As part of Wisden’s 1990s in Review series, the Wisden.com trio of Manoj Narayan, Yas Rana and Ben Gardner picked out Wisden’s men’s ODI team of the 1990s.
After much arguing, compromising and consideration, here’s the XI they ended up with. You can pick your ODI team of the 1990s here.
All stats refer to the period between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1999
Matches: 228, 8,571 runs @ 43.07, strike-rate: 86.80, 24 hundreds, HS: 186*; 78 wickets @ 47.78, economy rate: 4.92, 1 five-for, BBI: 5-32
Sachin was, quite simply, the pre-eminent ODI cricketer of the era. No-one else made even 7,000 ODI runs in the Nineties, while the Little Master crossed 8,500. His switch to opening the batting saw him kickstart his career and invent a new role; that of the opener who would attack from ball one while still racking up big scores. Before March 27, 1994, Sachin had averaged just over 30 in 69 ODIs, with no hundreds. Then he smashed 82 off 49 balls in a chase against New Zealand, and the game was never quite the same again.
Matches: 180, 6,664 runs @ 40.63, strike-rate: 83.05, 17 hundreds, HS: 194
ODI cricket was a different game back then, with the ball dominant, and batsmen who could score quickly and consistently at a premium. Among those with more than 2,000 runs, the only player other than Anwar to both average more than 40 and maintain a strike-rate in excess of 80 is the man who partners him at the top of the order in our team. He also set a world record for the highest ODI score that wouldn’t be beaten for almost 13 years.
Matches: 162, 6,166 runs @ 42.81, strike-rate: 79.30, 13 hundreds, HS: 169
The legendary West Indian was often the only player keeping his team from becoming world cricket’s punching bag. At times, he helped them be quite a bit more than that, never more so than at the 1996 World Cup, when his rapid century earned him the Player of the Match award in the quarter-final. A run-a-ball 45 had seemingly set West Indies on the path to victory in the semis, only for Shane Warne to intervene in dramatic style. That that stands as the last time the Windies have reached the last four only emphasises Lara’s importance.
Aravinda de Silva
Matches: 196, 6,441 runs @ 37.44, strike-rate: 82.77, 11 hundreds, HS: 145; 65 wickets @ 37.09, economy rate: 4.88, BBI: 4-45
Sri Lanka’s first great batsman did his best work in the Nineties, scoring all of his ODI hundreds in that decade. While his overall stats are up there with the best, it’s his exploits in the 1996 World Cup that really earn him a place in this list, when the diminutive batsman did more than anyone to effect perhaps the most remarkable tournament win in cricket history. It’s worth reliving it knock by knock.
His first innings was an 86-ball 91 against Zimbabwe, rescuing Sri Lanka from 23-2 in pursuit of 229. A career-best 145 against Kenya was the only other score of note in the group stages, but in the knockouts he just got better and better. His 31 off 30 balls helped the Lankans blitz past England, a 47-ball 66 rescued his side from 1-2 and 35-3 against India in the semi, before quite possibly the greatest all-round performance in ODI history in the final – 3-42 to keep Australia to 241 and an unbeaten hundred, again rescuing Sri Lanka from 23-2, to seal an incredible triumph. Across the competition, he averaged 89.60 at better than a run a ball.
Matches: 122, 3,922 runs @ 60.33, strike-rate: 76.63, 3 hundreds, HS: 108*
Michael Bevan virtually invented the role of ‘The Finisher’ in the Nineties. There was no cooler head when chasing, with Bevan often seeming maniacally set on seeing games through to the end, and while the strike-rate might seem on the low side, that’s largely a byproduct of him eschewing risks in nailed-on pursuits; when batting first he scored at 82.44 runs per 100 balls. The 1996 New Year’s ODI was the best of Bevan; as Australia languished in pursuit of 173 to win, he stayed the course. With four required off the last ball, he duly found the fence to seal a one-wicket win.
