My All-time Favorite Test Cricket Players

This post is a response to a comment my friend Vinish Garg made on my recent blog on Test Cricket in India. Today’s post is about those Cricketers whom I idolize. They are those Hall of Fame Cricketers who have become a part of cricketing ballads; those, whose galore of perseverance, talent, and the sheer ability to turn the table is much like an embroidery on the fabric of the game.

But, before I begin with my list of the all-time favorites, let me tell you that I’ve not gotten back much in time to look into the statistical history or for those names that are unheard off by the most of today’s generation. I, for one, am not much of a watcher of the game, myself. To make the job easier, I have selected from those names whom I have seen play: Basically, I am looking at a list of players from roughly 1995 to the present decade.

That’s because, in the years and decades before that, things were a bit different. Not much interaction and analysis happened on Cricket. Not a lot of players – except for the likes of Sir Viv Richards, Richard Hadlee, and Kapil Dev – played as names that represented the game. On most occasions.

But, there’s more to my choice than just that. Based on the statistics, it seems that with us tiptoeing into the twenty-first century the percentage of Test matches ending in a definitive result (neither Drawn nor Tied) has increased. That may be on various grounds (no pun intended), such as the change in techniques, change in the player’s and team management’s mindset, and change in the sporting gears and equipment. So, here are my all-time favorites:

Fast Bowlers

Wasim Akram: Perhaps the best bowler I’ve seen. He could control the ball the way he wanted to. At times, he could swing the ball both ways in one delivery… no kidding there. Although he lost his luster to the match-fixing controversies in the 1990s, but he continued playing at the international level unit the 2003 Cricket World Cup.

Waqar Younis: The short description for him is: The King of the Reverse. Well, the long description better be left to those who batted against him. He debuted at a time when the real prowess for fast bowlers was their ability to bowl fast and short. He had the balls (No pun intended – he was a bowler, after all.) to change that. And how? The real ability lies in bowling fast and full, and moving the ball right at the toes of the batter.

Sir Curtly Ambrose: True that you must let only your success make the noise for you. No better example than him. He was the most devastating bowler of his time. I can only imagine how would it be to see a fast ball bowled from as high as 10 feet. His 7 for 1 against Australia remains marked on favorites list on YouTube. Lexicographers should consider replacing the word “consistency” in dictionaries with his name. I know, I know. The list would never be complete without his mention.

Spin Bowlers

From those who spin themselves yet bowl straight to those who genuinely spin the ball, we’ve seen a lot of spinners experimenting and delivering on the 22 yards. But, those who I respect are truly a class of their own.

Anil Kumble: On field, he was amongst those who didn’t spin the ball too much, but did so sufficiently enough to create doubts in the batters’ minds. And, that’s enough. A snick, a leading edge, or a trajectory and bounce miss was all it took for him to create wicket-taking opportunities. And, to keep the statistician inside you happy, he happens to be the only Indian (I believe the only person in the world after Jim Laker) to take all 10 wickets in a Test innings.

Muttiah Muralitharan: Most part of the magician spinner’s career was beset by the controversy over his bowling action. But, that didn’t stop him from taking as many as 800 wickets in the Test format of the game, which is the highest by any bowler to date. It was perhaps his elbow flexion that got his bowling action into questions. But, the magician spinner spun enough for others to think that he created an “optical illusion of throwing”, and finished his career best with 9/51 (an unfortunate drop-catch for the otherwise tenth wicket in one innings).

Shane Warne: He was one of the most iconic and greatest Test spinners of all times. He, the second-most wicket taker, got Gatting on the “ball of the century”. The wicket of Gatting as much officially marked the revival of the leg break bowling in modern day Test Cricket as it helped the newbie Warne make his mark in the game. I conclude that one’s only limit is their own imagination.

All-rounders

Jacques Kallis: Talk about focus and talk about blows; here is an all-round batter who can bowl (and bowl well). He is that broad-shouldered Cricketer who you would love to see score (or take wickets) even when you are the one he is playing against. A gentleman-looking Cricketer, much like Rahul Dravid. Critics view him mostly as a soft player who often underplayed his talent by scoring slow. But then there are players who put their country’s and team’s interest before their own. Isn’t that true?

