Monthly Archives: October 2011
Directed by- Anubhav Sinha
Starring- Shahrukh Khan, Arjun Rampal, Kareena Kapoor, Shahana Goswami, Armaan Verma, Tom Wu
Well, Shah Rukh Khan’s magnum opus has hit the screens worldwide, and it has done so with a considerable force. The marketing juggernaut called Ra.One actually has a movie in the end, and is not just a series of elaborate publicity modules and public appearances as many thought. Well, this Rs. 175 crore magnum opus has opened to record bookings in the festive season. But, is it any good? Well, Mad Crazy Hatter will tell you that, and much more. Here is the Hatter’s verdict on Shah Rukh Khan’s dream project.
Special Effects- 10/10
The movie began with a breath-taking opening sequence laden with Vfx and I almost gasped. For the next 120 minutes, my jaw just kept falling and falling. The special effects and technology in Ra.One is outstanding to say the least. It carries forward a legacy created by Rajni’s Enthiran (Robot) and at times, even surpasses Shankar’s masterpiece. Ra.One has already created a world record by having the most number of VFx aided sequences in any movie- even more than James Cameron’s Avatar. And, I swear by Heath Ledger’s ghost, the special effects alone are enough to carry this movie as potentially the biggest hit of this year. If Enthiran was the pioneer of this genre, then Ra.One could be the watershed for such movies in India. Indian movies are not traditionally known for their technological prowess but it is heartening to see that the times are changing. Quite honestly, in terms of sheer special effects, Ra.One can hold its own in front of any major Hollywood blockbuster.
This is a superhero movie, a futuristic superhero movie in fact. And it’s needless to say that its action sequences are its USP. The action in Ra.One is fast-paced, keeping in tune with the movie’s overall theme. It has been interspersed with the Vfx almost perfectly. Now, Ra.One’s action is not the Salman brand of blunt force trauma inducing, punch-laden, jaw shattering style we have seen in Dabangg and Bodyguard, or the slick combat-based action seen in Hollywood superhero flicks like Spiderman or The Dark Knight. In fact, it is larger than life, and quite blatantly too. SRK seems to have taken a leaf out of Rajnikanth’s voluminous book on style and action and realized that the Indian audience loves action sequences where everything and everyone flies. The sequences are complex and fast-paced, involving lots of heavy duty martial arts, acrobatic manoeuvres and what seems like the Great Indian Rope trick (one where the actors are suspended in mid-air while the camera decides to change its own angle.) The chase sequences are shot well and executed even better. At times, Ra.One is a testosterone-fuelled roller coaster and those times are not few either.
Plot and Treatment- 5/10
The plot of Ra.One could have been its most outstanding feature. It had a wonderful premise, supported by some quality Vfx sequences. But SRK’s habit of pleasing all maybe took a little something away from the ‘hardcoreness’ of the movie. If it had been treated properly, Ra. One could have been the pioneer of superhero movies Bollywood has been waiting for. (I still do not consider Krrish as a genuine superhero movie. It was a farce to all ardent supporters of the superhero genre.) Ra. One still does a decent job, but it’s like a sabretooth with its incisors chopped off, a falcon with its wings clipped, a footballer with his kneecap taken out, a pornstar with… (I think you get the picture.) The plot is laden with all the essentials of an SRK flick- song and dance, melodrama, emotional bonding, a prominent child artist and his unique brand of humour that some like, some don’t and others laugh at sheepishly. The storyline misses out on a few pivotal points and often, doesn’t bother explaining the science of things- which to me is a major shortcoming in any science fiction movie. The plot is still good, but it could have been so much better.
If you are going to the theatre to watch this movie and anticipating power-packed acting performance worthy of the National Awards; please step back so I can slap you out of your reverie. The actors (read people in front of the camera barely emoting, or Kareena’s case emoting too much) are there in the movie just because robots can’t act as of yet. The day Skynet manages to bring out acting robots, the days of the Kareena Kapoors of this world will be over. SRK and Salman have reached an understandingI believe, where have both have decided not to act but simply stand in front of the camera, deliver the lines and exit the scene effortlessly. Well in all fairness, if their movies can make all that money without them having to actually act, then Aamir should be rethinking his act too. Why work hard when you can work smart. But Shah Rukh can actually be a good performer, as he shows in some fleeting scenes in the first half. So, I will forgive him for that Mark Zuckerberg look and Mallu accent.
