Composite: The top five greatest ODI cricketers
© Getty Images

The Jury's Out

The best over 50 overs

It's Viv Richards by a mile, according to our jury. Martin Crowe doffs his cap to the King, four writers salute the best of the rest, and the results in full

To celebrate the game's middle sibling, now in its mid-40s, the Cricket Monthly asked 50 players and writers (see box at right) from around the world to submit, in ranked order, their choices for the three greatest players in the history of the one-dayer. Over 2200 cricketers were eligible. Of them, just eight had their names featured as a No. 1 pick: worthy, that is, in the juror's opinion, of the title Greatest ODI Cricketer of All Time. Every major cricket country bar New Zealand was represented. MS Dhoni, who finished in the top five, did not receive a first-position vote; Ian Botham did.

The jury

Zaheer Abbas, Ajit Agarkar, Russel Arnold, Sambit Bal, Ian Bishop, Lawrence Booth, Daniel Brettig, Mark Butcher, Ian Chappell, Aakash Chopra, Ed Cowan, Mike Coward, Tony Cozier, Martin Crowe, Daryll Cullinan, George Dobell, Rahul Dravid, Andy Flower, Ashley Giles, Gideon Haigh, Mike Haysman, David Hopps, Dave Houghton, Dean Jones, Gaurav Kalra, Athar Ali Khan, Jarrod Kimber, Peter Kirsten, Clive Lloyd, Ranjan Madugalle, Sanjay Manjrekar, Khaled Mashud, Ayaz Memon, Suresh Menon, Tom Moody, Mudassar Nazar, Mark Nicholas, Ricky Ponting, Abdul Qadir, Ramiz Raja, Barry Richards, Mark Richardson, Osman Samiuddin, Mike Selvey, Ed Smith, Graeme Smith, Pat Symcox, Sharda Ugra, Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, John Wright

In all, 21 cricketers received votes - six Aussies, five Indians, four Pakistanis, two West Indians, two South Africans, a Sri Lankan and an Englishman. To arrive at the final standings we applied ESPNcricinfo's standard formula of five points for a first-position vote, three for a second and one for a third. The top 11 point scorers could be arranged into a pretty handy XI. 1 Gilchrist, 2 Tendulkar, 3 Ponting, 4 Richards, 5 Kallis, 6 Dhoni, 7 Jayasuriya, 8 Kapil, 9 Akram, 10 Warne, 11 Garner. Ten bat, four bowl three kinds of swing and pace, four others bowl four kinds of spin, two keep, and there is no shortage of captaincy options.

Batting, bowling, wicketkeeping, captaincy: the jury liked multi-skilled players. Not counting Virat Kohli, a captain in waiting, only two of the 21 have a single string to their bow: the extraordinary fast bowlers Joel Garner and Glenn McGrath. At 26, Kohli is the youngest player in the list, followed by the outrageous AB de Villiers. They are also the unlucky ones. If this poll were conducted in 2025 (or in the case of AB, after January 21 this year), they would rocket up the charts.

Career records seemed to matter to the jury, but possibly less than World Cup heroics. Steve Waugh, for his pivotal (and extremely different) roles in two World Cups across 12 years, earned himself two votes. His twin, Mark, the superior ODI player by conventional reckoning, received none. Muttiah Muralitharan has almost twice as many wickets at a better average than Shane Warne, but Warne has those two semi-finals: and two votes to Murali's zero. Yuvraj Singh got a vote but not, say, Kumar Sangakkara, who has more dismissals in the format than anyone and more runs than all but Tendulkar. Sixteen of the 21 have already laid their hands on a World Cup and most have iconic performances in them.

Warne's two World Cup semi-final performances got him votes over Murali, whose overall ODI stats are superior

Warne's two World Cup semi-final performances got him votes over Murali, whose overall ODI stats are superior © Associated Press

The top five identified themselves quickly and clearly.

