Composite: The top five greatest ODI cricketers
© Getty Images
30

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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  • POSTED BY AMIR on | March 31, 2015, 12:25 GMT

    to me its Sir VIV, No other cricketer has the same influence on the match or on other teams. If you ask any great player played along him or against him they would say that he was ahead of others by a long distance. Sachin is a great player but he never had the same influence on the results of the matches. Wasim Akram should be no 2 ahead of Sachin because of his skills, prescence,influence on the results and performance in the big/important matches. He is third in the list just because of numbering criteria 5,3,1 if the criteria would be 3,2,1 or even 5,4,3 or any other method Wasim would be no 2. because he got more votes than sachin. for me with all due respect it has to be Viv , Wasim and Sachin. rest i m not sure about. Ricky and Sanath should also be in top 5 or 6 as Sanath win lots of maches for srilanka and changed the playing style of ODI and ricky was more reliable than Gilly and win alot of matches for australia along with the burden of captaincy.

  • POSTED BY Tusar kanti on | March 31, 2015, 9:11 GMT

    To think any one better than Sachin Tendulkar is really impossible. If Broad man is the best Test player, then without any question Sachin Tendulkar is the best ever ODI player. Gilchrist was basically a slaugher. He was not a complete cricketer. Kind of records Tendulkar has got behind him is phenomenal. 100 International Centuries is the indicator of every thing. To my money Tendulkar is best ODI cricketer of all time with a huge margin of superiority with the second best. It has been an unjust work to put Gilchrist ahead of the God of Cricket. Tendulkar is the best cricketer of all time on any scale of measurement. It would be a conspiracy against cricket if Gilchrist is put before Tendulkar.

  • POSTED BY amjad on | March 14, 2015, 8:46 GMT

    good to see Viv being selected and finally the jury is out of fever of big three and nominated someone not belonging to "big three". Great Viv ...

  • POSTED BY Khandaker Soyeb on | March 14, 2015, 5:28 GMT

    My best 5 : 1. Sachin 2. Sanath 3. Wasim 4. Murali 5. Sir Viv

  • POSTED BY Delan on | March 14, 2015, 2:47 GMT

    Sir Viv Richards easily. And it was in an era where batsmen did not have rules and conditions tailor made for them like today.

  • POSTED BY Shafiul Azam Fahim on | March 12, 2015, 18:46 GMT

    Vivian Richards is the real king . No other player can be compared with him in ODI cricket . And i think akram should be in the 2nd place ahead of sachin . Sachin played most of his life in batting friendly barren pitch . indian ar sarjahs pitches are very good for batting in where sachin made most of his runs . Beside this sachin scored around 3000 runs against minnow teams like bangladesh , kenya , nabibiya , zimbabwe , nederland etc . Richards and many batting greats didnt get this chance too much .

    And Ponting definitely should be in top 3 or top 5 . What on earth made the jurors to take this decision to exclude ponting from top 5 !!! and to select Dhoni in top 5 is unbeleivable !!! he shouldnt be in top 5 .

  • POSTED BY Hasmukh Ghatala on | March 12, 2015, 11:49 GMT

    Since I have not seen how Sir Viv was playing in ODI, I cannot comment on it. But If you just leave that option apart, Sachin is the greatest ever the world cricket has ever seen in this earth.

  • POSTED BY Henry Mangal on | March 11, 2015, 15:41 GMT

    Viv Richards is the real thing, the original, the authentic, the ultimate ODI Master Blaster . He is the template from which those who came after have copied. Viv invented many of the shots (like the the inside out drive over extra cover for 6 and the the pull from outside the off stump over square leg for 6), which the new generation of cricketers now play in ODI and T20. Any batsman of substance who has emerged since the advent of VIv Richards has had the benefit of reviewing Viv's supreme batting genius as a direct guide or through his coach. Those who want to doubt the veracity of Viv's batting supremacy are suffering from the fallacy of mistaking "recency for complete history"; and should view the videos of Viv Richards on ESPN Cricket Legends, the BBC and other world media, many of which are on youtube. After doing so, there can only be one conclusion - Viv Richards is the undisputed and timeless King of ODI Cricket by miles.

  • POSTED BY S Manoj Kumar on | March 11, 2015, 14:38 GMT

    sachin has hardcore fans ,they will never give up on him, that's what comment section shows .. i am a great fan of sachin . But i see both sachin and Sir Viv in same proportion.. sir viv is the guy who made the opponents feared just by his presence in the field.and his storkes with larger bats of these days. he would have been something else. and sachin is the player only player in the world to have that kind of pressure on his shoulders , when sachin bats we always wanted him to score a Hundred,anything below it was considered as a pretty decent innings .such was the pressure he had right through his career

  • POSTED BY RAKESH on | March 11, 2015, 13:17 GMT

    Had Viv played the years of Tendulkar, I dont think Viv would have been with those kind of Averages. If some body comes , who is flamboyant, and goes at a particular time, much before he could have persisted, I dont think he should be considered as the greatest. People persist and play for a very long duration, and still if they can maintain the figures of Tendulkar, should be called the greatest players.