Steve Waugh: Here is an all-round batter who mastered playing the spin. I’m told he suffered from severe back pain, and hence he quit bowling. He played for his country for close to two decades during which he helped Australia see 15 Test wins in a row – Actually 16, but he captained in only 15 of those.

Specialist Batters

For this category I would choose to include the names of Virender Sehwag and Matthew Hayden. None else. The reason is simple. The format of Test Cricket is boring by the nature of it. Let me give you a little background here: You have plenty of overs by your side and you don’t really have to bend your back and stretch and dive to keep the scoreboard ticking; The runs come by not as the primary goal in themselves but as by-product of this five-day journey called the Test.

That’s much like the slow life of the weekend, where you rock on an armchair in your porch, watch dusk set in, enjoy slow music as you sip over wine occasionally, listen to the mild breeze that flows by, and watch the evening hues right through to the void that lies beyond the horizon.

With that background, most batters would slow down on their run rates – relaxed. Most, except for these two. Their styles match to the extent of commanding (if, for a change, not influencing) the bowlers’ mindsets. They are the ones who bring colors to the otherwise dressed-in-white game. They are the ones who can stand and deliver; thwack even some of the most accurately-bowled deliveries out of the Cricket grounds; and make even good bowlers feel poor about their existence. What else is otherwise equally exciting in a Test Cricket, anyway?

But, let me tell this to you honestly. The Test Cricket is all about technique. Not that these two batters didn’t have a technique, it is just that their focus was not on facing balls and bowlers to improve on and discover the best of their techniques. This is the reason I am including that one batter, who I think deserves a mention in this section of the list: Rahul Dravid.

Some of us don’t need any introduction. When on the pitch, he would be one such player. Everything he did was everything about him: his signature style of defense and his signature style of keeping the wickets. I’m told that it was his wish to push his limits that he chose to keep wickets when India was in dire need of a wicketkeeper. So, when all we needed was a wicketkeeper who could also bat, in him we found a fantastic batter who could also keep wickets. And how! When I look at the statistics, I see that his batting average, while he kept wickets for India, was more than that of Kumar Sangakkara and Adam Gilchrist. True that your attitude determines where your talent takes you.

But, that was all in the ODIs. What about the Test format? Did you know that he holds the record for facing 31258 deliveries, the most by any batter? Given that his technique was at least as strong, IF not better – assume for the sake of it – he could have scored the highest number of runs a lot earlier than any of them. True that the Test Cricket requires a different mindset.

Special mention: Virat Kohli. He has had a wonderful 2016: two double centuries in Test, more than 900 runs in T20s, and lots of accolades and match-winning innings in the ODIs. He’s also proved to be a leader and an expert finisher. But, I will choose to not include him in here, because he is not like neither Sehwag or Hayden not like Dravid. He is a lot more adaptive. Remember the time he had issues with inswing deliveries? That’s history now.

Special mention: Also, Ricky Ponting. He, like the other Australian on our list, is someone who’s made his mark with his own style. Another dominator, he could have made it to our list of specialist batters. But, for his batting woes toward the end of his Cricket career, which he couldn’t find the scope to get out of.

Wicketkeeper Batters

Adam Gilchrist: I feel short of words to talk about someone who happens to be on the list of Martin Crowe’s all-time dream XI for Test. At the order in which he batted, he played his role ever so successfully. So, as a batter, he was explosive. But, as a wicketkeeper, he was even more devastating. Imagining a combination of the likes of Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist is enough to send shivers down to the spine of even the top quality batsmen.

Kumar Sangakkara: This legendary match winner happened to be one of the most run-scoring batters for Sri Lanka, and still holds the most wicket keeping dismissals of all time.

Special mention: MS Dhoni. I would love to include Dhoni to the list. But, his signature wicket-keeping techniques are more suitable for the other formats of the game.

