Comparing across generations is not easy in any sport. With well over a century of history, including the introduction of new formats, pitting the best cricket players of all-time against one another inevitably provokes debate.


Cricket has changed considerably in just this century, let alone in the decades before. Some of the greatest cricketers ever never competed in a 50-over World Cup, while many of the iconic modern figures have prioritised the riches and glamour of the 20-over game.

It is challenging to weigh up the achievements of a cricketer from the early 20th century with those from the modern era. The time span the sport covers means the eye test is not possible for all candidates. Fortunately, statistics can help to inform these decisions. has taken in legacy, records and a variety of other factors to identify the best cricket players of all time.

10. Kapil Dev

Kapil Dev’s 434 Test wickets was the most of all-time until Courtney Walsh caught him in 2000. Some of Dev’s other records have held, however, as he remains the only player in Test history with 400 wickets and 5,000 runs. Plus, he is still the youngest player to captain his country to a World Cup win.

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Averages alone do not tell the full story with Dev. His impact was far greater than his unspectacular statistics might suggest, which is the case with so many hard-hitting all-rounders.

9. Imran Khan

Imran Khan
Imran Khan. Getty Images

The 1980s was a golden period for all-rounders, with Dev, Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee and Imran Khan all in their respective pomps. Imran was the pick of the quartet, both for how he accelerated Pakistan’s love affair with the sport, and excelled as a revolutionary fast bowler, talented batter and influential skipper.

Imran capped off his incomparable career with a triumph at the 1992 World Cup - a fitting end for a player who aged like fine wine. In his last decade of Test cricket, he averaged 50 with the bat and just 19 with the ball.

8. Jack Hobbs

The leading run scorer and century-maker in first class cricket had to find a place on this list. Jack Hobbs, appropriately nicknamed ‘The Master’, averaged a shade under 57 in 61 Test matches. His career was disrupted by the First World War, with 22 years between his first and last Tests for this country.

Footage of Hobbs in action is inevitably hard to come by, but many describe The Master as a fleet-footed, innovative batter. Hobbs won admirers throughout his playing career, and of those who were lucky enough to see him in action, a large percentage considered him the greatest of his time.

7. Sachin Tendulkar

Since making his India debut at just 15 years old, Sachin Tendulkar has been far more than a cricketer. Tendulkar, the leading run scorer in Tests and ODIs, is a demigod in India, and one of the greatest batters the sport has ever seen.

Owner of a near-perfect technique, Tendulkar excelled all over the world. His punched straight drive back past the bowler is an iconic shot in cricketing history, similar to a Ricky Ponting pull or Ian Bell cover drive.

6. Malcolm Marshall

Of players to play more than 33 Test matches, only four can better Malcolm Marshall’s strike rate. At the time of his retirement, Marshall was the West Indies’s all-time leading wicket taker in Test match cricket with 376, and his average of 20.94 is the best of any bowler with over 200 scalps.

Marshall shone even alongside fellow West Indian fast-bowling greats. He was not a towering man compared to many of his peers, yet Marshall’s bouncer was as fearsome as they come, and he honed his craft, adding an in-swinger and leg-cutter to his natural hooping out-swinger.

If being arguably the greatest fast bowler the sport has ever seen wasn’t enough, Marshall was also handy with the willow in hand, finishing his career with 10 Test fifties.

5. Muttiah Muralitharan

Muttiah Muralitharan
Muttiah Muralitharan. Getty Images

Overcoming almost constant scepticism about his action, Muttiah Muralitharan amassed 800 Test wickets and 534 ODI scalps. He is the all-time leader in both formats.

Despite years of scientific research into Murali’s action, and the seemingly conclusive experiment of bowling with an arm brace, there will always be some doubters of his legitimacy. Muralitharan’s records stand regardless of his critics, though, and he has played a considerable role in the seismic change in how off-spin bowling is viewed.

There will never be another bowler quite like Murali, and many of his records will stand for decades to come.

4. Viv Richards

At the heart of all-conquering West Indies teams, Viv Richards averaged 50 with the bat in Test cricket and 47 in ODIs. Richards’s influence on a bowling attack surpassed the runs on the board, however.

He dominated bowlers with crunching shots all over the ground, often dismissive in nature. His hand-eye coordination was outrageous, enabling strokes which others can barely imagine. In many ways, Richards’s ultra-aggressive, go-at-the-bowler approach was before his time.

Numerous other greats name Richards as the best batter they ever saw, including Bob Willis, Brian Lara and Dennis Lillee.

3. Shane Warne

Given that the late, great Shane Warne retired with 92 fewer Test wickets and 241 fewer ODI wickets than Muralitharan, it could be deemed controversial to put the Aussie this high up.

Warne was a much superior batter and fielder than Muralitharan. His sheer competitiveness, his absolute adoration for the biggest moments, stands out against any other bowler in cricket’s history.

If the match is on the line, Warne is the man you would want with the ball in hand.

2. Don Bradman

Don Bradman’s greatness forced England into the controversial Bodyline tactics to slow his scoring. The Don skippered ‘The Invincibles’ after the Second World War and famously ended his Test career with a duck, leaving his average at 99.94.

Where Richards was overpowering and Tendulkar was textbook, Bradman’s technique had quirks and his game evolved from attack-first to becoming more of an accumulator in the twilight of his international career.

1. Garfield Sobers

Garfield Sobers
Garfield Sobers. Getty Images

An attacking, elegant batsman, a versatile, skilful bowler and supremely talented fielder, Garfield Sobers is simply the most complete cricketer of all-time.

Two decades separated Sobers’s first and last Tests, which included 8,032 runs (at an average over 57), 26 centuries, a top score of 365 not out and 235 wickets through a variety of spin and seam up. Unfortunately, white-ball cricket only began towards the end of Sobers’s career, but there’s no doubt he would have been a star in the shorter formats.

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