  • POSTED BY Mansur on | March 11, 2015, 8:23 GMT

    Surprised that Ricky Ponting didnt make the list.

  • POSTED BY Salil Varma on | March 11, 2015, 4:16 GMT

    Viv is the Emperor and is way ahead of others. There is no comparison, only those who have seen him bat can be judge him. Hats off to you Sir Viv, we miss you.

  • POSTED BY Saqib on | March 11, 2015, 2:46 GMT

    For all commentators and judges, please do mind the GREAT CHANGES in the game of cricket while comparing the players of different times. Worth mentioning are 90 meter boundaries.....most of the sixes of todays time would be catch-outs...!!! No limitation of number of bouncers in one over....bowling had its might! ....Field restrictions is like setting a stage for the todays batsmen to pay back the crowd's match tickets....just for fun!!! All these things are just for the spectators appetite not genuine cricket!

  • POSTED BY clair on | March 10, 2015, 23:05 GMT

    All the posts claiming Viv doesn't deserve number one are just silly, He revolutionised the game, Look at he's strike rate, it still holds up today, 30 years later. At a time when batsman knocked the ball around with strike rates of 60 or 70 he kept he's career strike rate above 90 while averaging 47! Viv was my Hero as a kid even though I only caught the back end of he's career and even though He was often the cause of many Australian defeats, He was just an Awesome player to watch :)

  • POSTED BY Santhakumar Siva on | March 10, 2015, 22:32 GMT

    Well Done Martin Crowe! Great choice. Can't beat King of the Cricket. Sir Viv intimidated bowlers rather bowlers did to him. Sorry I couldn't see that intimidation from any other batsman.

  • POSTED BY George on | March 10, 2015, 20:46 GMT

    Those that disagree with the top pick of Sir. Vivian Richards are either too young to know, have not seen or watch him in full flight or are just bias there is not a batsman before him or after that can drive fear in the opposition destroy the best of bowling attacks clear the longest of boundaries and filled the spectators with heart throbbing expectation as Viv.

  • POSTED BY Vikram on | March 10, 2015, 20:05 GMT

    wow! viv really? 80 percent commenting here hadn't even seen him played and are raving about viv. I don't understand why do we even keep stats in world cricket if you don't want to see them. Sachin has pretty much played in all pressure filled situations and he has manhandled them. with viv they are saying one game of 184 and thats it. the was was great for sure but no way he is better then sachin. most of the white media doesn't want ever sachin to be no.1 because they think he will become better than bradman. please, bradman had high average but he never played against west indian, pakistani or south african bolwers who were best in history. sachin has earned his respect through all of them. case closed.

  • POSTED BY Hameedullah on | March 10, 2015, 18:43 GMT

    Tendulkar, Viv and Wasim Akram

  • POSTED BY Saipradeep on | March 10, 2015, 15:31 GMT

    It's Viv - The King of Cricket! all the way. He intimidated all the bowlers around the world including pascoe, thommo, hadlee. In contrast, Sachin was always vulnerable to Bowlers like McGrath, Ambrose, Walsh, Pollock or even part-time bowler Cronje/Steve waugh who could bowl that line just outside the off-stump and induced edge. Most of us would have noticed him sitting down giving an impression that the ball kept low where he clearly played inside the line or missed the line completely ending up bowled by one of the above bowlers! Being an indian, With due respect I am not taking any credit away from Sachin for what he has achieved, but the way Viv played his game - dominating the bowlers not only with bat, but also with his confident body language and style makes him far apart and clearly the all-time great. Remember, he played the game without helmet (or all those protective gear players wear these days). field restrictions, free hit, fancy bats, 1 no-ball/over etc.

  • POSTED BY Saipradeep on | March 10, 2015, 15:29 GMT

    It's Viv - The King of Cricket! all the way. He intimidated all the bowlers around the world including pascoe, thommo, hadlee. In contrast, Sachin was always vulnerable to Bowlers like McGrath, Ambrose, Walsh, Pollock or even part-time bowler Cronje/Steve waugh who could bowl that line just outside the off-stump and induced edge. Most of us would have noticed him sitting down giving an impression that the ball kept low where he clearly played inside the line or missed the line completely ending up bowled by one of the above bowlers! Being an indian, With due respect I am not taking any credit away from Sachin for what he has achieved, but the way Viv played his game - dominating the bowlers not only with bat, but also with his confident body language and style makes him far apart and clearly the all-time great. Remember, he played the game without helmet (or all those protective gear players wear these days). field restrictions, free hit, fancy bats, 1 no-ball/over etc.

