Top 10 Box Office Cricketers in the World today
Here is just my list of the Top 10 Box Office cricketers in the world today. Cricketers that keep the crowds flocking to games. Cricketers that create headlines both positive and negative. Cricketers that you won't leave the TV if they are up and going at full throttle. See if you agree with my Top 10? Who should have been included? Who is ranked too high? Who should have been higher?
1. Virat Kohli (India) - The Indian firebrand was one of the first of the modern brand of new Indian cricketer. Full of confidence, feisty and brash this young Indian tyro has taken the best attacks on and revelled in it. No time was Kohli more in his element than against a chirpy Australian side. The more the Aussies verbal volleyed him, the more he smashed it back in their face. Not only with his own words of wisdom but more importantly with his bat. Kohli's unbeaten 82 in the World T20 quarter final against Australia was a one-man assault which sent the Aussies packing. Indeed Kohli appears the type of player that thrives on the pressure cooker situation. He almost goes looking for a fight, to fire himself up. A bit like the great Brian Lara, they said you should never wake up sleeping attack dogs. Kohli is a brilliant all round player off front and back foot and with the majority of his career in front of him he can lead this new India into many a battle. I have elevated Kohli to number 1 as he remains a player at the peak of his powers, with his very best yet to come. I also love the fact thathe will take on Australian side at their own game. While many players crumbled at the bashful Aussies, Kohli put them back in their box. He is put simply a must watch.
2. Kevin Pietersen (England) - The maverick batsman was a polarising figure from the minute he set foot on the International stage. I remember him playing his first One Day Internationals in his native South Africa. A baptism of fire if ever there was one. Pietersen not only relished but thrived. The furnace type atmosphere not often seen in cricket immediately bought out the best in Pietersen. Whilst KP kept pounding attacks worldwide his mouth would often lead him astray. His relationship with some of his English team mates was often strained before eventually become becoming toxic. His captaincy stint could only be described as a disaster which lasted less than a year. His relationship with the media was also love/hate. KP was never afraid of saying exactly what he thought of a particular player, coach, tactic, culture - nothing was off limits. Pietersen though remained box office. He has proved a revelation in the Big Bash. His commentary has been engaging and his batting insights fascinating. I would argue KP was more box office than any other batter in the world in the past decade. I have placed Pietersen at number 2 purely because I found him the most fascinating batsman of his time. His imposing frame and the way he walks across the crease formed the basis of a unique batting style which was unorthodox, classy, brutal and silky all at the same time. His massive ego also made for some genuine confrontation in some of the biggest games in cricket, the Ashes. Whilst others could lay claim to the number 1 for mine Pietersen had them covered.
3. Glen Maxwell (Australia) - Whatever you think of Maxwell as a cricketer, he is box office. His mixture of brilliance and brain fades is perhaps more entertaining than any other cricketer in the world today. He makes some innovators look relatively tame with his versions of switch hits, reverse laps and ramp shots. Whilst Maxwell can thrill he can also infuriate his legion of fans which makes him all the more watchable. Who can forget him being sent in for Test Cricket at Number 3 in Dubai, only to be out to a comical reverse sweep for a duck? He took one thing further batting for the Melbourne Stars in Brisbane one night when he backed away from a ball only to let it go and see it cannon into middle and leg stump. Whilst Maxwell's brain fades stick out he remains one of the first names on the team sheet in the T20 and 50-over format for Australia. He can change a game in the space of 5 overs and continues to bat with no regard for consequences or the back lash that might come from getting out to a poor shot. Whilst Maxwell has been out of favour at Test level he remains a genuine prospect in creams once his game balances out. He is also a freakish talent in the field and has pulled off several astonishing catches. Maxwell is elevated all the way to number 3 in the rankings purely because he is capable of magic and madness all in the same over, let alone the same game.
