A Spin On Cricket Greatness

A Spin On Cricket Greatness
Sir Vivian Richards was notorious for punishing bowlers that dared to sledge him, so much so, that to avoid the wrath of Viv, many opposing captains banned their players from the practice. However, playing for Somerset in a county game against Glamorgan, Greg Thomas attempted to sledge Richards after he had played and missed several balls in a row. He took a jab at Richards with this gem "It's red, round and it's about five ounces, in case you were wondering." Richards hammered the next delivery for 6, straight out of the grounds and into a nearby river. Turning back to the bowler, he said: "You know what it looks like, now go and find it.”

In 1999, Viv Richards was knighted for his contribution to cricket. In 2000, he was voted one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Century by a 100-member panel of experts, coming fifth behind Sir Donald Bradman, Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Jack Hobbs and Shane Warne. In December 2002, he was chosen by Wisden as the greatest One Day International batsman who had played to that date and as the third greatest Test cricket batter.

To mark 150 years of Test history in 2013, Wisden named him in an all-time Test World XI and slotted Viv Richards at no. 3, the only batsman of the post war era along with Sachin Tendulkar to get featured in that team.

Several prominent cricket personalities including Imran Khan and writer John Birmingham are of the opinion that Richards was the best ever batsman against genuine fast bowling. Wasim Akram rates Richards as the greatest batsman he ever bowled to, ahead of Gavaskar and Martin Crowe. Akram also rates Richards as the best and most complete batsman he ever saw ahead of Tendulkar and Lara. Crowe himself rated Richards as the best batsman he played against.

Ian Botham, regarded as one of the greatest all-rounders and one of England's greatest cricketers, rates Richards as the greatest batsman he ever saw - ahead of Gavaskar, Greg Chappell, Martin Crowe, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. Michael Holding, often regarded as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time and part of the West Indies four-prolonged pace attack during the late 1970s-early 1980s, rates Richards as the greatest batsman he witnessed in the last 50 years. Australian fast bowling greats Jeff Thomson often regarded as the fastest bowler in cricket history along with Dennis Lillee, rates Richards as best batsman they ever bowled against. Former Australian captain Ian Chappell, who is regarded as one of the best cricket captains of all time, rates Richards as the most intimidating and dangerous batsman he ever saw who often changed the game simply by walking to the crease. I could go on and on.

However, what I am writing is not his biography. Yet, being a man of numbers, I have that natural inclination for quantifying greatness and accomplishment. One day last year, I was reading an article on Pakistan’s Younis Khan, his superlative exploits on the field and his yeoman services to Pakistan cricket. Taking the exercise further, I put down his statistics against Sir Vivian Richards’ and attempted to compare greatness from a different lens.


                                     Vivian Richards                                                                  Younis Khan

Tests          ODI         First Class                                  Tests             ODI         First Class

Matches                121          187               507                                         118              265             229

Runs                    8,540        6,721         36,212                                    10,009          7,249         17,416

Average              50.23        47.00           49.40                                      52.05          31.24   49.90

100s/50s            24/45       11/45        114/162                                    34/33           7/48          56/64

Highest Score      291            189             322                                          313              144             331


Adding to it, are following impressive records that crown Younis Khan to greatness:

Younis has made Test hundreds in all 11 countries that have hosted Tests, a world record.

His century conversion ratio is over 50%, making more Hundreds than Fifties. Only a few batsmen can boast of such a record, one of which is  Sir Don Bradman.

5 of his Test centuries have been made in the 4th innings of a Test, the most by any, all of which have played influential roles in bringing victory to Pakistan or have saved his team from defeat.

6 Test double hundreds by him is the joint most by a Pakistan player, alongside Javed Miandad.

One of two Test players in cricket history to average above 45 in all four innings.

His Test average in a winning cause is 75.89; the 3rd best for any player in Test wins. (Min: 4000 runs) Younis has scored 4857 runs in wins including 19 centuries.

70 sixes in Tests and comparatively only 56 in ODIs. Most batting greats have it higher in ODIs.

And if that isn’t enough, add to it 139 catches in Tests, the highest by a Pakistani who is also responsible for the highest number of run-outs of the opposing team by his electric fielding.

By keeping his statistics alongside those of Richards, in no way am I trying to steal the thunder of Sir Viv’s amazing exploits with the willow. However, I believe that greatness is awarded more to some than to others – often unfairly. The media can make a hero of somebody and make another appear like a villain. Cricket was never expected to be commercial entertainment, where players are auctioned and have a bidding price for wearing colored clothes and advertising chewing gum. We live in a knowledge-based society and you do not have to be a cricket fanatic to see the overall performance of a sportsman.

Just let the good old common sense guide you fairly and help you understand the playing landscape better. There are a lot of dedicated players out there in the field who are doing amazing things quietly, without making a big deal, but somehow do not get the attention they truly deserve. We need to make the right judgment call and ensure that they get applauded and cheered all the way.

If I remove the numbers away totally, I am left in awe that in his entire career, Sir Vivian Richards those runs that he has racked up have been made without ever wearing a helmet and that no other cricketer has shown his quality and class, when the opposition and adversity has been the strongest, as Younis Khan did throughout his career. Try making a double-hundred against India in India!

The author is a Karachi-born, Boston-based global finance and audit specialist. A connoisseur of South Asian film music, he has written scripts and directed concerts in the USA, South Asia and the UAE. He believes in using art and culture to build bridges.