If there is a single position in the batting line-up on which the success of the team hinges, it would be No. 3.
It is the openers who usually face the wrath of new ball bowlers and unknown demons in the pitch. Yet, why is it that the No. 3 is usually where the best batsman in a team walks out?
The No. 3 dons multiple roles. Some days, he has to play the pacers on a green track, probably the second ball of the match. Some days, he has to deal with the spinners. Some days, he has to consolidate a big opening stand and make sure it doesn’t go to waste due to a flurry of wickets. Some days, he has to dig in really deep to hold an end, especially when both openers walk off early.
The game has seen some fascinating No. 3 batsmen who had an aura of invincibility around them. Some were bullies, some walls and some giant boulders that simply wouldn’t budge.
Here, we take a look at the 5 greatest No. 3 batsmen of all time along with honourable mentions. The list is not based on statistics, but on the value these batsmen offered to their teams.
Here are the runs that the greatest batsmen in history scored at the No. 3 position.
And now, here is the list:
1. Don Bradman
No one has ever owned the game with a willow in his hand like Don did. The colossus of cricket scored in excess of 5,000 runs at No. 3, holding records for highest series average for 4 or more Tests, highest ratio of centuries and double centuries per innings and the greatest average.
These are numbers which are part of cricketing folklore. What is interesting to note though is that this No. 3 dominated cricket like no other athlete has dominated his game, based on standard deviation from mean in any sport. Having played the game in an era of uncovered pitches, long before helmets were developed, Don intimidated bowlers like none other, once scoring more than 300 runs in a single day of a Test.
Why he makes this list – Simple. He was the best for any position.
Trademark – Unorthodox stance and unconventional bat swing.
2. Ricky Ponting
He was like his Australian predecessor, an aggressive No. 3 who made many a victory possible for Steve Waugh’s Invincibles through his sheer domination of bowling attacks. With 9,900 runs from No. 3, Ponting walked in after one of the most successful Test opening pairs of all time, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.
The man, who would go on to captain Australia later, was known for his pulls and hooks off the back-foot and fierce square cuts. His attacking instinct probably found its match in Harbhajan Singh’s spin, the only time when the great Australian came undone.
Why he makes this list – The most attacking No. 3 since the great Don himself.
Trademark – Forward shuffle and pull.
3. Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid is the exact opposite of Ponting when it comes to style of playing. He was the classic No. 3, holding the record for most runs at that position, 10,524.
The man who has faced more balls than anyone in Test cricket, weathered many a storm for India before Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir combined to give India more consistent starts. The Wall, as he is fondly remembered, represents technical perfection, scoring centuries even in the twilight of his career, the most memorable being those in his penultimate series in England which India lost 4-0.
Dravid’s heroics with the bat had been critical in India’s best phase overseas under Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy. His century at Wanderers, South Africa, during Mohammed Azharuddin’s captaincy that almost gave India a rare overseas victory against Hansie Cronje’s men, and his double ton against Australia at Adelaide that allowed Sourav’s team to draw a series down under in 2003, are the highlights of a remarkable career.
Though one of the game’s greatest gentlemen, it was once said of him, ‘all you need to do is look into Dravid’s eyes to understand what aggression is’.
Why he makes the list – The most prolific, but unassuming No. 3 ever.
Trademark – Flawless and decisive footwork.
4. Wally Hammond
One of the big four of cricket, along with W.G. Grace, Bradman and Jack Hobbs, Walter Hammond, averaging over 58 with 22 centuries, was once the game’s most prolific international run-scorer, setting a record with 7,000 runs, 3,400 of which came at No. 3.
Jack Hobbs’ true successor, as some call him, Hammond scored in excess of 50,000 first-class runs with a staggering 167 tons. The massive-shouldered, deep-chested, well-built Hammond was a rarity in that he was far more nimble with his feet, both front and back, than it seemed possible for someone of his stature.
Why he makes the list – Dominated his team’s greatest nemesis, Don’s Invincibles.
Trademark – Stylish drives.
5. Viv Richards
Scoring almost 3,500 runs at No. 3, Sir Vivian Richards was not the classical No. 3 batsman like Dravid, nor the controlled aggressor like Ponting. He was something else entirely. If his swagger didn’t get you, his glare would.
Known for intimidating the greatest fast bowlers of his time, including Jeff Thomson, hooking and pulling without ever needing headgear, Richards believed in blasting the ball. Not until Virender Sehwag started treating bowlers with disdain throughout the day, did we come across a player who played with a single-minded purpose of annihilating the opposition attack.
The only argument against his making the list was that he didn’t face the greatest bowlers of his era, who played in his team. However, the fact that he was the best batsman in the best Test cricket team ever, arguably, settles the case.
Why he makes the list – The original master blaster.
Trademark – Flick off the pads from outside off.
Kumar Sangakkara, with 10 double tons, the most after Sir Bradman, just overtaking the great Brian Lara, has scored in excess of 6,000 runs from No. 3. One of the game’s greatest wicket-keeper batsmen, Sanga is almost worthy of a spot in the above list.
The only criticism, if any, against him, is that many of his big scores came on flat Sri Lankan wickets. However, that could also be considered a tad unfair considering the number of times the sharp and witty glove-man has doled his team out of trouble.Published 11 Aug 2014, 23:50 IST