Cricket, and namely Australian cricket, has had no shortage of outrageously good players. In the current team, Steve Smith and David Warner stand out, with their ability making them two of the best batsmen in the game today.
However, when talking about Australian greats, it is impossible to ignore two men that caused every other cricketing nation in the world no end of problems. Legends is the tag they must be given then. Spin bowler Shane Warne and batsman Ricky Ponting are two of the finest cricketers ever, with their exploits the stuff of legend.
But, if given the choice, which player would be the better rejuvenation for Australia now, when solely considering what they would add to the team?
Is he the greatest spin bowler ever? Muttiah Muralitharan might have something to say about it, with the Sri Lankan taking 800 Test wickets in 133 matches, whereas Warne snared 708 victims in 145 matches. While the statistics say that the Sri Lankan was better, it is difficult to look past Warne when the question of who was the best spinner is posed.
Warne spent most of his playing days in Australia and England. Down Under, the pitches are hard and flat because the Australians cater towards their fast bowlers on wickets that don’t offer much in the way of swing or spin, but they know their pace men will benefit from it.
In England, the pitches are green and flat with no cracks, which inhibits swing bowling, what England, and James Anderson thrive upon. In the West Indies too, the pitches have always been biased towards pace, but Warne has been able to thrive wherever he goes. Of course, there have been occasions where Warne has found taking wickets difficult, but he was successful more often than not.
For Murali, he spent most of his career playing in the sub-continent, where spin is the be all and end all. The pitches in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh offer so much for spin bowlers, with dusty, dry and cracked surfaces allowing bowlers to get the ball to do incredible things.
The pitches making things easier for spinners was best displayed when Bangladesh tore through England recently, with the home side not having any household names in spin, they were still able to destroy England, although, the English have always been useless against spin.
The fact Warne played most of his games away from these agreeable conditions make him a superbly gifted bowler. There are two instances though, that display just how talented he was though.
The first, was the aptly dubbed ‘ball of the century’:
23 years ago today – genius. Shane Warne Gatting Ball of the Century https://t.co/GQS7okZosA
— Campbell Aitken (@Campbell_Aitken) 9 June 2016
SEE ALSO: 2005 Ashes: The unrepeatable test series
The ball to dismiss Mike Gatting was outrageous, with it seemingly spinning from one side of the wicket to the other. The second instance was his entire display against England in the 2005 Ashes. Despite conditions that were favourable to swing, Warne tore through England and threatened to win the series by his bowling alone:
It was a series which saw Warne take 40 of the 100 wickets available. And he is a spinner.
His ability to change a game was legendary, with his mix of bowling causing batsmen all sorts of problems. His flipper/slider, leg-break, googly and wrong-un were incredible, and bamboozling an opponent was where he seemed to derive most of his joy.
He was pretty handy with the bat too, as when coming in lower down the order, he was given license to smash the opposition’s bowling attack to all sides of the park. This, for a man that probably wasn’t in the same physical condition as today’s cricketers made him truly superb.
One of the greatest batsmen ever. Ponting was an absolute behemoth at three, but, in reality, he was good enough to play anywhere in the batting line-up. He was always seen as a proper grafter of a batsman, able to dig in and take away all of the opposition’s momentum.
Like South Africa’s Jacques Kallis, he was comfortable coming into the middle in any situation, and you wouldn’t bet against them turning things around if needs be. Whether coming in a wicket down after one ball, or with the scores already past 250, Ponting was a man that could take the initiative and attack, or knuckle down for the long haul. This is just one of the reasons why he was so good.
When he was able to open up, he was an outstandingly fluent stroke-player. His pull and hook were incredible, while he hit more than one perfect cover-drive in his career. He was also very comfortable playing off both the front and back-foot too.
While he was a superb batsman, he did have his faults, with the Australian a perpetrator of shuffling across his stumps too often, which resulted in a number of leg-before dismissals.
Away from his issues, Ponting was one of the best fielders in cricket. His athletic frame made him quick, but where he excelled was with his catching. He placed himself at cover or silly point at times, but his hand-eye co-ordination made him an outstanding slip fielder, with his teammates always assuming he would take the catch.
Throughout his career, Ponting scored 13,378 runs in 168 Tests with 41 centuries. While in ODI’s he 13,704 runs, making him one of the games most prolific scorers. His records is outstanding, and the fact he excelled in both Tests and limited overs cricket shows he was able to score quickly or graft when needed to.
One of the lasting memories of Ponting came in his innings against India in 2003, with a sparkling 242 cementing his place as one of the game’s greatest:
— Charismatic Planet (@Charismatic321) 19 November 2016
The argument for either player is one that is likely to split opinion. Ponting was a natural leader. While many questioned his charisma, he was an inspirational man, with his performances both on and off the pitch driving his team onwards.
For Warne, his ability ability to turn a game on it’s head with a spell of bowling, or an explosive innings with the bat were what made him such a popular player. In all honesty, Ponting would be a superb player to bring back, but Warne could change the game at any moment. If he was thrown the ball, it would almost always end in wickets, or his mere presence would cause the batsmen to retreat into a defensive shell, thus causing the runs to dry app, heaping pressure on the batting side.
Ponting was one of the greatest batsmen ever, but Warne was the greatest bowler, and a real game changer.