ALASTAIR COOK joined an elite club when he passed 10,000 runs in Test cricket.
It is a remarkable achievement which required skill, determination, longevity, freedom from injury and the ability to maximum his talent.
But is Cook an all-time great batsman? When I tweeted that he isn’t, I was bombarded with responses claiming I was miserable and failing to appreciate his remarkable powers.
What’s more, they said, Cook is the first Englishman to reach 10k and the youngest from any country.
I rate Cook very highly. He is a brilliant cutter and puller, brave against the fastest bowling and hugely dedicated to the extent that, rumour has it, he has never been beaten in the team’s ‘yoyo’ fitness test.
He has scored three centuries on tours of both Australia and India.
But opponents respect him rather than fear him. Apart from his epic tour of 2010-11, his record against Australia is modest and he has never scored a home Ashes century.
My definition of an all-time great – as distinct from an England great or England legend – is somebody who would challenge for all-time World XI. So perhaps there are no more than 30 all-time greats.
I have been watching cricket since 1970 and reckon I have seen just two all-time great England players – all-round superstar Sir Ian Botham and wicketkeeper-batsman extraordinaire Alan Knott.
Anyway, it got me thinking. Where does Cook stand in the pantheon of batsmen? Would he feature in my top ten?
Here is a list of the best ten batsmen – or at least my favourite ten – since I began covering cricket for the Sun in the late 1980s…
IN my opinion, there is daylight between Lara and the rest – even the mighty Viv.
I watched every ball of both of his world record Test scores of 375 and 400 not out against England and he was utterly relentless. He never looked like getting out (apart from when he might have edged Steve Harmison on nought and was given not out!).
I have never seen a batsman toy with bowlers more than leftie Lara did in England in 1995.
He scored three hundreds in successive Tests that summer and, no matter where captain Mike Atherton placed his fielders, Lara would find the gaps.
His match-winning 153 not out against Australia in Barbados in 1999 is rated by many as the finest Test innings of all time.
Memory: My old sparring mate, David Norrie of the News of the World, a terrible left-handed clubbie, trying to tell Lara how to bat at a party at his house in Trinidad.
NO batsman has intimidated bowlers quite like Viv.
And he did it before he even faced a ball. Richards’ swaggering saunter to the wicket, chewing gum and whacking the end of his bat handle with his hand, put the fear of God into some bowlers.
And, of course, he never wore a helmet even when he was facing 90mph hurricanes like Aussie Jeff Thomson.
What would Viv make of modern helmet and safety strictures?
I caught the end of Richards’ career with the Sun but remember, aged 15, watching every ball of his 291 at the Oval in 1976.
He was a devastating player, savage through mid-wicket, and, even now aged 64, he has lost little of his charisma.
Memory: A furious Viv invading the press box in Antigua in 1990, sweating profusely and berating a journalist, when he should have been leading his team onto the field.
THE man known as Viru redefined the art of opening the batting in Test cricket.
Pre-Sehwag, the job was to remove the shine from the ball, block, deflect, tire the bowlers and lay a foundation. Exactly what Alastair Cook has been doing for a decade.
But Sehwag blazed from the start. His strike-rate of 82 runs per 100 balls is the fastest in the history of the game and better than many batsmen in one-day cricket.
He has scores in Test cricket of 254, 319 and 293 all made at quicker than a run-a-ball.
His footwork was minimal, his eye razor-sharp, his audacity thrilling.
He also has a 50-over double-century. Viru would not feature as high as No.3 in other people’s list but he is one of my favourite cricketers.
Memory: Sehwag’s 83 from 68 balls set up India’s historic run chase of 387-4 against England in Chennai in 2008 – the match after the terrorist attack in Mumbai.
THE LITTLE MASTER is the most feted cricketer of all time.
He had been deified by most of India’s population of 1.2 billion ever since his debut in the late 1980s.
He has been known to wear a false beard to go out in Mumbai or drive his Ferrari around at 4am in order to escape detection.
Yet, despite all the adulation and attention, Tendulkar retired in 2013 with a scandal-free legacy.
Just 5ft 5ins tall, Tendulkar had balance and timing and surprising power for such a small man.
He played for India for 24 years with combined Test and one-day aggregates of 34,347 and 100 centuries. Those numbers might never been beaten.
Memory: Tendulkar was a cherubic-faced 17-year-old when he scored the first of those centuries, a match-saving 119 not out at Old Trafford in 1990.
A TOUGH, uncompromising Aussie and a master batsman in all formats, Ponting in his pomp ranks with the best of any era.
