What does a bowler do? He takes wickets. Over the years in ODI cricket, we have seen some of the greatest bowlers in the world showcase their talent. Their bodies kept going on and they filled their career with wickets.
Picking up 100 wickets is a big achievement but managing to capture 200, 300, 400, or even 500 wickets is greatness coupled with fitness. Let’s take a look at the Top 10 wicket-takers in ODI cricket.
#10. Sanath Jayasuriya- 323
Known predominantly for his aggressive batting at the start of the innings, Sanath Jayasuriya established himself as more than just a part-time spinner throughout his 22-year long career as he took 323 wickets - 25 more than Lasith Malinga.
Jayasuriya is the third highest wicket-taker for Sri Lanka in ODIs with his average being 36.75 and his economy rate being pretty decent at 4.78.
The former Sri Lankan skipper had 4 five-wicket hauls to his name with his maiden five-wicket hauls in ODIs being his best figures in ODI cricket- 6/29 against England at Moratuwa, Colombo in 1993. This was the spell that propelled Arjuna Ranatunga to use Jayasuriya more frequently in the bowling.
#9. Anil Kumble- 337
The third highest wicket-taker in Tests takes 9th spot in ODIs, Jumbo remains one of the best exponents of spin bowling in the world, and the best spinner India ever produced. Beginning his career in 1990, Kumble established himself as a quality spin bowler in Tests in 1992.
However, it wasn’t until 1993 that Kumble proved his mettle in the limited-overs format when he took a breathtaking spell of 6/12 against West Indies at Kolkata in 1993. That spell remained a record for an Indian bowler in ODIs for more than two decades until Stuart Binny broke it in 2014.
Kumble continued to dazzle for India with the ball as he ended his ODI career with 337 wickets at an average of 30.89 and at an economy of 4.30.
Despite taking so many wickets, Kumble had only two five-wicket hauls to his name, with his other five-for coming in 1994 against New Zealand at Wellington which helped India beat the Kiwis by 12 runs. Kumble was also the highest wicket-taker at the 1996 World Cup with 15 wickets at an average of 18.73.
One of Jayasuriya’s finest and most important ODI spells would be his 3/12 against India at Eden Gardens in the 1996 World Cup semi-final where he picked up the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar for 65 that eventually triggered India’s collapse from 98/1 to 120/8.
#8. Brett Lee- 380
Our first pacer on this list comes at No.8, former Aussie speedster Brett Lee. Across a 12-year old career, Brett Lee took 380 wickets at an impressive average of 23.36 and at an economy of 4.76 with 9 five-wicket hauls and best bowling figures of 5/22 against South Africa at Melbourne in 2006.
Having made his debut in 2000, it took only 6 matches for Lee to take a five-for as he took 5/27 against India at Adelaide on Republic Day.
Well known for his quick bowling, Brett Lee performed consistently well against all big teams but he produced some of his best performances against England, India, New Zealand, and West Indies, picking up 65, 55, 52, and 49 wickets against them respectively.
Brett Lee had a big hand in Australia’s 2003 World Cup win, as he was their highest wicket-taker during the competition and the second highest wicket-taker overall with 22 wickets at an average of just 17.90.
#7. Glenn McGrath- 381
One of the greatest fast bowlers of all-time, Glenn McGrath is the highest Australian wicket-taker in ODI cricket with 381 wickets at an average of 22.02 (which is the least on this list) and at an economy rate of 3.88.
McGrath was never a very fast bowler like his former teammate Brett Lee. Instead, his bowling was based on accurate line and length which made him an economical bowler as well as a wicket-taking one.
The tall bowler was one of the biggest reasons why Australia were such a dominant team during the late 90s and early 2000s and his partnership with Brett Lee fortified Australia’s bowling unit. McGrath had 7 five-wicket hauls to his name
'Pidge', as he was known, had a huge role in all three of Australia’s World Cup wins from 1999-2007.
He was the second highest wicket-taker at the 1999 tournament with 18 wickets, the third highest wicket-taker at the 2003 World Cup with 21 wickets, and the highest wicket-taker at the 2007 World Cup (where he was the Player of the Tournament) with 26 wickets which is the most number of wickets at a single World Cup, bettering Chaminda Vaas’ 23 in 2003.
Glenn McGrath is the highest wicket-taker in World Cup history with 71 wickets and his best bowling figures of 7/15 has also come at the World Cup against Namibia in 2003.
#6. Shaun Pollock- 393
One of the greatest all-rounders to play the game, Shaun Pollock is the highest wicket-taker for South Africa in ODIs with 393 wickets at an average of 24.50 and at an impressive economy rate of 3.67 which is the least for any bowler with more than 250 ODI wickets.