Kareena’s job is to look hot and overact as much as possible, and she has done both the tasks to perfection. Arjun Rampal makes a fleeting appearance as the lead villain and we would have liked to see more of him. He looks truly badass. Shahana Goswami is the one lifesaver in this movie in terms of acting. It comes naturally to her by the looks of it. Armaan Verma is a likable kid, but he is just that. He is no Dakota Fanning or Darsheel Safary for that matter. Dalip Tahil is quite over the top and Chinese actor Tom Wu is way under it. Superstar Rajnikanth should not have degraded himself by doing that lipstick smeared cameo somewhere in between, but Sanjay Dutt on the other hand, was a treat to watch. Ra.One is no Dark Knight. It does not have intense performances. Its USP is the action and not the actors.
The Elements- 6/10
The cinematography of the film is consistent with its theme. But quite honestly, the cinematographers Nicola Pecorini and V. Manikandan did not have much to do with the amount of special effects in this movie. But still, the credit has to go to them for making the action so lifelike and fast-paced. This is the first major Indian movie to have a wide 3D release, and one can see why. The theme and treatment of the movie suits a 3D environment perfectly. The Vfx and the action has been specifically designed keeping in mind the 3D technology and hence, they blend in very well. I myself find 3D a bit cumbersome and prefer a movie where I do not have to look like a hippy from the 60s with those glasses. But if you are a 3D buff, then Ra.One would definitely appeal to you in 3D. The background score is able to capture the tone of action to perfection, although it does lag behind in parts and places. The soundtrack is certainly not one of Vishal-Shekhar’s better works and is passable at best. The much-hyped ‘Chammak Chhallo’ is foot-tapping and nothing more, although Kareena Kapoor has ensured that the video stays in our mind for some time. Other tracks like ‘Dildaara’ and ‘O Rehnuma’ are pleasant, but nothing special. The surprise package for me was ‘Raftaarein’ sung by Vishal Dadlani in an RD Burmanesque voice.
THE VERDICT- 6.6/10
Ra.One has special effects never seen before in an Indian movie. For that alone, it is a must watch. In fact, the action and Vfx are so strong that one can choose to simply ignore any other shortcomings and plot loopholes that the movie has. So the Hatter says that if you are in either of the four following categories, then go watch Ra.One- a) SRK fans b) special effect and Vfx crazies c) sci-fi freaks d) just someone who wants his money’s worth this festive season.
I like bad guys without a conscience; without remorse- bad guys who are actually bad and not some shameful shade of grey. That’s how cinema villains should be- merciless, cruel- completely badass. So here’s another list, because you guys loved the last one. This one chronicles a dozen badass villains from world cinema history. Now they don’t have to be the greatest villains or the most popular; but just the most bone-chilling. So Darth Vader doesn’t make it due to his sudden emergence of a long subsided Jedi conscience while none of the Bond villains are here on account of being just too sissy. So, here is the list of 12 most badass cinema villains of all-time.
“If I, Aguirre want the birds to drop dead; the birds will drop dead.” The trouble with period film villains is that they tend to go a bit over the top. But that is exactly what works for Aguirre. Portrayed menacingly by Klaus Kinskie, Aguirre is the purest form of evil- merciless, blood-thirsty, ambitious and megalomaniacal. The man wants to mutilate the bodies of his enemies and paint walls with their blood; he wants to rule the universe after starting a ‘pure’ dynasty by fathering an heir with his own daughter. Need I say more? But, he has no misconceptions about being a saviour of any kind. He knows he is evil and hence, calls himself the wrath of God.
The irritating thing about Bollywood villains is that towards the end, they all seem to develop a belated sense of conscience, as if they’re scared to be tormented in hell for all eternity. But this Chambal dacoit penned excellently by Salim-Javed and portrayed ruthlessly by debutant Amjad Khan changed all that. Gabbar was ruthless; killing women and children with ease, torturing helpless teenagers, and most importantly cold, unrepentant and defiant in death.
Although not a single drop of blood is shed in this Hitchcock classic, it has to be the most psychologically violent vintage classic. Charlie is the archetype suave monster, hiding layers of hideousness and a perverse hatred for humanity beneath a false exterior of charm and mild manners. What frightens one most is not his homicidal tendencies but his maniacal hatred and apathy for the human race. In Charlie, Hitchcock gives us our greatest fear- the baddest, meanest homicidal villain who could very easily be the polite gentleman living next door.
