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Who Is The All-Time Greatest Cricket Test Player?

There have been many great cricketers over the 100 plus years of Test cricket history, and determining the greatest ever is never an easy challenge. The discussion below is only about Test cricket players as other forms of the game have only recently become popular and it would not unfair to compare cricketers of the past with player results from one day and 20-20 cricket matches.

Based on the discussions below, we have created two polls, where you can vote for the greatest batsman and greatest bowler of all time. Once the winners of individual sports is determined, a vote will be had to find what you think is the greatest athlete ever (all sports).

An Economists View

In 2011, a list of the top Test batsmen who ever lived was compiled by Griffith University's Dr Nicholas Rohde. Using data up until December 2011, the top of the list was Sachin Tendulkar, only just above Donald Bradman. See more.

cricket setWisden's Greatest Ever Player

In the early 2000's, Wisden released a list of the all-time top 100 greatest Test players, using a unique rating system. The highest ranked batsman was Donald Bradman, a clear leader above Sachin Tendulkar. In the bowling stakes, Muttiah Muralitharan won ahead of Richard Hadlee. There are many other top lists of cricketers, and more of them will be discussed here in the future.

Highest Test Run Scorers

The aim of a cricket batsman is to make as many runs as possible, so what better way to rank the best batters than by listing the total runs scored. The greatest cricket batsman (vote) may come from this list, though there are other considerations such as the number of matches played (and batting average) and the conditions played under and the quality of the opposition. The highest test run scorer is the Indian player Tendulkar, though the other commonly nominated greatest batsman, Bradman, is not even in the top 10! The Don was ranked 39th as did not play anywhere near as many Test matches are these players. The table below was created in July 2011. Several players are still active and the figures will have changed since then.

  Player Played Matches Inns Runs Highest Ave 100 50 duck
1 SR Tendulkar (India) 1989 + 177 290 14692 248* 56.94 51 59 14
2 RT Ponting (Aus) 1995-2010 152 259 12363 257 53.51 39 56 14
3 R Dravid (ICC/India) 1996 + 153 265 12314 270 52.4 32 60 8
4 BC Lara (ICC/WI) 1990-2006 131 232 11953 400* 52.88 34 48 17
5 JH Kallis (ICC/SA) 1995 + 145 246 11947 201* 57.43 40 54 10
6 AR Border (Aus) 1978-1994 156 265 11174 205 50.56 27 63 11
7 SR Waugh (Aus) 1985-2004 168 260 10927 200 51.06 32 50 22
8 SM Gavaskar (India) 1971-1987 125 214 10122 236* 51.12 34 45 12
9 DPMD Jayawardene (SL) 1997 + 119 196 9630 374 52.62 28 38 11
10 S Chanderpaul (WI) 1994 + 133 227 9367 203* 49.04 23 55 13

Greatest Test Averages

As the list above of top Test run scorers did not include what many consider to be the greatest batsman ever, here is a list that does have him on top. Below are the top test batting averages for players who have batted for 10 or more innings in Test matches. Now the highest run scorer does not make the list, though he would not be far off the top 10 with a current average of 56.94 (July 2011).

Player Played Matches Inns NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 ducks
DG Bradman (Aus) 1928-1948 52 80 10 6996 334 99.94 29 13 7
CS Dempster (NZ) 1930-1933 10 15 4 723 136 65.72 2 5 0
SG Barnes (Aus) 1938-1948 13 19 2 1072 234 63.05 3 5 1
Taslim Arif (Pak) 1980-1980 6 10 2 501 210* 62.62 1 2 1
IJL Trott (Eng) 2009 + 21 34 4 1867 226 62.23 6 6 1
RG Pollock (SA) 1963-1970 23 41 4 2256 274 60.97 7 11 1
GA Headley (WI) 1930-1954 22 40 4 2190 270* 60.83 10 5 2
H Sutcliffe (Eng) 1924-1935 54 84 9 4555 194 60.73 16 23 2
E Paynter (Eng) 1931-1939 20 31 5 1540 243 59.23 4 7 3
KF Barrington (Eng) 1955-1968 82 131 15 6806 256 58.67 20 35 5
ED Weekes (WI) 1948-1958 48 81 5 4455 207 58.61 15 19 6
KS Duleepsinhji (Eng) 1929-1931 12 19 2 995 173 58.52 3 5 0
WR Hammond (Eng) 1927-1947 85 140 16 7249 336* 58.45 22 24 4

Highest Wicket Takers

The goal of a cricket bowler is to take as many wickets as possible with minimal runs taken, so what better way to rank the best test bowlers than by listing the total number of wickets taken. The greatest ever cricket bowler (vote) will probably come from this list, though there are other considerations such as the number of matches played and the conditions played under and the quality of the opposition. The table below was created in July 2011, and none of this list are currently playing. Based purely on wickets taken, Muralitharan is the greatest, though he has had the advantage over Warne of playing more often on spin-friendly wickets.

