Legends-images

For all its shortcomings, Indian Premier League (IPL) will remain the only tournament to have seen some of the finest cricketers of our time battle with and against others of similar stature. Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Rahul Dravid, and other legends played for various IPL franchises, thereby giving us a rare chance to watch them play together. However, Shiamak Unwalla laments the fact that some legends were unable to feature, and lists out 10 cricketers he would have loved to watch in IPL.

10 legendary cricketers we would have loved to see in IPL
WG Grace was the first real cricketing superstar © Getty Images

1. WG Grace: Has there ever been another cricketer of such mythic proportions? WG Grace was the first real cricketing superstar. Apart from his batting (54,211 First-Class runs, 124 centuries, 251 fifties) or his bowling (which was good enough to earn him over 2,800 First-Class wickets), WG would have been a sight to behold on the field. For all their showmanship and flamboyance, the West Indians would pale in comparison to the gamesmanship and flair with which WG played his cricket. Remember WG’s famous lines to the umpire? When he was once being given out for LBW, WG famously is rumoured to have said, “Play on. They came to see me bat, not you umpire.”

2. Gilbert Jessop: Long, long before the era of Viv Richards, Sanath Jayasuriya, Virender Sehwag, and their ilk was Gilbert Jessop. It has been over a century since Jessop last played a Test, but his magical knock against Australia at The Oval is still among the fastest Test hundreds (in terms of time taken, as that was the unit of measurement back in the day) of all time. Given the match situation and nature of the pitch, that innings stands even further apart from anything else seen in his generation. If ever there was a man capable of putting the modern stalwarts to shame, it would be Jessop.

10 legendary cricketers we would have loved to see in IPL
Don Bradman’s average of 99.94 is likely the four-number password of many an ardent cricket fan © Getty Images

3. Sir Don Bradman: Statistically the greatest batsman in the history of the sport, Don Bradman’s average of 99.94 is likely the four-number password of many an ardent cricket fan. What few people realise though is that despite having an otherworldly average, Bradman was no blocker. He showed time and again that he had the ability to whack the ball to all ends of the park. He once scored 300 in a day, and on another occasion scored a century in three overs!

4. Keith Miller: Perhaps the greatest all-rounder before Sir Gary Sobers, Keith Miller would have raised the glamour quotient of IPL tenfold. One of the most dashing cricketers of all time, Miller was capable of decimating bowling attacks with bat in hand, but was better known for sending down thunderbolts with the ball that made the best of batsmen jump about like bunnies.

10 legendary cricketers we would have loved to see in IPL
Gary Sobers could do everything a cricketer can possibly do © Getty Images

5. Sir Garry Sobers: The greatest all-rounder the game has ever seen (despite WG Grace!), Sobers could do everything a cricketer can possibly do. Need a gritty, match-saving knock? Need six sixes in an over? Need a left-arm quick to open bowling? Need a Chinaman? Need to take five wickets in five balls? Need someone to take a mind-numbing catch at short-leg? Sobers was the man to answer all of the above calls. He would have been a star in IPL.

6. Bishan Singh Bedi: It was said when Twenty20 (T20) first came about that the format would kill the spinners. That spinners not only survived but evolved, thrived, and conquered, says a lot about the unpredictability of the game. Of all the spinners who never played T20, Bedi is perhaps the most skilful. He was certainly among the most accurate. It was said of Bedi that he could land the ball on the same spot day in and day out, the only variations coming when he wanted them to. Ironically, Bedi has spoken out against T20 cricket, especially IPL.

10 legendary cricketers we would have loved to see in IPL
What set Sir Viv Richards apart was the fact that he was all this rolled into one © Getty Images

7. Sir Vivian Richards: Ask any bowler of the 1980s about which batsmen they would least bowl to, and most likely the answer would be Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards. Richards was unlike any batsman the world had seen before; there had been technically sound batters, and there had been fierce hitters; there had been gutsy men who did not back down from the fastest of bowlers, and there had been those who stamped their authority over the opposition by their mere presence. What set Richards apart was the fact that he was all this rolled into one. The sight of a smiling Sehwag nonchalantly slashing boundaries at will is enough to demoralise bowlers. With Richards, it was not so much nonchalant smiling as fierce, aggressive intimidation. The effect on the bowlers was devastating. Oh, and he once scored over 300 in a day.

8. Kapil Dev: Few would argue that Kapil was India’s best ever all-rounder. Along with Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar (in no particular order) Kapil is also probably among the three greatest cricketers India has ever produced. He was India’s first real pace bowler, and retired as the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket. But it was hit batting that would make him a real danger in IPL. He enjoyed an ODI strike rate of 95 in an era when a strike rate in the 60s or 70s was considered the norm. Who can forget his sensational 175 against Zimbabwe in the 1983 World Cup? This was the man who hit four sixes in four balls to avoid a follow-on in a Test at Lord’s in 1990.

The very sight of "Big Bird" running in was enough to make batsmen cower © Getty Images
The very sight of “Big Bird” running in was enough to make batsmen cower © Getty Images

9. Joel Garner: Standing at well over six and a half feet, the very sight of “Big Bird” running in was enough to make batsmen cower. Garner might not have been the greatest West Indian pacer of all time — choosing the best among Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Wes Hal, Charlie Griffith, Courtney Walsh, and the others is an undertaking better left un-undertook. But Garner was, without much doubt, the most difficult to hit. This does not mean that the likes of Holding, Walsh, or Ambrose were in any way easy to hit for runs; but Garner’s pinpoint accuracy and steep bounce meant that scoring anything more than a few runs an over off his bowling would be a task. The very thought of AB de Villiers innovating ways of scoring off toe-crushing yorkers is enough to make a cricket aficionado salivate!

10. Malcolm Marshall: While it may be impossible to select the very best out of the West Indian pacers, common consensus suggests that Marshall came as close to the best as anyone could. And he has the numbers to back it up: a Test average of less than 21, and a strike rate of 46.7 is tough to top. For context, Test cricket’s second highest wicket-taker, Shane Warne, averaged 25.41 at a strike rate of 57.4.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)