The Batting Grand Slam ūüíĮ Who are the Real Batting All-Rounders?

The Batting Grand Slam ūüíĮ Who are the Real Batting All-Rounders?
There are just a handful of players to have notched up centuries in all three formats of the game across both domestic and international cricket. A unique sextuple. The batting grand slam.

It takes a unique skillset to become a special batsman in each of cricket’s great formats, a run-scorer capable of reaching three figures. It takes mental toughness, patience, technique and unflappable concentration to stand up to the rigours of first-class cricket. The grandchild of the longest-form is T20 cricket, where batting power, innovation, coordination and hand speed dominates proceedings. Placed somewhere between the two extremes is List A or one-day cricket (the author’s favoured format), leaning on a number of the key attributes from both first-class and T20 batting, but bringing¬†shot selection, adaptability and rotation of the strike to the fore.

To excel in all three formats is rare, but not unknown. Many top-class batsmen are able to produce the goods across all formats at domestic level, but to replicate it at international is a different story. Here are the select group of cricketers who have achieved this unusual feat across Tests, ODIs and T20Is, as well as domestic first-class, List A and T20 formats:

Mahela Jayawardene (SL) – 75 career hundreds

  • First-class: 51 (34 Tests, 17 domestic)
  • List A: 21 (19 ODI, 2 domestic)
  • T20: 3 (1 IT20I, 2 domestic)

Mahela+Jayawardene+Sri+Lanka+v+West+Indies+vupi81B95Ppl

Rohit Sharma (IND) – 56 career hundreds

  • First-class:¬†20 (3 Tests, 17 domestic)
  • List A:¬†30 (27 ODI, 3 domestic)
  • T20:¬†6 (4 IT20I, 2 domestic)

Rohit+Sharma+England+vs+India+3rd+ODI+Royal+rk-SrasW4YYl

Suresh Raina (IND) – 25 career hundreds

  • First-class:¬†14 (1 Tests, 13 domestic)
  • List A:¬†7 (5 ODI, 2 domestic)
  • T20:¬†4 (1 IT20I, 3 domestic)

Suresh+Raina+India+v+South+Africa+ICC+Twenty20+teJc0Id0c2tl

KL Rahul (IND) – 22 career hundreds

  • First-class:¬†14 (5 Tests, 9 domestic)
  • List A:¬†5 (2 ODI, 3 domestic)
  • T20: 3 (2 IT20I, 1 domestic)

Lokesh+Rahul+England+vs+India+Specsavers+4th+pD4QD1swqdWl

Martin Guptill (NZ) – 45 career hundreds

  • First-class:¬†15 (3 Tests, 12 domestic)
  • List A: 26 (16 ODI, 10 domestic)
  • T20:¬†4 (2 IT20I, 2 domestic)

Martin+Guptill+Barbados+Tridents+vs+Jamaica+jj8iST8Tm5Fl

Tamim Iqbal (BAN) – 34 career hundreds

  • First-class:¬†15 (9 Tests, 6 domestic)
  • List A:¬†16 (16 ODI, 11 domestic)
  • T20:¬†3 (1 IT20I, 2 domestic)

Tamim+Iqbal+Australia+v+Bangladesh+ICC+Champions+M8BSs6_bzYnl

Ahmed Shehzad (PAK) – 32 career hundreds

  • First-class:¬†12 (3 Tests, 9 domestic)
  • List A:¬†16 (6 ODI, 10 domestic)
  • T20:¬†4 (1 IT20I, 3 domestic)

Ahmed+Shahzad+New+Zealand+v+Pakistan+1st+T20+f02TNolbmfSl

Brendon McCullum (NZ) – 33 career hundreds

  • First-class:¬†17 (12 Tests, 5 domestic)
  • List A:¬†9 (5 ODI, 4 domestic)
  • T20:¬†7 (2 IT20I, 5 domestic)

Brendon+McCullum+Trinbago+Knight+Riders+vs+CRjI-o9Nl-Zl

Chris Gayle (WI) – 82 career hundreds

  • First-class:¬†32 (15 Tests, 17 domestic)
  • List A: 29 (25 ODI, 4 domestic)
  • T20:¬†21 (2 IT20I, 19 domestic)

Chris+Gayle+ICC+World+XI+vs+West+Indies+T20+MLmxm7czva1l

Shane Watson (AUS) – 37 career hundreds

  • First-class:¬†20 (4 Tests, 16 domestic)
  • List A: 11 (9 ODI, 2 domestic)
  • T20:¬†6 (1 IT20I, 5 domestic)

Shane+Watson+BBL+Stars+v+Thunder+dapVs77khJOl

 

Where are the Superstars?

You may notice a couple of big names missing… Kohli. Smith. Root. Williamson. Warner. The greatest batsmen of this generation. They may still complete the sextuple before their careers are up. De Villiers, Amla and Sangakkara won’t get the chance.