A perceptible distance away from the pack, neck and neck, are two phenomenal wicketkeeper-batsmen, one red-hot at the start, one ice-cool at the end, a lefty who took his bat high like a whip and lashed balls into space, and a righty who with his low table-tennis grip topspun and smashed respectable deliveries. They have their personal stamps on the last two World Cup finals; they are, of course, at Nos. 4 and 5, Adam Gilchrist and MS Dhoni.

A significant way ahead is an equally tight and still more riveting contest: the format's most insatiable, celebrated run scorer versus its most wickedly brilliant fast bowler; exemplary strokemaking versus the variety of a visionary; India versus Pakistan. Sachin Tendulkar prevails, but just about, over Wasim Akram.

How they stacked up*
Player First-place votes Second-place votes Third-place votes Points tally
Viv Richards 29 11 1 179
Sachin Tendulkar 7 9 6 68
Wasim Akram 5 10 11 66
Adam Gilchrist 4 2 3 29
MS Dhoni 0 5 10 25
Jacques Kallis 1 4 0 17
Joel Garner 0 2 5 11
Sanath Jayasuriya 2 0 0 10
Shane Warne 0 2 0 6
Kapil Dev 0 2 0 6
Ricky Ponting 0 1 3 6
Michael Bevan 0 1 2 5
Ian Botham 1 0 0 5
Glenn McGrath 1 0 0 5
Steve Waugh 0 1 1 4
AB de Villiers 0 0 3 3
Shahid Afridi 0 0 1 1
Yuvraj Singh 0 0 1 1
Imran Khan 0 0 1 1
Virat Kohli 0 0 1 1
Waqar Younis 0 0 1 1
*Each first-place vote by a jury member counted for 5 points, a second-place vote for 3 and a third-place vote for 1

Between them and No. 1 is something larger than mere distance. From the collage atop this article you know our winner. An astounding 29 of 50 jurors placed him at first position, 11 more put him second, and cudding his gum, rolling his shoulders, beating the blasted ball with neither fear nor recklessness, he racked up about as many points as the next four put together. In the maroon corner, all the way from Antigua and Barbuda, the Presence, the Master, the Blaster, swinging hard after all these years, still the King, "Smokin' Joe" Vivian Richards. - Rahul Bhattacharya

5 MS DHONI
India, 2004-present, 255 matches

Runs HS Ave SR 100s 50s Catches Stumpings
8343 183* 52.14 88.95 9 56 236 85

by Ed Smith

Seen from inside the ground, he is different. On screen, the camera catches the calm and the dignity. But live, in the flesh, he is more overtly charismatic, his physicality another weapon at his disposal. Simultaneously modern and old-fashioned, it's like watching a 1950s Hollywood star and saying, "Heroes aren't what they used to be." Only, this hero is with us here and now. The nostalgia is a trick, a manifestation of the way he resists categories. A young gun with an old head on his shoulders; a modern hero with timeless charisma; a small-town boy unfazed by his epic achievements; a huge celebrity who stands outside celebrity culture. He is, of course, MS Dhoni, the outstanding ODI finisher of his generation.

In 2011, England lost a one-day series in India 5-0. The result was routine, but one memory has stayed with me: Dhoni. His walk out to the middle - brisk, helmetless, connected with the crowd and the occasion; his body-language - bristling with urgency, knowing, apparently certain of success; the effect - naturalness, glamour, a quiet kind of intimidation; the result - controlled brutality, the imposition of his willpower, and just a hint of mischief. We will never know how he would have looked returning to the pavilion because he never got out. Innings 4, not outs 4, runs 212, strike rate 113.

Dhoni the limited-overs batsman has a Zen state of mind

Dhoni the limited-overs batsman has a Zen state of mind © International Cricket Council

In Mohali, in the only close match, he took the game deep just for the pleasure of a late win (or so it seemed). Rather than a string of boring singles, Dhoni hit two fours over the infield in the last over after the opposition captain was forced to bring in his fielders - a more appropriately heroic way to win. There was humour as well as ruthlessness. That ability to play, to have fun in the heat of the moment, however decisive or intense, has helped make him such an accomplished killer. When a game is your profession, there is rationality in accepting the condition of playfulness.

