One of the quirks that seems intrinsic to the game of cricket is the overwhelming need on the part of its patrons to create a hierarchy of sorts amongst its finest exponents. This hierarchy manifests itself either in terms of a clear cut ranking system – an example of which was the recently released 'ICC all time player rankings' or through the creation of an 'all star playing XI', which in some way claims to establish the superiority of an individual over those belonging to his ilk or time.
It has never been enough to view a player's mettle in isolation, no attempt to create a kind of vacuum around each cricketer's legacy that safeguards his contribution to the game. Indeed, comparison has been an everyday ignominy that has been heaped over scores of cricketers without providing them any recourse to escape. The perverse joy in creating a feudal structure amongst the game's greats has not only made great commercial sense, but has also been the perfect way by which mortals have made sense of the universe of cricketing talent. In a world obsessed with the connotations of designation and title, it is only natural that a ranking system or an ICC test/one day team of the year throws light on the who's who of the game.
That this malaise has not been the exclusive preserve of the all knowing fan and the game's administrators, points to the ease with which anyone can by ensnared by it. Ex players either immediately on retirement (Shane Warne) or after having acquired the benefit of hindsight in the most literal sense (Richie Benaud in as late as 2004), have also indulged in the vicarious thrill of putting down their eminent thoughts on the matter. After all there is nothing better than an expert opinion to feed the frenzy.
But, perhaps this is an extremely cynical stand. Surely these rankings are done with the noblest of intentions and perhaps are an attempt to educate the coming generation of fans about the existence of players who would otherwise be forgotten by the sands of time. Surely, those blessed with the ability to discern or benefitting from the experience of playing alongside, are duty bound to educate by way of these long lists. Surely they are an indication of the benchmarks set by the game and a feather in the caps of the individuals who inhabit these sacred spaces.
And so shall continue this relentless business of judgment. One man's hero, another man's fall guy. I meanwhile, shall sit back and reminisce those languid square cuts of Damien Martyn – a forgotten delight in these claptraps of everyday comparison.