Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Australia's Best 25 Cricketers

Its easy to go bonkers on such a task but in a new book, Australia: Story of a Cricket Country, editor Christian Ryan has provided what he calls a once in a life time poll to determine Australia's top five cricketers. In compiling the top five, he has ended up with a list of the 25 best, now being serialised in the Sydney Morning Herald.

There are many who dismiss such lists as being impossible to formulate with any degree of accuracy because choosing the criteria for selection becomes more important than the eventual list itself. There is the old chestnut of comparing players across generations and that inevitably, the longer the selection period, the more likely the players at the earlier stages of the period are not considered as favourably because those choosing are unlikely to have seen the players perform. Those who pooh-pooh the exercise are generally those too timid to engage in the task. In the end, there are no wrong answers, although my list will be better than yours but only because in completing the task, I have been filled with a warm flood of memories of hot Saturdays at the SCG and towelling hats and my heroes acting heroically. Debating our selections is part of that same thrill. We get off the fence and onto the playing arena with every quoted stat, every retold anecdote. What a gift these men have left with us. 

All that taken into account, Ryan has at least chosen a selection panel which has some credibility, inviting returns from 121 former Test players as the sole voting sample. The result is as interesting as it is likely to be controversial - all such lists are.

It will undoubtedly rake up discussion and argument among workmates, travelling companions in the rush hour, overs beers at BBQ's and certainly between overs on suburban and country grounds for the next few Saturdays. The greatest of all discussion grounds of the game, that between grandfather, father and sons is likely to be where this list will most hotly be debated and if the youngest of the generations watches quietly from the bowlers end, they'll learn more than they can offer to the discussion and be the richer for it. Cricket has always only been as strong as the next generation taking it forward but that strength depends on carrying with them the best of the past to be cherished and remembered.

This list will help that process.

The SMH has rather cheekily held back the final five, although revealed almost by accident or teaser that Keith Miller will be the first of the final five. If we pencil in Bradman, Warne and Lillee as safe bets, that leaves only one spot. Who? So far, no Grimmett, no Armstrong, no Morris, no Hill, no Taylor, all of whom are Hall of Fame members and only one keeper in the first 20 named. I'll give my final guess to Adam Gilchrist.

As a custodian myself, such events brighten my day: there can never be too much cricket talk.

For more details and a look at players 6 to 25, go to Australia's Best Cricketers or the SMH video presentation Australia's Top 25 Cricketers