Why was Dhoni such an outlier in ODI cricket and yet relatively normal as a Test batsman? ODIs always reveal an equation. Sometimes players know the whole picture - runs required and run rate needed. At the very least, batsmen always know the number of balls left in the innings, the length of rope available to them. In philosophical terms, the nature of the problem is "bounded", with known proportions; in contrast, Test cricket is "unbounded", with a shape that is constantly evolving and unknown.

In ODIs, Dhoni always seems to have a master plan, a knowing confidence that ripples through his team. Like a born journalist, he needs a deadline to perform at his best. In fact, I'm not sure he feels pressure as other players do. Psychological resilience is really just a different phrase for clarity of mind. Dhoni's mind is very, very clear.

Dhoni always seems to have a master plan, a knowing confidence that ripples through his team. I'm not sure he feels pressure as other players do

His defining moment was classic Dhoni. He promoted himself above Yuvraj Singh (the man in form) in the 2011 World Cup final, with Murali bowling and the match in the balance. It was a decision only a natural leader would make. How many others would have considered it and rejected it for looking too selfish? The word is not in Dhoni's lexicon. It would complicate what he tries to keep simple.

In sportswriting, distance from the subject usually brings certain disadvantages. With Dhoni, the distinction between stranger and intimate scarcely exists: it seems that no one knows him, so we are all in the same boat.

So let me, with the freedom of a stranger's perspective, sketch very broadly what I think of MS Dhoni. Very early in his international career - at a stage when most players are still fretting about how they are judged and perceived - Dhoni realised and accepted that he was special, cut out for great things. That confidence, the surety of destiny, was accompanied by equal certainty that success would bring immense problems and complications. Instead of carrying the weight of a nation, Dhoni resolved to live and play lightly. Far from being frivolous, it was a lightness born of necessity. Few athletes in modern sports history have known such adoration. Yet, so far as we know, it has never turned Dhoni's head. That suggests a deep, suprarational wisdom. Greg Chappell put it best: "He's an old soul. He has been here before."

In trying to plan and strategise for every moment and movement, modern professionalism has eaten away at sport's heroic core. Only a very few sportsmen - a tiny handful - have transcended the system and reached a higher level of simplicity. In trusting his talent and his temperament, Dhoni nurtured his instinctive gift for mastering competitive situations. In ODI cricket, I've not seen anyone more confident that he would come up with the right answer - before, that is, he even knew the question.

Stats current at the beginning of the 2015 World Cup

Ed Smith is a former England, Kent and Middlesex batsman. His latest book is Luck - A Fresh Look at Fortune. @edsmithwriter

****

4 ADAM GILCHRIST
Australia, 1996-2008, 287 matches

Runs HS Ave SR 100s 50s Catches Stumpings
9619 172 35.89 96.94 16 55 417 55

by Ed Cowan

It is the ultimate pub or office water-cooler conversation, picking the "best ever" at anything and trying to justify it. You invariably forget who you choose, and can fickly change your mind when it comes up again - Federer one week, Nadal the next. There is a problem, however, when you have to commit this choice to posterity. You have to live by it. So here goes. Deep breath. Adam Gilchrist in my opinion is the greatest one-day international player in the history of the game. I can see the collective head-shakes. What about Richards? How about Akram? Or Kallis? There are perhaps ten or so contenders, but Gilly is at the head of my queue.

