Cricket: Tendulkar, Ponting and the Greatest One-Day International Team

Jeff Cheshire@@jeff_cheshireAnalyst IIDecember 28, 2012

Cricket: Tendulkar, Ponting and the Greatest One-Day International Team

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    One-day cricket revolutionised the game. All of a sudden, a game that had been played over multiple days with unlimited overs was compressed to fit within the confines of one day and 60 overs per team. This was later to become 50 overs each, creating the game we have come to know.

    Over the years the game has changed significantly. Initially it was seen as being a shorter test match, with teams looking to score at a faster rate than the longer form but reluctant to take risks to do so. However, as the game progressed, this soon changed, and particularly with the advent of Twenty20 in the middle of the last decade, batsmen are now prepared to take more risks, and higher scores have ensued.

    In recent years the one-day game has suffered, and many have questioned whether it has a future on the international scene. 

    For now, though, it soldiers on and has entered its fourth decade. Recently we have seen two all-time greats leave the game in Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar. Ponting leaves all international cricket while Tendulkar will continue to play test matches but will hang up the coloured uniform for good.

    Both men leave as undisputed greats. To appreciate just how good these two have been, take a look back and see the company they are in as we pick out the ten best of the best in the 50-over game to form the perfect team..

Adam Gilchrist (Opening Batsman/Wicket-Keeper)

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    An explosive opening batsman who doubled as a quality wicket-keeper, Adam Gilchrist was one of the key members of the great Australian team of the early 21st century. 

    He had the ability to take the game away from an opposition team from the start, taking to the new ball bowlers in a destructive fashion. His average of 35.89 with the bat compares favourably with most other openers, but few can match his strike rate of 96.94.

    Add to this his record behind the stumps, and it's hard to argue with his inclusion. No one in the history of the one-day game has more dismissals than Gilchrist, leading the way in catches with 417 and coming in No. 4 in stumpings with 55, for 472 dismissals overall.

    In a career that lasted from 1996 until 2008, Gilchrist clocked up 287 games, which included wins at all three of the World Cups he attended (1997, 2003 and 2007).

Sachin Tendulkar (Opening Batsman)

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    The man many regard as the greatest in the one-day format fills the other opening spot. Indeed, there are those that may even lay claim that he is the greatest cricketer of all time. Whichever way you look at it, you simply can't leave Sachin Tendulkar off any list pertaining to cricket greats.

    He debuted as a 16-year-old in 1989, the most promising talent in world cricket, many said. Twenty-three years later, he has finally decided to call it a day at the age of 39. 

    The in-between years were filled with great innings after great innings. With 463 appearances he is the most capped player of all time and one of only two to have surpassed the 400 mark. His average of 44.83 is impressive and ranks as the third highest of all openers behind only Glenn Turner and Gordon Greenidge. Neither of these men, however, could match the strike rate of Tendulkar, and neither played anywhere near the same number of games.

    Equally capable of destroying a bowling attack or knuckling down, Tendulkar was comfortable in nearly any situation. His footwork was near perfect, and his shot selection was of the highest class.

    In 2010, he became the first player to score 200 in a One Day International (ODI), achieving the feat against a formidable South African lineup off just 147 balls. The score remains the second highest of all ODI scores.

    Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was his World Cup win in 2011, where on home soil his beloved Indian team were crowned world champions, snapping Australia's stranglehold on the tournament.

Viv Richards (Batsman)

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    Viv Richards was to one-day cricket through its first 20 years what Sachin Tendulkar was through its second: a devastating batsman who could dismantle any bowling attack with his uncanny ability to strike the ball cleanly through the field.

    Richards was the pioneer of big-hitting batsmen. He was the first to really take the game by the scruff of the neck and show that it is possible to score runs on a consistent basis when batting in such an aggressive manner.

    Add to this his outstanding ability in the field and his handy status as a part-time bowler, and Richards becomes a shoo-in to this team.

    He averaged 47.00 with the bat at a strike rate of 90.20. In the era in which he was playing, this was an absolutely phenomenal pair of statistics, and even today it represents a very impressive career, as good as any player in the modern game.