In India captain Kohli’s case, it seems a matter of when rather than if. He has a highest score of 90 in 65 T20I innings and has passed fifty on 21 occasions. Let’s not forget he took until 2016 (over 150 IPL innings) to register his first domestic T20 hundred and then picked up a century in three of his next seven innings in four weeks. Warner has also struggled to convert starts to three figures in international T20 cricket from his 90 innings. Seven hundreds at domestic level but also a top score of 90* on the world scene, though – like Steve Smith –¬† Indeed, Kohli, Warner, Steve Smith and Joe Root all have top scores of exactly 90 at the highest level of T20 – quite the coincidence.

For Smith, Root and Kane Williamson it’s a different story. Hundreds seem to flow regularly for all of them across international and domestic first-class and one-day cricket, but Smith and Williamson have registered just a single century each (101 and 101* respectively) in domestic T20. Root has yet to hit the landmark in any competitive T20 cricket, though he has not yet played 100 T20 career innings. While the elusive hundreds are by no means out of their grasp, their strike rates, batting positions and lack of match action are definitely not helping their cause. Williamson typical strikes at 121.76 runs per 100 balls in T20I – well below par at that level for a number three. Root is slightly better at 126.30 from the same batting position, whereas Smith strikes at 122.44 largely from no.4, but he hasn’t played at T20I since 2016.¬†In fact, between the three they have registered little over 100 international T20 appearances. That’s not a lot of cricket.

One reason for the lack of opportunity in the shortest-form is the short-form specialist. Despite a superb record in longer formats in early in his career, Chris Gayle (15 Test centuries, highest score 333) played just 12 Test matches after turning 30 and paved the way for the T20 and one-day professionals. The likes of fellow West Indian Evin Lewis, England’s Alex Hales, New Zealander Colin Munro and Australia captain Aaron Finch all focus on short-form batting and for good reason… they are capable of virtuoso performances and the money is plentiful.

Lewis has never played a Test match and, with no domestic first-class cricket in over two years and T20 franchise contracts all around the world, he probably never will.  Munro failed in his solitary Test appearance back in 2013 (but has a stunning domestic first-class record) and England and Australia look unlikely to utilise Hales and Finch again at the top of the Test order after experimenting with them in recent years. All of them have impressive records in ODIs and T20Is but are deemed unsuitable for Test cricket.

Then there a the first-class specialists, though not in such plentiful supply as the T20 freelancers (ūüíį). Indian Test stalwart Cheteshwar Pujara is one of the great batsmen of his era, capable of grinding out lengthy innings like few others. 18 tons in 70 Tests at an average a touch under 50 is impressive. But he’s never played a T20I and was omitted from the national ODI squad since 2014. His leisurely T20 strike-rate of 109.35 has plenty to do with it, though surprisingly he has registered a century in the shortest-form (as has Sir Alistair Cook). Pakistan Test opener Azhar Ali is another in this category (no T20 innings since PSL 2016), but I’m scratching my head for other genuine Test batting specialists (let me know in the comments).

Now for the anomalies:

  • Glenn Maxwell – widely considered a T20 and one-day maverick. One of the first on the list when thinking of big-hitting, one-day specialists. He strikes at more than 1.54 runs per ball in domestic T20 but hasn’t registered a ton in 181 appearances. He does however have three T20I hundreds and Test century to his name ūü§Ē
  • Faf du Plessis – A free-scoring batsman across all-formats, but like Maxwell hasn’t registered a domestic T20 hundred, despite notching one at international level. That’s nearly 150 innings without a hundred for one of the best in the game. He does however, have 50 T20 wickets to his name with his funky legbreaks… and an impressive bowling record ūüßź
  • Tillakaratne Dilshan – one of the original Twenty20 innovators, even has a shot named after him – the Dilscoop. Again, never registered a domestic T20 hundred, but scored a stunning match-winning T20I 104* (57 balls) against Australia in 2011. Looking at his T20 stats, perhaps he wasn’t that good. A poorer career strike-rate than Alastair Cook and some ugly tournament performances (132 runs @ 105.60 in World T20 2014 would suggest most of us are wearing rose-tinted glasses glasses¬†ūü§ď

Who else will make it?

I’d put my house on Kohli doing it before his hangs up his boots. Babar Azam is only 24-years-old and improving every year. He will join the list sooner-rather-than-later. Quinton De Kock too. Add to that Shimron Hetmyer, Rishabh Pant, Kusal Mendis, Shubman Gill, Ollie Pope and Prithvi Shaw (assuming he¬†comes back motivated following his drugs ban).

 

Anyone missing? Let us know in the comments.