Conclusion

Despite how odd some of us think of Test Cricket to be in today’s context, I believe Cricket has always been (and will always be) a game of twenty good deliveries. It is just a matter of how quickly can your bowlers bowl them. So, irrespective of what you choose to play/watch, your intention is to understand and enjoy the techniques as you become a part of the sport.

The Future? Day-night Tests. Yes. Pink ball? Probably. Changes? Well, somebody suggested that the toss be replaced with the guest taking the call to either bat or bowl. That way, we negate the local advantage – take luck in winning tosses out of the way – and hosts get to test their prowess when they get to bat on the fifth day. After all, that’s the Test Cricket about, anyway. But, will Tests continue to be played? From where I can see, Yes. That’s due to the better sporting equipment, more use of technology, more support team, more cricketing opportunities, and more followers of the Test format.

Are you game?

__________

PS: The credit for the supporting statistics, and cross opinion, in some cases goes to Pranav Kunte, my brother in law, who is the biggest Cricket follower I know.

Connect Those Pesky Dots

“For god sake, once, just once, connect those pesky dots. Can’t you see that I can’t understand anything? Even a word?” That’s what I often say when I look at bad write-ups. I just can’t connect those pesky dots to see what the story is. But, am I the only one who rubbishes write-ups that often? Don’t you too?

I think a write-up is bad because it doesn’t tell me anything. So, if it is poem, I am like “Uh!” and if it is a story, I’m like “So?” Write-ups that do not take either me or my learning from, for example, point A to point B are bad write-ups for me. I do not read poems. Not from all the writers. I am choosy, because not all writers do justice to their works. But, here’s one who I read quite often, and every time I see a new poem, I realize the poet wants me to step into her shoes and flow through the story she narrates.

But then there are those writers, who can beautify their words, and still fail to get the messages across. In contrast, I would love to read those writers who can break the ice, tell me a story, and make me smell the flowers as I read through their texts – just like the Juhi’s poems I just shared with you. Such writers, I believe, are a lot more effective. That’s because they have a message for me. Beautification is not a message. Beautification may be important, but not for me.

My take? Fiction, non-fiction, biographies, and poems: I see that the quality of write-ups (good or bad) depends on the flow of thoughts from the intentions to the messages. This flow is what can help us connect those pesky little dots. The message in the flow is about something that I either need to know or am interested to know about. And, as long as the writer can help usher me through the tides of the emotions, and still communicate the message and bring me (or my learning) from point A to point B, I’m good.

Plain, simple rules, aren’t they? Flow and message! But, why am I writing this to you? Why? Or, is it not something you already know? How many of us not write to rant out our pain? How many of us write for the fun and soul in writing? I am not sure. Not sure, because I know that writing isn’t always for a purpose. Not sure, because we know that we know the principles or the idea, and yet not follow it. Most of us don’t. But, I think I do. Do you?

The Inverted Tree of Information

I will start this post where I ended the previous one: the inverted tree structure of information categorization. As promised, I will talk about my interpretations on some of the verses in the Bhagwad Gita, which is a great source of inspiration for me on both, personal as well as professional grounds. Click here to read the full post.

Choose Your Luggage.

If life is a journey, and not a destination, isn’t your life all about how long do you keep walking? The challenges that you face, the people whom you meet, and the experiences that you glean: it all adds up to count as memories in your life. And, unlike the materialistic aspect, your richness is not restricted to the amount of money you earn, but the amount of memories you gather. C’est la vie!

We meet different kinds of people in our life. Each one has their own, small (but important) role to play in our lives. Some get registered as family, some as friends, and some as enemies. But each of them contributes something to our journey. We either succeed with them, or earn experiences because of them. But, we never walk alone. Nobody does!

So, what do we do to make the most out of this life? What do we do to go really long? Or, at least, go longer distances than we initially thought? Let us see.

