The ICC Ranking System's Top 10 Bowlers in ODI Cricket History

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2013

The ICC Ranking System's Top 10 Bowlers in ODI Cricket History

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    The history of one-day limited overs cricket is a rich one.

    Since the format's inception in the early 1970s, the 50-over game has grown to become a profoundly popular cricketing arena, providing an infinitely exciting platform for the world's greatest entertainers.

    While ODIs have generally been seen as a batsman's domain, bowlers—particularly in the game's formative years—have had an immense impact on the game's history.

    But who are the greatest ODI bowlers of all time? 

    To look at this objectively, we can examine the ICC's all-time player ratings to examine which bowlers have reached the highest peaks.

    However, this method does have its drawbacks; most notably that it somewhat favours those that have enjoyed periods of incredible, yet sudden brilliance over those who have performed consistently over lengthy stretches of time.

    Also worth noting is that this method tends to favour those from previous generations, given the dominance of batsmen in limited overs cricket from the beginning of the 21st century.

    Of course, the algorithm behind the ICC's ratings has also been closely guarded, but if you'd like more information on how the ratings are calculated, the ICC's ranking page has a FAQ section.

    So without further ado, here are the greatest ODI bowlers based on the ICC's all-time player ratings.

10. Michael Holding

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    Team: West Indies

    ODI Career Span: 1976-1987

    ODI Wickets: 142

    ODI Bowling Average: 21.36

    Career Best Rating: 875


    Those that remember the great Michael Holding will never forget his trademark approach to the popping crease. His rhythmic run-up that saw the lethal West Indian kiss the turf on his way to the wicket was one of world cricket's greatest sights during the 1970s and 1980s.

    Although Holding's career is best known for his exploits in the Test arena, the brutal fast bowler was still able to put together an impressive limited overs record, compiling 142 wickets at less than 22.

    His career rating peaked in 1985, not long after the right-arm quick had dismantled Australia in Sydney with figures of 5-26 from 10 overs.

    While so many of the younger generation associate Holding with his iconic commentary box voice, those that witnessed Jamaican speedster will never forget him.

9. Curtly Ambrose

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    Team: West Indies

    ODI Career Span: 1988-2000

    ODI Wickets: 225

    ODI Bowling Average: 24.12

    Career Best Rating: 877


    Perhaps the most lethal bowler of his generation, Curtly Ambrose was a frightening proposition for the world's best batsmen during the 1990s.

    At 6'7", the West Indian would release his blistering and bruising deliveries from close to 10 feet, intimidating nearly every opponent he faced for a decade.

    The way he shook the ball in his hand on his way to the wicket was as mesmerising as the deliveries themselves; his cool manner and refusal to talk to the media only adding to his menace.

    His ODI rating peaked during the West Indies visit to England in 1991; a time when he was considered the most fearsome bowler on the planet.

=7. Malcolm Marshall

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    Team: West Indies

    ODI Career Span: 1980-1992

    ODI Wickets: 157

    ODI Bowling Average: 26.96

    Career Best Rating: 891


    The third West Indian on this list, Malcolm Marshall was profoundly different to his fast bowling counterparts from the Caribbean. 

    At just 5'9", Marshall was considerably shorter than his partners in crime, making him an entirely different proposition for batsmen.

    His lower release position made his skiddy bouncer unbearably difficult to face. While his slithering approach to the crease and open action made his combination of pace and swing almost unplayable at his best.

    When his rating peaked at 891 in 1985, he stood alongside Michael Holding and another man on this list to form the most lethal fast bowling unit ever witnessed.

=7. Dennis Lillee

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    Team: Australia

    ODI Career Span: 1972-1983

    ODI Wickets: 103

    ODI Bowling Average: 20.82

    Career Best Rating: 891


    Dennis Lillee represented the very essence of Australian cricket during his decade-long tenure as his nation's spearhead.

    Hostile, combative and immensely aggressive, the right-arm quick embodied the collective mentality of his country and transferred it into the sporting domain.

    Although injury restricted his pace after 1973, Lillee honed his craft, using subtle variations in seam and swing to rip through the batting lineups of Australia's opponents.

    That his career rating peaked in 1982—well after his battles with injury—is testament to his sustained brilliance on the international stage.

