Over the years, cricket has produced not just great but legendary batsmen. However, a stunning pattern can be seen when identifying such batsmen. They have been tremendously short in height, but not short of success. Only the likes of 5” 11’ Rahul Dravid and 6”2’ Jacques Kallis are a few exceptions to this theory. This piece talks about those who comply with it and have done wonders in more or less, all formats of the game till date.
1) Sir Donald Bradman (Australia) – 5′ 7″
The original Little Master that he was, Bradman was the first man to prove that height is no issue when it came to batting as he dominated any opposition that came in his way.
Being only 5 feet 7 inches tall, he was so magnificent that Douglas Jardine, the England captain in the 1932-33 Ashes Series in Australia had to come up with the Bodyline way of bowling to trouble him. Even as England won that series 4-1, Bradman averaged above 56 in the four Tests he featured in.
In a career spanning exactly two decades, the Don from Adelaide scored 6996 runs in 52 Tests at a superhuman average of 99.94 and is till date considered one of the finest cricketers to have taken the cricket field.
2) Sachin Tendulkar (India) – 5′ 5″
Though being as diminutive as 5 feet 5 inches, Sachin Tendulkar has plundered runs against all bowling attacks in the world for the last 22 years and is likely to carry on for a while. The ultimate compliment he could have ever received was from the Don himself who confided to his wife that Tendulkar batted exactly like him.
His first Test against short-pitched bowling was on his Test debut against Pakistan in 1989, at a tender age of 16. He was hit in one of the Tests by a snorter of a delivery by the pacy Waqar Younis and his shirt was soaked in blood in no time. But these were his first signs of greatness when he carried on batting despite that freak injury.
His achievements are humungous for any batsman to surpass in the future. Over 17000 runs in ODIS with an average of 45.16 and 15000 runs in Tests with an average of 56.26 are just outstanding figures but more importantly he gives fans their money’s worth when he plays the upper cut over third man and the thrilling square cuts and pull shots which very few batsmen these days can play with panache.
3) Sunil Gavaskar (India) – 5′ 5″
Tendulkar was the ideal successor of taking over the responsibility of being India’s batting bulwark from Gavaskar not just because of his batting abilities but also his height. Gavaskar incidentally is from the same city as Tendulkar but also has the same height as him and it is no wonder that he was an inspiration for Sachin.
Sunil Gavaskar made his debut in 1971 in the West Indies, a land of the most deadliest pace batteries of all time and despite his height, was able to hammer their bowlers so much so that he ended at 774 runs in the 4 Tests he played at an above Bradmansque average of 154.80, making him the highest run-getter ever in a debut series till date.
His solid, classical style of batting especially against the then-champions West Indies against whom he averaged 65.45 throughout his career made him the first man on the planet to score 10,000 runs in Test cricket and fittingly broke Bradman’s record of 29 hundreds, only to end with 34 of them. It was a world record for close to two decades until Tendulkar reached the magical number of 35 in the end of 2005. While Gavaskar’s record of 10,122 runs scored at an average of 51.12 was later broken by the feisty Aussie, Allan Border.
4) Brian Lara (West Indies) – 5′ 8″
The 5 foot 8 inches tall and stout Lara, from Santa Cruz, Trinidad proved his true batting potential after scoring his maiden century, and that too a double century against Australia at Sydney in 1993. From there on, there was no looking back for him even as he had to look up to bowlers such as Glenn McGrath in one of the most famous duels in cricketing history!
Lara had a certain amount of technique in his batting, but it was more about style and the typical Caribbean flair that got him so many runs in both Tests and ODIS, making him clearly Viv Richard’s successor as West Indies’ numero uno batsman. He shattered record after record, firstly scoring 375 against England at Antigua in 1994, surpassing Gary Sobers’ 364 against Pakistan. Following that, he scored an amazing 501 for Warwickshire in an English county match. Ten years later, and it was Antigua which was once again in the limelight when Lara regained the world record and became the first man to score a quadruple century, i.e, 400 and it was fatefully against England.
The Trinidadian may have only scored 34 centuries, which is relatively less in comparison to his contemporaries, yet most of his centuries have been big scores and that has helped West Indies win a few games or avoid embarrassing defeats as the match would go on to end in a draw.
Lara’s 11953 runs in 131 Test matches at an average of 52.88 was another record he held of being the highest run-getter in Tests until Sachin Tendulkar went above him in October 2008.
5) Steve Waugh (Australia) – 5′ 6″
Waugh may have been just 5 foot 6 inches tall, but he was able to take on any cricketer with sheer grit and intelligence. His confrontation with West Indies’ Curtly Ambrose in 1995 was brave yet comic to watch as Ambrose after one particular delivery gave his usual stare to the batsman, but Waugh was not intimidated by it and promptly decided to give it back to Ambrose by ordering him to go to his bowling mark. Ambrose had to be dragged back by his captain to his bowling mark and that was said to be a turning point in world cricket as Australia were no longer afraid of the West Indies.
Besides Waugh was the man to have promoted the theory of ‘mental disintegration’ of the opposition as captain of the Australian side and with that aggressive attitude, his batting too flourished big time. He gradually cut out the risky ‘hook’ shot and relied on playing defensively on the back foot or sway out of the way of a short-pitched delivery. He was able to play the pull though very well and that shot was the key in fetching him 10,927 runs in his illustrious 168-Test career at an average of 51.06. At one point of time, he also held the record of scoring the highest number of Test hundreds by an Australian, which is 32 until his successor Ricky Ponting broke it in 2006. Waugh’s first day hundred against England at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2003 would never be forgotten by Australian fans when he prevailed amidst all the drama happening, while a year he played his final international match at the same ground against India and was given a fitting farewell by his fans, team mates and opposition alike.
