Monday, February 9, 2009

ICC Cricket Hall of Fame - the spinners and glovemen

For our final look at the inaugural Hall of Fame class, we examine the often unsung heroes of a team – the spinners. We also tackle the players they rely on to keep the batsman in his crease – the wicket-keepers.

Bishan Bedi
Tests: Highest Rating 804 (1977), Highest Ranking 1st (1973-1978). 13 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 349 (1976), Highest Ranking 11th (1977).
At times a controversial character, he has the honour of being the last left-arm spinner to reach the top spot – and that was more than thirty years ago. Despite their proud tradition of slow bowlers, Bedi remains the only Indian bowler to ever top the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers, despite the best recent efforts of Messrs Kumble and Harbhajan. His peak came during the course of a six-year stint in which he never failed to take a wicket in an innings in which he bowled.

Lance Gibbs
Tests: Highest Rating 897 (1966), Highest Ranking 1st (1964-1975). 92 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 209 (1975), Highest Ranking 17th (1973).
Only five bowlers have spent more matches on top of the world bowling tree than Gibbs, and only one of those is a spinner – Murali. He was peerless in the second half of the 1960s and his highest points total was achieved after his ten wickets at Old Trafford in 1966. He retired having overtaken Fred Trueman’s world record of 307 Test wickets and he was still ranked number six. The One-day game came just too late for him, as he was limited to just three matches.

Jim Laker
Tests: Highest Rating 897 (1956), Highest Ranking 1st (1956-1959). 21 matches at number 1
His name will be linked forever with the Old Trafford Test of 1956 when he produced the greatest bowling performance in the history of cricket, which took him from sixth place to the top of the world. Such was his mastery of his art that he was able to spend a reasonable time on top of the World Ratings despite fierce competition from fellow spinners Hugh Tayfield, Tony Lock and Richie Benaud – all of whom had their time in the number one position in a truly golden era of spin bowling.

Bill O’Reilly
Tests: Highest Rating 901 (1946), Highest Ranking 1st (1935-1946). 24 matches at number 1
The man rated by Bradman as the greatest bowler he ever faced saw his Rating steadily climb over his Test career and he was the natural successor at the top to fellow leggie Clarrie Grimmett. Due to the six-year interruption to Test cricket for the Second World War, he actually spent nine years on top of the bowling tree, culminating in him pushing through the 900-point barrier when he took eight wickets in his final Test at Wellington in March 1946.

Derek Underwood
Tests: Highest Rating 907 (1971), Highest Ranking 1st (1969-1975). 79 matches at number 1
ODIs: Highest Rating 541 (1982), Highest Ranking 4th (1974).
His unique brand of medium-paced spin saw him dominate the world bowling scene for the first half of the 1970s when he became one of only five England bowlers to reach 900 points in the bowling Ratings. His 297 wickets are more than a hundred better than any other England spinner and he spent more matches as the top-rated bowler than any other Englishman in history. He played 26 One Day Internationals over a nine-year span, but never threatened the top spot in the shorter format of the game.

Every team has to have one, but only two wicket-keepers have been elected to the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. Both founder members Clyde Walcott and Hanif Mohammad started their Test careers behind the stumps, but only these following two have been selected purely as a result of their glovework:

Alan Knott
Tests: Highest Rating 650 (1977), Highest Ranking 14th (1977).
ODIs: Highest Rating 375 (1977), Highest Ranking 4th (1971).
At the time of his retirement he had scored more runs than any other Test wicket-keeper, and his acrobatics behind the stumps were truly a sight to behold. For the vast majority of his career he was ranked in the top thirty Test batsmen peaking during the triumphant 1977 Ashes series. His record would have been even more impressive had he not turned his attention to World Series Cricket after playing a record 65 consecutive Tests for England.

Rodney Marsh
Tests: Highest Rating 599 (1975), Highest Ranking 19th (1974).
ODIs: Highest Rating 556 (1984), Highest Ranking 16th (1971).
95 batsmen were dismissed caught Marsh bowled Lillee and both Hall-of-Famers – having made their debuts in the same series - ended with 355 victims to their names. He became the first Australian to score a Test century and reached the world’s top twenty batsmen early in his career. His powerful striking in the limited overs form of the game saw him end his career at his highest Rating after a typical belligerent 35 against the West Indies at Melbourne.