4. Chris Gayle (West Indies) - The Universe Boss as he calls himself has been a gun for hire for much of the past decade. From Kolkata to Bangalore, Sydney to Melbourne, Highveld to Somerset, Gayle has been a world T20 jet setter pounding attacks across the planet in his laconic style. His party life style off the field is well known. Gayle's Triple Century bar in his native Jamaica unlikely the best spot for a quiet lemonade. The controversial West Indian has often been a lightning bolt for positive and negative press from the world's cricket media due to his off field antics and his on field cricketing movements. Often at loggerheads with the West Indian Cricket Board, the rebel Jamaican has not played Test cricket since 2012. Which is a shame as despite his rebel reputation Gayle played 100 Test Matches which is no mean feat. While many would have Gayle at the top of the tree for the West Indies. I placed Gayle at number 4 slightly behind Kohli, Pietersen and Maxwell. Due to the fact many of the games he plays these days are less memorable. He played an astonishing innings of 175 not out from 66 balls from Bangalore to smash all T20 records, with 17 sixes. Gayle remains compulsive viewing as someone who can brutalise a bowler particular with his power game. Not many in the world can hit the ball harder or further and despite his lack of footwork Gayle has the eye of a dead fish. Whilst he is not the biggest innovator and is rarely pretty as a batter, he is by his own admission extremely cool and he continues to command top dollar.
5. Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) - The recently retired New Zealand Test Captain was one of the original bashers of the modern era. McCullum, the combative pocket rocket, never took a backward step as an opening batsman. He took on the world's fastest bowlers with abandon. Often playing hook shots, ramp shots, charging down the pitch with scant regard for his safety. He could have been described as anywhere from brave, fearless to downright insane. The pocket rocket unlike Gayle wouldn't usually take 10 or 20 balls to acclimatise, often charging half way down the track before a ball had even hit the pitch. His duck in the recent World Cup final was a lowlight for McCullum, but compulsive viewing for its sheer madness as he swung at Stark like a blind drunk. McCullum not only entertained with his firebrand type of batting, but he became a fearless, innovative and gracious leader that changed the culture of New Zealand cricket. The Kiwis were often known as grafters, toilers with docile medium pacers. McCullum changed all that - his mindset was to attack and attack often. They played fearless and thrilling cricket characterised by aggressive bowling changes, funky fields and brave declarations. They played with unabated freedom and it changed the Kiwis whole mindset and brought crowds back to their cricket. I also admired his stance towards sledging and gamesmanship. Whilst the Australians often won ugly, the Kiwis personified class under McCullum. McCullum is a deserved inclusion at number 5.
6. David Warner (Australia) - You have to admire Warner as a cricketer even if he is not everyone’s cup of tea. As a youngster he was a rough around the edges tyro who wasn't afraid to get in anyone’s face. His amazing talent was evident from a very young age as he would often bat right-handed against off spinners in junior cricket and grade cricket. He was well ahead of his time in this regard. He then became the original T20 Dynamo. His debut against South Africa straight out of Grade Cricket had tongues wagging across the country. Many experts doubted he could become a Test Cricketer and labelled him a T20 specialist. Whilst Warner continued to batter bowlers, he had his ups and down often crossing the line with his attack dog mentality. Whilst his fiery demeanour remains, Warner is now a fantastic all round cricketer and has toned down his antics. The pocket rocket has become a brilliant Test Opener, often leaving opposition bowlers in a foetal position, reeling at drinks having flayed them to all parts. Warner is another player, where it is hard to leave the TV when he is batting. Australia are a far superior side with him opening the batting, and the decision to bat him at number 4 in the recent World T20 was a genuine howler for the ages by the Australian selectors. Many would probably have Warner higher than number 6 as he remains a cricketer at the peak of his powers in all forms of the game.
