90’s were a time for bowlers, a decade where you had Akram and Waqar, the sultans of swing in Pakistan. The mean McGrath along with wily Warne in Aus, Donald , the white lightning in SA, and the fearsome duo of Walsh and Ambrose in WI.. India too had some semblance of pace in Srinath, yet the only bowler we had was the leggy who goes by the name Anil. It was a period of the banana swing, the toe crushers, the balls that turned 90 degrees, balls of the decade, and a wide eyed off spinner who turned the ball even on glass.
Yet when you come to the current decade,it was one of the glitter of records of Sachin, Ponting’s batting, Gilchirst’s sixes, Hayden’s bludgeons, dravid’s walls, Sehwag’s gluttony it was all there and yet the moments for bowlers were far and wide. A pattern which eveovled even more towards the end of the decade with the emergence of IPL and test matches being played with RPO > 6!
This was also the decade of retirement, almost all the players we loved and grew up watching finally left the world of cricket with only Sachin and Jayasuriya being the lone warriors from the days gone by and even Jayasuriya doesnt seem like staying for too long. It was the first time that we saw players who earlier had debuted in front of us, are now retiring. Sad, but life has to move on somehow!
I thought of listing 5 Most influential players of the decade for me! (As expected from this decade 4 of them are batsmen)
Sachin – What can I say that hasnt been said and written already about the guy. A genius, a spectacle, A God, a national hero, youth icon he is all this besides fulfilling his normal duty of scoring runs and winning matches for India (an attempt foiled many a times by his team mates). In India, Sachin is cricket, he is the new religion. If last decade was of youong brilliance, the time for the star to burn bright, this one was the story of reaching Zenith. Getting into the next decade, he has almost every record there is, in circketing books. Despite losing 3 years in the decade, he still makes into it because of his effect as well as the fact that he is still here. Entering into the 4th decade of his career, definitely his last one, as always he is carrying a billion hopes.That he was a success story again this decade with 2nd highest Avg in ODIs isnt even needed to accord him greatness.
Ponting – Love him, hate him but you cant ignore him. He is the most succesful captain of the decade, the most succesful batsman, he has 2 WCs in his cupboard and almost every batting reconrd which Sachin doesnt own, is owned by him. Hating him is not a hard thing. Most polished and elegant people of the society could develop a hate for the game just by looking at a man spitting on his own palms, even if you leave aside his brash attitude. Yet no one can deny the fact that he is the most succesful batsman of the decade.
Murali – 15 degree bend, doosra, teesra he has it all and more, a tanker full of wickets! An idea of his stature can be had from the fact that even the Australian Prime Minister used to talk about him now and then. He may not have Shane Warne’s charm, his hollywood looks but he definitely outlasted and outrecorded him. He has 565 wickets this decade to 380 by Ntini,almost a ratio of 1.5, speaks volumes about him along with being the highest wicket taker in ODIs. The only batsmen I can remember who ever got a measure of him would be Brian Lara, who was rarely at his best this decade.
Gilchrist – If 80 was the decade of All-rounders, then this one was of Wicket Keeping Allrounder and Standing head and shoulders abover everyone throughout the decade was Gilly. One of the very rare Australians, who everybody respects. Between Sehwag who scores at 8 RPO in tests and Jayasuriya who started scoring more than run a ball in ODIs, there was s Gilly. When it comes to batting he can be considered to be the precursor of Sehwag and with more than 5000 runs to his name, you cant judge his talent and the fact that he had the record for most dismissals doesnt diminish his reputation too much. He is a pathbreaker of the sort which come once in a few decades.
Kallis – Could be referred to as the SA counterpart of Dravid with additional capabilities of bowling Medium Pace and with a claim to the spot of the Legendary Sir Gary Sobers, Kallis has been the success story of this decade. He was as Beatles would say, “Here, there, Everywhere”, batting, bolwing, taking catches at slips. He is the most complete all rounder I have (and I guess will ever have) seen. Born ages after Sobers and the All rounders of the 80s, my first introduction to all rounders was our dear old Prabhakar. Kallis is the man who can give balance to any side in the world, a player who is double as effective as almost any other man wearing those whites, and its his numbers which speak for him. Highest avg in both formats for players who scored more than 7000 runs, are stats enough.
Looking into the next decade, the stars are many yet its only a few years later that we will come to know which ones of them are real and which ones will just fade away. The way things are going on, I would put my money on Gambhir as one of them. Would have definitely chosen Dilshan, if he had age on his side.