Let's look at some of the best of them country wise –
No better way to start than with the meanest and most hard working of them all. He not only did his best to out think the batsmen, but also out sledged them too and got into a tiff with them on occasion to get under their skin and distract them. He played 70 tests and took 355 wickets at23.92, these does not include the wickets he got playing un official World Series tests. He had a long and consistent bowling action, open chested and side ways delivery. He had an excellent bouncer and he always bowled at a very brisk pace. He was known for his duals with batsmen like Vivian Richards, Sunny Gavaskar and Javed Miandad and more often than not got the better of them.
Imran Khan called him the best fast bowler of his generation. Kris Srikanth considered him his idol, but perhaps the best compliment he ever got was from fellow fast bowler Richard Hadlee who said that for him it was a case of WWLD “ When things are going badly, I often think What would Lillee do? And the answer is ‘He would not give up’. Lillee’s think mane and big moustache only added to his persona of being a big, mean, fast bowler.
Lillee formed a great and most feared bowling partnership with Jeff Thomson. If Lillee was intimidating with his theatrics to go with his pace. Thompson would just bowl flat out fast, perhaps the fastest to ever do it. He made his debut in 1972 and played upto 1985 and so began the Lillee Thomson partnership. They bowled well in tandem and in particularly against England. Thomson himself summed up his whole approach in seven words “ I just shuffle in… and go whang” Batters who faced him, like Gavaskar, Richards, Lloyd rate him the fastest bowler they ever faced. Richards played into the 1990s and faced the likes of Waqar and Wasim as well
Until recently, he was the leading wicket-taker among fast bowlers with 563 wickets at 21.6. One of the modern greats, he perhaps was the most accurate bowler of all time, hardly ever erring in his line or length. With him, it was a test of patience with the batter. He bowled to a plan which he had made for a batsman, not deviating from the line or length he wished to ball, eventually leading to the batter to make a mistake. He was also very good at the mind games and usually openly declared to target the best batter/captain of the opposition before a series and more often than not, succeeded.
When he burst on to the scene in 1999 against India, he made many of the Indian batters look totally out of place to handle his kind of pace and took a fifer on debut. Never looked back since then and regularly clocked over the 150Ks mark. He took 310 wickets in tests and a further 380 wickets in only 221 ODI appearances. In fact he retired prematurely from Test cricket to prolong his ODI and T20I career. He always strove for pace rather than focus on accuracy and that perhaps is a reason why he couldn’t get to the same league of a Lillee or Mcgrath.
When Dennis Lillee first saw him as a young man, he reckoned that Johnson was the best bowler he had seen in a generation. He also felt that Johnson would go on and do great things for the country. It took him a while to realize his potential but he surely did do great things. When he was hot, he was hot!In fact, the 2013-14 Ashes series will forever be known as ‘Johnson’s Ashes’. He virtually terrorized the Englishmen. They were scared of his pace, scared to face him and it showed on the field and they capitulated before him. He took 37 wickets in that series at an average of13.97. Over all, he took 313 wickets at 28.4. He has also taken the most wickets against South Africa since their re-admission into test cricket.
He was nick named White Lightening, which should tell you how fast he was. His spells, mixed with hostility and accuracy had batsmen hopping. He got 330 wickets at an average of 22.25. Due to apartheid, he made his debut at the age of 25. Makes us wonder how many more wickets he would have got had got a few more years of international cricket. He was known for his swinging Yorkers and his dual against Michael Artherton of England during the 1998 series was one of the most intense duals ever.
Following in his father Peter’s footsteps, Pollock would end up with 421 wickets at 23.11. He was similar to Mcgrath in that he very seldom missed his line or length or had a bad day in the office. His out side off stump short of a good length delivery was so effective in South African conditions that other bowlers aspired to hit the same length.
Aptly nick named ‘Steyn Gun’. He is a very accurate and fast bowler. Recently became the highest wicket taker in tests for South Africa, going past Pollack. He now has 437 wickets ( as of February 17,2019) at 22.81 a piece. His Pace ( often bowls in the mid 140s and early 150s) and accuracy often took the conditions and pitch out of the equation and that is the reason for him being a successful bowler all over the world, be it England, Australia or even India. Where most foreign fast bowlers struggle in the sub continent at times. He has thrived and done well in Bangladesh and India and has won test matches for his country in both countries with his performance. In fact he boasts of the best record for any non Asian fast bowler in Asia. He also has the best average in wins and one of the best strike rates ( deliveries it takes to get a wicket) at 41.2 for every wicket.
The first too 300 wickets in international cricket, he was fast and bolstered the England attack in the 1950s – through the 60s. He was as outspoken as he was fiery. He ended with 307 wickets with an average of 21.57. He always played to win and often went into the opposing team dressing rooms before a match, not just to meet and greet but often to throw down a challenge or rile them up. The key to his success lay in his ability to bowl a good outswinger, which, at his pace, proved a lethal combination
The all time leading wicket taker amongst fast bowlers and it may not be long before he over takes Kumble to take third position overall. He is the master of swing, if there is the slightest hint of it, he will be a handful. Thus, has an outstanding record in England. Currently he stands at 575 wickets at 26.9. He has tremendous control which he banks up on when bowling in non swinging conditions or when trying to hold one end up to build pressure. To go with his swing, he has tremendous control and holds a good line outside off stump. His persistence, much like for Magrath, usually pays off and like Magrath he too makes sure that the batter makes an error first.
