Presenting the best bowlers in One-Day internationals - taken through the Impact Index (II) statistical system.
Every one of them a name to reckon with in Test cricket too. This perhaps suggests that 50-over cricket may actually have more in common with Tests than T20. Time will tell.

All figures updated till December 31st 2010.
Minimum matches considered: 75.

What the columns mean

Matches -The number of matches in which the player bowled (matches with no result not included, as impact cannot be calculated there).
Top/Middle order wkts II - Wickets taken from no. 1 to no. 8 in the batting order, seen through II.
Lower order wkts II - Wickets taken from no. 8 to 11, seen through II.
Economy II - Ratio of bowler's economy rate to standard economy rate in each match.
Bowling II - Total wickets taken and runs saved, in each match context.

1) Joel Garner (1977-1987)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
97 1.65 0.10 0.55 2.35

Quite overwhelmingly the greatest ODI bowler - both in legend and statistics.

Conventional averages tell his story fairly eloquently - 146 wickets at 19 apiece and an economy rate of 3.1. Impact Index is even more articulate - he has the highest Economy Rate II in the history of the ODI game (0.55).

His Top/Middle order Wickets II (1.65) is amongst the highest in the ODI game.

Given how many of his equally illustrious colleagues he had to compete with when it came to the opposition batsmen, it is not surprising he got only 7 II 5s. What is astonishing is that 3 of those were Series Defining performances, which proves how much of a big match player he was.

The famous toe-crushing yorker delivered from a height of about 11 feet took him to heights no other bowler has ever reached.

2) Shane Bond (2002-2010)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
79 1.88 0.15 0.18 2.26

For those surprised to see him here, bet they don't know his conventional figures. 147 wickets at 21 apiece and an economy rate of 4.3.

Not convincing still for him to be ranked so high? Ok, how's this - 90 wickets in the 43 matches New Zealand won with him in the team - bowling average 17, economy rate 3.9.

Still doesn't wash? We need Impact Index now. How about this - the highest proportion of wickets per match taken by any bowler in ODI history? It's true - whether top or middle order wickets, or the lower order, Bond took the maximum wickets to fall on a match-by-match basis. His Wickets Tally II itself is an awesome 2.03.

Shane Bond - premature end to potential greatness.

He was the best fast bowler of the decade just gone by and it is tragic that he played just 18 Tests and less than 100 ODIs. His suspect fitness had something to do with that (strange for a former policeman). As had cricket politics - playing for the ICL got him banned for 2 years - and if anyone is looking for a reason to prove how T20 damaged the game, that should be one of the most legitimate ones.

3) Glenn McGrath (1993-2007)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
244 1.60 0.13 0.39 2.17

Australia's greatest match-winning fast bowler has impressive numbers on the conventional scale - 382 wickets at 22 apiece and an economy rate of 3.9. Very good, but how great? Quite a few other bowlers have similar numbers.

Impact Index makes it clearer by breaking down the categories decisively. Turns out McGrath is not in the top 5 in any of the specific bowling categories - but he is there in most of the top 10. Pure consistency and all-round excellence.

His bowling figures in winning matches (Australia won 68% of the matches he played in) - 301 wickets at 18 apiece (ER 3.6). Let II tell this tale right - three Series Defining performances - the best by a fast bowler (with no batting pretensions) in ODI history.

And all he ever really did was get the basics right. But he did it again and again and again. And again.

4) Muttiah Muralitharan (1993-2010)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
327 1.57 0.11 0.35 2.13

The greatest spinner to play ODI cricket, and the greatest sub-continental bowler of all time.

517 wickets at 23 apiece (ER 3.9) sounds remarkable for its longevity (and is) but how does it sound different otherwise from say, McGrath or any other outstanding bowler?

Impact Index tells you how - his 25 II 5s are the highest any bowler has. And 4 of those are Series Defining performances - the highest by a pure bowler. He is quite simply the biggest match-winning bowler in ODI cricket - or any cricket actually, but that's another story.

5) Brett Lee (2000-2009)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
175 1.89 0.11 0.08 2.13

There are some bowlers who bolster their wickets tally by getting the smaller fry on a regular basis. Not Brett Lee. According to Impact Index, he has taken the highest proportion of top/middle order wickets in the history of the game (1.89).

His high Bonus II points also suggest outstanding performances against the stronger teams. Two Series Defining performances reveal he was a big match player and a genuine match-winner.

Perhaps the fittest fast bowler in the game, which stood him in good stead as the game diversified and offered opportunities in new formats, where too he has excelled.