7. Dale Steyn (South Africa) - Whilst this list is dominated by batsman I had to find room for the Steyn, the snarling South African fast bowler. Test cricket at its very best pits a fearless batsman against a ravenous fast bowler looking for blood. The game these days is too much about flat wickets, big bats, small boundaries, power plays and free hits and these contests can be few and far between. Yet Steyn has found a way to be a force in a decade where the balance in cricket has been completely lost. At his best Steyn was like a Glenn McGrath, but with more menace. The same probing accuracy but just add another 10-15 KPH to the equation. With over 400 Test wickets and 27 5-wicket hauls Steyn has been a brilliant bowler for his country. I like that his performances have stood out most in Test cricket, the purest and by far the most gruelling form of the game. His in-your-face style as he works over a batsman is a must watch and makes for gripping Test cricket. The batsman is challenged in all facets by Steyn. His technique, his bravery his mental approach. Whilst he can lose his rag occasionally, Steyn at his best was the best Test bowler in the world for 5 years. Steyn deserves his position at Number 7 and will be shaking his head at the 6 batsman listed above him!!
8. AB De Villiers (South Africa) - If you’re looking for the classiest and the best batsman in world cricket look no further than AB De Villiers. Apparently De Villiers could have been a pro in several sports - the fact he chose cricket we should all be very thankful for. Whilst De Villiers is not the most thrilling batsman and has a relatively placid personality he can make batting look unnervingly easy. At 32 years of age De Villiers still has 2-3 years at his best for South Africa. No more was De Villiers outrageous talent more on show was when he produced a stunning 149 from just 44 balls against a shell shocked West Indian outfit. This was a career defining innings for De Villiers that smashed all records, recording a century in just 31 balls. The poor old West Indies were on the receiving end of another De Villliers’ special as he plastered 162 from 66 balls in Sydney in the recent ICC World Cup. De Villiers is a better player than all the 7 names above him on this list; however sits at number 8 as he sometimes make batting look too easy!!
9. Mitchell Johnson (Australia) - Mitchell Johnson as a fast bowler and cricketer in general was box office for almost the entirety of his career. A rare mix of athletic power Johnson was touted from a young age as a player of raw ability. His career form fluctuated wildly which made him all the more watchable for the viewer. Johnson put the fear of God into batsman at his brutal best. No more so was he at his ravenous best than when he feasted on a clearly rattled England in a 5-0 Ashes whitewash in 2013. It's not often you see world class batsman look genuinely scared. However this was the case in this series. Never mind the tail enders who were fearing for their lives and secretly wishing they could have joined Johnathon Trott and Greame Swan on the plane home. Johnson also battled demons throughout his career and at times was like the car crash you just had to watch. The place Johnson looked most tormented was in England where crowds got under his skin and he failed to produce his best. Johnson at his worst was extremely erratic and looked like a pub cricketer as he lost all control of the Kookaburra or Duke. Johnson was also a very underrated batsman. An imposing figure with a strong technique Johnson showed glimpses of being a genuine world class all-rounder. His memorable hundred in testing conditions in South Africa showed a cricketer of freakish all-round talent. Whilst Johnson has retired from International cricket he is sure to provide us fans with more entertainment in this year’s Big Bash. Johnson just scraps into the Top10 at Number 9.
10. Shane Watson (Australia) - Watson scrambles into the Top 10 as one of the predominant all-rounders of his generation. Watson was a lightning rod for discussion among cricket fans in Australia. He had his fans, but he also clearly carried the weight of his army of critics. Rarely have I seen a cricketer of such ability carry such downtrodden body language as Watson. His comical reviews of plumb LBWs, and dumbfounded looks were a feast for his critics to dine out on. However at his best Watson was a menacing batsman who could take an attack apart. In the Matthew Hayden mould of genuine goliath, Watson could be a front foot bully destroying teams when he was on song. I always felt Watson was at his best when he was the opening batsman. The more he was made to wait, the more Watson had time to think what could go wrong. As an opener Watson imposed himself on the game and as a Test opener he had a rare patch of form spanning two seasons. Watson was also a skilful bowler. He started off as a tearaway but quickly became a canny medium pacer. He loved to get in the batsman’s face, and often got involved in some heated conversations. Sadly for much of Watson's career his body failed him, and his critics loved to let him know. Whilst he never quite reached his full potential Shane Watson was always box office and I had to find a place for him to round out my Top 10.