The land known for plucking raw pace bowling talents from the streets and into the international scene has produced a bucketload of fastbowling talent – we take a look at 4 of the best –
Not just an all rounder par excellence, he was a genuine fast bowler – someone who started bowling quicker in the later years compared to when he started. It was he who inspired the likes of Wasim, Waqar and Akhtar. His run up was a smooth gallop and it gave a good indication of the pace that was to follow. He was a natural swinger of the ball and in his later years even mastered reverse swing to become a deadly bowler at any time during a game. He picked up 361 test wickets at an average of 22.81. His legacy is also in the fact that he inspired a generation of Pakistanis to take up fast bowling.
Easily the best left arm fast bowler of all time, no one else comes close. If you ask any batter from the late 80s to the early 2000s, who was one of the toughest bowler they faced, there is a good chance that they will mention him. Not just fast, but wily as well. He relied on out thinking the batsmen, using his array of Yorkers, swingers, in dippers, bouncers and field placing. He had a short run up in his later years and therefore a whippy action to generate pace. And pace he did generate in abundance. He is still Pakistan’s leading wicket taker in tests with 415 at 23.62. He will always be remembered for getting Alan Lamb and Chris Lewis of consecutive deliveries, coming around the wicket to end England’s chances during the 1992 World cup final
The man who made his debut in the same test as Tendulkar. A genuine fast bowler, who was the king of the inswinging Yorker ( the toe crusher) and usually delivered it with great accuracy to have stumps flying all around. Injury in later years limited his pace but he was still a very accurate bowler. But Pace was his main weapon of destruction. He took 373 wickets at 23.56 and formed a deadly partnership with Wasim Akram. His Strike rate was 43.4, only behind Dale Steyn
The man with an incredibly long run up and the aeroplane celebration after taking a wicket. He was fast, intimidating and controversial. Never shy of getting into it with the opposition or with team mates as well on occasion. Controversies and Injuries prevented a very long career for him ,but he still finished with 178 wickets at 25.69. Brett Lee and him often took turns to deliver the fasted ball of the year when they were playing out their careers in parallel and Akhtar is one of the very few bowlers to have been clocked at over 160 kmph. He is perhaps most famously remembered for getting Dravid and Tendulkar out bowled ( by beating them for pace) off consecutive deliveries in the 2000 Kolkata test match.
Its not fair to pick out only a few from a land of great fast bowlers. I mean there is Wes Hall, Sylvester Clark, Andy Roberts,Charlie Griffeth, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Patrick Patterson and Ian Bishop to choose from. If we were to pick the best from among these, those would be –
Not your traditionally tall West Indian, but he was ferocious and quick. He was zippy which made him difficult to play in all conditions. Like Akram, another one of those who will always be picked as one of the toughest the batters of his generation faced. He took 376 wickets at 20.94. He had a vicious and well directed bouncer to go with the fact that he could swing the ball. This made him a scary proposition to face, add to it that he liked to rough up the batters. In 7 successive series between 1982-1986, he took 21 wickets or more each time, speaking of his consistency
Nicknamed Whispering Death by Dickie Bird because he could seldom here him approach and go past him as he bowled, so smooth was his run up. It belied what music the batsman was likely to face. He took 249 wickets at 23.68. He bowled very fast and was often thought to be faster than Thomson as well, who was at the time regarded as the fasted.
At 6 ft 8 inches, he was the tallest of the West Indian and used this height to unsettle the batsmen as the ball used to shoot up higher than what the batsmen expected after pitching. He not only generated more bounce but had a very accurate Yorker as well. Ended with 259 wickets at 20.98. His average in ODIs was less than 20. His 5/39 against England in the 1979 world cup remains the best ever bowling figures for a final.
Another tall fast bowler, ending up with 405 wickets at 20.99. like Garner, his height helped him get extra bounce making it difficult for batsmen. For much of his playing career, he topped the ICC rankings for bowlers. Usually a mild person, but once he got ruffled, he had it in him to tear through the opposition as Australia found out in Perth on 1993, where he took 7 wickets for 1 run in a spell.
Still the leading West Indian wicket taker with 519 wickets at 24.4 across 17 years of international cricket. He was very consistent with his line and length and relied on a change of pace to out fox batsmen. He was known for his long spells and is one of the few to have bowled over 5000 overs in international cricket.
The Notable Others
Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev
Known for his smooth run up and brilliant line and length. He initially was very quick but shortened his run up in later years. He had a tremendous outswinger which he used very effectively.
The above statement could be used for either of the two Gentlemen mentioned. Both with similar wickets Hadlee 431, to Dev 434. Hadlee had an average 22.29 thanks to the swing-friendly conditions in New Zealand, while Dev averaged 29.64 playing many of his tests at home in India in spin friendly conditions. Kapil also had a mean Yorker which he used well.
Both easily regarded as the best fast bowler that their country has produced.
So that concludes the list of some of the most exciting fast bowlers in history. If the likes of Trent Boult, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins and Jasprit Bumrah can remain fit to have a long career, they may well just join that list in future.
First Published: February 17, 2019, 5:16 PM IST