Greatest Legends in Cricket History
You’d walk down the streets of Ashok Nagar on a regular evening you would see children scurrying around, probably even cycling. Maybe around the corner you will notice a bunch of kids playing cricket. Today was one such fortunate day for me, and I could get a glance at them. They start by huddling up over a long discussion and it eventually turns into an argument. A curious person that I am, I walk up to know what the commotion was all about and I was shell shocked to know that they were arguing over who could be Bradman. Kids of this generation talk about the great Bradman as if it was a house-hold name. They say ‘Curiosity Killed the Cat’ but mine didn’t. I decided to pen down some of the Greatest Legends of Cricket purely from my memory.
Sir Len Hutton (England)
If the inventors of the game didn’t have legends, then who would. England could produce cricket’s most heroic legends every era. You would only hear about them when your grandpa spoke about his old radio days where listening to commentary was all about imagination. When they spoke about how technically correct the batsman was then it had to be Sir Len Hutton. Pleasing to the eye and sublime he could entice even the opposition’s captain with his stroke play.
England’s highest ever individual score of 364* came against Australia during 1938. Easily one of the greatest ever openers the world has seen since the game was played on uncovered wickets those days and Sir Hutton was there to show his caliber.
Sir Ian Botham (England)
If you thought Ben Stokes was the most exceptional all-rounder ever then maybe you forgot who Andrew Flintoff was. Or maybe if you thought Andrew Flintoff was the greatest all rounder ever then definitely you didn’t know about Sir Ian Botham. A dynamic, charismatic and enigmatic character who would fit into any cricket team just for his ability to influence the game. You want a quickfire 50 then give Botham a call. Require a breakthrough then call up Mr. Botham. You’d do anything for a run-out or a blinder in the slips then why don’t you ring up Beefy.
They say he might pick a fight or two on the cricket field, but he’d certainly get you a beer by the end of the day. With his endless self-belief he calmly won the Ashes for England under Brearley’s captaincy in 1981 with some stellar performances with the bat and ball.
Sir Donald Bradman (Australia)
If you told me that every human being was solely made of flesh and blood, I would just laugh it off and ask you to perform an autopsy on an Australian cricketer. Bodies filled with Victorian Beer and the will to fight until the absolute end, the kangaroos were born to win. Amid all these folklores came a legend who wrote history for himself. Sir Donald Bradman was the epitome of batting and apparently held every batting record in his time. His batting average of 99.94 hasn’t been surpassed until now.
The term ‘Bradmanesque’ is presently used to credit a person with mammoth batting average. An inspiration to all the modern batting legends he had a special name for himself in the world of cricket. The Don’s death was mourned throughout the world that day of Feb 25,2001 as the world had lost its greatest sportsman.
Dennis Keith Lillee (Australia)
Tall. Burly. Maniacal. He would throw the kitchen sink at you, try to defend it with a stick in your hand. This was Dennis Keith Lillee’s fast bowling manual Page 1. The moment you see him take his run up you’re sure that this guy means business. Australia’s most successful fast bowler who inspired many generations after him to take up fast bowling. He formed one of the most successful new ball partnerships with Jeff Thompson to rack up over 450 wickets in his international tenure.
He was also part of the infamous joke where he was caught by Peter Willey and bowled by Graham Dilley to be termed as “Lillee c Willey b Dilley”. Post retirement he had come to Madras, India to setup the MRF pace academy where numerous fast bowlers were unearthed and groomed, and they later went on to don the nation’s colors. Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Varun Aaron, Sudeep Tyagi, Mohit Sharma etc. just to name a few.
Barry Richards (South Africa)
Africa’s cricket could be divided into many eras affected by wars, apartheid and what not. They were only the third test playing nation to play Test match cricket way back in 1889 against England. A small nation capable of producing some wonderful talents came to a halt due to several factors influencing its nation. From all this came a batsman who could belt 325 runs in a single day of a First-class match. Barry Richards was an all-time South African legend whose International tenure lasted only 4 test matches due to South Africa being banned for the anti-apartheid movement.