  Player Played Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts Best Ave Econ SR
1 M Muralitharan (ICC/SL) 1992-2010 133 230 44039 18180 800 9/51 22.72 2.47 55
2 SK Warne (Aus) 1992-2007 145 273 40705 17995 708 8/71 25.41 2.65 57.4
3 A Kumble (India) 1990-2008 132 236 40850 18355 619 10/74 29.65 2.69 65.9
4 GD McGrath (Aus) 1993-2007 124 243 29248 12186 563 8/24 21.64 2.49 51.9
5 CA Walsh (WI) 1984-2001 132 242 30019 12688 519 7/37 24.44 2.53 57.8
6 N Kapil Dev (India) 1978-1994 131 227 27740 12867 434 9/83 29.64 2.78 63.9
7 Sir RJ Hadlee (NZ) 1973-1990 86 150 21918 9611 431 9/52 22.29 2.63 50.8
8 SM Pollock (SA) 1995-2008 108 202 24353 9733 421 7/87 23.11 2.39 57.8
9 Wasim Akram (Pak) 1985-2002 104 181 22627 9779 414 7/119 23.62 2.59 54.6
10 CEL Ambrose (WI) 1988-2000 98 179 22103 8501 405 8/45 20.99 2.3 54.5

Some Great Cricketers

Below are some of the greatest cricketers ever, compiled using other published lists and visitor feedback. The players are listed in no particular order. This list is not complete - if you believe that there is someone missing from this list, please place a comment below, including any relevant details about the person.

name notes
Adam Gilchrist Australian wicketkeeper
Alan Border Ex-Australian captain was fifth on the Wisden all-time batsman list
Brian Lara West Indies batsman
Clarrie Grimmett Australian cricketer fifth on the Wisden all-time bowler list
Courtney Walsh
Curtly Ambrose
Dennis Lillee Australia fast bowler
Don Bradman Australian legend batsman. Highest test average of 99.94. First on the Wisden all-time batsman list
Gary Sobers
Glenn Mcgrath Australian fast bowler
Imran Khan
Joel Garner West Indian fast bowler
Jacques Kallis
Javeed Miandad
Mutthiah Muralitharan First on the Wisden all-time bowler list
Rahul Dravid Indian cricketer fourth on the Wisden all-time batsman list
Ricky Ponting batsman
Richard Hadlee second on the Wisden all-time bowler list
Sachin Tendulkar second on the Wisden all-time batsman list
Shane Warne Australian leg spin bowler. fouth on the Wisden all-time bowler list
Steve Waugh batsman
Sydney Barnes English cricketer third on the Wisden all-time bowler list
Sunil Gavaskar batsman
Vivian Richards third on the Wisden all-time batsman list
Wasim Akram fast bowler

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Old Comments

comment from Hemanth Kumar Achilles (July 2012)
YES BRADMAN IS GREATEST PLAYER ... WHERE SACHIN IS GOD OF CRICKET. HERE I AM COMPARING BOTH OF THEM

