The top 25 Ashes players of all time
Ian Chappell runs through his list of the best — and the ones he has left out will shock you
AN Ashes series heralds much debate over what might happen, with the occasional nostalgic thought of what has already happened.
With nostalgia in mind, I’ve ranked my top 25 Ashes performers and I chose 1972 as the starting point. Why 1972?
It was a watershed Ashes year for the Australian team with a meritorious drawn series against a strong England side, which convinced the tourists they could match it with any opponent.
This was the genesis for the highly successful Australian teams of the early to mid-70s and many of those players feature strongly on this list.
Choosing a mere 25 players from such an illustrious list is difficult and it ensures some fine players from both sides miss out — names like Bob Willis, Matthew Hayden, Mark Taylor and Graham Gooch.
However, the list is entirely subjective and unless I go bar-hopping next week I won’t be bombarded with a plethora of alternative opinions.
In selecting my 25 I relied mainly on the eye test, with the occasional reference to statistics. Like all “best of” selections there’s a tendency to rank highly players from your own era because, firstly, you saw close up how good they were and, secondly, what they had to endure to reach such heights.
And finally there’s a bias towards players who sought victory in preference to personal glory. Cricket is not a statistical exercise and I didn’t want selfish players on my team, hence the absence of Geoff Boycott and Steve Waugh.
These are my best 25 five Ashes players from 1972 onwards:
1 Dennis Lillee
29 Ashes Tests
167 wickets at 21. BBM 11-138. 4x10WM, 11x5WI
A captain’s dream and a batsman’s nightmare. If an opponent was able to overcome his many skills — a rare occurrence — he then had to deal with his iron- clad will. Lillee was always the last man in the team to believe victory was impossible.
36 Ashes Tests 1919595 wickets ata 23.25. BBM 12-246. 4x4x10WM, 11x5WI A highly skilful and accurate legspinner with an extremely alert cricket brain He was theth type of bowler — similar to Lille — that attracted fans to the ground because whenever he was operating they felt “something is about to happen”.
35 Ashes Tests
2610 runs at 45.94. HS: 144. 9x100s, 112x50s 12x50s 1 This is not nepotism. Greg was the best mentally organised batsman of my time and his elegant strokes play effectively disguised a ruthless streak to his occupation of the crease. It was early onn in the family backyard thatt I was alerted to his determination to succeed.
35 Ashes Tests
2476 runruns at 44.21. HS: 196. 8x100s, 9x50s 0s One of those th rare talents that could drivedri withith the best of them and yet w was stilltill in position to deal severely with any short- pitched delivery. He had a highly developed competitive streak that under- pinned his success but also told him when it was time to retire.
6 Jimmy Anderson
26 Ashes Tests
87 wickets at 35.87. BBM 10-158. 4x5WI, 1x10WM He is the best swing bowler I’ve seen. He certainly is the only one to move it both ways consistently over such a long career. Likee all great bowlers he’s constantly seeking improvement and he’s been able to find ways to take wickets when the ball isn’t swinging.
20 Ashes Tests
1083 runs at 45.12. HS: 152. 6x50s, 3x100s 89 catches, 7 stumpings An adequate gloveman, he was one of those rare batsmen who was only ever a boundary shot away from being back in form. A brave player who counterattacked no matter what the circumstances, he could change the course of a game in a session.
36 Ashes Tests
1981 runs at 35.37. HS: 155. 13x50s, 4x100s A match- winning genius who three times in Test cricket scored a century in a session. To the opposition he was a pest — counterattacking brilliantly when they felt they were on top — and
5 Glenn McGrath
30 Ashes Tests
157 wickets at 20.9220.92. BBM 9- 82. 10x5WI He relied on a simple, metronomic action to produce water- tight accuracy that lured batsmen into his web. A smart bowler wwho always wanted the ball and when he occasionally strayed from his plan he was extremely hard on himself. similarly he was a nuisance in his own dressing room with his magic tricks. He achieved great success on 80 cigarettes a day and very little sleep.
13 Ashes Tests
1079 runs at 44.95. HS: 124. 2x100s, 8x50s It takes a special player with a very strong mind to attack the new ball with such ferocious commitment; Warner does it as well as anyone. His brilliance at the top of the order provides an enormous advantage to his team and quickly deflates the opposition. He’s a matchwinner.
10 Kevin Pietersen
27 Ashes Tests
2158 runs at 44.95. HS: 227. 4x100s, 13x50s A player who polarises but he enhanced his team’s chances of victory. He could score quickly and was prepared to take risks to dominate the opposition bowlers; the ideal player to build on a steady start. A player who the opposition thought: “He’s a bastard but we’d like him on our side.”
11 Jeff Thomson
21 2 Ashes Tests
10000 wickets at 24.18. BBM 9-105. 5x5WI For two and a half years [ 1974-75 to 1976-77] until he busted his shoulder he was the most lethal fast bowler I ’ve ever seen. He could make the ball lif t to throat height from just short of a length and was the only one I faced who I thought was un- hookable. His laconic description summed up his unique action; “Aw mate, I just shuffle up and go wang.”
18 Ashes Tests
1339 runs at 43.19. HS: 215. 5x100s, 4x50s His rise from a leg- spinning number eight to a highly successful top- order batsman says a lot about Smith’s mental strength. He’s one of those rare characters who “does it his way” and i sn’t side- tracked by other people’s opinions. His way has been mighty successful.