ODI cricket's greatest game changers - From Sir Viv Richards to Virat Kohli

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Match-winners in cricket are those who can single-handedly change the course of a game with the bat or ball, and in some cases, both.

While some players seldom experience such moments over the course of their careers, others have shown that they can consistently do it time and time again.

A man-of-the-match award might not always be the best indication of who these players are, but it is often a good indication of the players that have a decisive impact on the game.

Here, we cast a look at the top five biggest match-winners in the ODI format.

Sir Viv Richards (West Indies)

Matches: 187

MOTM awards: 31

MOTM rate: 16.58 per cent

Viv

It has been nearly three decades since the West Indies great hung up his cricketing boots and to this day, he is still widely considered as the greatest ODI player of all time. He was instrumental in both World Cup triumphs, scoring a superb ton in the 1979 final at Lord’s against England.

A swashbuckling batsman with blatant disdain for the best of bowlers, Richards almost effortlessly toyed with the bowling attacks of the time. To add to his sublime batting abilities, Richards was also an able medium pacer who resorted to off-spin when the situation called for.

In an era where a strike-rate of even 70 was considered to be above par for the course, Richards was an outlier with a strike-rate of more than 90. The Antigua man batted with a swagger which has not been seen again on the cricket pitch and the manner in which he broke down the spirits of the bowling opposition was a sight to behold.

He finished his ODI career with 11 centuries, 45 fifties, 118 wickets and a staggering 31 man-of-the-match awards in just 187 games for West Indies. An absolute colossus.

Sir Gordon Greenidge

Matches: 128

MOTM awards: 20

MOTM rate: 15.63 per cent

Gordon

Playing in the same era as Richards, Gordon Greenidge was another West Indies batsman who could slay bowling attacks at will.

If Richards was all about the finesse, Greenidge was pure brute power who put his muscular shoulders to deadly use.

The right-handed opening batsman played 59 matches less compared to Richards but still managed to register the same number (11) of centuries.

His opening partnership with Desmond Haynes was well ahead of everyone else in the same period and the duo managed to put on 16 century stands between them.

That four of those partnerships were in excess of 200 just goes on to show the sheer dominance of the famed Windies openers.

The thought of Richards walking in to bat, should either of the openers be dismissed, must have sent shivers down every bowling attack in the world at the time.

Virat Kohli (India)

Matches: 242

MOTM: 36

MOTM rate: 14.88

KOHLI (31)

Indian fans would never have imagined that they would see a greater ODI batsman after Sachin Tendulkar retired with more than 18,000 runs and 49 tons to his name in the format. And yet here is Kohli, who is now just six centuries short of equalling that tally despite having played almost half the number of matches.

Having initially burst on to the scene as a promising U19 World Cup winning captain with a booming cover drive, Kohli took his time to find his feet before turning into the ultimate run-scoring machine he is now.

It is while chasing that the India captain really comes into his own with more than 5,000 of his 11,609 ODI runs coming while fielding first – all at a sensational average of nearly 97. He has mastered the art of cutting out risks in his batting and rarely does he ever resort to brute power to find the boundaries.

His 43 tons, 55 fifties and batting average of nearly 60 in just 233 innings are truly astonishing numbers whichever way one looks at it. While he might fall just short of Tendulkar’s overall ODI run tally, there is no doubt whatsoever that 31-year-old Kohli will surpass his 49 tons and by some distance at that.

David Warner (Australia)

Matches: 116

MOTM: 16

MOTM rate: 13.79

warner (20)

It is hard to believe Warner has made just 116 ODI appearances so far for Australia, with the left-hander arriving in international cricket on the back of a fearsome white-ball reputation. Somewhat surprisingly, his skills have translated more successfully in the Test arena, just like a certain Virender Sehwag.

That is not to say that Warner hasn’t set the record straight in the ODI format, even though he didn’t really set the world alight in his first five years. After just two tons and a batting average of just 31.40 in 50 ODI appearances, Warner flicked a switch in 2015 and has been unstoppable ever since.

His next set of 66 matches in the 50-over format have resulted in 3,451 runs at an average of more than 57 along with the help of 15 centuries. He was key to Australia winning their fifth World Cup title, on home soil in 2015, and has been going from strength to strength ever since.

He might have committed some indiscretions in the past, and even lost a year of international cricket due to it, but make no mistake – Warner is one of the most effective ODI game-changers in the business.

Sachin Tendulkar (India)

Matches: 463

MOTM: 62

MOTM rate: 13.39

Sachin Tendulkar

For a batsman who did not register his maiden ODI ton until his 79th innings in the format, Tendulkar’s transformation to arguably the greatest ever to play the game was phenomenal. For the early part of his career, Tendulkar didn’t have the luxury of playing in a strong India team, a factor which hasn’t really applied to Kohli.

There was a time when the Mumbai batsman was literally a one-man army for India, with the fall of his wicket causing stadiums in the country to empty out within minutes. How he could single-handedly win games for India was best seen in 1998 in Sharjah in performances which are now fondly remembered as the ‘Desert Storm’.

Australia were the dominant team of the era and a 25-year-old Tendulkar made their formidable bowling attack look ordinary with back-to-back tons in the tri-series held in the UAE. The first one of them came in a losing cause but helped India qualify for the final on the basis on net run-rate. The second one was even better with Tendulkar absolutely lording it over fellow legend Shane Warne to clinch the trophy for India.

Warne famously stated that the innings gave him nightmares and it is easy to see why when one watches the highlights. It was only fitting that Tendulkar became the first ODI double-centurion before he retired from the game.

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