Adam Gilchrist: destructive in front of the stumps, constructive behind them

Adam Gilchrist: destructive in front of the stumps, constructive behind them © AFP

Many wicketkeepers bemoan that Gilchrist ruined it for all of them. They not only have to be faultless behind the stumps but they must now bat in a fashion that allows for an extra bowler. It is unfair on Romesh Kaluwitharana to suggest Gilly was a revolutionary, for it was a pre-World Cup Sri Lanka that changed the format forever, slotting an ultra-attacking keeper at the top of the order. Like for most innovators, Sri Lanka's first-mover advantage rewarded them handsomely, but eventually gave out to those who observed the tactic and made it their own. There is no doubt the all-conquering Australian team reassessed their style after the loss in the 1996 World Cup final. No more Mark Taylor plodding at the top, not much more of Healy nurdling them around in the later overs. They got themselves a superhuman Kaluwitharana. The two in the end are hardly comparable - the Sri Lankan averaged 22 at a strike rate of 78, while Gilchrist's 36 runs an innings came at a whirlwind strike rate of 97.

The greatest match-winner in the greatest team in the history of ODIs must logically be the best player of all time. No?

Therein lay Gilly's brilliance. When he got runs, Australia invariably won: he was their ultimate match-winner. The statistician Ric Finlay kindly supplied me with some gems: when Gilchrist scored 80 or more, Australia's chances of winning increased by 38%. This compared to a Ponting 80-plus and an improved likelihood of winning of 20%. If Warne took four or more wickets, Australia were 29% more likely to win, while with McGrath it was 36%. The greatest match-winner in the greatest team in the history of ODIs must logically be the best player of all time. No?

Forgetting logic for a moment, let me get sentimental. Growing up, when Gilly was out I turned off the TV in a humph and found something to distract myself. I had been deprived of his slashing, full-flowing cover drives - bat always finishing over his right shoulder - and I was not happy about it. Denied those ferocious pull shots over midwicket where he - subliminally, it seemed - picked up the length of the ball as it left the hand. With Gilly, there was no knocking 'em around when the spinner came on. The lofted straight six, with a skip down the wicket and that huge backlift, the bat often visible behind the back shoulder and ready to come down like a samurai sword. Most people remember the 2007 World Cup final, and the infamous squash ball in the glove. My favourite innings, though, was his first hundred, at the SCG, where I sat in the scorching sun all afternoon waiting for Australia to bat.

Still not convinced? We haven't even got to his wicketkeeping yet. The best keepers go unnoticed, but Gilly was noticeably brilliant. Whether a blink-of-the-eye stumping off Warne, a diving catch off McGrath, or the unsung heroics of keeping up to Nathan Bracken in the latter overs to restrict batsmen to the crease, he did it all and easily in all conditions. Most importantly, he allowed for a team balance that ensured both batting and bowling depth.

I am happy to stick with my choice - Adam Gilchrist, three-time World Cup winner, gentleman and custodian of the game, the best there has ever been in coloured clothes.

Ed Cowan is a top-order batsman with Tasmania and has played 18 Tests for Australia. He is the author of In the Firing Line

****

3 WASIM AKRAM
Pakistan, 1984-2003, 356 matches

Wkts BB Ave SR 5w Econ
502 5/15 23.52 36.2 6 3.89
Runs HS Ave SR 100s 50s
3717 86 16.52 88.33 0 6

by Osman Samiuddin

In propagating that Wasim Akram is the greatest one-day cricketer ever, I feel primarily as if I'm disrespecting him. Any such recognition, to my mind, reduces him. It seems to confer on his career an unfair limitation to a format. Ian Harvey, after all, was a one-day specialist.

Akram? Surely the breadth of his genius could not be seen in - or restricted to - just 60 balls? Surely his genius was cross-format. I feel the same when people tie Akram so resolutely to reverse swing. Sure, he was a great exponent of it, perhaps the greatest. But, I mean, he could do so much more.

Sensational in 60 balls: Akram's genius shone through in ODIs as it did in Tests

Sensational in 60 balls: Akram's genius shone through in ODIs as it did in Tests © PA Photos

Here was a guy who ambled up to the wicket in a Sky Masterclass last summer and swung his first two deliveries more than probably any bowler had done that year, other than James Anderson, Dale Steyn and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He was 48, expanding around the hips, and hadn't bowled in a long, long time. Waqar Younis and reverse swing, sure; Akram, never.