Our World XI for 2018

Our World XI for 2018

In the¬†1970 English summer, a scheduled¬†South African¬†tour was cancelled for political reasons. To make up for the lack of international cricket that season, a¬†Rest of the World team¬†was assembled to play a series of five-day matches against¬†England, winning a keenly contested series of Test matches 4-1. Since then, World XIs have made sporadic appearances on the heavily-congested global cricket calendar, perhaps most notably the¬†2005 ICC Super Series¬†in October 2005 played between¬†Australia, the world’s ranked number one side at the time, and an¬†ICC¬†World XI made up of the best non-Australian cricketers.

The West Indies are scheduled to play a T20I against a Rest of the World XI in England in May 2018, to raise funds for stadiums damaged by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

In the same way that boxing struggles to compare weight categories, it’s difficult to weigh batsmen versus bowlers (not forgetting the wicket-keepers). It’s just as hard to compare ODI specialists from those with Test pedigree or the influx of modern players who specialise in twenty-over cricket.¬†If the one-off T20I at Lord’s was converted to a multi-format series – and the World XI featured only the best players – here’s a rundown of our 17-man squad.

1. Virat Kohli (IND) (c)

icc-cricketer-of-the-year-2017

Impossible to take your eyes off, unthinkable to ignore.

As of February 2018, Kohli sits top of the ICC ODI Batting Rankings, 2nd amongst Test batsman and 3rd overall in T20I cricket. Averaging 50+ in all three formats of the international game, his numbers speak for themselves. Kohli’s aggressive captaincy has returned India to the top of the class across all formats and he is the poster boy of the IPL. The ICC Awards 2017 honoured him as¬†winner of the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for Cricketer of the Year while he was also named the ODI Player of the Year.

The clear and obvious choice to captain the side across all formats.


2. David Warner (AUS)

Australia v England - T20 Game 1


3. Joe Root (ENG)

England v South Africa - 4th Investec Test: Day Four


4. Kane Williamson (NZ)

GettyImages-633863556 (1)


5. Steve Smith (AUS)

Australia v England - Third Test: Day 5


6. Babar Azam (PAK)

India v Pakistan - ICC Champions Trophy Final


7. Hashim Amla (SA)

England v South Africa - 2nd Investec Test: Day Three


8. AB de Villiers (SA) (wk)

New Zealand v South Africa - 5th ODI


9. Jos Buttler (ENG) (wk)

<> on January 30, 2016 in Kimberley, South Africa.


10. Ben Stokes (SA)

England Media Access


11. Shakib Ul Hasan (BAN)

GettyImages-463746038 (1)


12. Rashid Khan (AFG)

CRICKET-WT20-2016-AFG-TRAINING


13. Ravi Ashwin (IND)

ICC World Twenty20 India 2016: India v Bangladesh


14. Mitchell Starc (AUS)

Australia v England - Game 2


15. Kagiso Rabada (SA)

CRICKET-ENG-RSA-TEST


16. Josh Hazlewood (AUS)

Australia v South Africa - 3rd Test: Day 3


17. Trent Boult (NZ)

GettyImages-509877408

There you have it. Four Australians, three Englishmen, three South Africans, two New Zealanders, two Indians, one Pakistani, one Bangladeshi and one Afghanistani.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

 

Ones-to-Watch: The Best Young English Cricketers of 2016 

Ones-to-Watch: The Best Young English Cricketers of 2016 

English cricket is emerging¬†from a transitional stage led by the¬†management of Trevor Bayliss and the ever-reliable¬†Alastair Cook and James Anderson, but¬†there’s plenty of talent waiting in the wings for when the old guard decide to move aside.

The likes Joe Root and Jos Buttler are creating history on the biggest stage, but which prodigious English (and Welsh) talents could join them in the years come? We’ve picked¬†the¬†ones-to-watch for 2016:

Daniel Bell-Drummond (Age 23, Kent)

England Lions v Pakistan A - Triangular Series

Stats 2016

First-class: 816 runs (102.00 ave)

List A: 582 runs (58.20 ave)

Twenty20: 379 runs (54.14 ave, 148.04 sr)


Tom Abell (Age 22, Somerset)

Tom_Abell_Ones-to-Watch

Stats 2016

First-class: 264 runs (18.85 ave)

List A: 106 runs (53.00 ave)

Twenty20: N/A


Ben Duckett (Age 21, Northamptonshire)

England Lions v Sri Lanka A - Triangular Series

Stats 2016

First-class: 746 runs (46.62 ave)

List A: 884 runs (110.50 ave)

Twenty20: 360 runs (45.00 ave, 138.46 sr)


Aneurin Donald (Age 19, Glamorgan)

Glamorgan v Hampshire - NatWest T20 Blast

Stats 2016

First-class: 784 runs (43.55 ave)

List A: 109 runs (15.57 ave)

Twenty20: 234 runs (29.25 ave, 132.20 sr)


Daniel Lawrence (Age 19, Essex)

Daniel_LawrenceCraig_Overton_Ones-to-Watch

Stats 2016

First-class: 788 runs (46.35 ave)

List A: 93 runs (13.28 ave)

Twenty20: 222 runs (27.75 ave, 118.08 sr)


