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From Wasim to KP, great players who never topped the ICC Test rankings

by Ryan Smart 3 minute read

The top spots in the ICC Test rankings for batting and bowling are currently occupied by Australians, with Steve Smith and Pat Cummins topping their respective charts.

Taking a glance through this ranking search tool that takes into account historical rankings, there are a host of greats who didn’t quite reach the top spot in the ICC Test rankings.

Here’s a look at 10 players who you might be surprised to read never topped the list:

Kevin Pietersen

Peak Batting Ranking: 3 (18/12/2006)

Kevin Pietersen’s peak batting ranking was recorded in the midst of an Ashes series to forget for England.

Despite the 5-0 defeat in 2006/07, the flamboyant batsman was one of the few positives from an otherwise miserable tour, putting on a partnership of 310 with Paul Collingwood at Adelaide before an excellent 70 in the subsequent Test in Perth kept England in the game.

Four years later, Pietersen took Australia apart again in Adelaide, scoring 227 and helping England to an eventual series win, but did not break past his previous peak ranking.

Sir Alastair Cook

Peak Batting Ranking: 2 (04/09/2011)

He retired as England’s highest ever Test runscorer in the summer of 2018, but Sir Alastair Cook never quite reached the top of the ICC Test rankings.

The opener did, however, make it to number two, off the back of a winter which saw him savage Australian bowling attacks and an impressive home summer that followed in 2011. Cook averaged 94 across 12 Tests in the year preceding his career peak. He was kept off top spot by South African legend Jacques Kallis.

VVS Laxman

Peak Batting Ranking: 6 (02/07/2011)

It may be a surprise to see that the Indian great had a peak ranking as low as number six but VVS Laxman’s accomplishments speak for themselves.

He scored over 8,000 Test runs at an average of 46, including a score of 281 against Australia in Kolkata to set up one of the all-time great comeback victories.

Martin Crowe

Peak Batting Ranking: 3 (02/02/1993)

One of New Zealand’s finest ever cricketers, Martin Crowe’s peak batting ranking came relatively late in his career – he would go on to retire from Test cricket in 1995 – and ahead of his last series as captain, in February 1993.

He had scored a tremendous century against Sri Lanka in Colombo the previous December, and although New Zealand would go on to lose the Test by nine wickets, Crowe’s 107 gave them a glimmer of hope from what seemed like an impossible situation.

George Headley

Peak Batting Ranking: 27 (02/04/1946)

George Headley was a player who sadly lost some of his best years to World War II. The West Indian batsman averaged over 66.71 from his 19 pre-War Tests and player only a further three Tests following the end of the War.

He played Test cricket until 1954, by which time he was 45 years old, and his final average of 60.83 ranks among the best to have ever played the game. Had his career not overlapped with the greatest batsman of them all, Donald Bradman, Headley would almost certainly have occupied first place in the rankings at one point or another. His peak rating of 915 is the joint 25th highest of all time, level with current New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson.

Mitchell Johnson

Peak Bowling Ranking: 2 (10/03/2009)

Destroyer-in-chief of England batsmen in the 2013/14 Ashes, Mitchell Johnson’s peak bowling ranking was recorded before the start of his first trip to battle for the famous urn in 2009.

He truly came to prominence during the Australian summer of 2008/09, when he took figures of 8-61 against South Africa at the WACA.

Johnson’s ability to create pace, bounce and swing was there for all to see. The consistent accuracy, it proved, wasn’t quite there yet, but he offered England – and the world – a reminder of exactly what he was about several years later.

Wasim Akram

Peak Bowling Ranking: 2 (14/10/1990)

Perhaps the greatest left-arm seamer of all-time, this is one of the more surprising entries on this list. But indeed, Wasim Akram never topped the ICC Test bowling rankings.

He took 414 Test wickets for Pakistan at an average of 23.62, and made his debut at just 18 years of age. He is still the highest Test wicket-taker for his country.

Akram’s peak ranking was recorded in late 1990, after Pakistan’s victory in the first Test of the series against New Zealand. The left-armer was at his masterful best, taking eight wickets on his side’s way to an innings victory.

Anil Kumble

Peak Bowling Ranking: 2 (22/10/1995)

Despite being third on the all-time Test wicket-takers’ list – although potentially to be soon overtaken by James Anderson – Anil Kumble’s peak ICC Test bowling ranking was only number two.

Kumble recorded match figures of 90120 in a victory against New Zealand in October 1995, which helped India to a win inside three days, and propelled the spinner to his highest-ever ranking.

Courtney Walsh

Peak Bowling Ranking: 2 (30/07/1990)

It wasn’t all that long ago that Courtney Walsh held the record for the most wickets ever taken in Test cricket. Alongside his long-time teammate Curtly Ambrose, Walsh was part of one of the most feared opening bowling duos of all time. Walsh was never quite able to achieve Ambrose’s dominance in the world rankings, however.

The fast bowler recorded 519 wickets in a Windies shirt, at an average of 24.44 but never held top spot. He first reached second spot in the rankings in 1990, where he was kept off the top by fellow West Indies quick Malcolm Marshall. Remarkably, Walsh actually achieved his highest rating (867) 10 years later in 2000. That time round, he was bettered by both Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock.

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