Nevertheless there was something, I'll admit, in the instancy and immediacy with which he so often produced his genius that tunnelled in naturally with the restrictions of 50-over cricket. Cricket, in all its formats, can be irredeemably changed within the space of a couple of balls. It is only that in ODIs or, now T20s, that we see immediate effects.

Akram could lay intricate, drawn-out traps for batsmen and bowl these long, beautiful spells that were like guides to bowling craft. But he could also reveal, within minutes, everything you needed to know about bowling. There were those two Sharjah hat-tricks but how many more times was he on a hat-trick? How many times did he take multiple wickets in an over or across a couple of them?

When he got going, there was an ingrained arrogance to his work. You can take 57 balls and do what you like with them, he seemed to be saying. I'll even throw in some no-balls and wides, but see these three here? I'll win the whole damn thing with them.

He pretty much perfected the idea of the end overs as a space for bowling momentum, but here again his reputation is unnecessarily narrowed. He was awesome against the lower order and he did change many innings at the death. Modern batsmanship makes the yorker feel a little defanged these days but I still say to myself it's only because Akram isn't bowling it.

There was an ingrained arrogance to Akram's work. You see these three balls here? I'll win the whole damn thing with them

Yet at the birth of an innings he was arguably more influential. Of his 502 victims, 110 were dismissed for ducks (!). Nearly half of those - 53 - were from the top three (!!). Nos. 8 downwards constitute, by contrast, 38 of the ducks. Remember the Coca-Cola Cup final in Sharjah in April 1999? S Ramesh and Rahul Dravid? First over, both leg-before, consecutive balls, pair of ducks. Before you knew it, Akram was on you and all over you.

His batting, on the other hand, always felt more suited to the shorter form. More freedom, less responsibility, targets to focus the mind. Earnest backroom staff today would no doubt have thrown hundreds and thousands of balls at him in the nets to turn him into Stuart Broad. But when he did succeed, they were seminal moments - that Nehru Cup six, the 18-ball 33 in the 1992 World Cup final, the 49 not out in the Australasia Cup final. I always hoped his innings in Melbourne in 1990 - 86 of a struggling team's 162 - would lay out a future template for his batting: responsible, rescuing, Imran-like. Maybe it didn't really matter that it did not.

It's worth remembering ultimately that Akram traversed a couple of ages of one-day cricket. He had a well-established reputation in those old ODIs, played in whites with a red ball. And he was a giant in the modern ODI, with white balls and coloured kit, almost a different game to its precursor. Australian ODIs were always ahead of the game and perhaps it is fitting that it was Akram who was champion that night when the modern ODI came out, the last evening of the 1992 World Cup, the first world event played in modern fashion. There he was, man of the final, man of all ages, a behemoth who would remain undimmed by the passage of time.

Osman Samiuddin is a sportswriter at the National and the author of The Unquiet Ones: A History of Pakistan Cricket

****

2 SACHIN TENDULKAR
India, 1989-2012, 463 matches

Runs HS Ave SR 100s 50s
18426 200* 44.83 86.23 49 96
Wkts BB Ave SR 5w Econ
154 5/32 44.48 52.2 2 5.10

By Suresh Menon

Sachin Tendulkar is the greatest player to have batted in coloured clothes. And since it is batsmen who win the shorter games (he was on the winning side 234 times), that makes him the finest ever.

In a statistical sense, there is something pure about one-day internationals. In comparing Test players of different eras, non-cricketing elements come into the equation: style, temperament, ability to absorb pressure, impact on nationhood, ability to inspire a race or ethnic group. We move from the sporting to the philosophical.

Sachin Tendulkar: a winning combination of the traditional and the cutting edge

Sachin Tendulkar: a winning combination of the traditional and the cutting edge © AFP

One-day cricket is about statistics. Runs, wickets and catches are usually all that matter, although you could make an argument for World Cup performances, where a stirring image (MS Dhoni finishing with a six) might linger.

