Thursday, November 13, 2008

Always the bridesmaids

And so Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly take their leave from the Test arena after two fantastic careers. One of them departs with more than six hundred wickets and the other with over seven thousand runs. However, despite these two being considered among the greats of the game, they share another trait – neither of them managed to reach number one in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test cricket.

Kumble can consider himself the more unlucky of the two. His peak in terms of points came relatively early in his career when he reached 859 after helping to bowl India to an innings victory against Sri Lanka on his home ground at Bangalore in January 1994. However, that was only good enough for fourth place as Waqar Younis, Curtly Ambrose and Shane Warne were all near the peak of their powers. The following year he managed to make it all the way to number two, but again found himself behind the West Indian giant.

For Ganguly, his Test career has been steady rather than spectacular. His highest-ever Rating of 713 which he achieved to reach eighth place in late 1999, doesn’t even place him in the top ten Indians of all time. But – as befits a player whose career average never fell below forty, he was a picture of consistency, never dropping out of the world’s top fifty from his debut to his final curtain call at Nagpur. Kumble can at least console himself that in the shorter form of the game, he did reach the top of the pile. He was number one for a period of eleven matches – back in 1996 – a year in which he took 61 wickets in 32 One Day Internationals.

But poor old Sourav doesn’t even have that as a consolation prize. Despite scoring more than eleven thousand ODI runs, he never managed to achieve the elusive number one spot. But even with that mountain of runs, he is still not the player who managed to score the most runs in One Day International cricket without reaching the top. That ‘honour’ goes to Inzamam-ul-Haq who scored 11,739 runs peaking at number three in 1995.

So – who are the other unlucky players who have scored the most runs and taken the most wickets without reaching the number one spot in the Rankings?

The top twelve Test run-scorers have all made it to number one at some point or other, which leaves Alec Stewart – with 8,463 Test runs, as the leading run-scorer without that particular claim to fame. Next come Geoff Boycott and Mark Waugh, with Mahela Jayawardena the leading current player in fourth place in this particular list with 7,757.

Kumble is the bowler with the most Test wickets never to have made it to the top of the Test bowling tree, but he is followed by two former holders of the world Test wickets record – Courtney Walsh and Kumble’s former team-mate Kapil Dev. The leading current bowlers are Makhaya Ntini who has 358, followed by Chaminda Vaas on 348.

In One Day cricket, despite taking 416 wickets and terrorising opposition batsmen with his yorkers, Waqar Younis never managed to reach number one. For a lot of his career that top spot was taken by his partner in crime Wasim Akram, but Waqar can be content with the fact that he did make it to the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test cricket.