In April 2000 a panel of hundred cricket experts was formed from former players and journalists from nine international Test playing nations. The number of these experts was proportional to the quantity of Test cricket played by the nation during the 20th century. Thus there were 28 voters from England and 1 voter from Zimbabwe. The group was chosen in such a way that each decade of the 20th century was covered. This panel was asked to select the 5 greatest cricketers of the 20th century. Five may appear as an insufficient and unreasonable number. However Wisden, a yearly cricket chronicle that dates back to 1864 has been naming “Five Cricketers of the Year” for more than a century. Hence the number five was chosen.
Obvious selections – Don Bradman and Gary Sobers
After the 500 votes were cast by the panel of 100 it was observed that they had voted for 49 players. Out of these two cricketers were far ahead of the rest as they were the obvious selections. The maximum votes were given to Donald Bradman as he was voted for by all the participants. Bradman the Australian cricketer was active in cricket from 1928 to 1948. He was hailed by Wisden as “the greatest phenomenon in the history of cricket, indeed in the history of all ball games”. He was selected as the 1st Wisden cricketer of the 20th century. He is still the holder of several important records in Test cricket, like highest career batting average (minimum 20 innings), highest series batting average (5 Test Series), highest ratio of centuries per innings played etc. The second obvious selection was Gary Sobers. This all rounder from the West Indies received 90 votes. In his career, he scored 8032 runs in Test cricket which was a record when it was made. His average in Test cricket is 57.78 and he has also taken 235 wickets at a bowling average of 34.03.
There was a wide gap in the number of votes given to Bradman and Sobers and the remaining three selections. Also these three were separated from those below them by a wide margin of votes. The third cricketer was Jack Hobbs of England. This batsman who played from 1907 to 1930 received 30 votes. He was selected as the 3rd Wisden cricketer of the 20th century. In first class cricket, he has scored more runs and centuries than any other player. The fourth cricketer was Vivian Richards of West Indies. This batsman who played from 1973 to 1991 received 27 votes. He was also selected as the 5th Wisden cricketer of the 20th century. He is considered as the most devastating batsman to have ever played cricket. The fifth cricketer was Shane Warne of Australia. This leg spinner played from 1991 to 2007 was given 25 votes. He was selected as the 4th Wisden cricketer of the 20th century. He has an account of more than 1000 international wickets if the Tests and One-day wickets were added and has also piled up more than 3000 Test runs.
Vivian Richards vs Imran Khan
After the five players were chosen it was felt that no Asian was present amongst them. The highest placed Asian was Imran Khan of Pakistan who played from 1971 to 1991. This pace bowler was arguably the greatest of the times of extraordinary all-rounders. It is recognized that his captaincy enhanced the performance of an under-achieving team to a World Cup winning one. Imran received 13 votes and was ranked the 10th greatest cricketer. However if Imran was to be selected then Richards would have to be omitted. Richards has been acknowledged as the most electrifying cricketer of the last quarter of the century. He was a symbol of the swagger and brilliance of the exemplary West Indies team of the 1980s. It was generally regarded that bowlers who could bowl at more than 90 miles per hour were frightening. However the crease presence of Richards was such that the English writer John Arlott blamed him for “intimidatory batting”.