Sir Viv Richards has been crowned the greatest one-day cricketer ever by a jury of 50 eminent players, commentators and writers assembled by the Cricket Monthly.
An astonishing 29 of 50 jurors picked Sir Viv as their first choice, giving him a landslide victory over four other ODI legends: Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Akram, Adam Gilchrist and MS Dhoni.
The contest for second place was a close affair between Tendulkar and Akram. Tendulkar, owner of 18,426 runs and 49 centuries, eventually prevailed by a hair’s breadth over Akram, the most exceptional left-arm bowler the game has seen. Rounding off the top five were Gilchrist at No 4 and Dhoni at No 5.
In all, 21 cricketers received at least one vote from the jury: six Australians, five Indians, four Pakistanis, two West Indians, two South Africans, a Sri Lankan and an Englishman.
There was no dispute over the greatest, though.
Through the late 1970s and 80s Richards was way ahead of his contemporaries. He thrived in different conditions, against a variety of attacks, and raised the bar in the key matches. In an era before big bats, small boundaries and fielding restrictions, Sir Viv tormented bowlers with his power and audacity.
“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 15 exhausting years of dominance,” writes former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe in his tribute to Richards in the March issue of the Cricket Monthly. “Arguably, categorically for me, his 189 not out in Manchester in 1984 is the greatest one-day innings of them all.”
Few walked to the crease oozing as much swagger as Sir Viv, who never wore a helmet even when facing the fastest bowlers. “I felt strong about my presence, you know,” said Richards in an interview to the Cricket Monthly. “Sometimes presence sends a message, ‘Hey, I am ready.’ It’s just the duel between you and the bowler.”
The Cricket Monthly’s 50-member jury included legendary cricketers Ian Chappell, Clive Lloyd, Martin Crowe, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith; veteran commentators Tony Cozier, Mark Nicholas, Mike Haysman and Sanjay Manjrekar; and writers Gideon Haigh, Mike Coward, Suresh Menon and Mike Selvey.
“No one does numbers better than us,” said ESPNcricinfo’s editor-in-chief Sambit Bal, “but we also know that numbers don’t always tell the full story. Which is why we rely on the cumulative wisdom of those who should know for our awards.
“And the World Cup was a good occasion to assemble a grand jury, drawn from different eras and countries, to pick the greatest ever one-day cricketer. It’s hard to argue with the top five the poll has thrown up: between them they encapsulate the best of ODI cricket across the ages and also its evolution.”
Richards played in 187 ODI matches and scored 6,721 runs, for an average of 47. He had 11 centuries and 45 half centuries.