implies that he batted in slightly more difficult conditions than Akram. He strode to the crease 24 times in his Test career which lasted from 1948 to 1951 and never scored more than five runs in a single innings. He would argue that fifteen of those innings were undefeated so he could have gone on to greater things, but he is a worthy contender for the title of ‘worst Test batsman ever’. The bronze medal goes to medium-pacer-turned-commentator Pommie Mbangwa. His 25 Test innings from 1996 to 2000 included just one innings greater than five, but he did choose Lord’s as the venue for his career-best score of eight!

So, for every Bradman, Hobbs or Lara at the top of the tree, spare a thought for those number 11s who also have to don their pads, gloves and helmets for the good of their team, but with somewhat less success!

Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - a Ratings Year in Review

As England retain the Ashes and 2010 moves into 2011 it gives us the opportunity to have a look back at the last year in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings to see who the biggest achievers have been over the last twelve months of international cricket.

For the second successive year, no batsmen managed to break the elusive 900 point barrier. Back in 2008 five different batsmen managed to sneak through, but the highest points tally in 2010 was 891 by Sachin Tendulkar in October, when he soared back to the top spot he had most recently occupied in August 2002. Tendulkar was one of four batsmen who were ranked number one at various stages of the year and it was a triumphant year for India as three of their famed top-order achieved the feat. The year dawned with Gautam Gambhir at the top, and his opening partner Virender Sehwag also enjoyed a period of time there. The only batsman to upset the Indian dominance was Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara who ended the year at number one.

The year’s highest-rated innings was played by Hashim Amla, who had a memorable 2010 in all forms of the game. His undefeated 253 against India at Nagpur helped the touring South Africans to an innings victory. Next up was Chris Gayle’s 333 against Sri Lanka at Galle in November and in third place come two Jonathan Trott innings – his 184 against Pakistan at Lord’s and his undefeated 168 against Australia at Melbourne.

With the ball, 2010 was very much the Dale Steyn show with the South African speedster holding onto the top spot he inherited from Muttiah Muralitharan in July 2009 for the entire twelve months, peaking at 897 right at the end of the year following his eight wickets against India at Durban. Graeme Swann – trying to become the first English off-spinner since Jim Laker in 1959 to rank number 1 – was Steyn’s closest challenger, peaking at 858 points in August.

England’s James Anderson passed 200 Test wickets late in the year, and he has the honour of the highest-rated performance of the year. His eleven wickets against Pakistan at Nottingham came at a cost of just 71 runs. Next up is Australia’s Jekyll-and-Hyde pace ace Mitchell Johnson, who followed up his 0-170 against England at Brisbane with nine wickets at Perth to lead the home side to a series-levelling triumph. Graeme Swann’s ten wickets at Chittagong in March round out the top three.

In the shorter for of the game, four batsman had the honour of being able to look down at the rest of the batting world. India’s captain MS Dhoni started the year at the top, and subsequently Mike Hussey, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla all enjoyed spells as number one, with Amla currently in pole position. And it is the South African’s current points tally of 854 which was the highest achieved by anyone over the course of the year – not bad for someone who only made his ODI debut in March 2008!

As in the Test arena, bowling in One Day International cricket was dominated by one man. New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori sneaked ahead of Shakib-al-Hasan in November 2009 and has not relinquished that position since, with Zimbabwe’s Ray Price the closest challenger. Vettori peaked at 768 points in March and Price’s best was 722 achieved in the West Indies series the same month.

Two all-rounders continued their form from 2009 to lead their respective tables for all twelve months of 2010. Jacques Kallis has spent more matches as the top-rated all-rounder in Test cricket than anyone else – 421 in total. He showed no signs of slowing down as he finally made his maiden Test double-century to occupy top spot for the fourth complete year on the trot. In ODI cricket, Shakib-al-Hasan continued to shine with both bat and ball and even at the tender age of just 23 has already spent a total of 278 matches in top spot – a number only surpassed by Kapil Dev, Kallis and Shaun Pollock.

Unsuprisingly, the computer saw the year’s stand-out batting performance as the top-rated effort too. In February at Gwalior, Sachin Tendulkar achieved ODI cricket’s holy grail with a double century against South Africa. Coming from just 147 deliveries, his unbeaten 200 helped set up a 153-run victory. Next was Gautam Gambhir’s unbeaten 138 against New Zealand at Jaipur in December followed by his opening partner Sehwag’s lone hand of 110 against New Zealand at Dambulla in August, when India were all out for just 223. It was more than enough as New Zealand collapsed to just 118 in reply.

