and Sreeram Ramachandran
Caricatures: Rajnikanth S
Layout/Design: Paramvir Singh
This is HoldingWilley's first country-specific special report. We thought we'll play at home first - so India it is.
Since Test cricket is the highest form of the game, and what players are most judged by, and since it is the only form that links eras, we decided to base our rankings exercise exclusively on this. ODI cricket therefore has been completely ignored here.
India's 77 years of Test cricket (all figures updated till 31st December 2008) has involved 427 test matches, with 98 wins, 136 losses, 192 draws and 1 tie. It is not a proud record. Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka have a better win-loss ratio than India in Test cricket. And yet, India has produced great cricketers in every era - among the best in the world.
But never the best team. No Indian Test team ever has been the indisputable best as Australia, England and West Indies have been at some point or the other. India has come close in three periods - the early 1970s, between 2001 and 2004 and now in 2008 (perhaps more emphatically than ever before). The 1983-86 period promised much, but delivered little outside of the glorious ODI championship triumphs and an away series victory in England. (This also explains why there are more cricketers from these three periods on our list than any other.)
This analysis primarily ranks India's 20 greatest cricketers on parameters that are a combination of individual excellence and their effect on team results - standards we believe the evaluation of performances in any team sport should incorporate. Highest run tallies or century tallies mean nothing without this context, in our opinion.
Along with the ranking and a profile, we also provide elaborated lists of their 5 greatest performances. (We have rounded off all averages, which straight-away halved the figures on the page, and made the stats that much more palatable. Asterisks connote not out innings.)
But once again, to stress, this is only Test cricket. So, images of Kapil Dev holding aloft the Prudential World Cup or Ravi Shastri with the keys of the Audi or a topless Sourav Ganguly waving his shirt have no value here.
It's only the white clothing, five days of it, for 77 years.
The results are actually rather surprising.