In the year 2000, Wisden chose 5 cricketers of the century. They were:
Sir Donald Bradman. No doubt about him. He had a test batting average of 99.94, streets ahead of anyone else. Had he not been bowled for a duck by Eric Hollies in his last test innings he would have averaged over 100 - the equivalent of making a century every time he went out to bat in a test match. Seeing as anything over 40 is regarded as a good average, his achievement is astonishing.
Sir Jack Hobbs. He is the only Englishman selected. His claim to fame is that he made 197 centuries in first class cricket, 98 of them when he was over-40 years of age. It was probably easier to score centuries in that era as Patsy Hendren scored 170 and Wally Hammond 167. Of modern day cricketers, Geoff Boycott scored 151 and Graham Gooch 128. But then Hobbs used to score centuries for fun and used to give his wicket away when he reached the magic three figures so someone else could have a go.
Sir Viv Richards. As captain, he led his all conquering West Indies for 50 test matches. In a different era he dominated world cricket in a way that Bradman did, but his test average was 50.23 and he scored 114 centuries, 24 of them in test matches. It was the way he scored his runs that was so impressive. He once scored 189 in an innings against England in a One-Day International.
Sir Gary Sobers. Perhaps the greatest all-rounder who has ever lived. He scored 8032 runs in 93 test matches at an average of 57.78, but also took 235 test wickets and 109 test catches. He bowled fast or slow and even wrist spin, such was his versatility. In 1957 he scored the then highest score in test cricket at 365 not out and in 1968 was the first to score a six off every ball in an over.
Shane Warne. The only one not to be knighted, and probably won't be given the tabloid headlines about him and Liz Hurley. He has taken 708 test wickets, the second most of all time. Clearly Wisden is still not convinced about Muttiah Muralitheran's action, since he has taken 723. Shane Warne's dismissal of Mike Gatting in 1983 by bowling him round his legs was named "ball of the century".
It must have been a difficult choice. Other players who might have run them close include Sachin Tendulkar who is still playing and has scored the highest number of test centuries and one-day international centuries and has a test average of 55.57, Brian Lara, who has the second highest number of test centuries, as well as the highest score in first class cricket at 501, not out, Sir Len Hutton who was the first professional to captain England and in his day made the highest score In test cricket at 364, Wally Hammond who made 4 scores over 300 in first class cricket and was perhaps the greatest cover point fielder of all time, Peter May a great English batsman and captain who won the Ashes several times in the 1950s and captained Surrey to a decade of County Championships, Dennis Compton the most attractive batsman of his era who scored 123 first class centuries including one over 300 and in 1947 scored the greatest number of runs in a first class season. We should not forget Colin Cowdrey and Tom Graveney, stalwarts of a strong England team of the 1950s and 60s who between then scored 229 first class centuries, or Glen Turner, the greatest New Zealand batsmen and one of the few to score 1000 runs in May.
Then there are the all-rounders: Kieth Millar, Sir Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Richard Hadlee; the fast bowlers: Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, Ray Lindwall, Tyson, Statham and Trueman, Lillee and Thompson, Glen McGrath, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Colin Croft and Michael Holding; and the spinners: Jim Laker, Ray Illingworth, Sonny Rhamadin, Bishan Bedi and Muralitheran himself. What about wicket-keepers? Godfrey Evans was the star of my youth and Les Ames must be mentioned since he scored 102 first class centuries. And this is to barely mention the great Australian team that dominated world cricket in the 1990s.
Did Wisden make the right choices? Send your comments if you disagree.