9. LITTLE BILL (The Unforgiven (English), 1992- played by Gene Hackman)
When Sergio Leone introduced spaghetti westerns, he created a world where everyone was a little bad and no one was all good. Suddenly, the line between the good and the bad faded beyond recognition. It took another legend – Clint Eastwood – to change all that and give us arguably the greatest Western villain of all-time. Little Bill is powerful, menacing, egoistical, but his most dangerous trait is a blunt, shameless self-righteousness. No one in their right mind can ever start or even join a Little Bill fan club. He is meant to be hated, despised and condemned.
If you think that all nurses are nice, warm, loving and motherly; well grab a DVD of ‘One Flew over a Cuckoo’s Nest’ and you will find some illusions shattering for sure. Cold, manipulative, methodical and venomous, this mental asylum warden held on to her power and control over her dominion by ruthlessly crushing all that came in her way. Why Nurse Ratched is so evil is that despite her sense of devotion and duty to her work, deep down she is nothing but a maniacal control freak.
7. DR. HANNIBAL LECTER (Silence of the Lambs (English), 1991- played by Anthony Hopkins)
“If you’ll excuse me, I’m having an old friend for dinner,” hissed Lecter, and the world gasped. Hannibal the cannibal is one of cinema’s greatest villains and certainly one of the greatest screen performances by any actor living or dead. His ability to play the mind of his victims and experienced psychologists alike was what made him so intimidating. His eccentric, feline mannerisms took the focus away from his brutal eyes, which were actually the true windows to his bare soul, devoid of any human emotion except hatred.
Whenever everyone talks about how memorable Sharon Stone’s Catherine Trammell was in ‘Basic Instinct,’ I make it a point to remind them that Phyllis Dietrichson was all that and more, and that too five decades before Trammell. She uses her sexual charm and body to get what she wants and doesn’t bother to fall for that thing called love. When she stabs her lover in the heart, she shamelessly admits, “I never loved you. I’m rotten to the core.” In Phyllis, Barbara Stanwyck went where no mainstream actress had ever gone before and set a precedent for many She-Devils to come.
This Hong-Kong crime thriller was marketed in some territories under the title ‘Human Pork Chop.’ That should be a clear enough indication that it is certainly not one of your candyfloss romances. Wong is your run-of-the-mill homicidal psychopath, who disposes of the bodies in quite a crude and unusual fashion that might not please the faint hearted. His cannibalism is not enigmatic like Lecter. It is downright filthy and gross. However, what makes Wong one of the most disturbing villains ever is that despite his brutality and cold-bloodedness; he is but human and the viewer tends to feel sorry for him. There lies the true masterstroke of this gore fest.
Now, I’ve seen countless acts of vengeance in the thousands of movies I’ve watched over the years; but none of them comes anywhere close in terms of its cruelty, brutality and patience as Woo-jin’s 15-year long torture of his erstwhile tormentor in the 2003 Korean cult classic, Oldeuboi. But it’s not for keeping Oh Dae-Su in captivity that earns Woo-jin a spot in this list, it is what he does afterwards, demolishing Dae-Su’s resolve and will, carefully and patiently. Woo-jin does prove the age-old saying; revenge is indeed a dish best served cold.
Many say that Heath Ledger’s Joker is probably one of the most well-crafted negative characters of all-time. Well I don’t know about that, but he sure is the craziest. But, what is actually truly scary about this clown is that beneath all the seemingly random chaos, beneath all the craziness, beneath all the mind-numbing slaughter is a method, an order and a diabolic, anarchic brain hell-bent on bringing the world down to its knees. The Joker works because he plays his cards close to his chest; if he has his reasons, then he keeps them to himself, leaving all others in a cold, lonely dark.
Long before he paraded on the screen as a nose less dark wizard, Ralph Fiennes portrayed absolute evil in the form of a cold, sadistic and cruel Nazi soldier. Goeth was the personification of Nazi brutality. He shot prisoners for fun; he beat young women with his bare hands when they refused to bow down to his desires; he executed men to serve as an example to others. Amon Goeth had no regard for human life; and the worst part was that he was actually proud of this.
