With apologies to those who have been waiting to discover the elder statesmen of the game who have made their mark on the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for One Day International cricket, it is a case of better late than never.
Viv Richards spent the vast majority of the 1980s on top of the ODI Batting Ratings and he also holds the distinction for having played the greatest-ever innings as calculated by the Ratings computer. His unbeaten 189 at Old Trafford has still not been bettered in the last twenty-five years which have seen a further 2,597 matches played. He first topped the charts on 23 December 1979 after his unbeaten 85 from just 77 deliveries lifted the West Indies to a nine-wicket victory over England at Brisbane and saw him sneak above Greg Chappell. Ten years later, on 19 October 1989 his very un-Richards-like innings of 24 from 48 deliveries against Sri Lanka at Rajkot saw him overtaken for the last time by Javed Miandad. However, Richards was aged 37 years and 226 days, still the greatest age at which anyone has been the number one batsman in the shorter format of the game.
With the ball, it is another of the greats of the 1980s who holds the record for being the oldest bowler to look down on the rest of the world. Richard Hadlee ended his glorious career in 1990 with a knighthood and the record number of Test wickets, but it was earlier that year that he reached the ODI number one spot for the final time. On 10 March he bowled ten economical overs against Australia at Auckland to maintain his Rating of 776 from the previous match which enabled him to enjoy the final match of his 148 spent on top of the bowling tree. However, nine wicket-less overs in a heavy defeat to the Aussies the following day saw him slip below Wasim Akram and his reign at the top was over for good. Hadlee was 38 years 250 days old at the time, and no bowler – paceman or spinner – has bettered that.
In terms of all-rounders, perhaps it is not surprising which veteran holds the honour as the oldest player to top the Ratings. Imran Khan achieved many things in his career – perhaps the highlight of which was leading his Pakistan team to victory in the 1992 World Cup. But two years earlier he took his final bow as the number one all-rounder in the world at the age of 37 years 82 days after taking 1/28 in his ten overs against Sri Lanka at Hobart. In the following match against the same opposition at Adelaide, his ten overs went for 60 and fellow subcontinent legend Kapil Dev took over.
So – it appears that the age of 38 is the upper age limit to reach the top of the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings for One Day International Cricket, but a number of older players have achieved greatness in the longer format of the game. They include a 49-year old topping the batting tree and a 50-year-old who managed to be rated the number one bowler, and we will unveil them at a later date.