Saturday, September 1, 2007

Warney's 50: Not the final say, yet food for thought!

The cat is out of the bag! Shane Warne's 50 greatest cricketers (A preview of the site, so that you know its not spam)

Well, looking at it from the outset, you find the names you'd see in any contemporary list, (albeit in a quirky order that wouldn't please many critics or the statisticians) but there are surprises, actually many, in store.

Sachin is at the top, pipping Lara by a tiny margin, which Warne seems to say "makes a lot of difference". No surprises there, as Warne has always held Sachin in high esteem. And the list has all the usual suspects, viz. Curtly, Waqar, Wasim, Border, Mcgrath, The Waugh Brothers, "Tubby" Taylor, Dravid, Kumble etc.

But, the inclusion of certain unknown figures while overlooking some celebrated giants has raised a furore among the critics. Also, the placing awarded to some players gives room for debate. Warney's 50 and 49 are two first-class cricketers, who have never played a single test. Some notable exclusions are Inzamam and Ganguly.

Well, first of all- I'm not going to go over the greatness of each player and his placing. Most of them are household names and the exact placing of each of them is subject one's own perspective. But, the one thing which we find weird is Steve Waugh's place- 26th place? Behind Darren Lehmann, and a few other blokes he captained?? Tim May, an off-spinner of mediocre talent who vanished into obscurity (honestly, how many times have you seen him bowl) with Warne's rise is at 31st place ahead of Waqar, Kapil, Donald.

Many reasons can be attributed to Waugh's placing- and they're widely discussed in the following article in the Age (A preview of the site, so that you know its not spam)

I would also like to add my points to the theory posited in the Age. Steve, although considered as a great, fighting batsman (NOBODY, NOT EVEN WARNEY DENIES THAT) was not the best of captains even in Australia. He's got the longest streak of victories in Tests as a captain, but Warne says that he was handed a wonderful team by Taylor (his predecessor). Besides, he wasn't a brave captain at any point of time in his career, unlike the present skipper Ponting (which has earned Ponting his nickname "Punter"). He wasn't able to stop batting assaults even though he had the best of bowlers at his disposal- The Kolkata Turnaround, Sachin's masterpieces at Sharjah, Aravinda's onslaught in the '96 WC final, the list is endless.

He was pretty tentative, and always played by the same strategy. And he was successful even in that one minded approach because he had people who always baled him out. How many times had Bevan saved the day? If not for Warne's bowling in the semi-finals of the '99 WC, his own pompous boast to Gibbs about the dropped catch would've been laughed upon.

But, on the contrary, Stephen Fleming, with his motley group of bits-and-pieces cricketers has been able to produce more than creditable performances for quite a long time. And he took up the mantle when he was very young for the job, unlike Waugh. Martin Crowe, considered one of the great thinking captains for his daring moves (like bringing on a spinner in the 2nd over of the innings), especially in the '92 WC gets to 22nd place (and that's surely for his captaincy).

For so many of us who believe Steve was great, Warne has given us food for thought. In fact, the whole list, however quirky it is, has so much scope to be analysed on various perspectives. Apart from those included for personal reasons (like Tim May, Merv Hughes etc.) the rest of the lot and their respective placings need to interpreted correctly.

Warne's views are not to be lightly taken. He's someone known to frank, and sometimes telling bitter truths without mincing words. (Remember the time he spoke of coaches as being unnecessary?). So if you thought this was just for getting back into the limelight, think again.

Warne isn't the final say, but he opens up angles for narrow-minded cricket fans (like us Indians), and self-proclaimed experts of the game, for rigorous analysis.

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