He left an ever-lasting impression to the world by scoring 2 100’s & 2 50’s in the 7 innings he got to bat. Post retirement he got into the commentary box and garnered a name for himself by some useful insights and portrayal of exquisite cricketing knowledge.
Graeme Pollock (South Africa)
They say genes are responsible for every trait present in the human body. And if cricketing genes are quite predominant then it is sure to crawl to every family member. Brother to Peter Pollock, uncle to Shaun Pollock, the great Graeme Pollock was termed as an equal to the legendary Garry Sobers by the Don himself. One of the finest left-handed batsman South Africa has ever produced got to play only 27 test matches but had the then highest score of the nation of 274.
He was a child prodigy too scoring his first-class century at the age of 16 and first international century at the age of 19. If ever people wanted to notice poetry in motion the Graeme Pollock was a master of it. Technically brilliant, he was also merciless on dross bowling. He currently works for CSA as part of the National Selection Committee.
Richard Hadlee (New Zealand)
Cutely called the Kiwis but when challenged, can stick onto you like a parasite pulling the host to submission. One of the smallest cricketing nations that has produced some unforgettable talents who caught the world in surprise. Sir Richard Hadlee was one of the greatest all rounders during his era. He had to compete against some fine allrounders like Kapil Dev, Imran Khan & Ian Botham and he did quite well.
When Sunil Gavaskar says “I’ve played some of the fastest bowlers who don’t make you play every ball, but Richard Hadlee made me play every ball without a second to rest” that means a legendary status has been bestowed upon you. If ever New Zealand was in trouble all they had to do is expect Richard Hadlee to pull it off and boy did he not disappoint. Bailing them out of trouble in every chance he got. Was knighted in the year 1990 for his unforgettable services to cricket.
Martin Hogan Crowe (New Zealand)
When critics had to juxtapose grace and simplicity the only outcome they had was Martin Crowe. Widely regarded as Martin Hogan Crowe he was the Hulk Hogan mold. Down to earth and class written all over his game. Regarded as the finest batsman in his nation his rise was impeccable, and it never ended. He was unfortunate to get out on 299 and finished his career as the highest run getter for his country.
His unconventional tactics of opening the innings with a pinch hitter and opening the bowling with an off-spinner in the 90’s led to today’s T-20 conventional tactics. Post retirement he worked in media and had an early stint with RCB in the IPL. He passed away in 2016 when he was diagnosed with lymphoma and the whole world had paid respects to this legend.
Arjuna Ranatunga & Aravinda De Silva (Sri Lanka)
The tear drop of the Indian Ocean had a rather slow entry into International cricket but took over the entire scene by gifting once in a lifetime players to cricket. Regarded as the brothers of destruction they were single handedly responsible for putting Sri Lanka in the cricketing map of the world. Arjuna Ranatunga & Aravinda De Silva played some marathon innings, provided great escapes and displayed commendable leadership whenever the nation needed them to deliver. They were responsible in grooming some youngsters who later went on to become legends themselves. Muralidharan, Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Jayawardene etc. to name a few.
They both later went on to Cricket administration post retirement. But certain decisions backfired, and both were sacked at certain points in their careers. But nevertheless, the most epic moment came when Sri Lanka lifted the 1996 ODI World Cup in front of a packed Lahore crowd and when Benazir Bhutto handed over the coveted trophy to them the duo would be remembered forever.
Imran Khan (Pakistan)
A country capable of producing tear-away fast bowlers and marathon run-getters ticked most of the boxes but lacked quality in certain areas. They needed a quality leader who didn’t just lead them from the front but made sure he stood in the back and pushed the players to the brink to bring the best out of them. Imran Khan was the heartthrob of everyone who watched cricket.