    His career lasted from 1974 until 1991, which saw him play 187 games. In this time he won the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979, a key part of the legendary West Indies team of this era. 

Ricky Ponting (Batsman)

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    Ponting batted the majority of his career at three, but to make room for Viv Richards, Ricky Ponting finds himself at No. 4 in this team. 

    Frequently the key player throughout a period of Australian dominance, Ponting rates as highly as any batsman over the past decade. When on form he was a run machine, seemingly scoring at will and, for a long period, was considered to be the best batsman in the world.

    A form slump in recent years prompted him to retire at the age of 38, but this doesn't detract from what has been one of the great careers in cricket.

    In 375 games he scored 13,704 runs at an average of 42.03 and a strike rate of 80.39. This ranks him No. 2 on the all-time runs scored list, second only to Sachin Tendulkar.

    He was a three-time World Cup winner, claiming the cup in 1999, 2003 and 2007, and captaining the Australian cricket team in the latter two. The 2003 tournament proved especially memorable for Ponting, when he scored 140 not outs in the final and helped Australia to a nearly unbeatable score to repeat as world champions.

Jacques Kallis (All-Rounder)

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    Jacques Kallis could claim to be the greatest all-rounder of all time. Certainly during the one-day era, no other player has had the success with both bat and ball in the way Kallis has, and only Sir Garfield Sobers can boast a similar record in the all-time stakes.

    This flexibility makes it even more impressive that Kallis has the ability to make the South African team as a specialist batsman, with the option there to be bowled if need be.

    His batting average of 45.26 is impressive, while his 11,498 runs put him at No. 5 on the list of all-time leading run scorers. He is a classical batsman, possessing all the shots and rarely panicking. 

    No. 5 on this list may be a bit low for him, but this is the best of the best, and tough decisions have to be made. Of course if this team were to play, there would be nothing to stop Kallis rising up the order should the situation seem more prudent for him to bat before Viv Richards or Ricky Ponting. 

    As a bowler he has taken 270 wickets at an average of 31.69. In his prime he was capable of delivering the ball at speeds up to 144.84 km/h and was a genuine threat. 

    But there is still more left to be told, as a career that began in 1995 continues to kick on, and at the age of 37, Kallis is showing no signs of slowing up.

Michael Bevan (Batsman)

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    Widely regarded as the greatest one-day player to never cut it in test matches, Michael Bevan was simply too good to leave off the list. In fact there are many that claim him to be the greatest of one-day batsmen.

    In an era of great Australian players, Bevan was consistently at the fore, helping his team side home on numerous occasions with only tail-enders left.

    He wasn't a man to tear his opposition to pieces as many of the others on this list would do; instead he brought to the table the ability to push the ball into gaps and get the most out of his shots by running hard.

    His average of 53.58 is the third highest of all time. Given that he played more than eight times the number of games as Ryan ten Doeschate and four times that of Hashim Amla (Nos. 1 and 2, respectively), there is a good argument that he can lay claim to having the most impressive ODI batting average of all time.

    In a career that spanned from 1994 to 2004, Bevan and the Australian team won back-to-back World Cups in 1999 and 2003, whilst also finishing runner-up in 1996.

Imran Khan (Captain, All-Rounder)

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    In an era of great all-rounders, Imran Khan was perhaps the best, earning the all-rounder spot in this team. Capable of making the Pakistan team as both a batter and a bowler as well as being one of the greatest captains of all time, it is hard to find an argument against Khan's inclusion.

    What many consider to be his most memorable moment came in his last game, when he led Pakistan to a win over England in the 1992 World Cup final. His 72 runs made him the top scorer for his team, while he also, fittingly, picked up the final wicket.

    However, it was perhaps his bowling that would see him recognised as one of the game's greats. Certainly his early career saw him more prominent with the ball than the bat. He was one of the fastest bowlers and one of the best. 

    His 182 wickets may not compare to many of his contemporaries, but it must be remembered that Khan achieved this in 175 games, in an era where games were played less frequently than they would come to be.

    As a batsman he averaged 33.41 at a reasonable strike rate of 72.65. All things considered, this is an impressive record that would have undoubtedly been more impressive had he played ten years later.

