WI batsmen:The top five
By Pryor Jonas
December 20, 2003
My question is directed more to you than to me. At the end of this piece, however, I'll give you my `Top Five.' Should one say the `first five', or the "five first Ã´les premiers cinqÃ¶ or Ã´les cinq premiers" I'd say the former because there should be no equal fourth there must be clear candidates for numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 respectively.
Next comes the level: are we confining ourselves to Test cricket, or will we include those who have represented their individual countries? If we settle for the former, then greats like George Challenor and Tim Tarilton don't stand a chance. Challenor, you will remember, played in only three Tests, and Tarilton in none.
Test cricket, remember, started in England in 1928, when we were beaten in all three Tests with some caustic commentary from the critics. According to my notes, Wisden reported that among the many causes which contributed to the failure of the West Indies tourists, a very notable one was the deterioration in the run-getting powers of Challenor:
"This delightful batsman put together several skilful innings and made over 1000 runs, but at the age of 40, he was no such tower of strength as he had been five years earlier, and his average fell from 86 to 27."
Tarilton did not even make the 1928 tour of England. Further, we have to decide whether to include only those players whom we actually saw in the flesh batting, or also those whom we might only have read about and/or heard others talk about. Should we concentrate on figures only, shelving the question of whether the candidate played at home or overseas, ignoring what foreign critics would say.
I would suggest here that we look at the mnemonic TESTS: T-technique, E-efficiency, S-style, T-temperament, S-sportsmanship.
One could hardly better this memory aid, and of course it reminds us inevitably of `Tests' as against any other form of cricket. Then, too, how do we compare those great batsmen whom we saw when they were way past their best? Mas' George Headley is a signal example.
True he did make a noteworthy century in each innings of a Test match here at Bourda, and contributed as much as anyone else towards our first Test victory, but this was in 1930-70-odd years ago, and those of us who saw him later, when Jamaica opposed Guyana, saw only a pale shadow of the master. Bear in mind, too, that the judgments a man makes in his 20's would probably be very different from those he makes in his 40's with all the advantage of experience and knowledge behind him.
Finally, in the light of all this I would recommend that although you are aiming for five, you should select at least 7, and ideally 11.
The problem of course then is to whittle that number down to 5.
Having said all this, and hoping you would agree in principle, let me now end with my five in reverse order, from least to greatest: Rohan Kanhai, Frank Worrell, Viv Richards, Garry Sobers, and SINGULARA!