Ponting could play all the shots but the pull was his trademark. It was murderous in its intent and the ultimate demonstration of his authority over quick bowlers.
Nicknamed Punter, he overcame early issues with alcoholism to finish with 71 international centuries – a total exceeded only by Sachin Tendulkar.
Few, if any, fielders have hit the stumps more frequently with direct hits than Ponting.
As captain, he lost three Ashes series and a scar caused by a Steve Harmison bouncer at Lord’s in 2005 is still clearly visible on his right cheekbone.
Memory: Ponting was serially mocked and abused by the Barmy Army and he frequently clashed with umpires. I have always found him friendly and approachable.
JAYASURIA is the most important and influential one-day batsman of all time.
He was the first super-successful pinch-hitter, a guy who exploded from the start of innings in order to utilise fielding restrictions.
The ploy was so successful that he was a key figure in Sri Lanka winning the 1996 World Cup, beating Australia in the final.
Jayasuriya was initially considered mainly a bowler and it is true his left-arm spinners were a considerable asset.
But his promotion to the top of the order transformed his career.
A squat left-hander with a devastating bottom-hand method, he was given licence to cut and carve the world’s best bowlers.
He also made a Test triple century and 213 against England at the Oval in 1998.
Jayasuriya has dabbled with politics and is currently Sri Lanka’s chairman of selectors.
Memory: England have never looked more out-of-date than when Jayasuriya pinch-hit them for 82 from 44 balls in the 1996 World Cup quarter-final.
DE VILLIERS has taken batting to a new level.
He is Mr.360 Degrees, scoring all around the wicket with an astonishing array of traditional and new-fangled strokes.
To the same ball, he might reverse hit or sweep or ramp or slog-sweep or even back away and hammer a cover drive.
That makes the brilliant South African almost impossible to keep quiet.
His many remarkable innings include a 31-ball century – and 149 from 44 balls – against West Indies in 2015.
He averages more than 50 in both Test and one-dayers. DeVilliers was a schoolboy star at tennis, golf and rugby so we should all be thankful he chose cricket.
Oh, he is also a brilliant fielder and regularly keeps wicket for his country.
Memory: Nobody is exempt from AB’s withering blade – including his mate and compatriot Dale Steyn, who went for 24 in an over during the 2014 IPL.
AT 57.40, Sangakkara has a higher Test batting average than anybody else in this list.
He is a left-hander who combines lavish natural ability with a formidable brain.
Sanga was a law student when he made his debut for Sri Lanka and his cutting comments from behind the stumps caused an early fall-out with Mike Atherton.
Add his sharp thinking to a stylish method, strong work ethic and understated self-belief and you begin to understand his success. He and his great mate Mahela Jayawardene once put on 624 against South Africa.
Sangakkara usually, but not always, kept wicket and his eloquence and ability guarantee a global cricketing stature few can match.
Memory: Sangakkara delivered a moving Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s in 2011 in which he spoke of cricket’s healing influence during Sri Lanka’s civil war.
THERE should be an Englishman in the top ten and Gooch is the best of our batsmen from the past 30 years.
Kevin Pietersen comes next and his talent, self-belief and frequently self-absorbed and divisive behaviour always made for good copy.
But Gooch gets the nod. His 154 not out against the full might of the West Indies fast bowlers at Headingley is the best innings I have seen by an England batsman.
Gooch’s bravery was a factor in his impressive record against the Windies team that ruled the world and he became even better after assuming the England captaincy.
His work ethic was ferocious, his appetite for runs insatiable.
In fact, he has scored more in top-class cricket than any man who has ever lived – a monumental total of 67,057.
Memory: Perth, 2010. Gooch threw balls at England’s batsmen for three hours. He then returned to the nets for another hour-long session with Essex’s Billy Godleman. That’s dedication.
THE ultimate fighter – almost literally when he swung his bat towards the head of Australia’s Dennis Lillee – Miandad was a brilliant batsman.
There was nobody to touch him on bad pitches where his skill, sharp reflexes, nifty footwork and sheer bloody-mindedness allowed him to prosper when others failed.
His innings of 200 not out for Glamorgan against Essex on a turning pitch at Colchester in 1981 is regarded as one of the best-ever in county cricket.
He put on 43 for the eighth wicket with Robin Hobbs and Hobbs was out first ball.
Miandad scored a century on his Test debut as a 19-year-old and his average never fell below 50.
Memory: Miandad was Pakistan captain on their rancorous tour of England in 1992, with all its bust-ups and ball-tampering allegations. The old street-fighter was in his element.
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