Shane Warne’s Top 100 Test Cricketers

Shane Warne’s latest book titled Shane Warne’s Century – My Top 100 Cricketers is out in the market. The following are the ratings he has given to (primarily) the best 100 test cricketers that he has played with.

100 Jamie Siddons
99 Andrew Caddick
98 Graham Thorpe
97 Shahid Afridi
96 Sourav Ganguly
95 Moin Khan
94 Devon Malcolm
93 Arjuna Ranatunga
92 Monty Panesar
91 Graeme Hick
90 Inzamam-ul-Haq
89 Jack Russell
88 Mushtaq Ahmed
87 Gary Kirsten
86 Ian Bishop
85 Chris Gayle
84 Simon Jones
83 Paul Reiffel
82 Craig McMillan
81 Greg Matthews
80 Darren Berry
79 Mark Boucher
78 Stuart Clark
77 V. V. S. Laxman
76 Shane Watson
75 Mahela Jayawardene
74 Shane Bond
73 Mike Gatting
72 John Wright
71 Darren Gough
70 Richie Richardson
69 Alec Stewart
68 Jonty Rhodes
67 Harbhajan Singh
66 Hansie Cronje
65 Carl Hooper
64 Shivnarine Chanderpaul
63 Daniel Vettori
62 Mike Atherton
61 Desmond Haynes
60 Mike Hussey
59 Craig McDermott
58 Andrew Symonds
57 Tim May
56 Damien Martyn
55 Mohammad Azharuddin
54 Michael Vaughan
53 Mohammad Yousuf
52 Brian McMillan
51 Chris Cairns
50 Stephen Harmison
49 Dilip Vengsarkar
48 Dean Jones
47 Robin Smith
46 Justin Langer
45 Ravi Shastri
44 Graeme Smith
43 Kapil Dev
42 Stuart MacGill
41 Sanath Jayasuriya
40 Stephen Fleming
39 Michael Slater
38 Michael Clarke
37 Bruce Reid
36 Allan Donald
35 Virender Sehwag
34 Shoaib Akhtar
33 Kevin Pietersen
32 Darren Lehmann
31 Waqar Younis
30 Andrew Flintoff
29 Saeed Anwar
28 Shaun Pollock
27 Jason Gillespie
26 Steve Waugh
25 Andy Flower
24 Brett Lee
23 Kumar Sangakkara
22 Martin Crowe
21 David Boon
20 Rahul Dravid
19 Aravinda de Silva
18 Merv Hughes
17 Jacques Kallis
16 Adam Gilchrist
15 Matthew Hayden
14 Graham Gooch
13 Anil Kumble
12 Mark Taylor
11 Courtney Walsh
10 Ian Healy
9 Mark Waugh
8 Ricky Ponting
7 Muttiah Muralitharan
6 Wasim Akram
5 Glenn McGrath
4 Allan Border
3 Curtly Ambrose
2 Brian Lara

…and the number 1 is…
1 Sachin Tendulkar

Though it is very difficult for anybody to come up with the top 100 (as compared to say a dream team of 11), I guess Shane Warne has short sighted views on certain players and it is majorly driven by prejudictions. The other point is that we can perhaps pick Top 20 batsmen, Top 20 bowlers, Top allrounders and wicket keepers etc but not a mixed lot.

Also, Warne seems to understand only New Zealand and England cricketers well owing to hardfought Ashes series etc. Rest of the people, he picked purely based on what he has experienced while batting or bowling.

The following ranks may be controversial:

Shahid Afridi: Should he figure in the Top 100 test players at all?
Arjuna Ranatunga & Saurav Ganguly: Should not they come a little earlier in the list owing to their astute leadership qualities?
Inzamam Ul Haq: I am surprised that one of the best test batsmen ever is figuring at rank 90!
Alec Stewart and Mahela Jayawardhane should definitely come a lot before Chanderpaul or McDermott. Among bowlers, does Merv Hughes deserve to be at top 20? I thought Waqar Younis and Allan Donald were a lot better than Hughes!

As I said earlier, it is really a hard thing to do, but probably he could still have done a better job?

Border – Gavaskar series is back!

Australian cricket team has just landed in India. I am sure the Indian fans are looking forward to the event, still remembering the 2001 series. Some of the stalwarts from that memorable series is still with the Indian team where as Australia has a much more changed outlook.

Very Very Special series

When it comes to a series against Australia the name that comes to an Indian fan’s mind is not that of Tendulkar or Dravid! It is all about Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman who relishes the Australian bowling attack – does not matter whether it is spin or pace. This time around, age has caught up with him but the fans are still looking forward to witness yet another Very Very Special inning. Fitness and whether permitting, Laxman will be completing his 100th test in this series as he has now 96 test caps and it is a 4-test match series.

