Best fast bowlers I have ever watched

Okay! Time to pick the top ten fast bowlers ever based on their test cricket bowling quality. I must confess that, thought I started watching cricket on television probably somewhere during 1982, I have not really seen much of Dennis Lillee or Michael Holding. Both these legends were almost in the fag ends of their careers by then. However, to make my list complete, I ran through their videos and really loved the strong but smooth bowling actions.

Another disclaimer – my list doesn’t contain some of the medium pacers and all-rounder legends as we are talking about genuine quick bowlers alone.

Without much talking, here’s my list of all time great fast bowlers that I got to watch in the last 25 years. The list is in the order of my liking them and obviously may not be your order 🙂

1. Dennis Lillee

2. Curtley Ambrose

3. Michael Holding

4. Glen McGrawth

5. Wasim Akram

6. Malcom Marshall

7. Imran Khan

8. Richard Hadlee

9. Allan Donald

10. Waqar Younis

What do you think of this list? Please post your comments without getting carried away. Notable omissions here are Courtney Walsh, Kapil Dev, Ian Botham etc and also anybody who played and retired before 1980. As I mentioned, I have picked only genuine quick bowlers but when you talk about an all-rounder package many such greats may get counted. Imran Khan, I thought, can be in the list only for his bowling. He will be definitely one of the top 5 all rounders of all times along with Kapil Dev etc.

Did I miss anyone?

Flintoff, Gibbs, Bond – who’s next?

A lot of things changed the way cricketers approach cricket in the last two years – thanks to the BCCI and IPL for commercializing cricket a bit too much that pressurized players and associations to dance to its tunes. When the players started playing more and more Twenty 20 games, it meant only the following:

  • A lot more players are retiring from test cricket to focus more on Twenty 20
  • The national duty seems to be of low priority – especially in India
  • People just get injured and take a lot of break while on national duty but they play with injuries in IPL to take more rest afterwards
  • India is a mighty cricketing power that other associations find it hard to protest against IPL

Short lived test careers

It is really sad to see the great cricketers like Flintoff or Shane Bond shortening their test career span to focus on Twenty 20 and limited over games. Unless the authorities do something about it – like increasing the match fee for tests or reducing the number of Twenty 20 games – nobody would want to play test cricket.

Lalit Modi is acting stupid again…

Mr. Modi after loosing the state cricket association elections big time was obviously running out of his thinking power. There has been some tussle post elections and some of the people in BCCI seems to be already against him playing the IPL commissioner role. There has been a couple of public statements from certain authorities.

Mr.Modi is trying to avert these remarks against him by pushing the focus away from India. He is now blaming Victoria for not releasing players for IPL Season 3. Wonder whether he’s running a cricketing company for sponsors or actually trying to help cricket world wide!

I still stand by my previous statements. Ban IPL or at least cut short its duration to save international cricket!

The new pace brigade!

India’s bowling attack, at the moment, seems to be riding smoothly on the newly found vigor of a number of quality pace bowlers. In fact the trend started five to six years back with Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra taking over the baton from the able Srinath-Prasad duo. Since then India always had six or seven quality bowlers to pick the final pace bowling lineup from and the good thing is that the supply doesn’t ishant sharma seem to stop at all. While this is a very good sign, I strongly believe that the current system in India still do not have the infrastructure to produce and maintain match fit fast bowlers.

Historically India almost always trusted their spinners to drive the bowling department, both at home and abroad, for test matches as well as shorter version of the game. This had worked well when many great teams did not know how to play spin bowling and for sure we had some great masters of that art. Kapil Dev and co created history in the early 80s with the help of a bunch of medium pacer all-rounders but they were still not good enough to win test matches abroad. After that in the 90s we had a couple of quality pacers out of which Javagal Srinath stands out (best Indian pacer ever in my books, Kapil fans please excuse) in terms of consistency and quality. But even then the composition of the team was always around the spinners and we never won a good number of test matches abroad. The case is slightly different right now with the Indian team winning test matches in West Indies, England, South Africa and Australia in a span of two years – This time around the victory being set up by the young pacemen on the side and not completely by the much advertised batting order.

Unfortunately, in a country where batsmen are gods it is very difficult to get support for these new warriors – both from fans and the authorities. Indian fans still want flat wickets in India where their batters make merry in every single outing and the sponsors get the value for the money spent. It is really a pity that in a cricket crazy country, we still do not have a handful of bouncy (good consistent bounce, I mean) or fast wickets. Of course, there are exceptions like Mohali but we need a lot more good pitches to support our newly found skills. As a matter of fact, good pitches will only help us to spot and nurture good batting talent as well which will in turn help the overall team performance at the international level as well as domestic cricket.

Another commonly found issue with the selection process is that they keep trying the same bowling combination for a prolonged number of matches than desired. This overuse has a very bad impact on the fast bowlers’ fitness. Many of us still keep wondering whatever happend to L Balaji and Ashish Nehra who were once hailed as the key members of the Indian squad for the next ten years. The same issues seem to be proping up with Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel (time and again), RP Singh and Sreesanth as well. It is high time the authorities thought about this issue and maintained a rotation policy for bowlers. If there is a pool of five or six fit bowlers one could rotate one at a time every two or three matches and keep all of them fit. The international cricket schedule is always pretty tight for India due to the huge number of one-dayers that they play and hence this kind of a set up has to be in place at the earliest.

The rotation policy should be further improved by the addition of good support staff. Fortunately, India now have a good fitness expert and an excellent bowling coach. The post of the bowling coach, in the past, was never a permanent one for India. But the authorities should realize the benefits of having a bowling coach (and a fielding one as well) and give longer terms for such important roles.

As I write this blog, I have been watching Ishant Sharma’s beautiful spell in the fourth one-dayer of the triangular series. Many Australian eyebrows have already raised on seeing and experiencing the lethal Indian pace attack and the good job done during the test series. The bowlers are keeping that momentum in the one dayers as well despite loosing RP Singh and Zaheer Khan due to injuries. I only hope that in the future youngsters like Ishant Sharma would not succumb to the pressure and fatigue created by tight schedules and lack of support system. Is BCCI listening?