With the ball, it is a Bangladeshi in the number one position performance-wise. Abdur Razzak thoroughly enjoyed the one-day series late in the year against Bangladesh and his 4-14 in a complete ten-over spell at Mirpur came out on top. Australian Ryan Harris’s year ended in pain with a stress fracture of the ankle, but he had started on fire with 5-19 on a bouncy Perth track against Pakistan in January. Another Bangladeshi is in third place as Suhrawadi Shuvo’s figures of 3-14 in his ten overs against New Zealand at mirpur in October helped inflict another embarrassing defeat on the Kiwis.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A unique time

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything too unusual about the current Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen. Sachin Tendulkar is at the top followed just a point behind by Kumar Sangakkara. The old favourites of Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and VVS Laxman are also currently riding high in the batting charts.

However, at closer glance, one thing does stand out. There is not a single representative in the top ten from either England or Australia. The highest Englishman is relative newcomer Jonathan Trott, who is currently number 15 after just a year’s Test cricket. Next comes Kevin Pietersen at 23, who was a perennial fixture in the top ten for three years, peaking at number three. Pietersen leads a tight bunch of six England batsmen between positions 23 and 35 showing that there is relative strength in depth, despite the lack of a stand-out performer.

For Australia the trend is perhaps even more worrying. Their leading light is thirteenth-placed Michael Clarke, and even he has struggled of late, scoring only 35 runs in his four innings in the recent Test series in India. Ricky Ponting, who was in the world’s top ten for seven years is just behind him at number sixteen. But perhaps the biggest fall from grace has occurred to Miichael Hussey. After his 23rd Test his rating stood at 921 and he was looking down on the rest of the batting world. But his star has faded since then and his 31 subsequent Tests have brought him just three centuries and a decidedly ordinary average of 35.

So – putting it into perspective, especially with an Ashes series lurking just around the corner, how rare is this current situation? You have to go all the way back to October 1979 for a time when there was no Australian in the world’s top ten. Ever since then, a succession of batting greats, such as Greg Chappell, Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey have ensured an unbroken line of high-fliers. For interest’s sake, here are how the world’s top ten stood at that point in time:



Sunil Gavaskar (Ind)


Gundappa Viswanath (Ind)


Javed Miandad (Pak)


Viv Richards (WI)


Alvin Kallicharran (WI)


David Gower (Eng)


Gordon Greenidge (WI)


Zaheer Abbas (Pak)


Geoff Boycott (Eng)


Asif Iqbal (Pak)


You have to go down to number 16 to find the first Australians – Greg Chappell and Graham Yallop level on 632 points. However, England did have two representatives in the top ten.

But – in terms of no England or Australian batsmen in the top ten – it has never happened before. Ever since the very first Test Match was played in 1877 this current time is the first time that the oldest of Test enemies have been absent from the world’s top ten batsmen.

Fortunately, the cupboard isn’t quite so bare bowling-wise. England boast two bowlers in the top ten – Graeme Swann in second and James Anderson fourth, with Stuart Broad knocking on the door in eleventh place. The two Australian lefties – Mitchell Johnson (seventh) and Doug Bollinger (eighth) ensure that there will be some top ten representatives when the teams take to the field at the ‘Gabba next week.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tendulkar's journey to pole position

Sachin Tendulkar debuted as a 16-year-old in November 1989 and recently became just the fifth player to participate in Test cricket in five different decades. In his second Test he became the youngest batsman to make a Test half-century and a legend was born.

He narrow missed becoming the youngest Test centurion when he fell for 88 against New Zealand at Napier in early 1990 but came of age later that summer when he hit an exhilarating century against England at Old Trafford. Twenty years on he is still scoring Test centuries and is back at the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen. So how has his career progressed Rankings-wise in both formats of the game?

His unbeaten innings in Manchester saw him rise into the top fifty in the batting table for the first time, and he enjoyed a steady climb over the next few years as he established himself in the Indian middle-order alongside captain Mohammed Azharuddin.

A century and two fifties in the 'spinwash' tour by England in early 1993 saw him enter the world's top ten at a time when Graham Gooch and Richie Richardson were swapping the top position between themselves. Further successes at home to the West Indies the following year enabled him to displace Brian Lara at the top of the batting tree. At the age of 21 years, 7 months he became the youngest man to ever reach the number one position, surpassing Garry Sobers' previous record which was set back in 1958.

However, his stay at the top was relatively short due to the astonishing run of form of West Indies' Jimmy Adams who moved above Tendulkar three months later as the Indian suffered a relatively lean couple of years.