1).PRESSURE
Tendulkar plays under huge pressure. 1 billion+ people expecting you to perform in each and every match. To perform consistently well for 20 years as per expectations is just Brilliant! Bradman never had such pressure in his whole career apart from bodyline series and in his last innings against England.
2).FITNESS
Bradman played 52 tests in 20 years whereas Sachin has played 162 tests in 20 years. In Bradman's time not many matches were played. Players easily got 7-8 days of gap in between 2 tests of a series. In one year only 4-5 tests were played. There were no one dayers. Nowadays there are too much of ODI's. Once a series starts, you don't get any chance to take rest. 5 ODI get completed in 12-13 days and as soon as ODI series is over, the Test series starts and between tests only 3 days of gap
3).POSITION OF BATTING
Bradman usually came at no.3 or no.4 and mostly when the score were 176 for 1 or 217 for 2. No pressure!! Just play the natural game and dominated the bowling. Unlike Sachin, Bradman had some really good openers from the start of his career. Woodfull & Ponsford had career average of 45+, Sachin usually came at no.4 & mostly when India lost both the openers with the scoreboard reading something 20-2!!! And then this best batsman of all time rescues the team. In Onedayers Sachin opens and starts blazing guns from the beginning and then steady in middle overs and again all guns blazing in last 10 overs. And at 37, if you are still able to do after playing 20 years, then it's surely a remarkable thing !
4).OPPOSTION
Bradman played mostly against England and he got used to that bowling thats why scored over 5000 runs with an average of around 92. One series against each minnows [India, South Africa and West Indies were new in cricket that time] and scored heavily against them. Never played in Indian Sub-Continent against Indian spinners. Playing at Indian pitches is never been easy for any batsman. Now days Australian thinks Ricky Ponting is the best batsman after Bradman from Australia. Look his record in India! Sachin's average in Australia is above 54. A batsman is perfect when he scores against really class bowlings. Excluding Larwood Bradman never played any quality bowlers. (and the other 2 were CV Grimmett & RR Lindwall, who belong to his own country) He never played against a bowler who bowls something like 160kmph+ on hard fast pitch where batsman hardly gets a chance to think of what should be played, whereas Sachin played against Ambrose-Walsh-Bishop, Wasim-Waqar-Akhtar, McGrath-Lee-Gilespie, Donald-Pollock, Warne-Murli and many more. The swing was unknown during that time, Sachin has to play reverse swing, which was no one could even imagined.
5).TECHNOLOGY
In Bradman's time it was not easy to pick one's weakness just standing at slips or point. That's why Jardine had to use the theory of bowling on chest height to stop Bradman from scoring runs. Its true that then there was no such equipment like helmet, arm-guards to save you but then apart from Bodyline series there were no such instance where batsmen had to really save themselves from truly fast bowling. Interestingly, though Sachin plays few shots in the air when he tries to play drives on rising delivery (thanks to Today's technology) and many captain tried to get his wicket at the early part of his innings, Nasser Hussain tried something different to get his wicket, by not letting him to score freely against his bowlers (though Sachin still had the second best strike rate after Sehwag in that series for India).
True that the average of 99.94 is considered to be top achievement in any sport statistically, however Cricket is not just a game of averages. There are many other things which should be consider like the standard of playing cricket. Nowadays so much of technology is used so that you can take out weak areas of a particular player. The standard of fielding is just too good. The Media hype and pressure is so much. Lots of cricket played, scoring in every part of the world. Sachin not only plays role in batting but also in many other areas like Sachin can spin the bowl like Shane Warne, Sachin is never afraid of taking responsibilities. Tendulkar took the ball from Azhar and Kapil in Hero Cup Semifinal and bowled the last over and did not let South Africa to score 6 runs to win the match. Just imagine if those runs were scored. Public and Media of India would have definitely gone after the little master. And if that's not enough he is partially playing a role of mentor/coach of Indian Cricket Team.
Finally, its unfair to compare the two batsmen of different era but then it would also be unfair to call Sir Don as the greatest batsmen of 'all times'.

 

 

comment from Dan Maloney (Jan 2012)
What I find staggering is that there are people who regard Sachin Tendulkar as a greater batsman than Don Bradman. Of course, since India has over 1 billion people, Indians tend to swamp websites with posts that almost deify Tendulkar. The problem is, most of these posters have absolutely no idea about the history of Test cricket.

Here are some hard truths that Tendulkar worshippers will have to stomach. These are historical facts, and can be researched with ease.

