Recent events have conspired to somewhat ruin the sporting calendar of late, but with this comes a great opportunity for sports fans to access their favourite memories of games gone by.
With constant re-runs of classic match-ups and greatest sports star line-ups, there has never been a better time to hop on the old bandwagon and take a nostalgic look at the greatest players to play the greatest game in my lifetime.
Granted this century is still relatively young, but these past two decades have seen some of the greatest players to ever play the game in any facet.
With that in mind, here are my top five batters of the century.
Honourable mentions to Hashim Amla, Kane Williamson, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kholi, AB de Villers and Mahela Jayawardene.
5) Sir Alastair Cook – 12,472 runs at an average of 45.35
English cricket’s only player to be knighted whilst still playing since Sir Ian Botham, Alastair Cook holds almost every single all-time batting record for England. The centre piece of two of England’s greatest ever away triumphs: Australia 2010/11 and India 2012, Cook became renowned for his ability to construct mammoth innings through his obstinate nature and his inability to be phased by anything put in his path.
His list of records includes being England’s all-time leading test run-scorer by 3,354 runs, a feat he achieved back in 2015 and leading the run-scoring charts amongst all openers in world cricket.
Due to his precocious talent, Cook made his test debut in Nagpur in 2006 at the age of 21. After an early injury causing him to miss the next couple of games after his debut series, he played 158 consecutively until the end of his career (another all-time record).
All of this whilst opening in an era which has been one of the hardest ever, in the country where it is hardest. This, and his status as my favourite England player of all-time, push him into my list.
4) Ricky Ponting – 11,286 runs @ 53.48
The scourge of bowling attacks worldwide for 12 years of this century, Ricky Ponting captained a fearsome Australian team and led from the front, scoring runs at-will across the globe. Ponting is among a select group to have a “signature shot” that is instantly recognisable at any level. His pull shot was lethal.
Making his debut in 1995, it was clear in his first 5 years that he was destined for greatness (averaging 51 between then and 2000) and the turn of the century proved no different.
A consistent run-scorer throughout the 12 years he played during this century, Ponting sits at second on the list of all-time test run-scorers and since the majority of those runs were scored since 2000, Ponting is an automatic choice for this list.
3) Steven Smith – 7227 runs @ 62.84
The first thing that will jump out from this set of statistics is that monumental average. Smith has been lauded as the best since Sir Don Bradman and I feel that this excitement is more than warranted.
This would not have been abundantly evident had you witnessed his earlier forays into the test arena. Smith made his debut against Pakistan in 2010 as a leg-spinning all-rounder. We started to witness the signs of his brilliance in late 2013 and early 2014 with a string of good scores in the Ashes. None of this could prepare us for the idiosyncratic dominance which was to unfurl across the test arena and continues to this day.
Smith’s bizarre technique which at first glance would look full of holes and certainly not conducive to test cricket, has proved to be the exact opposite with no real chink-in-the-armour. This has led to some absolutely demoralising one-man demolition jobs of the best that England could throw at him in recent Ashes series.
For this, I find it hard to forgive him but it would be short sighted of me to not acknowledge the best test batsman of his generation and maybe since the Don himself.
2) Kumar Sangakkara – 12,400 runs @ 57.40
Since his debut in 2000, Sangakkara has assumed several different roles for Sri Lanka: from wicketkeeper in the middle order, to top order lynchpin and captain. That he has done all of these roles with aplomb whilst amassing the fourth most runs ever scored in test cricket, all with grace and effortless style (seriously, watch videos of his cover drive), is testament to his longevity and hard work. With a little bit of natural genius of course.
It would be impressive enough to hold the records that he does as a pure batsman but Sangakkara has also spent a large amount of his career keeping wicket and batting at number 3 in the order. In a ten-year span between 2005 and his retirement in 2015, Sangakkara averaged over 62, making it one of the most impressive 10-year peaks of anyone to play the game.
1) Sachin Tendulkar – 10,080 runs @ 52.22
Whilst averaging a touch fewer runs per innings than my other middle order players on this list, Sachin came into this century on the back of eleven years of test cricket experience and went on to play for 13 more years.
The greatest batsman since World War Two, his career has straddled four decades, and no one has scored more international runs than any player ever – a record that is unlikely to ever be broken. All of this has been done with the weight of an entire nation upon his shoulders. With approximately 1 billion people’s days being made or ruined by the fortunes of one man would break most mere mortals. He is also the only player to score 100 in international hundreds.
The fact that Sachin was able to carry this pressure for 24 years of continued brilliance makes him my clear top pick.
By Michael Vince
Stats courtesy of espn statsguru