Pollock has five five-wicket hauls to his name with a spell of 6/35 against West Indies in 1999 being his best spell in ODI cricket.
Pollock formed a lethal fast-bowling partnership first with Allan Donald during the mid 90s and later with Makhaya Ntini during the latter part of his career which made South Africa a formidable bowling unit.
Pollock is also South Africa’s second highest wicket-taker in World Cups behind Allan Donald with 31 wickets.
#5. Shahid Afridi - 395
The greatest all-rounder to have come out of Pakistan, Shahid Afridi has taken the most number of wickets by a Pakistan spinner with 395 wickets at an average of 34.51 and at an economy rate of 4.62.
Even though Afridi is known for his aggressive batting, he considers himself to be a much better bowler.
Predominantly a leg-spinner, Afridi had a variety of deliveries in his arsenal that included the off-break and medium-pace which would go up to 130 km/h. 'Boom-boom' has 9 five-wicket hauls to his name, which is the second most for a Pakistan bowler and the highest for a leg spinner.
A spell of 7/12 against West Indies in 2013 which is the second best ODI bowling figures of all-time is Shahid Afridi’s best bowling figures in ODIs.
Afridi was also the joint highest wicket-taker at the 2011 World Cup with 21 wickets.
#4. Chaminda Vaas- 400
One of the greatest fast bowlers of all-time and Sri Lanka’s greatest fast bowler ever, Chaminda Vaas has taken 400 ODI wickets at an average of 27.53 and at an economy rate of 4.18 with four five-wicket hauls to his name.
Vaas holds the record for the best ODI bowling figures of 8/19 against Zimbabwe in 2001.
Known for his accurate line and length, Vaas is the youngest bowler to take 300 wickets in ODIs as well as the only bowler to have taken a hat-trick in the first three balls of a match, having done so against Bangladesh at the 2003 World Cup where he ended up with figures of 6/25.
Vaas would end the tournament with 23 wickets which at the time, was a record for the most number of wickets at a single World Cup. He is the fourth highest wicket-taker in World Cups with 49 wickets, having been a part of the team that won the World Cup in 1996.
Despite his best bowling figures coming against Zimbabwe, Vaasy has taken a bunch of wickets against India and Pakistan, having picked up 70 and 61 wickets against both teams respectively.
#3. Waqar Younis- 416
One of the greatest fast bowlers ever, Waqar Younis has taken the most number of wickets for any right-hand pacer with 416 wickets at an average of 23.84 and at an economy of 4.68. Waqar has the most number of five-wicket hauls in ODIs with 13 fifers to his name. His 7/36 against England at Leeds in 2001 is his best bowling figures in ODIs which was a Pakistan record for more than a decade.
As a pacer, Waqar’s biggest credibility was his ability to reverse-swing the ball at a very high speed. He was also renowned for his accurate in-swinging yorkers which earned him the nickname “The Toe-Crusher”.
With Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis formed one of the deadliest fast bowling duos in cricket. Had his career not been cut short in his early 30s, then Waqar Younis could have taken much more wickets and who knows, maybe he would have been a little higher than No.3 on this list.
#2. Wasim Akram- 502
Probably the greatest pacer to have come out of Pakistan, Wasim Akram was the first ever bowler to have taken 500 wickets in ODIs.
He has 502 wickets to his name at an average of 23.52 and at an economy rate of 3.89 with his best bowling figures being 5/15 against Zimbabwe at Karachi in 1993.
One of the pioneers of reverse-swing bowling, Wasim Akram formed one of the most lethal bowling attacks in the history of the sport with Waqar Younis.
He is the highest wicket-taker for Pakistan in World Cups with 55 wickets which is the third most overall.
Akram had a huge role in Pakistan winning the 1992 World Cup where he was the highest wicket-taker with 18 wickets including a match-winning spell of 3/49 in the final against England where he also impressed with the bat, scoring 33 from 18 balls.
#1. Muttiah Muralitharan- 534
Having seen most of the greatest exponents of bowling earlier in the list, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as to who takes the first place.
The Sri Lankan maestro picked up 534 wickets at an average of 23.08 and at an economy rate of 3.93 with 10 five-wicket hauls to his names, the most for any spinner.
Murali revolutionalized the art of wrist-spin and his doosra and top-spin more than often baffled even the most skillful of batsmen. Murali’s best ODI figures are 7/30 against India at Sharjah in 2000.
Murali has performed brilliantly against India, picking up 74 wickets against them. He has picked the same number of wickets against New Zealand but his most number of wickets against any nation is 96 against Pakistan. Muttiah Muralitharan is also the second highest wicket-taker in World Cup history with 68 wickets.