6) Javed Miandad (Pakistan) – 5′ 8″
Miandad was perhaps the pioneer of being ‘wholesome’ amongst Pakistani batsman of all time. Pakistan has always been a land of bowlers, especially fast ones but as a batsman he reveled throughout his career and ended as Pakistan’s highest run-getter in Tests with 8832 runs in 124 Tests at an average of 52.57, which in his days was considered way above average. Miandad was not of the classical school of batting, though he possessed a beautiful square cut even though being just 5 feet 8 inches tall.
He was also a fine early reverse-sweeper. But he worked the angles and spaces equally well; he knew above all how to score runs in almost any situation. These qualities presented themselves through his entire career and uniquely, not once did his career average fall below fifty. Barring Inzamam-ul-Haq, probably no batsman has won as many matches for Pakistan.
There was often a touch of genie about his finest innings, like his two hundreds in successive Tests in the West Indies in 1987-88 or the big double hundreds against India and England. Problems on the bouncy pitches of Australia or the swinging ones of England were overcome with time and, if people questioned his record against the West Indies, they never did after that 1987-88 series.
He was versatile as well, as evidenced by a marvelous ODI career. Here his supreme running – it is said that he was one of the early pioneers of aggressive ODI running – shot placement and mental strength produced outstanding results.
Indian fans will never forgive him for the last-ball six he hit off Chetan Sharma at Sharjah in 1986, which not only won Pakistan the final of the tournament against the then-world champion Indian side but also changed the course of India-Pakistan cricket in the future as Pakistan got a upper hand against their arch rivals.
7) Sanath Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka) – 5′ 7″
The 5 feet 7 inches Matara mauler was a joy to watch when he was in elements with the bat and although his run-scoring was not so prolific in Tests, he was a revelation in ODIS and is the fastest player ever to have reached the milestones of 12,000 and 13,000 in the format and has the third highest number of centuries of all time.
It’s tough to believe that for the first five years of his career, Sanath Jayasuriya was considered a bowler who could bat a bit. As with anyone who relied so much on extraordinary hand-eye coordination, there were rough patches but every now and then, he would produce an innings of supreme power.
Jayasuriya is known for both cuts and pulls along with his trademark shot, a lofted cut over point which is extremely hard to hit for a man as short in height as him but that showed his confidence to a huge extent. He was the key player in Sri Lanka’s victory in the 1996 Cricket World Cup, where he was adjudged Man of the Tournament in recognition of his all-round contributions. His philosophy towards batting is summarized by an all-aggression approach and over the years he has dominated almost every one day bowling combination that he has faced at one stage or another. Batsmen such as Adam Gilchrist and Virender Sehwag have similar styles.
Sanath Jayasuriya held dubious records, which were almost not achieved by a single cricket player. He held the records for the fastest fifty (against Pakistan 17 balls), fastest 100 (against Pakistan 48 balls) and fastest 150 (against England in 95 balls) in ODI cricket. Though he lost the fastest 100 to Shahid Afridi and fastest 150 to Shane Watson, he still holds the record for the fastest fifty. Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar are the only players in history to have 4 ODI scores over 150.
Along with his opening partner Romesh Kaluwitharana, Jayasuriya revolutionized One Day International batting with his aggressive tactics during the1996 Cricket World Cup, a strategy they first tried on the preceding tour of Australia. The tactic used was to take advantage of the early fielding restrictions by smashing the opening bowlers to all parts of the cricket ground, particularly by lofting their deliveries over the mandatory infielders, rather than the established tactic of building up momentum gradually. This was a novel but potentially match-winning tactic at that time, and Sri Lanka, who had previously never made it out of the preliminary rounds, went on to win the World Cup without a single defeat.
8) Virender Sehwag (India) – 5′ 7″
And how can Sehwag be forgotten to be mentioned in this list? The Nawab of Najafgarh’s chubbiness and short height have not stopped him from being an explosive run-machine for India possessing over 8000 runs in both formats of the game. Being 5 feet 7 inches tall only, he has taken a leaf out of his idol and mentor Sachin Tendulkar’s batting and has looked to bat as freely as possible, focusing on giving India quick starts in ODIS and scoring big yet fast in Tests. And he has not done a bad job so far!
His upper cut over third man is the stuff of the folklore and is an effective shot in any format of the game. This shot is so breathtaking to watch that Pepsi, the world’s second largest cola brand decided to earn the rights to endorse this shot by calling it the ‘Upar Cut’ in Hindi, during the World Cup 2011 and Sehwag, alongside Bollywood heartthrob Ranbir Kapoor featured in an advertisement for it.
He currently holds the world record for having the highest individual score in a one-day innings with that magnificient 219 against West Indies at Indore recently and is the only man alongside Don Bradman and Brian Lara to have two triple tons in Test cricket. So as long as Sehwag continues playing like this, fans are assured of high-quality entertainment and cricket for sure will remain a richer game. Not to mention, India’s reign as ODI champions should continue beyond 2015 as well.
There could be others in this list such as Rahul Dravid who is 5 feet 11 inches tall, Jacques Kallis whose height is the same as Dravid and Ricky Ponting who is 5 feet 10 inches tall but the maximum height of a short batsman ideally must be 5 feet 9 inches. Although it is my opinion, yet you are unlikely to find many tall batsmen who have been legendary in the history of the game and this is ironic. Short batsmen find it easier to play front-foot shots and can more or less play the back-foot shots with aplomb, as they gradually gain experience and practice harder in the nets.