Sam Hain (Age 21, Warwickshire)

Derbyshire v Warwickshire - NatWest T20 Blast

Stats 2016

First-class: 339 runs (21.18 ave)

List A: 424 runs (70.66 ave)

Twenty20: 371 runs (33.72 ave, 120.84 sr)


Ben Foakes (Age 23, Surrey)

Surrey v Durham - Specsavers County Championship: Division One

Stats 2016

First-class: 733 runs (48.86 ave), 30 ct, 2 st

List A: 224 runs (56.00 ave), 10 ct, 1 st

Twenty20: 58 runs (14.50 ave, 109.43 sr), 9 ct, 2 st


Sam Curran (Age 18, Surrey)

Nottinghamshire v Surrey - Specsavers County Championship: Division One

Stats 2016

First-class: 256 runs (32.00 ave), 9 wkts (44.00 ave)

List A: 140 runs (35.00 ave), 5 wkts (39.80 ave)

Twenty20: 134 runs (13.40 ave, 100.75 sr), 11 wkts (7.89 econ)


Craig Overton (Age 22, Somerset)

Somerset v Middlesex - Specsavers County Championship: Division One

Stats 2016

First-class: 229 runs (19.08 ave), 27 wkts (33.18 ave)

List A: 72 runs (18.00 ave), 5 wkts (62.20 ave)

Twenty20: 5¬†runs¬†(–.–), 2 wkts (10.23 econ)


Jamie Overton (Age 22, Somerset)

Somerset v Essex - NatWest T20 Blast

Stats 2016

First-class: 161 runs (23.00 ave), 17 wkts (22.47 ave)

List A: 47 runs (47.00 ave), 4 wkts (25.25 ave)

Twenty20: 38 runs (7.60 ave, 135.71 sr), 14 wkts (9.30 econ)


Tom Curran (Age 21, Surrey)

England Lions v Pakistan A - Triangular Series

Stats 2016

First-class: 28 wkts (41.14 ave)

List A: 14 wkts (26.85 ave)

Twenty20: 28 wkts (7.76 econ)


 

 

The Most Iconic Olympic Venues of All-Time

The Most Iconic Olympic Venues of All-Time

Flicking through this fantastic Rio 2016 Venue Guide¬†it’s no doubt that the beach volleyball arena is the¬†iconic venue of this year’s Olympic Games.¬†Nothing says “Brazil” quite like beach volleyball on the Copacabana.

That got us¬†thinking… ¬†What are the most iconic stadiums in Olympic history?¬†In no particular order, here’s our list (scroll down for the Winter Olympics venues):

 

Beijing National Aquatics Center – Beijing 2008

water_cube
The National Aquatics Center, also known as the “Water Cube,” was the Olympics venue for swimming events in 2008.

Despite its nickname, the building is not an actual cube, but a cuboid (a rectangular box). Swimmers at the “Water Cube” broke 25 world records during the 2008 Olympics.¬†After Beijing¬†2008, the building underwent a 200¬†million Yuan revamp to turn half of its interior into a water park.¬†It will host the curling events at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

 

Lee Valley VeloPark – London 2012

UK - London 2012 Olympics - Olympic Velodrome landscape
Exterior of the 105m siberian pine Velodrome curved roof during the London 2012 Olympics

Lee Valley VeloPark is a cycling centre on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, East London. It features a velodrome and BMX racing track, as well as a one-mile (1.6 km) road course and mountain bike track.

 

National Stadium – Beijing 2008

Beijing National Stadium-Beijing-2008
Due to the stadium’s external appearance it was nicknamed “The Bird’s Nest”

The stadium was designed for use throughout the 2008 Summer Olympics and Paralympics and will be used again in the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

 

Olympic Stadium – Montreal 1976

Montreal Olympic Stadium
The main venue for the 1976 Summer Olympics, the Olympic Stadium is nicknamed “The Big O” in reference to it’s doughnut-shaped roof component

Montreal’s¬†Olympic Stadium is the largest by seating capacity in Canada. It is also known locally as the¬†“The Big Owe” to reference the astronomical cost of the stadium and the 1976 Olympics as a whole. It features a retractable roof,¬†which is opened and closed by cables suspended from the¬†huge 175m tower (neither of which was completed in time for the 1976 Games) ‚Äď the tallest inclined structure in the world.

 

Yoyogi National Gymnasium – Tokyo 1964

Yoyogi National Gymnasium-Toyko-1964
The gymnasium will also host the handball event at the 2020 Summer Olympics

An architectural icon for its distinctive design, the complex housed swimming and diving events in the 1964 Summer Olympics. The gymnasium is the larger of two arenas built for the Games, both of which were designed by Kenzo Tange and employ similar structural principles and aesthetics. A separate annex was used for the basketball competition at those same games.