One of the finest all-rounders the world had seen Pakistan had to get him out of retirement so that he could lead a pack of hungry youngsters who wanted hands on an International Trophy and lo’ he leads them to winning the 1992 ODI World cup in Australia. Responsible in grooming Wasim Akram & Waqar Younis both later went on to become the world’s best bowling pairs. Imran Khan later moved into politics and became the President of Pakistan in 2018.
Javed Miandad (Pakistan)
There’s always a friend who turns up when you need him for a street fight. Javed Miandad was one. Intimidating and devastating during his peak, opposition bowlers were on their feet whenever Miandad was on crease. His boldness speaks for himself when he stood up to Dennis Lillie and swayed a bat at him.
When 6 runs were required of the last ball against India, he nonchalantly hit Chetan Sharma for a six to the cow-corner and won the game for Pakistan single handedly. His infamous frog jump when irked by Kiran More’s excessive appealing is a laughter riot and will be remembered forever in cricketing fraternity.
Sunil Gavaskar (India)
If Amir Khan was responsible to portray India’s batting prowess against the Englishmen in the reel world, then Sunil Gavaskar was a batting powerhouse for India in the real world. Hailed as one of the best batsmen of the century he would pile on runs as if there was no tomorrow. Short in stature, laconic and best in the business he made sure his blade did all the talking. He is well known in the cricketing circles as ‘Little Master’ was the top run getter in test matches for India scoring over 10000+ runs. Part of the famous World cup win in 1983 he played some handy knocks on tough English pitches. His famous debut test series will be remembered forever as a teenager he had scored 500+ runs which was an all-time record. Post retirement he took up batting consultant roles, moved to administration and finally settled in the commentary box and is highly regarded as ‘Sunny Ji’.
Kapil Dev (India)
If India ever lacked in anything then it was in the fast bowling department. You had legendary spinners, canny medium pacers but never a proper fast bowler. Then came into the scene a tall lanky lad called the Haryana Hurricane, Kapil Dev. Pundits said that If ever Kapil Dev was woken up at 3AM in the night and was asked to bowl an out swinger then he would bowl that day in day out. Such was his control over that variation which he had to toil around on lifeless Indian pitches to amass 434 wickets in his test career. His famous 175* against Zimbabwe in the quarter finals when India were 17-5 was talked about worldwide for decades which eventually inspired India to win the 1983 ODI World Cup.
Sir Vivian Richards (West Indies)
A group of islands to start with, different nationalities, varying personalities. Striving to prove the world that they are no less, the West Indians dominated the Cricketing world for decades. They would always be remembered for their exploits at the big stages like the World cup and the Kerry Packer World series. In all these events there was one individual who stood out and showed the world that talent + brute strength was a deadly combination. Sir Vivian Richards was a mauler of the cricket ball. He was that lumber jack you would find in the woods who would mercilessly chop wood just to make his ends meet. Some say he had a swagger but deep down he admits that it’s just the sheer determination and confidence he has for himself and the country. He has never batted with a helmet in his entire lifetime and that’s what everyone is in awe with.
Michael Holding (West Indies)
When West Indies were in search of fast bowlers, they didn’t just find one, but found four. Known as the ‘Four horsemen of the Apocalypse’ led by a man who was born to bowl a cricket ball. Michael Holding with a bowling average 23 in test cricket is jaw dropping stat. His run up was probably the best in world, like a slithering snake who silently delivered the killing blow. So here was a young man, running in , bowling fast & attracting attention. Analysts quoted by licking their lips “Watch out, he’s coming”. Regarded as the ‘Whispering Death’ he was responsible for the bouncer barrage that injured the 45yr old Brian Close who was hailed as the “toughest people in the game” by Holding himself.
Post retirement he moved to England to settle down with his family and is a common presence in the commentary box for all the county and International matches happening there with the typical Jamaican twang of his.
Wheww, that was a long one but we couldn’t shrink these legends lives and the inspiration they passed on to the younger generations. All we can do is to repeat their plays and enjoy the classic gentleman’s game.