As an English cricket fan, I’ve watched Australia dominate my team in certain Ashes series but even I would have to admit that they are a formidable side. Here are their ten best players of all time.
Best Australian Cricketers of All Time
1. Donald Bradman
Many readers will argue about some of the names on this list and there will also be some discussion on the order. However, there can surely be no debate about the man who appears at the top of the tree.
The word ‘great’ can get overused in many sports but there are reasons why Sir Donald Bradman can be considered as the best batsman in the history of the game. His figures speak for themselves with a test batting average of 99.94 which would have finished on a perfect 100 had he scored just four runs in his final innings.
Bradman dominated the game in the 1930s which were his best years. The touring England team of 1932/33 even had to develop a new type of bowling known as ‘Bodyline’ in an attempt to deal with him.
When he retired from test cricket in 1948, The Don had scored 6996 runs from just 80 innings. An incredible set of 29 centuries includes a highest score of 334 and the magnitude of those figures backs up the theory that he was the best batsman ever.
2. Ricky Ponting
One of Australia’s finest batsmen of the modern era, Ricky Ponting also skippered the team through what was a largely successful period. After a shaky start to international cricket when issues off the pitch threatened to define his career, Ponting addressed those concerns and made sure that he didn’t waste his considerable talent.
He would eventually become Australia’s most successful captain in their cricketing history when he won his 42nd game in charge during the 2009/10 series. Ponting would also go on to score more runs than any other Australian batter and his statistics are second only to those of Don Bradman.
In total, he played 168 tests scoring 13338 runs with a highest score of 257. His exceptional average of 51.85 underlines just what a fine batsman he was.
3. Steve Waugh
Steve Waugh was such a great leader of Australia that his own efforts with bat and ball are often overlooked. He wasn’t the most gifted player but he made the best of his talents and combined them with complete determination.
Before Ricky Ponting overtook his record in that 2009/10 season, Waugh was the most successful captain that Australia ever had. He led the team to 41 victories and his overall contribution cannot be underestimated.
When he made his test debut in 1985, Australian cricket was on the wane and, a year later, they would get hammered in a home Ashes series. Waugh helped to turn that side around as Australia became the most dominant team of the 1990s. When he retired, Waugh had played 168 tests, scoring 10,927 runs and his medium pace had also produced 92 test wickets.
4. Matthew Hayden
Powerful left hander Matthew Hayden was one of those batsmen who defined a new era for test cricket. It remains the slower form of the game but, with players like Hayden at the crease, run rates were boosted and the format was played at a quicker tempo than ever before.
When he made his debut in 1994, Allan Border was still in charge of the test side but Hayden would be a part of the team that dominated the sport under Steve Waugh. He scored quickly in all forms of the game and would eventually retire with over 15,000 test runs to his name.
Matthew Hayden also held the highest ever test score for a brief period. In 2003, he made 380 against Zimbabwe but saw that mark overtaken by Brian Lara a few weeks later.
5. Steve Smith
At the time of writing in early 2022, Steve Smith is the only man to still be playing the game. He’s already in a lofty position on this list and there is time for the former captain to climb even further.
It’s hard to believe now that Steve Smith made his test debut in 2010 as a leg spinner who could bat a bit. In the modern day, he’s become one of the best batters of all time while his bowling only ever comes out on rare occasions.
His finest moments came in the 2019 Ashes series in England when he averaged an incredible 110.57 with the bat. During that series he became the first man in test history to pass 50 with the bat in ten consecutive innings.
Following the Ashes series of 2021/22, Steve Smith had scored 7784 test runs at an average of 59.87 with a best of 239.
6. Adam Gilchrist
When Matthew Hayden made his test best score of 380 in 2003, Adam Gilchrist hit an undefeated 113 from just 94 balls at the other end. That’s an innings that underlines his contribution to the team as he redefined the role of the wicket keeper.
Most countries would be happy for their keepers to catch the ball and make a few runs on occasions but Gilchrist would have got into most sides as a batsman alone. Over an international career that lasted from 1996 to 2008, Gilchrist made over 15,000 runs for Australia.
The left hander made a test match highest score of 204 while his best of 172 remains one of the biggest individual contributions in one day internationals.
7. Shane Warne
We’ve dealt with the batters so let’s come onto Australia’s greatest ever bowler. Shane Warne burst onto the scene in 1993 with the ‘ball of the century’ which saw him claim his first Ashes wicket with his first ever delivery. Warne had endured a less productive debut against India in 1992 but he went on to prove that his stunning Ashes debut wasn’t a fluke.
He reintroduced leg spin at a time when it had all-but disappeared from the game and he left a legacy for all of the current crop of ‘leggies’.
His figures speak for themselves and his return of 708 wickets in test matches is second only to Muttiah Muralitharan. We can also add in 293 wickets in the ODI format.
Warne was a useful lower order batsman too and his aggregate of 3154 test runs is the highest of any player who didn’t make a century.
8. Michael Clarke
It was tough for Michael Clarke to follow Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting but Australia’s new captain was up to the task. Arguably, he was a better batsman than either of his two predecessors but could he live up to their reputations as a skipper?
Clarke would win 24 of his 47 games in charge and while his average of just over 51% was lower than Waugh or Ponting, he led the team during a transitional period. As a batsman, no-one can really deny that he deserves his place on the list.
In 115 tests, Clarke made 8643 runs at an average of 49.10. His 28 hundreds in this format includes a century on debut and a best of 329 against India in 2012. He was effective in the one day format too and the man known as ‘Pup’ scored over 8,000 limited overs runs with eight hundreds and a highest score of 130.
9. Greg Chappell
There could be some debate about this inclusion but, for his combined qualities as a captain and a batsman, I think Greg Chappell deserves his place. As a batter, he played during another dominant period for the team as Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson terrorized teams in the 1970s with their hostile pace bowling.
When he took over the captaincy, he did so at a difficult time when the Australian side was rebuilding in the wake of the Kerry Packer era. His stats are skipper are modest with 21 wins in 48 games but this wasn’t the best Aussie team in history.
His batting numbers are a better testament to his quality. In an international career lasting from 1975 to 1983, Greg Chappell made 7110 runs from 87 test matches with an average of 53.86 and a highest score of 247.
He was a solid player in ODIs too, making three centuries in 72 innings at a time when batting totals weren’t as prolific as they are in the modern era.
10. Glenn McGrath
It must have been a nightmare to face an attack consisting of McGrath and Warne in the 1990s and into the 2000s. Glenn McGrath became the most successful seam bowler of all time across a long career and he played a major role in his team’s achievements.
He didn’t have any great pace but he bowled with an almost perfectly straight wrist which allowed the ball to hit the seam with great regularity. I’ve mentioned in a previous article about the qualities that seam bowlers need to possess and Glenn McGrath was the best at exploiting those, in my opinion.
His statistics tend to back that up and, following his 124th and final test in 2007, McGrath had claimed 563 wickets which was a record for a seamer at that time. His best figures in tests were 8/24 while his best return of 7/15 in ODIs remains third on the list of records in that format.
I’ve watched a lot of those players dominate the game in the past. If you’re a cricket lover from outside of Australia, this may be hard to read but you just have to admire these players and what they accomplished in the game.
The Aussies were the dominant team in the 1990s and, even in their rare defeats, they competed in series that we will never forget such as the colossal Ashes battle of 2005.
I’ve tended to focus on test cricket in this review but let’s not forget that Australia are also the most successful country in the history of the 50-Over World Cup with five titles. Many of the above players were part of those successful periods and their efforts will be forever remembered.