 

Central Lenin Stadium РMoscow 1980

Luzhniki Stadium-Moscow-1980
Renamed the Luzhniki Stadium in 1992, the name was derived from the bend of the flood meadow of the Moskva River on which it was built

Formerly the national stadium of the Soviet Union, it was part of the Luzhniki Olympic Complex and is now the national stadium of Russia. It was the chief venue for the 1980 Summer Olympics with a spectator capacity of 103,000 at that time and is set to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final.

 

London Aquatics Centre – London 2012

Aquatics Centre-London-2012
After significant modification and removal of the temporary wings the centre opened to the public in March 2014

The centre features two 50-metre swimming pools and a 25-metre diving pool in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park at Stratford, London.¬†IOC President Jacques Rogge described the Centre as a “masterpiece”.

 

Olympiastadion – Munich 1974

GV of the Olympic Stadium
The tent-like structure of the Olympiapark was designed to mimic the Alps and set a counterpart to the 1936 Games in Berlin

With a capacity of 80,000 the original Olympiastadion M√ľnchen also hosted many major football matches including the Finals of the 1974 World Cup and Euro ’88, the European Cup Finals of 1979 and 1993 and the Champions League Final in 1997. It’s current capacity is 69,250 following renovation, but the¬†large sweeping canopies of acrylic glass remain.

 

Centennial Olympic Stadium РAtlanta 1996

This photo shows an aerial view of the Olympic sta
An aerial view of the Olympic stadium in Atlanta¬†shows a non-conformist design with it’s distinctive protruding corner¬†

The stadium was constructed for the 1996 Olympics, but was later converted into a baseball stadium for the Atlanta Braves and renamed Turner Field. The Olympic Stadium bore witness to Donovan Bailey winning the 100m in a world record time of 9.84 s and Michael Johnson winning both the 200 and 400 metres titles, breaking the 200 m world record in the process.

 

Palau Sant Jordi – Barcelona 1992

Olympic Installations in Barcelona, Spain on October, 1991.
Sant Jordi Sports Palace was home to the artistic gymnastics, handball and volleyball events of the Barcelona Olympics

Palau Sant Jordi¬†(English: St. George’s Palace) is an indoor sporting arena that formed part of the Olympic Ring complex in Barcelona, Spain for the 1992 Games.¬†Designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, it was opened in 1990 and with a capacity of 17,000¬†–¬†and 24,000 for musical events – is the 11th¬†largest indoor arena in the world.

 

Olympic Velodrome – Athens 2004

Athens Olympic Velodrome-Athens-2004
Distinctive twin roofs cover the stands on both sides

Extensively refurbished in order to host the track cycling events at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the velodrome –¬†which seats 5,250 – has a track made of¬†Afzelia wood. Whatever that is.

 

Stadium Australia – Sydney 2000

Olympic site
Stadium Australia is commercially known as ANZ Stadium and formerly as Telstra Stadium

The stadium was originally built to temporarily hold 110,000 spectators, making it the largest Olympic Stadium ever built. A reduced capacity of 83,500 for a rectangular field (and 82,500 for an oval field) makes it the second largest stadium in Australia today, after the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but awnings over the north and south stands now allows most of the seating to be undercover.

 

…And let’s not forget the Winter Olympics:

Bolshoy Ice Dome – Sochi 2014Bolshoy Ice Dome-Sochi-2014

Richmond Olympic Oval – Vancouver 2010Richmond Olympic Oval-Vancouver-2010

Bergisel Sprungschanze Stadion – Innsbruck 1976A ski jumper hovers above a packed stadium during the l964 Olympics

Iceberg Skating Palace – Sochi 2014Iceberg Skating Palace-Sochi-2014

White Ring Arena – Nagano 1998White Ring Arena-Nagano-1998

Olympic Ski Jumping Complex – Lake Placid 1980Olympic Ski Jumping Complex-Lake Placid-1980

 

Anything we’ve missed out? Let us know!

The Record World Record?

The Record World Record?

It was exactly midday in Brazil on day zero of the Olympic Games and we already had our first world-record of Rio 2016. 

At lunchtime on the day of the¬†opening ceremony, Kim Woo-Jin of South Korea struck 700 in the men’s individual 72-arrow ranking round at the Sambadrome and¬†became the fastest Olympian on record… to break a record.

On his unparalleled feat the¬†understated reigning world champion said: “I practised more than everyone else and I gave my best for the entire round”.

“It’s just the ranking round, so today’s not really big happy” he added.

GettyImages-586130124.jpg
World Champion Woo-Jin was understandably delighted at his achievement  

 

In the capital of world-famous Brazilian party culture, famed as the home of samba and carnival, the nonchalant 24-year-old managed to remain calm at breaking the record of all records:

“I want to focus on the Games now but later, maybe, I‚Äôll get to enjoy Brazil.”

For now though, we may just have witnessed the storm before the storm from the calmest man in Rio.