In 2005, Coen brothers created a whole new form of evil in their critically acclaimed flick ‘No Country for Old Men.’ Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh was death personified; an unstoppable, inescapable evil. Chigurh is a relentless, ruthless killer, executing helpless and unsuspecting victims with his strange, lethal contraption. He is a cold, merciless juggernaut with not an ounce of emotion in his eyes. What sets this unforgiving assassin apart from other cine villains is that he never once goes over the top. He does not rely on histrionics like the Joker; he does not resort to sexual violence like Goeth; he does not have a reason for his brutality like Woo-jin. He is evil, simply because that is how he is.
Last time around, we looked at the bottom half of the 25 fiercest, most venomous vipers ever to have terrorized batsmen on a cricket field. Let us conclude the series by taking a look at the final 12 most lethal fast bowlers in cricket history.
12. JOEL GARNER aka ‘BIG BIRD’ (WI)
Tests- 58, Wickets- 259, Average- 20.97, Fastest- 91.0
When this lighthouse of a man delivered, it seemed like they were hailstones hurtling down from a dark and sadistic heaven. At 6 feet 8 inches, Joel Garner was one scary human specimen. He could make the ball bounce up from the good length, ushering in the era of helmets in professional cricket. Add to that a real toe-crunching yorker and you have a slightly oversized cruise missile at your disposal. The fact that West Indies used him as their number four bowler should be enough to tell you how badass the other three were.
11. WAQAR YOUNIS (PAK)
Tests- 87, Wickets- 373, Average- 23.56, Fastest- 95.2
If Imran was the one who developed it and Wasim the one who exploited it, then it was truly Waqar who used reverse swing to a devastating effect. Pitching it menacingly fast and full, Waqar aimed for the base of the leg stump and if the batsman’s toes came in the way, well, that was just collateral damage. He was single-handedly responsible for getting M/S Nike and Adidas more business as batsmen of his generation stocked in quality shoes to protect their ankles from those 93 mph cruise missiles of his.
10. WES HALL (WI)
Tests- 48, Wickets- 192, Average- 26.38
When the regular opening bowler of a Barbados club failed to turn up in a club game in the 1950s, wicketkeeper-batsman Wesley Hall was given the new ball. Thus was born the first great Caribbean speed demon. He was a scary sight for batsmen world over, as he hurtled his tall, muscular frame to deliver excruciatingly fast and accurate deliveries. In the 1963 Lord’s test, he bowled unchanged for three-and-a-half hours, unprecedented for an express bowler. Yet, he still bowled fast enough to break Colin Cowdrey’s arm during the spell.
9. ALLAN DONALD aka ‘THE WHITE LIGHTNING’ (RSA)
Tests- 72, Wickets- 330, Average- 22.25, Fastest- 96.7
“Nice guys finish last!” Allan Donald was one man who seemed to have taken this adage a little too seriously. On the field, he was simply the devil incarnate, mocking world-class batsmen with bouncers and threatening blows to the body like a high-school bully. The Apartheid ban meant that Donald lost some of his best years toiling in the first-class circuit, unable to play at the top level. But when he finally got the chance to play Test cricket at 26, he looked in a hurry to make up for lost time. Frighteningly accurate and amazingly quick, Donald was the fastest of his age and as the batsmen soon found out, not one of the friendliest either.
8. ANDY ROBERTS (WI)
Tests- 47, Wickets- 202, Average- 25.61, Fastest- 97.2
What made Andy Roberts truly scary was not his 97 mph pace or his relentless aggression, but the fact that he never let any emotion show on his face. The batsmen were always clueless about what this Antiguan assassin was thinking. If you wanted to willingly face Roberts, you had to be brain dead. If not, then his bouncers would have surely sent you into that state. Roberts was the perfect combination of raw pace and controlled accuracy. He was the benchmark used by Clive Lloyd to build his devastating pace quartet that terrorized the batsmen world over for well over a decade.
7. CURTLY AMBROSE (WI)
Tests- 98, Wickets- 405, Average- 20.99, Fastest- 93.0
Tall, menacing and enigmatically quiet- Curtly Elconn Lynwall Ambrose was lethality personified. No one of his generation bowled faster and with greater ferocity. When Ambrose released the ball from some 100 feet above the ground, the batsman could do just three things- pray, pray and pray some more. Ambrose had a devastating jaw-ripping bouncer, coupled with a pace that made it seem unfair for the batsman to try and survive his gruesome assaults.
