Shane Warne toasts Little Master in his top 50

As lists go, it is understandable if Shane Warne's top 50 (published by the Times, UK) is even more subjective than authors generally are when tackling people and events in a large time frame like a long cricket career. The list is also very cheeky, which is quite in keeping with the show boat leg spinner's character.

While there could have been only a 50:50 argument over whether Sachin Tendulkar or Brian Lara would head the Victorian's list, his treatment of contemporary Australian greats has made this typically, to invent a word, "Warnesque".

Steve Waugh, Test cricket's most successful captain who also won one World Cup for Australia, is rated a lowly No. 26. The "Ice Man" captained Warne in some of his most productive years. Yet, under the surface there must have been such tensions in a team that rolled on like a juggernaut through 16 successive Test wins.

The passage of time may heal most fissures. Warne is, however, a different kettle of fish. Never very repentant for his truancy, he may also have nursed the feeling that life is also about settling scores. His downgrading of Waugh was, perhaps, not as insulting as his dismissal of the New South Welshmen as a match saver rather than a match winner. Such a charge cannot really be made of a batsman who stood like a rock in the Caribbean in a definitive, match-winning double hundred in a series that saw the West Indies dethroned 12 years ago. The leggie has also bowled a googly at Waugh's deputy Adam Gilchrist who he downgraded to No. 20, also dismissing him as a batsmankeeper rather more than a specialist wicketkeeper who can also bat, more than handily as in the case of the NSW who went west in search of cricketing opportunity with the mittens and willow.

Such cavalier treatment to two fellow modern greats is attributed to friction felt in the succession to the Australian Test captaincy in which stakes Warne was to be relegated by both Waugh and Gilchrist. The Victorian's escapades apart, his very flamboyant character may have been held against him when it came to picking the captain.

Warne's wholesome praise of Sachin and Lara who take pride of place in the list comes straight from the heart. Some of the juggling in the rating of colleagues he did not particularly like can be ascribed to the prejudices any cricketer must carry in the highly competitive environment of a national team.

Warne's choice of Sachin over Lara is well argued. There is, perhaps, a tacit admission here that unlike the strong family men, of whom Sachin is one, Lara (a bachelor) was likely to be more cavalier in the face of a challenge. Maybe, Warne brackets the swashbuckling Lara with himself (now divorced) when it comes to solidity that is a big criterion in the longer run of life.

Sachin seemed pleased as punch to be placed on top of the totem pole by none other than the greatest spinner the cricket world ever saw. The other Indians in the list - Dilip Vengsarkar (No. 46), who played him in his debut Test and who would have coped well enough with the leggie's five tricks at the height of his career, Ravi Shastri (No. 42), who made a double hundred against him before becoming his first Test victim, Kapil Dev (No. 40), placed somewhat lowly maybe because he was over the hill by the time he batted against Warne in 1992, Rahul Dravid (No. 14), rated very high for technique and Anil Kumble (No. 13), praised for his Test century by a fellow spinner who missed the honour by a run once - have reason to feel honored for the kind words said about them by a champion performer. The list proved somewhat contentious down under where the elder Waugh said he was surprised ("Thought there must have been a mistake and someone had accidentally put Shane's name to an article by Ian Chappell"). It is certain to have gone down well in most parts of the world which stood in awe of Warne's talent, his showmanship and his art that elevated the game.

Warne's top 50: 50 Jamie Siddons, 49 Darren Berry, 48 Brian McMillan, 47 Chris Cairns, 46 Dilip Vengsarkar, 45 Waqar Younis, 44 Alec Stewar,t 43 Michael Atherton, 42 Ravi Shastri, 41 Justin Langer, 40 Kapil Dev, 39 Stuart MacGill, 38 Sanath Jayasuriya, 37 Stephen Harmison, 36 Andy Flower, 35 Michael Vaughan, 34 Bruce Reid, 33 Allan Donald, 32 Robin Smith, 31 Tim May, 30 Kevin Pietersen, 29 Shoaib Akhtar, / Craig McDermott 28 Saeed Anwar ,/ Mohammad Yousuf, 27 Jacques Kallis, / Shaun Pollock, 26 Steve Waugh, 25 Darren Lehmann, 24 Brett Lee, 23 Stephen Fleming, 22 Martin Crowe, 21 David Boon, 20 Adam Gilchrist, 19 Aravinda de Silva, 18 Merv Hughes, 17 Matthew Hayden, 16 Andrew Flintoff, 15 Graham Gooch, 14 Rahul Dravid, 13 Anil Kumble, 12 Mark Waugh, 11 Courtney Walsh, 10 Ian Healy, 9 Mark Taylor, 8 Ricky Ponting, 7 Muttiah Muralitharan, 6 Wasim Akram, 5 Glenn McGrath, 4 Allan Border, 3 Curtly Ambrose, 2 Brian Lara 1 Sachin Tendulkar

High Praise "You have to watch India in India truly to appreciate the pressure that Sachin Tendulkar is under every time he bats. Outside grounds, people wait until he goes in before paying to enter. They seem to want a wicket to fall even though it is their own side that will suffer. This is cricket as Sachin has known it since the age of 16. He grew up under incredible weight of expectation and never buckled once - not under poor umpiring decisions or anything else.

I place him very slightly ahead of Lara because I found him slightly tougher mentally. It is such a close call, but here is an example of what I mean: in Australia in 2003-04 he was worried about getting out cover driving so he decided to cut out the shot.

I saw the wagon wheel for his next innings: he scored 248 without a single cover drive. Like Lara, he has scored runs all over the world. I have seen him run down the pitch and hit Glenn McGrath over the top for six, and I have seen him hit me for six against the spin going around the wicket.

I have been lucky to get to know him off the field as well. He is quiet and humble. A great player and a great man." (The Times, UK)


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