Best cricketers of all time

Our pick of 20 of the greatest male cricketers ever to have played the game

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS - JANUARY 26:  A view of the Sir Garfield Sobers statue outside the ground before Day Four of the First Test match between England and West Indies at Kensington Oval on January 26, 2019 in Bridgetown, Barbados. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

One of the most popular sports in the world, cricket has a long history filled with brilliant batsmen, bowlers, wicket keepers and all rounders from every corner of the globe. Many of the greatest cricketers of the 20th and 21st Century have transcended the sport, becoming figures in popular culture and household names – and a good deal of those you’ll find on our list fall into that category.

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But with so many names to choose from, who will make it onto our list of the greatest cricketers of all time?

Let us begin our journey…

1. Sir Donald Bradman

August 1938: Spectators clapping Australian cricketer Sir Don Bradman (1908 - 2001) as he comes out during the 4th Test Match at Headingley, Leeds. Sir Donald Bradman was the first cricketer to be knighted in 1949 for his services to cricket. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Country: Australia

Years active: 1927-1949

Test batting Average: 99.94

“The Don” is not only one of the most celebrated and recognised names in cricket, despite retiring from the sport more than seven decades ago remains a household name across the world. His incredible batting average of 99.94 (he was so close to a three figure average!) sets him head and shoulders above all those who went before and everyone who has played competitive cricket since. In an illustrious career that spanned three decades, Bradman took the popularity of international cricket to new highs, drawing huge crowds to watch his almost flawless batting – culminating in leading the so-called “invisibles” Australian team to a whitewash of the English on a tour after the Second World War.

2. Sachin Tendulkar

NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 28: Sachin Tendulkar of India bats during day three of the second test match between New Zealand and India at McLean Park on March 28, 2009 in Napier, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Country: India

Years active: 1998-2013

Test batting Average: 53.78

Test wickets: 46

The highest scoring batsman in the history of international cricket, Tendulkar captained the Indian national team and remains the only player in the history of the game to score one hundred international centuries and the first cricketer to amass more than 30,000 test runs. To add to that, Tendulkar was also a pretty handy bowler. Decorated with awards both on and off the pitch, this true international superstar of the game has been recipient of Wisden Cricketer of the Year, the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy, ESPNCrickinfo Cricketer of the Generation as well as the Padma Bidhushan and the Bharat Ratna, India’s second highest and highest civilian awards.

3. Sir Garfield Sobers

ENGLAND - JUNE 12: West Indies bowler Garry Sobers in bowling action during a tour match in England circa 1966 in England, United Kingdom. (Photo by Don Morley/Allsport/Getty Images/Hulton Archive)

Country: West Indies

Years active: 1952-1974

Test batting Average: 57.78

Test Wickets: 235

One of the most celebrated cricketers of a generation, Sobers is recognised as the complete package in cricketing terms – an all rounder to be feared by his opponents whether he was holding the bat or the ball. His aggressive batting style propelled him to fame as a fan favourite who would not only achieve high scores, but in spectacular fashion – indeed in 1968 he became the first cricketer to achieve a “perfect” 36 in an over of first class cricket in England, smashing six consecutive balls of an over for six. Described by many commentators as the best all-rounder ever to have played the game, Sobers stood out for his ability to bowl as well at pace with the new ball as he could spin it later in the game, field with extraordinary athleticism as well as score runs with the bat.

4. Sir Ian Botham

DURHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 21: Durham player Ian Botham celebrates after catching out Glamorgan batsman Viv Richards off his own bowling for 1 run as wicketkeeper Chris Scott runs in to congratulate him during a Benson & Hedges Cup match between Durham and Glamorgan Durham University Ground on April 21, 1992 in Durham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Hulton Archive)

Country: England

Years active: 1973-1993

Test batting Average: 33.54

Test Wickets: 383

Another all rounder in our list, Botham was one of the most recognisable names in cricket in the 1980s – celebrated by the press as a “big hitter” who’s powerful shots would send the crowds wild, but indeed, it was probably more for his exceptionally consistent bowling that he might be better remembered by the record book, garnering him a fantastic 383 test wickets. He became England captain in the early 1980s and is often best remembered for the 1981 series against Australia, dubbed by many as “Botham’s Ashes” because of his brilliant performance with both bat and ball helping the team come from being one test down after two to win the series, and with it the most coveted prize in cricket.