Tendulkar played more games (463), made more runs (18,426) and scored more centuries (49) than anybody else. Of the top ten batsmen - those with over 10,000 runs - nobody had a better average (44.83); only Sanath Jayasuriya had a better strike rate, and only Mahela Jayawardene and Ricky Ponting held more catches than Tendulkar (140). In that list, only Jayasuriya and Jacques Kallis had more wickets than Tendulkar's 154. The stats do not lie - Tendulkar would be the first choice for Earth in a game against Mars.

Tendulkar scored his first century in his 79th match, having made the career-changing move to opening the batting in his 70th, in Auckland. There, a few days short of his 21st birthday, he smashed 82 off 49 deliveries with 15 fours and two sixes. He was on his way.

Whereas in Test cricket Tendulkar played some great innings but few definitive ones (those might be called "Tendulkarine"), in ODIs he played both. The centuries in Sharjah, twice in succession against Australia, the 98 against Pakistan in the World Cup, the double-century in Gwalior against South Africa were like the defining roles by a great Shakespearean actor: they set the standard for other players.

He played more games, scored more runs and more centuries than anybody. The stats do not lie - Tendulkar would be the first choice for Earth against Mars

If the Sharjah centuries were made by a sportsman at the peak of his powers, the double came from a mature run-gatherer who hardly played a stroke that was not in the coaching manual. And therein lay Tendulkar's greatness as a batsman in the shorter format - he combined orthodoxy and innovation to a rare degree. He could slash over third man with panache or whip the ball from outside the off stump past mid-on with power. He could be beaten and still recover to hit a boundary. Above all, he could frustrate the best bowlers by playing with a straight bat and a sense of mischief.

It was said of Ranjitsinhji as he charmed English crowds that he "never played a Christian stroke in his life". In Gwalior, Tendulkar never played an un-Christian stroke as he made the game's first 200, and that is nearly as significant as the record itself.

It was a triumph of traditional cricket rather than a paean to the manic hitting of the shorter formats. Tendulkar, who had sanctified a few unorthodox shots of his own, didn't play any of the sexy shots of the day - the reverse sweep, the switch hit, the upper cut, the Dilscoop. The cover drive, the on-drive, the flick, the leg glance, the square cut - it was all classical batsmanship on the road to the record. Three other batsmen have since gone past 200, but it needed Tendulkar to suggest the possibility in the manner of Roger Bannister, who first broke the four-minute barrier for the mile.

Tendulkar showcased both the established techniques of batsmanship and his own special inventions. The traditional and the cutting edge came together in him like in no other batsman.

Suresh Menon is the editor of Wisden India Almanack

****

1 VIV RICHARDS
West Indies, 1975-1991, 187 matches

Runs HS Ave SR 100s 50s
6721 189* 47.00 90.20 11 45
Wkts BB Ave SR 5w Econ
118 6/41 35.83 47.80 2 4.49

by Martin Crowe

The first ever World Cup final in 1975, only the 33rd one-day international, wasn't won by the blistering century from Clive Lloyd, although it certainly set the stage. No, the game turned in West Indies' favour through a mind-blowing fielding performance to back up the accuracy of their bowling, squeezing the Australians into panic. The man who orchestrated it was a relative newcomer, a 23-year-old named Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards.

Richards lurked like a panther square of the wicket on both sides. When a ball is played square it can create confusion between the batsmen as to who owns the call, and Viv preyed on that confusion in front of a packed house at Lord's. He stalked the resolute Aussie captain, Ian Chappell. Chappell was playing well, finding the gaps and rotating the strike, but he wasn't alert to the speed and muscle-twitch of Richards. Twice Chappell, with soft hands, looked for sharp singles square of the wicket. And twice Richards sprang from nowhere and threw down the stumps from side-on to run out first Alan Turner and not long after, Greg Chappell. And then the match was truly stolen, as Richards ran out Ian Chappell, another sublime piece of work that secured the World Cup.

