Saturday, 5 May 2012

Rowdy Swings His Mallett

Ashley Mallet
Its always the perfect way to start an argument which will occupy the front bar of any pub for an hour or so, but Ashley Mallett has taken fifty years to arrive at the five best batsmen he has watched in Test cricket. Probably the best Australian off spinner in the same span of years - another discussion for those bars - Rowdy was a thoughtful player and has been a careful journalist who usually makes sense, so his assessment isn't one to be dismissed so easily.

He has the smallest of advantages in having bowled a handful of balls in first class cricket to at least two on his list and more in practice sessions but its as an observer he has written his assessment "The Best Batsmen I've Seen" in the Cricinfo magazine. He quotes generously to support his argument, invoking Bradman among his credentialed resources. His selection of Neil Harvey, Barry Richards, Garry Sobers, Viv Richards and Sachin Tendulkar are hard to argue with but its the list of who is left out that is even more imposing.

Of his five, perhaps only Barry Richards is questionable. Ignored by Test cricket because of a right minded political response to wrong minded politics, he had Test appearances, not a career. In the day when we naively and rather ironically believed two ideologies should never mix, Richards was a glorious player who murdered first class attacks. His major crimes against bowling humanity happened on Australian pitches whilst Mallett was his team mate but in reality, the rest of his first class career was merely mortal and no better than many fine players. Its unrealistic to place him in such company based on such a short Test career but its Mallett's list and he has every right to write his impressions and make his claims. They are still substantial.

Having never seen Harvey bat and only seen his work as a selector and a motor mouth against anything sane, I have never featured him strongly in my own calculations of "best of's". Its a serious short fall, given the number of highly qualified judges who do the opposite. He was also short-changed by Bradman and his puppet selectors and should have captained more often, having been ignored whilst first Ian Craig and then Richie Benaud were given the keys to the kingdom. Perhaps its what made him bitter and so quick to judge. His stats are impressive but its more the how and when and under what conditions he made runs that attest to the fact he is deserved another look.

The rest select themselves. Tendulkar is the best batsman of all time, Sobers the best cricketer and Viv Richards the most dangerous. Its enough to say, that if the best five bowlers of all time were lined up to bowl to this list of best five batsman, Vivi would be the scalp they would be hungriest for. The other four would be players they would want to get out but for Richards, they would possess a pathological need to get him out. He was and still is, that kind of guy.


As for the alternates ... where would you start? Lara, Ponting, Greg Chappell, Sangakkara or Miandad might easily have been included.

Who would be your top five batsmen of the last fifty years of Test cricket? An interesting twist is to name the best five Test innings you have watched ... but that's for another afternoon at the Imperial.