They’re artists, first and foremost

by Ashish

Have you had a dekko at the top run scorers in Tests recently?

It reads as follows, in that specific order: Sachin, Ponting, Dravid, Lara and Kallis.

What a wonderfully ridiculous middle order that would make, no? I’ll pause for a moment and allow you to dream about having that line-up in a Test.

But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to point out the difference between the men on this list, and the guy who is now trailing them: Allan Border. And the difference between the Famous Five and the Snarling Aussie is that each of the Five are superb aesthetes in a league of their own. Their shots are effective, brutal, perfectly efficient – and hauntingly beautiful.

Sachin’s backfoot punch through the cover drive reduces cynical commentators to tears, and a Ricky Ponting pull (if it materializes at all nowadays) is still worth waking up for at 5 a.m. Dravid’s cover drive ought to be made into a 3D hologram and sent to schools all over the world, while Kallis’ version of the same shot is proof of the fact that he has royalty in his blood.

Lara is above and beyond all these gentlemen, even. For Lara at his best when it came to pure artistry wasn’t competition to these guys; he was conversing with the ghosts of Michaelangelo and Leonardo.

Allan Border at his best was a pitiless run machine, but even he’ll be the first to admit that he wasn’t in the same galaxy when it came to style.

Which begs the question, is style a prerequisite to being truly great? Or is it enough to just be purely efficient? The top five in the all time run getters list present one side of the argument, but have a look at the bottom half of the top ten: Border, Waugh, Gavaskar, Jayawardene and Chanderpaul.

Gavaskar and Jayawardene are artists in their own right, and will hold their own in any batting pageant the world over, but it is difficult to call Border or Waugh a stylist (which, I hasten to add, is not criticism of either of them as a batsman. True greats, both of them – and not just for their batting alone). And Chanderpaul’s technique is too convoluted to be explained in a paragraph. Or a book, come to think of it.

And now on to why I chose this topic today. It’s because I was thinking about which of the current crop stands a chance of scaling the peaks the Famous Five have made their exclusive abode. A quick glance around the world throws up the following names, at least to my mind:

Sehwag, Sangakkara, Amla, Cook and Pietersen

Cook is there purely on account of the fact that age is on his side, and his stats so far make for encouraging reading. Sehwag and Sangakkara would be very disappointed if they don’t end up making the all time top five, while Pietersen was, until a couple of seasons ago, a sure shot cert. Amla is the dark horse in this race, and one I’d put my money on. He’s gone about accumulating runs as if its about to go out of style, and this has been done on a very strong, technically competent bedrock of quiet, no-nonsense substance.

But here’s the thing – none of them are particularly grand on the Inimitable Shots ™ Scale. Now, don’t you go off howling at the moon just yet. I know each of them are fantastic batsmen (some more so than others), and Sanga fans really do have a very strong case indeed – but do they match up to the Famous Five when it comes to sheer beauty?

Would you, purely for aesthetics alone, choose these five over the Famous Five? And is there an underlying factor that makes the most beautiful the most efficient as well?

It would seem to be the case when it comes to the Famous Five, no?

On reflection, screw all that.

Here’s the bottom line – waste no opportunity in watching the Famous Five bat. Lara will only be seen in IPL pyjamas, but the other four (all of ’em!) will be putting out their wares tomorrow.

And if that isn’t the best Christmas gift ever, I don’t know what is.

Happy holidays, everybody!