Once you reach the elite level of any sport, you arrive at a point where the normal distinctions no longer apply. Everyone on the ground is exceptionally talented and gifted, or they wouldn’t be there. It’s not like games I have played where everyone is average at best and then you have a ring-in who may as well be from a different planet, and can bat, bowl and field better than we’ll ever dream of.
At the top, everyone is that guy. I once saw Ray Bright, who played Test Cricket as a bowler—who never came close to a half century—pick up a cricket bat and it may as well have been something he organically extruded from his arm. It honestly seemed like a part of his body. A passable lower order bat at that level—if he came and played with us he’d break any batting record he wanted.
So, when we start from that point, there is much entertainment in finding ways to assign a place in the pecking order. There are endless variations, and can range from anywhere from “be lucky to get a game with my team” to “would walk into any team in the world”. It’s right at the top, though, where things get really interesting, when we try and work out the difference between someone who is exceptionally good, as opposed to an all-time great.
It’s even harder to work out whether a player will end up being judged by history as one of the best there ever was while they’re still playing. In the Australian cricket team of the early 2000s, the entire squad was very, very good or they wouldn’t have been playing. But, there was tendency get over excited about who was labelled an all-time great. While Shane Warne’s status will never be in dispute, now or in half a century, looking back it’s hard to agree with claims at the time that there has never been a better opener in the history of cricket than Matthew Hayden.
But this isn’t limited to sport. In our own lives it’s impossible to know if we might be living through the best days or years of our lives, or even whether we might be caught up in events that, unknown to us, future generations will consider history being made. Perhaps, the lesson is to try and ensure that we live each moment to its fullest, so that when we do look back on our lives we don’t feel regret at not making the most of our potential.