6. Ewen Chatfield

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    Team: New Zealand

    ODI Career Span: 1979-1989

    ODI Wickets: 140

    ODI Bowling Average: 25.84

    Career Best Rating: 892


    Probably the least known player on this list, Ewen Chatfield formed an incredibly effective opening partnership with Sir Richard Hadlee during New Zealand's most successful period in international cricket.

    Hard-working, with great control of swing at his medium-fast pace, Chatfield proved to be the perfect foil for his record-breaking teammate.

    While the right-armer never escaped from Hadlee's shadow, his rating peaked at an impressive 892 during 1984 after a fruitful tour of Sri Lanka.

5. Glenn McGrath

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    Team: Australia

    ODI Career Span: 1993-2007

    ODI Wickets: 381

    ODI Bowling Average: 22.02

    Career Best Rating: 903


    The most metronomic fast bowler that world cricket has seen, Glenn McGrath is a true great of the game.

    Perhaps more than any other player in history, McGrath bowled with a ruthless precision that never relented during his 15-year career.

    Always back-of-a-length, the New South Welshman would work batsmen over with his uncanny ability to produce subtle movement from an impeccable line.

    Although McGrath's ODI rating peaked in 2002, he recorded his finest limited overs performance during the final series of his career—the 2007 World Cup—where he took 26 wickets to claim Man of the Series honours.

4. Muttiah Muralitharan

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    Team: Sri Lanka

    ODI Career Span: 1993-2011

    ODI Wickets: 534

    ODI Bowling Average: 23.08

    Career Best Rating: 913


    While he's one of the most controversial bowlers in the game's history, Muttiah Muralitharan was a force to be reckoned with during his time in international cricket.

    His unprecedented and vicious off-spin was at times unplayable on the turning wickets of the subcontinent; his doosra simply enhancing his immense threat.

    Such was his control of spin and flight, Muralitharan was rarely conquered by international batsmen; most of them attempting to see him off before launching an assault on others.

    His haul of 534 wickets is a record in the ODI arena, made more impressive by the fact he played six less matches than the man that sits beneath him.


3. Shaun Pollock

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    Team: South Africa

    ODI Career Span: 1996-2008

    ODI Wickets: 393

    ODI Bowling Average: 24.50

    Career Best Rating: 917


    Coming from a rich cricketing history, Shaun Pollock was bound to be a world-class performer given the achievements of family members before him.

    Initially a slick and impressive fast bowler, Pollock became a more methodical seamer as his career progressed. In fact, the right-armer's control of line and length is among the finest the game has ever seen.

    That precision made Pollock a formidable ODI performer, capable of ripping through lineups at the same time as curbing scoring rates.

    Like Lillee, the fact that his career rating peaked in 2007 (the penultimate year of his career) is a reflection of his immense stature in the game.

2. Sir Richard Hadlee

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    Team: New Zealand

    ODI Career Span: 1973-1990

    ODI Wickets: 158

    ODI Bowling Average: 21.56

    Career Best Rating: 923


    Unquestionably the greatest cricketer to come from New Zealand shores, Sir Richard Hadlee almost single-handedly carried his team for close to two decades until 1990.

    Cunning, bullishly confident and profoundly skillful, Hadlee utterly terrorised international batsmen with his sublime accuracy and control.

    The first player to reach 400 Test wickets in the game's history, Hadlee was just as effective in the 50-over arena, where his precision made him arguably the world's finest limited overs technician. 

    When his rating peaked at 923 in June 1983, few could compare.

1. Joel Garner

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    Team: West Indies

    ODI Career Span: 1977-1987

    ODI Wickets: 146

    ODI Bowling Average: 18.84

    Career Best Rating: 940


    Perhaps not the most obvious candidate for the No. 1 spot on this list, but Joel Garner's record says it all. His 146 wickets at less than 19 is a staggering return for a bowler than bordered on unplayable at his best.

    At 6'8", batsmen felt as if the ball were being delivered from the clouds above. With lively pace that could be elevated when the giant West Indian was in the mood, Garner was the most uncomfortable proposition in ODI history.

    Like Marshall and Holding, his career rating peaked in 1985; a time when the world was witnessing the greatest fast bowling show cricket has ever seen.

    Just image facing the enormous Garner, only to have Marshall and Holding follow.