6) Michael Holding (1976-1987)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
101 1.52 0.11 0.40 2.09

Whispering Death is what he was called.but in ODI cricket, he kept the batsmen even quieter - his Economy Rate II is the fifth highest of all-time.

His 142 wickets at 21 (ER 3.3) decisively raises his Bowling II to levels of legend, and to think he was just one of four almost equally lethal bowlers, makes one wonder how batsmen of that era breathed while in the middle.

7) Sir Richard Hadlee (1973-1990)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
107 1.50 0.12 0.40 2.07

The greatest bowling all-rounder in the history of the game in both Tests and ODI. Outstanding on every count, and by a mile, New Zealand's greatest match-winner.

8) Shane Warne (1993-2005)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
189 1.65 0.10 0.19 2.05

Much like Lara in batting, Warne was a better Test bowler than in ODIs, though by no means did he damage his reputation even for second in the shorter version. His Top/Middle order wickets tally is actually the seventh-highest in ODI history.

Unlike Lara, Warne came from a winning side, the best in the world, and his contribution to Australia's greatest triumphs was immense. The semi-finals of 1996 and 1999 bear his stamp even now.

9) Saqlain Mushtaq (1995-2003)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
165 1.59 0.19 0.17 2.05

The fastest bowler in ODI history to reach 100 wickets, he was one of the best bowlers, against the best sides, in his heyday. His high Bonus II points reveal that, as do his 2 Series Defining performances.

He was a lethal bowler in the death overs, which perhaps explains why he has the highest Lower Order Wickets II in ODI history. A premature end to his career at 27 has been one of Pakistan's biggest losses.

10) Allan Donald (1991-2003)

Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
160 1.69 0.14 0.13 2.03

Without Allan Donald, South African cricket would not have become a force in their very first decade since their post-Apartheid return to the fold.

One of the great Test bowlers, Donald was central to South Africa's success in ODI cricket too. His Top/Middle-Order Wickets II is the fourth-highest in ODI history, but yet it is safe to say that he saved his best for Test cricket.

  Name Matches Top/Middle Order Wkts II Lower Order Wkts II Econ Rate II Bowling II
11 Shaun Pollock 290 1.42 0.08 0.46 2.00
12 Curtley Ambrose 174 1.39 0.11 0.42 1.98
13 Damien Fleming 87 1.66 0.09 0.19 1.97
14 Nathan Bracken 113 1.47 0.17 0.27 1.95
15 Makhaya Ntini 167 1.64 0.09 0.12 1.90
16 Wasim Akram 349 1.45 0.12 0.26 1.89
17 Harbhajan Singh 195 1.42 0.07 0.31 1.89
18 Craig McDermott 136 1.53 0.13 0.16 1.89
19 Waqar Younis 257 1.69 0.11 -0.04 1.83
20 Ewan Chatfield 110 1.34 0.10 0.33 1.83

Key observations:

Dwayne Bravo and Martin Snedden have the highest Partnership Breaking II points. Followed by Shane Warne, Paul Strang and Abdul Qadir.

The stingiest bowlers with the highest Economy Rate II are Joel Garner, Shaun Pollock, Curtley Amrose, Richard Hadlee and Michael Holding.

The bowlers with the highest Top/Middle-Order Wickets II (nos. 1-8) are Brett Lee, Shane Bond, Waqar Younis, Allan Donald and Damien Fleming.

The bowlers with the highest Lower-Order Wickets II (nos. 8-11) are Saqlain Mushtaq, Nathan Bracken, Fanny DeVilliers, Shane Bond and Umar Gul.

Harbhajan Singh is India's best ODI bowler, followed by Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble, Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan.

Alan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel and Fannie Devilliers are South Africa's best ODI bowlers.

Darren Gough is England's best ODI bowler. Followed by Andrew Flintoff, Ian Botham, Phil DeFreitas and Jimmy Anderson.

Saqlain Mustaq, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Abdul Qadir and Shoaib Akhtar are Pakistan's best ODI bowlers.

Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Shane Warne, Damien Fleming and Nathan Bracken are Australia's best ODI bowlers.

Muralitharan is predictably Sri Lanka's best ODI bowler, followed by Chaminda Vaas, Dharamsena, Zoysa and Dilhara Fernando.

West Indies' best ODI bowlers are Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Curtley Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall and Ian Bishop.

New Zealand's best ODI bowlers are Shane Bond, Richard Hadlee, Ewan Chatfield, Kyle Mills and Martin Snedden.

Zimbabwe's bowlers are Heath Streak, Paul Strang and Ray Price.

The best bowlers for Bangladesh in ODIs are Shakib Al Hasan, Abdur Razzak, Mashrafe Mortaza and Mohammed Rafique.

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