After VVS it’s all about Dravid and Bajji and I sincerely hope that Kumble along with Bajji will do some magic this time around. And more importantly, this could be one of the last two or three series for Kumble and he MUST give some opportunity for budding spinners as well. It wouldn’t be a bad idea if they play three spinners in at least two matches in this series.

As Tendulkar is not present, there will be additional headache for Dravid. Hopefully a younger batsman (not Yuvraj) will also get a chance to prove his worth. India’s ODI captain, returning to the test squad, will also use this opportunity to improve his test form as well as gain some learning to take over reigns from Kumble soon.

The Australian Team

Compared to the Indian team, the aussies have an inexperienced but a tougher team. The youngsters on the side must be looking forward to a great opportunity to play in India which Steve Waugh called the Final Frontier. Althogh, the jinx was broken in the last visit, playing in the sub-continent is still not an easy thing for the Aussies. Ponting would love to find some form in India during this series and Michael Clarke will have a great apprenticeship as he prepares to take over the captaincy in another two years!

There are also three youngsters, on the side, whom I haven’t heard about before… Hope the debutant quickies Peter Siddle and (the tall) Doug Bollinger along with the oldie debutant spinner Bryce McGain will duly support Lee, Johnson, Clark and Watson in their respective departments. Jason Krejza is the new allrounder and that makes almost 25% of the team inexperienced. Though the bowling department has a very good representation, the batting looks pretty week for Australia. With Ponting never finding form in India, Matthew Hayden and Mike Hussey will have an enhance role to play and hopefully Phil Jacques, Simon Catich and Shane Watson will find some form against the Indian spin attack.

I only hope that no dust bowls will be prepared by the groundmen this time. Of course, the venues are picked in a balancing act with Mohali/Nagpur offering some bounce and Delhi/Bangalore are pancake flat pitches made for Bajji and Kumble.

Anyways, looking forward to see a wonderful test match series…

Champions Trophy under threat!

There has already been a lot of talks around Pakistan as the venue of this year’s ICC Champions Trophy. In fact, it is not just about Champions Trophy, but any touring team from England, New Zealand and Australia always used to raise this ‘stock concern’ about the security situation in Pakistan and sometimes Zimbabwe as well.

Though, security is of prime importance, I just wonder if it has become a fashion to always raise this concern by the above mentioned teams while touring Pakistan. Or it could be a cultural difference between sub-continent teams and the developed nations that play cricket.

Bomb blasts and terrorist attacks are part and parcel of life in most sub-continent countries. Though, the democratic situation in India and Sri Lanka are much better, these countries are neither safe nor any exception when it comes to safety. Now, why don’t they complain about Indian or Sri Lankan tours the same way they do with the Pakistan tours?

According to me, the cricketers (hosts or visitors) always get the best security arrangements available in the sub-continent. Beyond this, if they have more worries, why not the rich cricket bodies ‘hire’ efficient (and may be even imported) security personnel for the protection of their players? If no proper permanent solution is devised for this issue, we will get to hear the same statements over and again. Moreover, the cultural differences and financial status of the cricket bodies have already started separating the cricketing nations into two groups. In all recent issues – whether it is the IPL, issues related to Pakistan and Zimbabwe, ICL issues etc – the main underlying reason was the cultural difference that was further widened by the BCCI’s money power to influence decisions. So it’s time for the international cricket bodies come together and decide on consciences and the future of cricket!

Way forward for the Fab 4 and the Spin legend…

After witnessing the dismal performances of India’s fabulous 4 and the legendary spinner & captain, I am forced to write that it is time for them to call it a day. Instead of facing axe from the BCCI selectors and getting booed by the public, they should take a decision on their own.

Assessment of the current test team

As I expressed in an earlier post in this blog, they had a chance to rotate these four batsmen to make sure that only two or three of them play in a single match. This would have given opportunity to a budding test cricketer to try his skills and take the challenge along with the experienced. By not doing so, Mr. Kumble (who himself need to be rotated) and co underlines that all oldies will play together until they are chucked out. Reminds me of the Saurav Ganguly era of leadership.

