The ultimate achievement for any international cricketer is to be ranked number one in the Reliance Mobile ICC Player Rankings. Not many have managed it but the upcoming Champions Trophy in South Africa will give viewers the opportunity to watch some of the all-time greats of the game who have dominated over the past decade or more. So here we present the ‘number ones to watch’ – in other words – the players who will be featuring in South Africa who at some stage have topped the ODI batting, bowling or all-rounders table, ranked by the length of time they spent at the number one spot in terms of days:
Ricky Ponting (547 days). He first hit the top spot after his unbeaten 57 against the West Indies at Kingston in May 2003 and fell from the number one place for the last time in March 2008 after three consecutive scores of one in the space of five days against Sri Lanka and India.
MS Dhoni (379 days). He had a one-match stay on top sandwiching Ponting and Adam Gilchrist from 19-22 April 2006 after scoring 59 against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, but returned to the number one spot in August 2008 with a vengeance and has hardly been bettered since.
Sachin Tendulkar (338 days). He became the youngest player to top the ODI Batting Ratings as a 22-year-old in February 1996, and after a four-year gap managed to return to the top of the tree for five days in March 2008 after scoring 91 against Australia at the Gabba.
Michael Hussey (177 days). Mr Cricket first reached number one in September 2006 when his batting average stood at 81.75! But after a six-month stay on top his form started to dip and he fell behind team-mate Ponting and England’s Kevin Pietersen.
Graeme Smith (168 days). An unbeaten century against Bangladesh in Chittagong in early March 2008 sent the South African powerhouse to number one, and he held the position unchallenged until Dhoni snatched it away from him in August.
Jacques Kallis (150 days). Ratings-wise the 2004-5 period was Kallis’s golden period as an ODI batsman. He nudged ahead of Adam Gilchrist in February 2004 after scoring 95 not out and 139 in consecutive matches against the West Indies. He enjoyed his last day on top was in July 2005.
Sanath Jayasuriya (142 days). The original pinch-hitter really made his name in the 1996 World Cup but it wasn’t until 2002 that he topped the World Ratings. By April 2003 his time in the sun had come to an end, but he continues to ply his trade very effectively at the age of forty.
Mohammad Yousuf (2 days). Blink and you would have missed it. On 10 and 11 October 2003 the world had a new number one after the Pakistani maestro scored 60 against South Africa at Rawalpindi. However, he was out for a duck in the next match, and that was that.
Muttiah Muralitharan (687 days). No spinner has spent as long as the ODI number one bowler as the Sri Lankan wizard. He reached top spot following his seven for 30 against India at Sharjah in October 2000 and he was eventually overtaken for the last time by long-term team-mate Chaminda Vaas four years later.
Nuwan Kulasekara (199 days). The surprise package on the list, he has led since 3 March this year despite never having managed to break the 750 point barrier. Whether or not this points to a lack of depth in ODI bowling talent nowadays, he still enters the competition on top of the world.
Nathan Bracken (196 days). 2008 was very much Bracken’s year as the Aussie one-day specialist rose to the top of the tree in late June after an excellent series in the Caribbean. Not quite as dominant this year, but a good Champions Trophy could push him back into contention.
Daniel Vettori (189 days). The first Kiwi spinner to top either Test or ODI Bowling Ratings, he achieved this feat on 12 February 2008 during the home series with England. He was top for most of the rest of the first half of the year, before returning for another month on top in early 2009.
Brett Lee (21 days). Lee managed to upset the Glenn McGrath / Shaun Pollock double act in early 2006 albeit very briefly. Five for 22 against South Africa at Melbourne did the trick and four for 30 against the same opposition a fortnight later also helped, but Pollock recovered his form and Lee’s time at the top was done.
Jacques Kallis (1175 days). The world’s leading all-rounder of the decade first reached number one in March 2000 and held onto that position for the vast majority of the next three and a half years, before finally relinquishing it to Andrew Flintoff in November 2003.
Sanath Jayasuriya (336 days). His pinch-hitting exploits coupled with some canny left-arm spin carried him to the number one spot in March 1997 and he stayed there for most of the next year. However, after Shaun Pollock’s retirement in February 2008 he became the oldest man ever to top the ODI all-rounder list at 38.
Shoaib Malik (172 days). It was a Pakistani double-act for the first half of 2008 with the former captain the first to reach the number one position after a sequence of excellent performances against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. He regained it briefly from team-mate Afridi before slipping below Andrew Flintoff and Jacob Oram.
Jacob Oram (103 days). The gentle giant of Kiwi cricket enjoyed a brief week-long stay on top in February 2008 during the home series victory against England. However he returned for a longer stint after some great performances in Bangladesh in October the same year.
Shahid Afridi (18 days). Another fleeting stay for the mercurial Pakistani all-rounder whose career has been littered with innings which could be similarly described. Three for 19 against Bangladesh at Dhaka on 8 June 2008 was enough to take him top, but eighteen days later it was all over, as team-mate Shoaib Malik nudged him down to second.