  1. Batting technology. When the Don played cricket, he didn't have the luxury of choosing from the bats that Tendulkar did. The 'sweet spot' on the Don's bat may have been about the size of a golf ball, and it wasn't as thick and heavy as the bats that Tendulkar is renowned for using during his career. What this means is that Tendulkar had a bat that was much more powerful, less chance of mis-hitting the ball, and a 'sweet spot' that covers at least half the bat itself. Bradman had to use the equivalent of a baseball bat to Tendulkar's massive tree-sized bat.
  2. Pitches. The pitches when the Don played weren't covered when it rained. The weather could turn the pitch from a batting paradise to a bowler's dream in the course of a session. With the lack of knowledge on proper curation of pitches back then, the strip would be covered in cracks, and wear down with ease over the first two days. Tendulkar has played most of his career on the batting paradise pitches that India have always produced.
  3. Bowling standards. According to the fawning Tendulkar fans, bowlers were slower and didn't really spin the ball much and were generally so bad that they effectively stood and lobbed the ball in the air in the batsman's direction. This is far from reality. During the Don's time, the majority of bowlers he faced were professionals, so they practiced and cricket was their job. The fact that some of these bowlers were brutally quick, dangerous, beguiling and talented gets lost because of the belief that modern bowlers bowl faster, and spend hours watching batsmen on tape. But batsmen now watch the same amount of footage of bowlers. The Don was often facing a bowler he had never seen in his life. And if you don't believe me, simply look up the statistical averages of the bowlers that Bradman faced. Bill O'Reilly, an Australian leg-spinner whom the Don claimed was the best bowler he ever faced, averaged just over 16 in his First-Class career. Modern day spinners that are very talented struggle to keep their averages under 30.
  4. Bradman's genius. The Don averaged 99.94 in a sport where averaging above 45 is phenomenal. Now, he batted 80 times in Test cricket. Since 1877, when the First Test was ever played, the Don's performance as a batsman is 64% better than the second best average. A study recently showed that one way to quantify who the best sportsperson of all-time is merely requires that each of the top candidates are compared with the best performers in their OWN sport's history. Bradman's 64% better than his closest rival is so far above any other sportspersons' percentage, that, as an example, when you think that Michael Jordan is considered the greatest basketballer of all-time, with the highest scoring average in NBA history at just over 33 points per game, would need to average above 45 points per game. Staggering.
  5. World War Two. When the Don was at his peak, WWII halted Test cricket for 8 years. Just as the ultimate batsman was reaching his prime, war broke out. He lost 8 years of his career, when he was in his prime. If WWII hadn't occurred and Bradman was allowed to perform during those 8 years, his statistics would be so far beyond compare that this discussion wouldn't have occurred. He came back in 1946 as a 38 year old, and retired in 1948. In Bradman's career, he scored a century at a rate of less than 3 innings played. He scored over 970 runs in a series (unbroken), 12 double centuries (unbroken), and every time he went in to bat and got to 50, his batting average ballooned to 186. So, when Bradman made 50 runs in an innings, on average he would make 186 runs in that innings.
    To break it all down and show just how good Bradman was, I simply need to relay the story of Bodyline. In 1932-33, the English, led by Douglas Jardine, implemented a dangerous and ruthless strategy that was based purely on stopping Don Bradman from scoring at will. Placing 8 fieldsmen within 3-5 meters of Bradman's leg-side, Jardine put on his fastest bowlers with one aim only: hit the batsman. The leader of this brutal pace attack worked as a miner, and, as such, he had the perfect physique to bowl FAST. Harold Larwood was his name, and he and his fellow paceman bowled vicious bouncers and short balls at the batsman's body, forcing him to either get severely injured by standing there and getting hit, or use his bat to fend off the ball, which would inevitably land in one of the 8 fielders hands for a catch.

So furious were the Australians at this dirty and unsportsmanlike conduct, and so arrogant were the English that they were inflamed at being called cheats, that the two nations were thinking of possible political retribution, in terms of trade embargoes, and even worse, military action.
Athletic genius is timeless. If Bradman was born at the same time as Tendulkar, I strongly believe that he'd be past his 100th 100. Way past.

 

replies:

  • Dan maloney listen "I dont want to comment on your comparison of great little master the god sachin with so called great sir don bradman whatever, because god cannot be compared with humans. Now I think you got your ans & if you still dont accept this reality, then I cannot do much about that. Thank you & yes good morning its 6 o clock wake up out of your dream (from Saurabh patil, Feb 2013)
  • Well said Dan, I am sure even the respected Sachin would like to see an end to the hyperbolic nonsense that comes out of India with these discussions. Bradman is the greatest of all time, Sachin the greatest of this generation. (Although, I would like to make case for Ricky ... But another time) (from Ben, Dec 2012)
  • Dan Maloney, well stated! Your facts are precise.  The other things forgotten is Bradman was seriously ill during his career, life threateningly so.  He also did not have helmet protection, thigh pad, arm guards & his gloves were hand bound!  Statistically, if these Bradman devaluers were balanced, he averaged between 85-95 in Sydney Grade & State Cricket within Australia, which would have been the strongest in the world as well.  No fluke.  I found an amazing article which you might want to read which gives an incredible insight into Bradman's incredible ability, achievements & talents.  Only Ricky Ponting in his golden 2002-2006 run came close to nearing Bradman's 52 Test aggregate & average.  Sachin is well down the list, even his current peers were higher! BTW, at his peak, Don Bradman averaged nearly 150 per innings. Give the guy his just dues.  Tendulkar has even scored a Test Triple Century, Bradman scored 2, plus a 299 & a little matter of 309 runs in a day & a 452no in a Shield  match within Australia.  The guys the greatest batsman of ALL Time.  He would've been an awesome 1 day cricketer, if he didn't have to work as well & had better health, cricket conditions, equipment & training etc!, (from Graeme, June 2012)