Suggested Roadmap for India’s test team

  • Kumble can be given another test series to help experiment with youngsters and retire himself
  • Rahul Dravid needs to announce his retirement soon after this series as he has nothing more to prove. Rahul has been the main batsman in the middle order for quite some years now and has scored above 10,000 runs each in both versions of the game. It is right time for him to retire!
  • Saurav Ganguly has to retire himself or removed from the squad immediately
  • VVS Laxman may be given a chance to play up in the order for another series and see if he can do better. During the Ganguly era and post that as well, he was always ill-treated with selection as well as batting order experiments
  • Sachin Tendulkar can be given another test match or two to retire gracefully after breaking Brian Lara’s record. There’s no point in persisting with the god forever as in any case Ricky Ponting will over take him in another year or two and Sachin cannot race against time!
  • Both Sachin and Laxman should be given the task of inducting the youngsters into the test mindset over the next couple of months.

The Indian test team has to undergo a major change – mainly in the batting department and I am convinced that heroes like Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni have nothing to do as test batsmen. Of course, Dhoni figures in the scheme of things as a wicket keeper batsman and as a captain. Unfortunately, the selectors and the current captain could not manage the transition in a phasewise manner as they were either afraid of the fans’ reaction back home or were worried about their own place! But if they don’t do it in a fitting manner, it is going to hurt forever – something like the West Indies team went through, when all their great bowlers retired together and then the batsmen, leaving the team in tatters.

End of Michael Vaughan’s career?

Michael Vaughan’s career seems to be coming to an end soon. Following a poor run in the last few matches and loosing the first two home tests to South Africa, things could not have been any worse for him. Stepping down as the test captain should be a succession+retirement plan devised by the ECB.

There were a number of issues that prevented Michael Vaughan from becoming a great test player. His career, that was started a little bit late in his mid twenties, was always marred by his infamous knee injury. Also, I thought he was not a great believer of spinners and Monty Panesar took some time before getting the nod. As an ODI player, he was a mediocre performed, probably he should not have played ODI cricket at all!

The only reason for anybody to remember Michael Vaughan may be due to his team’s famous Ashes Victory (Recovery) in 2005. In fact, I doubt if Michael played any major role in that – it was Flintoff all the way then!

I hope that England finds a suitable test captain soon. I doubt if KP could be one as I always thought he could be a great ODI and Twenty 20 captain! Burdening him with the test captaincy could spoil his test career! Flintoff has already proven to be a bad captain and a bad boy off the field as well. I feel that if Andrew Strauss gets back to form – he’s showing those intentions – he should be made the test captain and KP the ODI captain!

Lankan tigers roar!

The first test match between India and Sri Lanka has been something that I was looking forward to due to the changes in umpiring rules. Though it was exciting to see that a couple of umpiring decisions were taken after referrals to third umpire, the whole match was pretty boring with the clueless Indians succumbing to a superior side that was brimming with confidence, skills and professionalism.

Ajanta Mendis, after his heroics in the Asia cup, led by the wizard of spin, gave no chance to the Indians to even put together a decent fight. If you consider the rain affected time, the Lankans managed to beat the Indian in roughly three days, a feat that Australia has been doing for a while.

Momentum favored Lanka

Following their Asia cup win, the Lankans really managed to maintain the momentum. The good thing with them was that the majority of their one-day players also figure in the test team and hence the momentum clearly favored them. The decision to debut Mendis was a great one and the youngster did not disappoint the selectors, his captain and his country men. The Indians on the other hand have been fielding a bunch of middle-aged men that have been lacking match practice and athleticism for a while now.

The Twenty20 hangover

The Indians (and their cricket body) are also not really getting out of their T20 mode yet. Though the side claimed to have the best test batsmen combination on earth, that was only on paper. Moreover, they lacked a game plan against the best spinning side in the world! There have been complaints that the placid pitch did not add to the spirit of the game, but that was only a lame excuse and the batting collapse cannot be forgiven.

In the meanwhile, the Indian cricket think tank is busy taking on ICL and the English Cricket board in order to secure more money via the T20 format for the future as well. They are also helping out Pakistan’s cause to make sure that the Champions trophy is played in the neighbor country. Among all these high profile agenda items, test cricket seems to be taking the backseat. The Sri Lankan board at the same time is reiterating the fact that they have a clear plan for the test cricket. Arjuna Ranatunga even made a statement that the Sri Lankan players should quit IPL 2009 in order to take part in the England tour completely. I liked that attitude of the Lankans.

I hope that in the coming matches, the Indians would regroup and adapt. As I mentioned in the last post, the ideal thing to do was not to play all five or six old men together but rest one at a time and rotate them with youngsters. The case is the same with the spin bowlers as well (even if it would mean that Kumble has to rest in a match). If not, the Indians can expect a 0-2 or even 0-3 loss at the hands of the Lankans.