Cricket has seen so many legendary batsmen emerging from different teams. From the great Sir Don Bradman to the likes of Sir Viv Richards and Sunil Gavaskar. Then the legacy was carried forward by batsmen such as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting. When it comes to modern-day cricket, the benchmark has been set really high by players like Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and others.
But what defines the real dominance of batsmen in their eras? Well, there is one concept which undoubtedly helps. It is the ranking system which first came into existence in the year 1987. Since then, many players have reached the top of the rankings. Out of them, few were able to rule at the top of the ICC rankings for the longest time.
Let’s have a look at five such batsmen who outshined the rest in the Test rankings:
Sachin Tendulkar (1994, 1998-2000)
In a glorious career spanning over two decades, Sachin Tendulkar has reached almost every record in cricket. Overall, the ‘Master Blaster’ played for 24 years in international cricket and in all possible terms, he is regarded as the best batsman to have played the game. No player has more runs than him in ODI or Test cricket.
Tendulkar has stockpiled 15,921 runs in 200 Tests at an outstanding average of 53.78 which includes 51 centuries and 68 half-centuries. There have been so many occasions when the Mumbaikar was the one-person army for Team India. Though he carried the hopes of millions of fans on his shoulders throughout his career but it was crucial, especially in the 1990s when the whole team was literally dependent on him.
Tendulkar first became the top-ranked batsman in 1994. Then in 1998 he again reached the top spot. That year will always be remembered for the breathtaking two ‘Desert Storm’ knocks against Australia. He continued to remain at the leading position till 2000.
Ricky Ponting (2003, 2005-2007)
From the mid-90s to 2010s, and a few more years, Australia ruled the entire period by defeating every single team. One of the primary reasons behind the Kangaroo’s success was their most exceptional captain Ricky Ponting.
During Aussies’ golden period in the 2000s, Ponting’s form with the willow helped them achieve several milestones. He was outstanding at No. 3 and dominated world cricket for quite a few years.
In 168 Tests, the former Australian skipper accumulated 13,378 runs at an impressive average of 51.85. He smashed 41 centuries and 62 half-centuries during his red-ball career. Ponting became the top-ranked batsman twice in his career. Firstly, he topped the rankings in 2003, after that, from the period of 2005-2007, Ponting yet again claimed the highest spot.
Kumar Sangakkara (2007, 2010-2012)
Another maestro in the list is one of the most prolific batsman Kumar Sangakkara. In 134 Tests, the legendary Sri Lankan batsman amassed 12,400 runs at a magnificent average of 57.40. The genius left-handed player slammed 38 centuries and 52 half-centuries in his remarkable career.
In December 2007, the ace Lankan batter reached the top of the ICC Test rankings for the first time. Then in 2010, he regained his top place and stayed there for nearly three years, before Michael Clarke leapfrogged him.
Sanga has also scored 11 double centuries in Test cricket. He is only the second batsman in the history of red-ball format to smash that many double hundreds after the legendary Sir Don Bradman who had 12 double centuries to his name.
AB de Villiers (2013-2015)
Versatile, adaptive, innovative and whatnot, former South African captain AB de Villiers was rich with every extraordinary quality that a batsman could only dream about. He was one of those very unique players who could play according to the situations perfectly.
In 114 Test matches, De Villiers clubbed 8,765 runs at a tremendous average of 50.66. The dextrous Proteas batsman also scored 22 centuries and 46 half-centuries in the longest format.
De Villiers had the ability to play out 300 balls in Test cricket in order to draw a game, or he could even hit a 20-ball fifty in the shorter format. In 2013, De Villiers reached the top position and became the No. 1 Test batsman. He continued the dominance in the following year and remained at the top spot in ICC Test rankings.
Steve Smith (2015-2018, 2019)
Another genius batsman in the list is former Australia skipper and currently the top rank holder Steve Smith. Due to his consistency with the willow, Smith is often compared with Sir Don Bradman. In fact, many experts even rate him the second-best ever in Test cricket after Bradman. No wonder Smith’s Test average is 62.84 – third best after Bradman.
Smith’s return to cricket after the suspension has been outstanding, thanks to his brilliant show in the 2019 Ashes. In the four matches that Smith played, he scored 774 runs at a mind-boggling average of 110.57. He smashed three centuries and as many half-centuries along with a fantastic double hundred.
Smith has so far accumulated 6,973 runs at a marvellous average of 64.53 which also includes 26 tons and 27 half-centuries. He surpassed De Villiers in 2015 and remained at the top spot till 2018 when Virat Kohli sidelined him. But Smith again regained his position in 2019, especially after the performance of Ashes.