He got game: Richards lorded it over the one-day format as if it had been designed for him

He got game: Richards lorded it over the one-day format as if it had been designed for him © Getty Images

No one had envisioned the might of the Richards swagger quite yet: that was to come in extraordinary fashion a year later in the sweltering summer of '76, when he took to England in both forms. Yet his three run-outs served notice that this was a remarkable cricketer with a steely resolve and an unprecedented passion. A new energy had emerged in a new era. For the next ten years he completely dominated both Test cricket and the fast-growing one-day game.

Staggeringly, Richards played only another nine one-dayers between the first World Cup final and the second, in 1979. Batting at his favourite number No. 3 position, he began cautiously as wickets fell around him. On 99 for 4 at the halfway stage, Collis King joined King Viv. They combined in astonishing fashion. Richards finished the innings as only he could: an arrogant flick for six to post 138 not out and a match-winning total.

At this point of his career no one could touch Richards. West Indies too were close to untouchable. They travelled the world, causing havoc and bodily harm. Under Lloyd they showed a cultish streak of enforcing pain on everyone, fighting for their rights to be recognised. Initially subdued by Australian sledging and their fast bowling in 1975-76, Lloyd decided to unleash hell in the form of a four-prong pace attack and a batting blitz led by Richards and Gordon Greenidge. It was a lethal mix. No matter the form of the game, they beat everyone to a pulp, yet with majesty and magnificence.

Richards provided the sweet juice. For a man who felt his responsibility strongly, he was a nervous watcher. He either paced the room or fell fast asleep to deal with anxiety. The walk to the crease defined him. He came to the wicket with great theatre, slowly waking to the challenge ahead, removing all nerves as he walked and talked himself into becoming an almighty presence, forcing the opposition to doubt themselves, and to ultimately succumb.

You couldn't take your eyes off Richards. Man, he wanted to win so bad. No one I ever played with or against wanted it that bad

He had a mesmeric way. You couldn't take your eyes off him, watching him cough and snort, tap his bat handle with disdain, snort and cough, wink, laugh and stare. Oh that stare. Those hawk-like eyes, the windows to his soul. Man, he wanted to win so bad. No one I ever played with or against wanted it that bad.

In one-day cricket he didn't miss a beat. He batted at Nos. 3 or 4, maintained a strike rate of 90 and an average of 47 and did it in his sleep over 16 exhausting years of dominance. Arguably - categorically for me - his 189 not out in Manchester in 1984 is the greatest one-day innings of them all. At the very least it was the best ever seen at the time. One shudders to think what he could have done that day if given small boundaries and a modern-day bat.

The essence of why he was the greatest one-day player was that transformation he made from the dressing room to the crease. Like a chameleon, he shed his Antiguan shyness and turned himself into a wrecking ball, oozing a fearless belief. His batting style was like that of an agile heavyweight boxer, light on his feet, mighty in his punch. He got on the front foot with such certainty that he could change the direction of the ball like none other I saw. Bowlers would melt as they walked up to hand their cap to the umpire, to gather themselves to bowl at "Smokin' Joe". It was that tough a task.

The difference between Richards and everyone else was clear. He had a natural inclination to play aggressively, tailored for the limited-overs format, almost as though it was designed for him exclusively. That doesn't detract from his Test-match game; it simply means that he wanted to attack the ball and flex his powerful muscles at all times. He was intensely driven, and one-day cricket gave him a platform to triumph on any given day.

Richards was also a canny bowler. He didn't look like much, a rarity in his world, but his competitive instinct made him scrap with the ball, knowing he had a vital role: he was often the only slow bowler in the side. Facing him was fraught; you wanted to lash out after the battering endured at the other end, and he was very hittable, but you didn't want to get out to him. He knew this and he played on it. His role as a bowler in one-day cricket can't be ignored; he bowled close to 1000 overs, with an economy of under 4.5 and three four-wicket hauls.

Most of all, Viv Richards won matches for his team. West Indies had a remarkable success rate, daylight was second, and we witnessed a dynasty that seemed to go on and on and on.

King Viv walked the walk.

Martin Crowe, a leading batsman of the late '80s and early '90s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

 

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