 

Britain’s Greatest-Ever Sportsman? Individual Sports – Part 2

Britain’s Greatest-Ever Sportsman?  Individual Sports – Part 2

We’re compiling our list of Britain’s Greatest-Ever Sportsmen. Having¬†already discussed candidates from the major individual sports (click here), who of Britain’s lesser-known stars makes the shortlist?

 

“No machines, no pastimes, no animals… No thanks”

In researching this article I thought long and hard about including motor sports and parlour sports, as well as equestrian. The realisation that as much (if not more) skill and dedication goes into snooker, darts, horse/motor racing as any other sport puts their master craftsmen¬†firmly on the sporting map for this writer.¬†Let’s look at the candidates…

 

HORSE RACING

As mentioned, I’m willing to accept all sportsmen from all (ahem) fields. With that in mind, it’s impossible¬†to look past 20 time Champion Jump Jockey Sir Tony McCoy. Another¬†Northern Irishman, “AP”¬†rode a record 4,358 winners (including a high of 289 in 2001-02), claiming his first Champion Jockey title -identifying the jockey who had ridden the most winners during a campaign season – in 1995/96 and going¬†on to win it every year until his retirement in 2015.¬†McCoy has won almost every big race there is to win.¬†His most high-profile winners include the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, King George VI Chase and the 2010 Grand National.¬†In National Hunt racing,¬†no-one¬†comes close.¬†McCoy was knighted in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to horse racing. Rightly so.

On the flats, Lestor Piggott won all five British Classics on at least two occasions and was named British flat racing Champion Jockey a post-war record of 11 times (tied with Irishman Pat Eddery). He rode 4,493 career wins (135 more than McCoy). Piggott was undoubtedly one of the greatest jockeys of all time, but failed to dominate the sport in the manner of McCoy and tarnished his reputation with a conviction for tax evasion. He served 366 in prison and was stripped of his OBE.

 

FORMULA 1

On the same Sunday afternoon that Andy Murray sent tubs of strawberries and cream flying in SW18,¬†Lewis Hamilton MBE triumphed at Silverstone to record¬†his 4th¬†British Grand Prix, finishing ahead of Nico Rosberg to cut his Mercedes teammate’s championship lead to just four points. If Hamilton goes on to pip Rosberg to the title it will be a British record-breaking 4th world title for the Mercedes driver.

In a rich history of successful British drivers, only¬†Sir Jackie¬†Stewart can match the titles he won in 2008 (McLaren), 2014 and 2015 (both Mercedes), but¬†Hamilton’s 47 wins from 177 starts is unprecedented. This puts him 3rd on the all-time list and a 4th championship at the age of 31 would set¬†Michael Schumacher’s world-record 7 titles firmly in his sights.¬†Cynics will conclude¬†that Hamilton’s¬†Mercedes AMG Petronas¬†car¬†is unfairly superior to the remainder of the¬†current crop¬†(Rosberg-aside), but he’s earned his right to drive it from¬†eye-catching performances in lesser beasts.

 

SNOOKER

It’s impossible¬†to look past the “King of The Crucible” Stephen Hendry who won the¬†World Snooker Championship there 7 times between 1990-1999. John Pulman and Fred Davis may have won more during the years¬†before the first professional 147 break was recorded by Steve Davis in 1982, but hardly comparable standards of play. Nugget¬†himself won 6 World Championships and spent 7 seasons as World No.1, a list that Hendry tops with 9 years atop the rankings, including 8 consecutive years as he dominated the 1990s.

Only Ronnie O’Sullivan holds more maximum breaks (13) and tournament centuries (824) than Hendry’s 11 and 775, but Rocket’s inability to convert regularly on the biggest stage places him behind¬†The Golden Boy from Edinburgh. Ronnie is generally regarded to be the most-talented player to pick up a cue, but Hendry’s desire, work ethic, attitude and success is unparalleled.

“The best player ever to pick up a snooker cue”

– Ronnie O’Sullivan on Stephen Hendry

 

DARTS

When it comes to darts, no one comes close to Phil “The Power” Taylor.¬†214 professional tournaments wins. 83 major titles. 16 World Championships (14 x PDC, 2 x BDO).¬†Unbeaten in¬†44 matches in winning¬†eight consecutive World Championships from 1995 to 2002 and 14 consecutive finals from 1994 to 2007 (both records). Six-time PDC Player of the Year (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012). Threw the first televised nine-dart finish. The only player¬†to arrow¬†two nine-dart finishes in one match. Highest three-dart average per match in the history of the game. Seven of the top ten PDC World Championship three-dart averages, including the TDA highest-ever recorded (111.21 in 2002) 51 times achieved 100+ match average in¬†PDC World Darts Championship¬†(next best is 13).¬†¬£6,085,028 career prize money (in darts!!!). That’s an astonishing record of dominance, ’nuff said.

