Friday, January 2, 2009

ICC Cricket Hall of Fame - the Openers

With the announcement of the founder class of the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame, it gives us an opportunity to examine how the inductees fared in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings over the course of their careers. Rather than studying all 55 at once, let’s tackle the openers first:

Geoff Boycott
Tests: Highest Rating 764 (1971), Highest Ranking 3rd (1971)
ODIs: Highest Rating 752 (1981), Highest Ranking 4th (1980)
It is perhaps surprising that one of England’s premier openers and a man who scored more than 150 first-class centuries never reached the number one spot in either of the batting charts. However, he was incredibly consistent – he was hardly out of the top ten throughout the 1970s and his career ended when he was as high as sixth. Only Alec Stewart has scored more than Boycott’s 8114 Test runs without ever reaching number one.

Sunil Gavaskar
Tests: Highest Rating 916 (1979), Highest Ranking 1st (1978-1980)
46 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 744 (1987), Highest Ranking 10th (1986)
After bursting on the scene with 774 runs in his first Test series, Gavaskar became the leading Test run-scorer and century-maker by the time he retired, spending eighteen months at the top of the batting tree. Arguably most famous in the shorter form of the game for his 174-ball unbeaten 36 at Lord’s in 1975, his ODI Rating steadily increased over his career. However, in stark contrast to the longer form of the game, it took him 107 matches to finally make it to three figures.

Graham Gooch
Tests: Highest Rating 873 (1992), Highest Ranking 1st (1991-1994)
81 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 863 (1987), Highest Ranking 2nd (1989)
Greatness came late in his career to Gooch. He was peerless from the moment he struck his unbeaten 154 at Headingley against the West Indies in 1991 for the next three years, and carried the English batting on his back for much of the latter portion of his career in both forms of the game. Ending his career as England’s leading Test run-scorer with 8900, it was a far cry from his debut ‘pair’ against Australia at Edgbaston back in 1975.

Gordon Greenidge
Tests: Highest Rating 844 (1984), Highest Ranking 1st (1984-1987)
20 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 895 (1983), Highest Ranking 1st (1980)
8 matches at number 1
It was said that the opposition should start to worry when he started to limp during an innings. His incredible unbeaten 214 at Lord’s in 1984 propelled him to the top of the batting charts and another double-century – this time against New Zealand – saw him back there three years later. He is one of only three openers (Matthew Hayden and Glenn Turner being the others) to top both the Test and ODI Batting tables, and his opening partnership with Desmond Haynes was the most prolific in Test history, adding 6482 runs in total.

Jack Hobbs
Tests: Highest Rating 942 (1912), Highest Ranking 1st (1910-1928)
61 matches at number 1
‘The Master’ was only toppled from his lofty perch at the top of the Batting Ratings for one match in the entire period from 1912 to 1928 (by South African Herbie Taylor in 1923). His opening partnership with Herbert Sutcliffe was legendary and he spent more than a quarter of his Test career with a Rating of over 900 points. His career records of 61760 first-class runs with 199 centuries will never be beaten and no-one else has ever scored a Test century at the age of 46.

Len Hutton
Tests: Highest Rating 945 (1954), Highest Ranking 1st (1949-1954)
60 matches at number 1
Only Bradman has surpassed Hutton’s career peak of 945 points, achieved after his double-hundred at Kingston. From the moment he scored his monumental 364 at The Oval in 1938 he was destined for greatness, although the war years (and a certain Australian) delayed his ascent to the top until 1949. His extraordinary 62 not out on a Brisbane sticky wicket in 1950 was rated by the computer as being worth 185. He was also instrumental in England’s Ashes triumphs of 1953 and 1954/55.

Hanif Mohammad
Tests: Highest Rating 819 (1960), Highest Ranking 2nd (1960)
He may have lost his record for both the highest and longest first-class innings, but Hanif Mohammad was the first truly great batsman produced by Pakistan. His penchant for keeping the ball on the ground meant that he only hit two sixes in his 55-match Test career. Not only was he also capable of bowling with either hand, he is also credited as being the first batsman to play the reverse sweep, which featured in his 16-hour innings of 337 against the West Indies in 1958.

Barry Richards
Tests: Highest Rating 586 (1970), Highest Ranking 19th (1970)
It is very much a case of what might have been for Barry Richards. Only seven players have scored more than Richards’s 508 runs in his first four Tests in 1970, but South Africa’s subsequent sporting isolation meant that was the extent of his Test career. He had to make do with churning out runs by the bucketload for Hampshire, Natal and South Australia – more than 28 thousand of them, including a century before lunch on nine occasions.