    Maybe his best contribution, though, came as a captain. Tactically there were few better, and his ability to lead was amongst the best, too. A must-have in any team.

Richard Hadlee (All-Rounder)

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    Another one of the great all-rounders of the 1980s, Richard Hadlee makes this team for his bowling alone. That said, a batting average of 21.61 certainly only bolsters his case.

    So often Hadlee would carry his team single-handedly. He was frequently the difference between New Zealand being an average team and a world class team. 

    In his early years, he was a fast bowler, coming in off a long run-up and beating his opponents for pace. As he grew older, though, he shortened this run-up and slowed his pace, concentrating more on ball movement.

    At his peak he seemed to have the ball on a piece of string, as he moved the ball to such an extent that he became the hardest bowler in world cricket to play against.

    Like Imran Khan, his record of 158 wickets at an average of 21.56 doesn't show the greatness of the man. Had he played ten years later, you could probably add an extra 200 wickets to that count. He was that good and that important to the fortunes of the New Zealand team.

Brett Lee (Bowler)

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    There were a handful of players competing for this spot, but the ultimate victor was the deadly Australian paceman Brett Lee. Few can claim to be faster than Lee, who was capable of bowling spells around the 150 km/h mark, famously reaching 160.8 km/h at his fastest.

    His pace could strike fear into the opposition, and when he got his line and length right with it, he became possibly the deadliest weapon in the game. His yorker was as good as any in the history of the game and, when coming at 150 km/h, was near impossible to play.

    He formed an opening partnership with Glenn McGrath, which quickly became the most feared in world cricket. Many would prefer McGrath to Lee in this team, and perhaps they would be justified in doing so. What Lee brings to the table, though, is genuine pace that McGrath didn't possess.

    There are other players on this list who could bowl in a similar manner to McGrath, but there isn't another who will provoke fear in the opposition the way Lee can.

    Lee took 380 wickets in his ODI career, at an average of 23.36. His strike rate of 29.4 is outstanding and is the highest among players who have played over 100 games. 

    In a career that spanned from 1999 to 2008, he was a two-time World Cup winner in 2003 and 2007.

Muttiah Muralitharan (Spin Bowler)

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    This spot was always going to be a two-horse race between Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan. Each can lay claim to being the best spinners in the history of the game, and neither would look out of place on this list. 

    However, the man they call Murali gets the spot, boasting a slightly superior record to his great rival in the one-day game. He could do things with a cricket ball that no other man could, as he constantly left batsmen perplexed by a series of unpredictable deliveries.

    He is the leading all-time wicket taker in ODI, taking 534 scalps at an average of 23.08. In an 18-year career, Muralitharan played with the Sri Lankan team in five World Cups, winning the cup in 1996 and finishing runner-up in 2007 and 2011.

Joel Garner (Bowler)

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    There were plenty of fast bowlers from the West Indies who could be featured in this team. Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall both spent time in the team during the planning stages; both men were deadly fast and lethal with the ball in hand. Equally good arguments could be made that Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose deserve a spot.

    Somehow Joel Garner doesn't seem to get heralded in the same way as the likes of Holding and Marshall. In the one-day format of the game, though, he can certainly claim to be, at worst, the equal of these men.

    His height was his most dangerous weapon, as he generated tremendous bounce from a standard delivery and fired in a devastating yorker. This made him extremely hard to score runs off and at his best was near impossible to play.

    He took 146 wickets in 98 matches at an average of 18.84. This average is perhaps the most impressive thing on Garner's record, the best of any bowler in the history of the ODI game.

    Garner also rates as the most economical bowler in one-day history, conceding just 3.09 runs per over on average, putting him well ahead of his nearest rival.

    His strike rate of 36.5 is reasonably good, too, showing him to be capable of taking wickets as well as not allowing runs.

    His career lasted from 1977 to 1987, and he and the West Indies team won the World Cup in 1979, taking 5/39 in the final. In this game he delivered possibly his most memorable spell of bowling, taking five wickets for just four runs and was twice on a hat-trick. Those figures remain the best in World Cup final history.