Matches: 66, 1,718 runs @ 46.43, strike-rate: 93.36, 2 hundreds, HS: 103*; 95 wickets @ 26.09, economy rate: 4.83, 5 five-fors, BBI: 6-49
Lance Klusener only made his debut when more than half the decade was already gone, but from then until the end of the decade, he was basically the perfect ODI cricketer, scoring freely and consistently, taking bags of wickets, and raising his game when the big occasions came around. It’s no coincidence that South Africa’s win/loss record with him in the team that decade is extraordinary; 49 victories, 13 defeats, one tie.
That tie, of course, brought to an end perhaps the greatest individual World Cup campaign there has ever been. 281 runs in eight innings, six of them unbeaten. A strike-rate of 122.17. And 17 wickets at 20.58. His unbeaten 16-ball 31 in that semi-final deserves to be remembered as more than just a footnote in one of the great games.
Ian Healy (wk)
Matches: 147, 1,648 runs @ 21.97, strike-rate: 84.46, HS: 56; 176 catches, 36 stumpings
Picking a wicketkeeper for this team was a challenge. The panel felt Adam Gilchrist debuted too late and didn’t have enough of an impact to make the cut. Andy Flower and Alec Stewart made the most runs, but at uninspiring strike-rates, and for all the impact that Romesh Kaluwitharana’s hitting had on the game, his actual record with the bat is poor, especially considering he predominantly opened.
Considering the bowling attack chosen, and that this was a time when a keeper’s ability behind the sticks was still paramount, they eventually plumped for Healy, the only gloveman with more than 200 dismissals in the decade. Among those with 100 catches and stumpings or more, only Gilchrist effect more dismissals per game. ‘Heals’ also maintained an excellent strike-rate, making him well-suited to the No.7 role in this team.
Wasim Akram (c)
Matches: 195, 279 wickets @ 23.40, economy rate: 3.83, 3 five-fors, BBI: 5-15; 2,374 runs @ 17.71, strike-rate: 17.71, HS: 86
The sultan of swing, the man with more wickets in the decade than any other, and one of the best economy rates too. While he’s normally inseparable from Waqar Younis in any XI, it’s his work in a tournament where the other W wasn’t present that fully nails his spot in this team. He was instrumental in Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup triumph, taking 18 wickets in 18.77, including two in two balls to wrestle an in-the-balance final firmly Pakistan’s way.
Matches: 133, 212 wickets @ 24.27, economy rate: 4.18, 1 five-for, BBI: 5-33
The final of the 1999 World Cup saw Shane Warne, the ODI bowler, at the peak of his powers. Consecutive four-fors, including one of the great ODI spells in the semi, had dragged Australia to the first of what would be three consecutive titles. You would have got excellent odds then on that being his last World Cup game, as a doping ban kept him out of the 2003 tournament which the leggie had already said would be his last. The 1996 World Cup also bore witness to some vintage knockout Shane, with his 4-36 reducing West Indies from 165-2 in pursuit of 208 to win to 202 all out.
Matches: 111, 210 wickets @ 19.41, economy rate: 4.22, 5 five-fors, BBI: 5-29
The only man in the Nineties to take more than 100 ODI wickets at an average under 20; in fact, it’s a feat that has only been achieved by three others (Sir Richard Hadlee, Joel Garner and Rashid Khan) in any decade. He still holds the record for the fastest bowler to the milestone of 200 ODI wickets, and he was key in Pakistan’s march to the 1999 World Cup final too, claiming 17 wickets in the competition – only Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, and Geoff Allott managed more.
Matches: 121, 206 wickets @ 21.04, economy rate: 4.04, 2 five-fors, BBI: 6-23
White Lightning was lethal during the Nineties, helping South Africa become the dominant side of the latter part of the decade, even if they didn’t get the world title to crown their superiority. That was through little fault of Donald’s; only Klusener, among South Africans, claimed more than his 16 wickets, with his 4-32 in the semi-final keeping Australia to 213, which the Proteas really should have been able to chase…
Disagree with the panel’s selections? You can pick your ODI team of the 1990s here.