The best of British sportsmen

Ian Botham hits out.
Ian Botham hits out.
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Andy Murray’s impending retirement prompted a terrific debate about the greatest British sportsman of all time.

Here are my top five.....

Steve Redgrave with his gold medal from the Sydney Olympics.

Steve Redgrave with his gold medal from the Sydney Olympics.

1) Ian Botham is the greatest cricketer I have ever seen, even better than Geoff Boycott who was my hero until I realised what a selfish bore-off he actually was.

It’s wrong to say Botham won the Ashes single-handedly as Bob Willis was pretty handy in 1981 as well, but two incredible innings against an excellent Australian attack featuring the great Dennis Lillee will never be forgotten.

It was proper hitting over proper boundaries not like the T20 circus acts with heavy bats that dominate cricket these days.

Botham was also a great bowler and a fantastic slip fielder. If he’d had Mike Brearley’s brain for captaincy he’d have been the greatest cricketer the world has ever seen.

Ace fighter Andy Murray.

Ace fighter Andy Murray.

Extra points for thumping Aussie pain in the backside Ian Chappell.

2) Steve Redgrave competed in a punishing sport and yet peaked as a rower every fours years for 20 years to claim five Olympic gold medals. He won the final gold in Sydney despite having been diagnosed with diabetes.

He is the only man to have won five golds in an Olympic endurance event. His excellence at the biggest event of them all overshadowed the fact he also won nine World Championship golds and three Commonwealth Games golds.

Redgrave was a freak, the like of which will never be seen again.

Daley Thompson, a true all-round great.

Daley Thompson, a true all-round great.

3) Andy Murray won three Grand Slam titles and two Olympic Singles Gold medals despite playing in the toughest era of all time against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

His best performance for me though was carrying Great Britain to a Davis Cup victory when his refusal to be beaten and his commitment to his country (at a possible cost to his individual career) was awe-inspiring.

What a fighter, what an entertainer and what a hero.

4) Daley Thompson was about in the same athletics era as Steve Ovett and Sebastien Coe, but he overshadowed them both with his all-round ability as well as natural charisma.

Bobby Charlton (second left) with the World Cup.

Bobby Charlton (second left) with the World Cup.

Don’t listen to those who believe the decathlon is an event for someone average at 10 different disciplines. It requires strength, pace, great technique and a tactical brain.

5) Bobby Charlton won a World Cup and a European Cup. He was England’s most capped player and highest goalscorer (despite playing in midfield) for a time.

It was most pleasing when Gary Lineker failed to score enough penalties to overtake him as Charlton was an altogether more modest man.

Your nominations for best British Sports Star are in tomorrow’s Peterborough Telegraph (January 24).