5. Imran Khan

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 25: Pakistan captain Imran Khan (c) celebrates the moment of victort after Rameez Raja (not pictured) had caught England batsman Richard Illingworth (r) to win the 1992 Cricket World Cup Final by 22 runs at the MCG on March 25, 1992 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo Joe Mann/Allsport/Getty Images)

Country: Pakistan

Years active: 1971-1992

Test batting Average: 37.69

Test Wickets: 362

There aren’t many sportspeople who can claim to have captained their country in sport, and in politics – but Imran Kahn is one of them. Now the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan, Kahn is best-known to sports fans for his heroics as one of the most gifted all rounders of his generation. Inducted in the ICC Hall of Fame, Kahn captained Pakistan to their only Cricket World Cup victory as well as producing regular heroics with the bat and ball throughout an illustrious test match career.

6. Shane Warne

Shane Warne

Country: Australia

Years active: 1992-2007

Test Wickets: 708

When Shane Warne exploded onto the international cricket scene he took the sport by storm, becoming one of the most feared – and at times almost unplayable – bowlers in the game. His incredible leg spin earned him more than 700 test wickets and popularised across the globe a form of bowling that hadn’t perhaps always been seen as glamorous compared to fast paced deliveries. Warne’s big personality, on-pitch bravado and incredible skill to match made him a superstar of his era and helped make the Australian national team of the 90s and 00s one of the most unstoppable forces in world cricket in the modern era.

7. Brian Lara

West Indian batsman Brian Lara during his innings of 277 runs in the Third Test against Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia, 2nd - 6th January 1993. The match ended in a draw. (Photo by Joe Mann/Getty Images)

Country: West Indies

Years active: 1990-2007

Test batting Average: 52.88

Without a doubt, Lara is one of the most gifted batsmen ever to have stepped up to the crease in world cricket. He holds the record for the highest ever score in first class cricket in England, with an incredible 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham in 1994, and ten years later he set the record for the highest ever individual test score with 400 not out against England. Lara also hold the record of the highest score in one over by a batsman in a test match when he scored 28 runs in six balls against South Africa’s Robin Peterson in 2003.

8. Sir Viv Richards

West Indies tour of Australia and New Zealand 1979 - 1980. Australia v West Indies First test match at Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Brisbane. Viv Richards in batting action for West indies, waiting for a delivery at the crease. December 1979. (Photo by Eric Piper/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Country: West Indies

Years active: 1974-1991

Test batting Average: 50.23

Test Wickets: 32

Another great batsman from the West Indies, Viv Richards was the batting superstar to dominate the game before Lara. His run-scoring helped lead the West Indies to win both the first and second Cricket World Cup and set him up as the future captain of his team. Noted for his brilliant and often spectacular performances with the bat in both one day cricket and test cricket, Richards was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2009.

9. Wasim Akram

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 2: Pakistan`s bowler Wasim Akram celebrates the runout of England batsman Graham Thorpe (not in picture) during the 3rd day of the 2nd test match at Old Trafford in Manchester, 02 June 2001. (Photo credit should read MARTYN HARRISON/AFP via Getty Images)

Country: Pakistan

Years active: 1984-2003

Test Wickets: 414

One of the greatest bowlers and prolific wickets takers of all time, Akram is famed as one of the earliest exponents of reverse swing, a style of fast bowling that regularly devastated opposition batting orders with ruthless effect.  The highest wicket-taker in tests in Pakistani cricket history with 414, Akram was also the first cricketer to reach 500 one day international wickets during his performance in the 2003 Cricket World Cup.