The suggestion¬†that “any sport you can do whilst smoking a cigarette isn’t a sport”, doesn’t hold true for me. But despite his frankly ridiculous achievements, Taylor doesn’t automatically sail straight to the top of list. Like snooker, darts is hugely dominated by the UK and the Commonwealth. It’s not solely British-based, but it’s certainly not¬†truly international.

 

DIVING (no, not Tom Daley…)

The Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has been held at iconic venues in 27 different countries across the world since it’s inception in 2009. One man has been dominant in that time, with 5 wins and 2 runner-up placings out¬†of the seven tournaments¬†completed¬†to date (the 2016 event is currently underway). That man is Gary Hunt, a Brit pushing an extreme sports to new dimensions. Hardly a household name, the 32-year-old is the only Red Bull athlete who’s competed in all 50 World Series stops and he’s won half of them (25 event wins).

Recognised as the most progressive cliff diver in the World Series, Hunt also carries pedigree in the pool with gold (2015) and silver (2013) in the high diving World Championships as well as Commonwealth Games bronze in the 10 metre platform synchro.

 

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Individual Sports ‚Äď Part 1

Team Sports [coming soon]

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Britain’s Greatest-Ever Sportsman? Individual Sports – Part 1

Britain’s Greatest-Ever Sportsman?  Individual Sports – Part 1

After a fortnight of British trailblazing, we ask who sits where in the list of all-time British sporting greats?

At exactly 5pm two Sundays ago as Andy Murray tossed his trusty Head Radical to the lush grass of Centre Court in celebrating his 2nd Wimbledon title, regular opinion-spouter Gary Linekar came out with something quite radical of his own on Twitter (where else?):

I immediately dismissed this as typical¬†Linekar hyperbole (few have embraced the opportunity impose and¬†influence on social media as much as England’s 3rd highest goal scorer), but¬†attempting¬†to define a more deserving¬†recipient proved a more complex task than originally expected.

 

So how to define “the greatest”?¬†

I’d start by suggesting that the nominee would have to have spent a sizeable period of time at the very top of their sport. Despite winning 38 career titles, including three Grand Slams (US Open 2012, Wimbledon 2013 & 2016), as well as the London 2012 Olympic gold (men’s singles) and silver (mixed doubles) medals, 2015 Davis Cup with Team GB and amassing the 4th-highest¬†prize money¬†of all time, the shouty Scot has never achieved the pinnacle of become world No.1 in the ATP rankings.

That his career earnings of $49,471,297 puts him behind only sweaty Spaniard Rafael Nadal, smooth Swiss Roger Federer and superhuman Serb Novak Djokovic tells the story here. There’s every chance Murray could be considered the 4th best tennis player in history, he’s simply unfortunate to share an era with the three players who rank above him. He broke into the ATP top 10 in 2007 and first achieved No.2 spot just two years later, but he has never made it the very top of the ladder. His two¬†BBC Sports Personality of the Year¬†awards¬†(2013 & 2015) will be scant consolation.

That said, Murray is the first British tennis player to win a grand slam tournament since Virginia Wade in 1977, and the first man since Bunny Austin in 1938. Murray is head and shoulders above the competition in the world’s premier racquet sport.

adidas Congratulate Andy Murray - SPOTY

 

Who from within British sport can be considered to have at one time been at the very top of their game?¬†Let’s start with the hopefuls from individuals sports…

GOLF

The 145th Open Championship has just concluded at Royal Troon with Henrik Stenson becoming the first Swede to take the claret jug. Americans dominated the the top 20, but there were impressive placings for Brits too, with 5 finishing with the top 12. One of these was 27-year-old Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, a man who is already a four-time¬†major champion, looking for his 2nd win at The Open.¬†The man from¬†Holywood, County Down¬†has amassed 95 weeks at World No.1 in the Official World Golf Rankings and is one of three players to win three majors by the age of 25 (Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus being the others – impressive company). However, is Rory even¬†considered Britain’s best-ever golfer, let alone best-ever sportsman?

“He is a leading contender to be Britain’s finest ever sportsman in an individual sport. He is the gold standard from which the rest of modern British golf has to be judged.”

– Former Walker Cup captain Peter McEvoy on Sir Nick Faldo

For much of the early 1990s Nick Faldo was considered the best golfer in the world. He may only have topped the world rankings for 2 weeks longer than McIlroy at 97 weeks (his rivalry with Greg Norman is well documented), but¬†Faldo won 6 major championships (3 x The Open, 3 x Masters) between 1987-1996 and recorded 41 career titles to McIlroy’s current haul of 20.¬†Faldo is the most successful Ryder Cup player ever, having won the most points of any player on either team (25) and having represented the European Team a record 11 times. McIlroy has pulled on the blue jumper¬†3 times, coming out victorious on each occasion and has been named¬†PGA Player of the Year¬†twice. His Mentor¬†– who was knighted in 2009 –¬†received this honour only once.