We travel with a lot of luggage. Although, mostly an unwanted one, the luggage packs our memories. We carry our aspirations, emotions, learning, pleasures, treasures, and experiences. All in all, we carry two sets of luggage: the positive ones and the negative ones.  The negative luggage (of agitation, anger, frustration, hatred, or jealousy) are like bundles of cotton. Each time we have those feelings, the bundles become wet. And, the more we have those feelings the more those continue to get wet. And, if you’ve realized where I am getting at, it becomes heavier, and consequently gets difficult (almost impossible) to walk with a heavier luggage.

But, if we choose to leave aside those presumptions, let go off that negative set of luggage, we will eventually cover great distances in our journeys … I have realized that irrespective of what result do we get, we must choose not to get disappointed. That’s because, we will either succeed or earn a sufficient amount of experience.

I choose to set aside this negative set of luggage, so that I can go longer distances. What about you?

#suyogsutra

It is always good to keep your (in)abilities well bracketed. #suyogsutra

I know what I can do. But, I also know what I cannot – which is equally important. That helps me set achievable goals and workable standards so that I keep myself motivated. Although, it may not always be a great idea to not strive for goals that are beyond your capacity. But, it is seldom that you try to achieve something that you know you can’t!

By keeping the inabilities “well bracketed”, I mean keeping them well in check. Brackets, here, are symbolic to categorized restriction (premise?). So, when you can keep a check on what you cannot do (or find impossible to achieve at a point in time), you can easily calculate what you can do.

At times, knowing what to reject works better than knowing what to accept. And, bracketing your inabilities is an important tactic in the strategy of rejection.

– Suyogsutra

My Non-Work Time Activities

Last month, on one of our regular visits to a temple, my wife and I met one of her cousins. During our interaction, which mostly concerned our families, we got to know something about each of our job profiles. One of the questions during our conversation was, “What do you do when you are not working Suyog?” That was a good question because I did not have a proper list of activities that I do when I am not working.

So, not exactly a non-work time bucket list, but here’s what I enjoy doing:

Reading

This is one of the must-haves. You can see me lying down on a couch with a book, especially on the weekends. It is so much relaxing to not be governed by the clock. But, unlike a lot of us who do not like reading from their mobile devices, I like reading from my iPad mini or Windows Phone. It’s so much easier to carry those, especially when I’m traveling.

I’ve not written much on what I read, except for this list of must-read books for technical communicators. I don’t have a typical list, but I could come up with some names that I liked reading the most. I am sure you too have a list of your own. If you don’t, get inspired and make one!

Cooking

Yes! It is one of those activities that I love to do when I am not working. I help my mother and wife in the kitchen. And the best part is that we don’t have a list of favorites. We cook what we feel like at that moment. So, cheese and garlic bread, Indian Chaat, fruit shake, milk chocolates, snacks, Khao Phat Che (Thai fried rice)… the list is endless.

Food
Photos of some of the delicious dishes. I wish you could taste those!

Playing

I love to play strategy-based games on my iPad mini. When I am not helping my wife in the kitchen, I am accompanying her (at least I think so) by sitting there, playing games on the iPad. It is fun to talk to her, pretend as if I am listening, and still managing to do what I want to do! I bet she’ll laugh when she reads this!

Photography

There are a lot of those “aspiring photographers” who you see are carrying a DSLR, but apparently not knowing how to completely put those to use! Fortunately (or otherwise), I own only a point-and-shoot, compact camera.

I get to use the camera only during monsoon, but I don’t give up on the occasional chances that I get once in a while. I like macro photography and look forward to the day I get to buy a good-quality DSLR. I know the basics of photography and I think everybody in my family likes to see me cultivate a hobby like that. My current bouquet of photographs is available on Flickr.

Some macro-photography experiments.
Some macro-photography experiments.

Writing (mostly, blogging)

But, that’s not all I do when I am not working. I love to write. And, you’ve seen me write quite often on topics that relate to my profession. I currently am working on a book, and I hope to complete (and publish) it someday. <I have my fingers crossed to that!>

I’m sure that even you do something to spend your non-work time. I would love to see you share something.