This coincided with Steve Waugh's rise to the top of his game and it was the Australia batsman who enjoyed most of 1996 and 1997 at number one. Not to be outdone, the India maestro roared back into form with six centuries in ten Tests which saw him once again reach top spot in March 1998. For the next four years he was never out of the top three, positions which were almost exclusively occupied by Tendulkar, Lara and Waugh. However, once 2003 dawned it was a different story as his five Tests in that calendar year brought him just one fifty and a batting average of 17.

In 2004 came his highest Test score - an unbeaten 248 against Bangladesh at Dhaka, during the course of which he shared in an Indian record partnership of 133 for the tenth wicket with Zaheer Khan.

Injuries had started to catch up with him though, and the next two years brought only one century as he plummeted to number 22 - his lowest position for fourteen years. Some people questioned whether he would be able to continue to be a productive member of the Indian middle-order powerhouse which also featured Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.

His climb back to the top can perhaps be traced from his match-winning unbeaten century in the fourth innings of the Chennai Test against England in December 2008, when India successfully chased 387 to win the match - a record for a Test on the subcontinent. Since then he hasn't looked back as his subsequent 16 Tests have brought him a further 8 centuries and 7 fifties.

All this has been good enough to take him back to the top spot, a position he last occupied in August 2002. His current tally of 891 points has put him within touching distance of becoming just the second Indian batsman to reach the magical barrier of 900 points, after his boyhood hero Sunil Gavaskar.

With his return to the top, Tendulkar has now spent a total of 126 Tests at number one, a total only surpassed by 3 men - Garry Sobers, Viv Richards and Brian Lara.

His first ODI appearance came just a month after his Test debut. It was an inauspicious start as both his first two innings ended in second ball ducks - courtesy of Waqar Younis and Shane Thomson. He reached double figures in each of his next six matches, but finally made his first half-century against Sri Lanka at Pune in December 1990, becoming the youngest at the time to score an ODI half-century.

A tally of eleven fifties in his first 40 matches saw him rise as high as number three at a time when Dean Jones was ruling the roost in the shorter format of the game.

However, he was unable to take that next step - either to reach three figures or to reach the number one position. It may sound strange now - especially with his current tally of 46 centuries in ODI cricket, but his first century did not come until his 79th match. He finally made the breakthrough with an innings of 110 against Australia at Colombo in September 1994.

Once the first one came, the floodgates were opened for good.

He became the youngest player to top the ODI Batting Ratings as a 22-year-old on Leap Year Day in 1996 and celebrated by hammering a run-a-ball 137 against Sri Lanka at Delhi. But his initial stay at the top was brief as Brian Lara was in the middle of a superb run of form which saw him own the number one position for most of the next three years.

While not quite reaching the heights of his West Indies counterpart, Tendulkar was able to maintain his position in the top three for the majority of that time. He did manage a one-point lead over Lara for two months thanks to two undefeated centuries in a week against Zimbabwe at Sharjah.

Australia batsman Michael Bevan dominated most of the following three and a half years, but Tendulkar was never far behind him, even managing to sneak ahead of him on a few brief occasions. A surge in form in England in 2002 saw him move ahead of him for good and he enjoyed a three-month stay as number one in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen. Over the next two years it was a tussle for the top spot between a number of players - Ricky Ponting, Marcus Trescothick, Adam Gilchrist and Chris Gayle all enjoying extended stays as well as Tendulkar.

Fans were wondering whether they had seen the end of the little master as a tennis elbow injury laid him low soon after he had surrendered the number one position to Jacques Kallis in September 2004. The following couple of years were a struggle as he dropped as low as number 26 soon after ICC Champions Trophy 2006. However, an undefeated century against the West Indies at Vadodara in January 2007 saw him turn the corner.

He was unfortunate to be dismissed in the nineties four times in nine matches on the tour of the British Isles that summer, but when he finally made it to three figures - against Australia at Sydney in March 2008 - it was enough to push him above Ponting and back to the number one position.

Alas it was only for ten days as South Africa's Graeme Smith edged ahead of him, but with an average of more than a hundred over his last eight matches - including his memorable, world record 200 not out against South Africa at Gwalior, his time at the top may not be done. He will be hoping to add to his 112 ODIs at number one - good enough for ninth on that particular list.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The greatest ICC Cricket World Cup innings of all time

24 years ago at Karachi, Viv Richards put the Sri Lankan bowlers to the sword with an incredible innings of 181 from just 125 deliveries which powered the West Indies to a total of 360-4 and victory by 191 runs. Without doubt, this ranks as one of the greatest innings ever played in any ICC Cricket World Cup, but how does the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings computer see it? Here is a countdown of the top eleven CWC innings covering the nine tournaments so far:

11 – Adam Gilchrist (Aus) 149 (104) v SL at Bridgetown in 2007
Having had a disappointing competition, the Australian wicket-keeper experimented by inserting a squash ball into his batting glove for the final. The result was spectacular as he recorded the highest-ever individual score in an ICC Cricket World Cup final as he led Australia to a 53-run victory.