There’s not a lot to separate the two most decorated British golfers of the modern era. McIlroy’s age would suggest he will go on to surpass Faldo’s achievements (his first major title at The Open in 1987 came a day after his 30th birthday), but a budding rivalry with American Jordan Spieth and Australian Jason Day could mean his early domination of the sport is behind him.

 

CYCLING

Cycling is sport that has gripped the soul of the UK in recent years, from the streets (more on that later) to the track where Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins have led an impressive British medal collection. Sprinter Hoy is the most decorated track cyclist of all time with 19 golds (plus 9¬†silver & 9 bronze) across all major competitions. At the London 2012 Olympics he became the first British athlete to win three gold medals in a single Games since 1908. This haul crowned the likeable Scot as the most successful British Olympian ever with six golds, soon being dubbed “His Royal Hoyness” by the British tabloids. He had¬†become¬†an¬†11-time World Champion by the time he retired in 2013, before embarking on a career¬†behind the wheel¬†where he helped his team¬†Algarve Pro Racing to a 17th-place finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2016.

In Hoy’s¬†slipstream is individual and team pursuit specialist Wiggins, whose four Olympic golds, 1 silver and 2 bronzes put him 2nd on the all-time list, despite deciding to miss the track events at London 2012 to concentrate on the road. Dominance on the track was followed up with a first-ever General Classification win on the Tour de France by a British rider as Wiggo¬†held on to win by 3 minutes and 21 seconds in 2012. Just a month later he followed up with a gold in the Olympic time trial and was widely expected to retain his TDF¬†title in 2013, but¬†asserted that his focus for the season would be to ride in support of Team Sky team-mate and compatriot Chris Froome, who duly won. The Lancastrian – who was knighted in 2013 – returned to the track to set a new hour record with a distance of 54.526¬†km in 2015 and is part of Team GB as he aims to win an unprecedented eighth career medal when he heads to Rio¬†later in the summer.

Joining him in Brazil is¬†Kenya-born Brit Froome, who will be looking for his first Olympic Gold and enters the time trial and road race after winning his third¬†Tour de France in four years¬†(he was forced to retire from the race in 2014 but returned¬†to place second in the Vuelta a Espa√Īa later in the year). Claiming the 2016¬†maillot jaune¬†makes him the first rider since¬†Miguel Indurain¬†in the early 90s to win three or more renditions of La Grande Boucle and with gifts¬†Team Sky their¬†4th win in 5 years, an astonishing achievement given¬†the¬†109-year wait for victory in sport’s toughest test.

Also making headlines in France last month was Froome’s former Team Sky teammate Mark Cavendish. The Manxman registered his 30th win en Tour to put him second on the all-time list behind Belgian legend¬†Eddy Merckx to cement his place as the best sprint-finisher in cycling history, before leaving Le Tour to prepare for the Olympics. Cav has also registered¬†15 individual stages on the¬†Giro d’Italia¬†and a further 3 on the Vuelta. He has topped the overall points classification on each of the Grand Tours and added a 4th World Championship gold in 2015 despite quitting the track in 2008 after a medal-free Beijing Games. He chases two golds with Team GB back in velodrome in Rio. With a record like that, who’d bet against him?

 

BOXING

It’s pretty well accepted that Britain has owned three world-class fighters of the modern era: heavyweight Lennox Lewis, featherweight Naseem Hamed and super-middleweight Joe Calzaghe. It can be no surprise that these three fighters are the lone British entries to the International Boxing Hall of Fame since lightweight Scot John Buchanen in the 1970s. Historically it was notoriously difficult to compare boxers from different weight classes, but since The Ring magazine introduced the¬†definitive pound-for-pound rankings in 1989 only Lewis, Hamed, Calzaghe and light-welterweight Ricky Hatton have appeared in the top 10 from amongst the British ranks.

“The Italian Dragon” Calzaghe was rated¬†as a top ten pound-for-pound boxer in three consecutive years between 2006-2008 with a 3rd place finish in 2008 the best on record from a British puncher. “The Hitman” Hatton¬†reached No.4 in 2005 and “Prince” Naseem and Lennox “The Lion” made their best showings in 2000, placing 6th and 8th respectively. Welshman Calzaghe¬†retired in February 2009 with an undefeated record of 46-0 (32 KO) as a reigning world champion and as the longest-reigning super-middleweight world champion in history.¬†His case for being Britain’s greatest sportsman certainly packs a punch.

Credit too must go to Lewis Рwho won Olympic gold for Canada in 1988 Рfor knocking out pound-for-pound great Mike Tyson in 2002 and being the last man to unify the glamorous heavyweight division as undisputed champion. 

“He [Lewis] is, no doubt, the best heavyweight of all time. What he’s done clearly puts him on top of the heap.”

РTwo-time world heavyweight champion and grill entrepreneur George Foreman

 

More on this topic or subscribe for updates:

Individual Sports – Part 2

Team Sports [coming soon]

Olympians [coming soon]