  • POSTED BY Suhit Sanjiv Bhoir on | March 10, 2015, 13:41 GMT

    The top three choices are in perfect order. But I rather find it baffling that Ricky Ponting was left out. To an extent Sanath Jayasurya too. Growing up, my favourite ODI batsmen trio were - Sachin, Ponting and Jayasurya. As much I like Dhoni, I am not so sure why he is in the top 5 all time in this poll. Maybe a few years down the line he will, but at this moment...no. Anyone care to shed some light?

  • POSTED BY Uttiya on | March 10, 2015, 11:09 GMT

    One surprising thing is the fact that no one highlights that Sachin has won more "man of the match" awards and "man of the series" award than anyone else in history and that too by a fair distance. Furthermore the longevity of the player needs to be considered and respected. Imagine the type of cricket played in the early 90s and compare the same to 2010. Its a radically different world and adapting to the same requires some doing. Viv is one of the greatest players of all times, an innovator and trendsetter. However, 450+ matches against 150 matches doesnt compare favorably. Furthermore, most of the great bowlers of Viv's generation were on his own side. Sachin probably played against the greatest variety of bowlers ever assembled. From Imran Khan to Curtly Ambrose to Allan Donald to Muralitharan to Warne to Akram to Steyn to Malinga, Sachin played against the greatest one day bowlers in history and to have the record he has , is no mean feat.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | March 10, 2015, 10:51 GMT

    I agree with Danny here.Would be nice to know the whole list and the voting table. Names of the 21 cricketers too .Apart from the XI given ,other names includes Mcgrath,S.Waugh,Kohli,Yuvraj&DeVelliers.This leaves 3 Pakistanis and an Aussie to make up the numbers.Imran,Miandad,Waqar & Bevan could be a possibility.Of the 8 players to be voted as No.1 the 5 are more or less certain(Richards,Tendulkar,Akram,Gilchrist&Botham)..The other 3 could be Ponting,Warne and Kallis/Jayasuriya..Would be interesting to know.

  • POSTED BY Asif Shahzad on | March 10, 2015, 10:42 GMT

    I think Sir Viv is great choice

  • POSTED BY Sathyanarayanan on | March 10, 2015, 10:41 GMT

    He was part of the WI team which was successful and Richards played the game the way it should be played. He had that space. Lara tried to do the same but he was told that he was reckless, selfish and bla bla. Tendulkar never part of successful team and to be a ODI player the way he was, exceptional. To me, be it ODI or Test, if it's a batsman it has to be tendulkar, if it's a bowler, it has to be Wasim Akram and if it's a spinner, it has to be Warne.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | March 10, 2015, 10:16 GMT

    Truly a worthy choice. Even though the current generation remains oblivious to the prowess of the legendary Carrebbean(going by the low votes garnered in the opinion polls through readers),the men who have seen it all were clearly unanimous in their choice.

  • POSTED BY Jason on | March 10, 2015, 10:07 GMT

    I was fortunate enough to grow up and follow cricket in the 70's and 80's. For entertainment value and presence, I have yet to see a cricketer come close to Viv Richards. The guy used to transform the entire ground with just his walk out to the crease. He did things that no other player at the time would dream of. Most importantly he played to win. He appreciated the fact that a devastating 60 or 70 was worth more to his team than a controlled hundred because it stripped the morale of the opposition and they frequently never recovered from that. It will always be difficult if not impossible to compare players across generations because the game is always changing but Viv remains for me my favourite cricketer of all time.

  • POSTED BY Danny Bhandari on | March 10, 2015, 10:01 GMT

    Viv is the only choice. Whichever British journalist selected Botham needs his head examined. Great player, but laughable choice. Its interesting to see who the 8 players were who were chosen at number 1. Im guessing Richards, Tendulkar, Gilchrist, Akram, Kallis, Ponting, and maybe Jayasuriya and Botham? Would be good if you can publish the full voting table. For what it is worth, I would have had the same top three.

  • POSTED BY Mohsin Zunzunia on | March 10, 2015, 9:30 GMT

    With due respect to everyone on the list, if captaincy is a factor, Ponting > everyone on the list. I am sorry Gilchrist shouldn't be on the list ahead of his countrymen Ponting, Mark Waugh and Bevan, and others like Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Ganguly, even Dhoni is a better choice. He revolutionalised the role of keepers in Tests, not ODIs. Also you can't argue against someone like Jayasuriya, he's a WC winner like others in the list, in the top 5 ODI batsmen ever plus a good enough bowler to take 300+ wickets.

    My top 4 would be Richards, Tendulkar, Akram, Jayasuriya, can't pick a 5th person because currently these lot are way above any 5th player. If I can factor in ODI captaincy, then Ponting to be the 5th player just ahead of Dhoni.

  • POSTED BY Chandan on | March 10, 2015, 9:26 GMT

    Tendulkar and Viv in that order