10 – David Houghton (Zim) 142 (137) v NZ at Hyderabad in 1987
Chasing 243 for victory, the Zimbabwean keeper fought a lone hand as his side slumped to 104-7. Iain Butchart then joined him in a competition-record partnership of 117 for the eighth wicket, but all was to no avail as the Kiwis sneaked home by just 3 runs.

9 – Allan Lamb (Eng) 102 (105) v NZ at The Oval in 1983
Facing an attack featuring three of the top five rated bowlers at the time – Richard Hadlee, Ewen Chatfield and Chris Cairns – Lamb smashed his way to a century to help England to 322-6. Martin Snedden suffered the most as his 12 overs cost him 105 runs and the home team ended up winning by 106 runs.

8 – Ramiz Raja (Pak) 119* (155) v NZ at Christchurch in 1992
The Kiwis had been the form team in the early stages of ICC Cricket World Cup 1992 but their batting failed against the Pakistani pace attack on a helpful pitch. At 9-2 chasing just 167 to win, Pakistan could have collapsed, but Ramiz anchored the chase perfectly and victory was achieved by seven wickets.

7 – Zaheer Abbas (Pak) 103* (121) v NZ at Nottingham in 1983
The Kiwi bowling attack in ICC Cricket World Cup 1983 was arguably the strongest it has ever been in the shorter format of the game. However here it was middle-order maestro Zaheer to the rescue after the Pakistani top three had all failed to progress beyond 33. His innings was crucial in the end, as the Kiwi chase only ended 11 runs short.

6 – Sourav Ganguly (Ind) 183 (158) v SL at Taunton in 1999
His partnership of 318 for the second wicket with Rahul Dravid is still the CWC record for any wicket and Ganguly certainly enjoyed the short boundaries at Taunton, clearing them seven times. Even Muttiah Muralitharan couldn’t stem the flow of runs as Sri Lanka subsided to a 157-run defeat

5 – Dennis Amiss (Eng) 137 (147) v Ind at Lord’s in 1975
Ironically this match is now primarily remembered for Sunil Gavaskar’s unbeaten 36 spanning 174 deliveries in India’s chase, but Amiss lit up the first half of the match. More than 35 years on, it remains the highest individual score for England in any ICC tournament.

4 – Keith Fletcher (Eng) 131 (147) v NZ at Nottingham in 1975
Both England’s openers had been dismissed with just 28 on the board, but after starting slowly, Fletcher blossomed to such an extent that 53 runs were added in the last five overs of the innings to lift the total to 266, before he was run out from the final delivery. It was too much for the Kiwis who were all out for just 180 in reply.

3 – Viv Richards (WI) 181 (125) v SL at Karachi in 1987
Coming in with Ravi Ratnayeke on a hat-trick, Richards’s innings set a new record for all ICC CWC matches and it propelled the West Indies to a total of 360-4 – a record at the time in all ODI cricket, helped by a more sedate century from Desmond Haynes. Mahanama and Kuruppu started the chase at 12 runs per over, but it all ended in a 191-run win for the West Indies.

2 – Viv Richards (WI) 138* (157) v Eng at Lord’s in 1979
What better setting for a memorable hundred than a final? This was arguably Viv’s finest hour as he rescued the reigning champions from 99-4 with a partnership of 139 with Collis King who made 86. He hit three 6s and eleven 4s to lift his side to 286-9. England’s opening partnership of 129 between Brearley and Boycott took 38 overs and Joel Garner ripped through the tail to seal victory.

1 – Kapil Dev (Ind) 175* (138) v Zim at Tunbridge Wells in 1983
A match which has entered cricketing folklore. With qualification for the semi-finals in some doubt, India slumped to 17 for five before Kapil began his assault, slamming sixteen 4s and six 6s from just 138 deliveries. Not content with that, he followed up with an economical spell to lead India to a narrow victory and subsequently inspired them to their only ICC CWC triumph.

Innings just missing this countdown include Andrew Symonds’s 143 not out against Pakistan in 2003, Clive Lloyd’s century in the 1975 final, Brian Lara’s 111 against South Africa in 1996 and Steve Waugh’s memorable unbeaten century against South Africa at Leeds in 1999.

With the tenth ICC Cricket World Cup just around the corner, it remains to be seen whether anyone will be able to dislodge Kapil from the top of the tree. One thing is for certain – if it happens then the cameras will be there, unlike in poor Kapil’s case in 1983.