10. Muttiah Muralitharan

Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan delivers a ball during a practice session at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on September 13, 2009. India, New Zealand and Sri Lanka began a one-day international series on September 8 in Colombo with India and Sri Lanka playing in the concluding match on September 14. AFP PHOTO/Ishara S.KODIKARA (Photo credit should read Ishara S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images)

Country: Sri Lanka

Years active: 1992-2011

Test Wickets: 800

Muralitharan’s prolific wicket-taking earns him a place in the top ten, and as one of the best-recognised names in bowling of the modern era. His unusual style of delivery which saw him bowl wrist-spinning off-spin, although devastatingly effective against opponent batsmen, also attracted controversy during his career. Various officials and members of the cricket community questioned the validity of his bowling action, although after extensive biomechanical analysis under simulated playing conditions, the ICC agreed that it was a legal way of bowling within the game.

11. Ricky Ponting 

Australian captain Ricky Ponting (C) and England captain Andrew Strauss (R) lead their teams out on the first day of the first Ashes Test match in Brisbane on November 25, 2010. IMAGE STRICTLY RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE � STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE AFP PHOTO/William WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Country: Australia

Years active: 1995-2012

Test batting Average: 51.85

12. Jacques Kallis 

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 28: Jacques Kallis of South Africa drives through extra-cover during day 3 of the 2nd Test match between South Africa and India at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead on December 28, 2013 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Country: South Africa

Years active: 1995-2014

Test batting Average: 55.37

Test Wickets: 292

13. Sir Richard Hadlee 

AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 28: Richard Hadlee of New Zealand celebrates during a test match between Australia and New Zealand on December 28, 1987 in Australia. (Photo by Getty Images)

Country: New Zealand

Years active: 1973-1990

Test Wickets: 431

14. Kumar Sangakkara 

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA - JULY 03: Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka bats during day four of the second test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at Sinhalese Sports Club on July 3, 2012 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Country: Sri Lanka

Years active: 2000-2015

Test batting Average: 57.40

15. Glenn McGrath

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 02: Glenn McGrath of Australia waves to the crowd on day one of the fifth Ashes Test Match between Australia and England at the Sydney Cricket Ground on January 2, 2007 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Country: Australia

Years active: 1993-2007

Test Wickets: 563

16. Sir Curtly Ambrose 

The Wisden Trophy - 1st Test, England V West Indies. West Indian bowler Curtly Ambrose. Trent Bridge, Nottingham, 7th June 1988. (Photo by Brendan Monks/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

Country: West Indies

Years active: 1988-2000

Test Wickets: 405

17. James Anderson

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: James Anderson of England celebrates dismissing Ajinkya Rahane of India during day four of the Third LV= Insurance Test Match between England and India at Emerald Headingley Stadium on August 28, 2021 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Country: England

Years active: 2002-present

Test Wickets: 630

18. Kapil Dev 

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 25: India captain Kapil Dev lifts the trophy on the balcony of the pavillion as Sunil Gavaskar (obscured right) looks on after the 1983 Prudential World Cup Final victory against West Indies at Lords on June 25, 1983 in London, England. (Photo by Adrian Murrell/Allsport/Getty Images)

Country: India

Years active: 1978-1994

Test batting Average: 31.05

Test Wickets: 434

19. Graham Gooch 

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA: Wicketkeeper Ian Healy (L) watches England's captain Graham Gooch in action at the Bradman Oval 11 December 1990 before being dismissed for 7 runs in a one-day tour match. England, having scored 229 for six, were beaten by a Bradman XI that coasted to 231 for three in their 42nd over. (Photo credit should read PATRICK RIVIERE/AFP via Getty Images)

Country: England

Years active: 1975-1995

Test batting Average: 42.58

20. Steve Waugh 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Australian captain Steve Waugh waves farewell to the Melbourne crowd after playing his last Test at the MCG as Australia defeats India on the final day of the third Test Match being played at the MCG in Melbourne, 30 December 2003. Australia scored the 95 runs required for victory with the loss of one wicket to level the series at 1-1. AFP PHOTO/William WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Country: Australia

Years active: 1985-2004

Test batting Average: 51.06

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Test Wickets: 92