6. MICHAEL HOLDING aka ‘WHISPERING DEATH’ (WI)
Tests- 60, Wickets- 249, Average- 23.68, Fastest- 95.2
Wisden says no one in the game has bowled faster. His one legendary over to the great Geoff Boycott in 1981 has been often dubbed as the ‘most ferocious, fastest gambit of all time.’ His ability to bowl fast and straight even on dead pitches earned him respect and fear from all quarters. His mesmerising, long run-up where he moved stealthily towards the crease earned him his enigmatic nickname. Fast bowling wouldn’t have been what it is today if it wasn’t for Michael Holding.
5. MALCOLM MARSHALL (WI)
Tests- 81, Wickets- 376, Average- 20.95
Many regard Marshall as the finest fast bowler ever to play the game of cricket. I am one of the many here. Marshall had all the weapons of a true fast bowler in his arsenal- pace, aggression, variety and wicket-taking ability. In the 1980s, he stood head and shoulders above all the legendary fast bowlers of his generation. (which, by the way included almost half a dozen from his own team) He could bowl bouncers at will, while hurling down toe-shattering yorkers the very next delivery; and he did all of this with a remarkable consistency. Truly, a legend!
4. JEFF THOMSON (AUS)
Tests- 51, Wickets- 200, Average- 28.00, Fastest- 99.1
One of the fastest ever, Thomson was bold and lethal enough to be considered one of the best bowlers in the world at a time when the West Indian pace quartet was at the height of its powers. Thomson’s name was enough to scare the hell out of any opposition in the 1970s. He regularly bowled in excess of 95 mph, often reaching tantalisingly close to the ever-elusive 100. He bowled the fastest and most dangerous bouncer ever seen in the history of the game, responsible for a few broken jaws and fingers here and there. To the batsmen’s dismay, even after dropping his pace; the ‘slow’ Jeff Thomson was still fast enough to break some more digits along the way.
3. SHOAIB AKHTAR (PAK) aka ‘THE RAWALPINDI EXPRESS’
Tests- 46, Wickets- 178, Average- 25.69, Fastest- 100.3
Akhtar is to batsmen what the bogeyman is to kids. End of story! He burst on to the scene with a Thomson-like slinging action, superb wrist movement and a run-up that was almost as long as the Thanksgiving Day Parade. More often than not, batsmen failed to even see the ball, let alone play it. The terror that he inspired in the batsman hadn’t been seen since the times of Griffith and Larwood. The pace was unparalleled, the consistency remarkable and the aggression simply scary. Shoaib Akhtar personified express pace bowling in an era when medium pacers shamelessly paraded as quick bowlers.
2. DENNIS LILLEE (AUS)
Tests- 70, Wickets- 355, Average- 23.92
Lillee has to be the most ‘complete’ bowler to have graced the game. In his early days, he was all-out pace, with a riotous rage and uncontrollable, unfathomable aggression. He was the demolisher, reminding you that it’s the bowling attack and not the bowling defence. He was fast, accurate and had modelled himself on the West Indian greats of the past. Returning from a career-threatening spinal fracture, Lillee continued with the same amount of venom in his bowling as before; a testament to his sheer greatness. Any mention of fast bowling is just incomplete without the mention of the incomparable Dennis Lillee.
1. HAROLD LARWOOD (ENG)
Tests- 21, Wickets- 78, Average- 28.35, Fastest- Close to 100
When Australian batsman Bill Ponsford returned to the pavilion after being dismissed in the 1932 Adelaide Test, he had as many as 50 bruises on his body, as if he had just returned from a boxing bout and not a cricket game. He retired two years later. Harold Larwood had rendered him incapable of playing the short delivery. In the same series, Larwood struck Woodfull on the heart and broke Oldfield’s finger. Over the next few years, he continued to spew venom and knocked out as many as three batsmen unconscious, who had to be stretchered out of the ground. Many a times, batsmen seemed to develop mysterious ailments and found themselves unable to play when Larwood was bowling. He ended the careers of Woodfull and Ponsford; made Bradman seem ordinary and injured more batsmen than any other bowler in the history of the game.
Controversy’s favourite child, he was the tormentor-in-chief in the infamous Bodyline Tour, where he took a phenomenal 33 wickets in 4 tests, dismissing the great Bradman 4 times. When he refused to apologize for the Bodyline tactics as he was just obeying his captain’s orders, he was never selected for England again. One of the game’s greatest fast bowlers ever, his career was brutally over at the age of just 28.
There is no more beautiful sight in world cricket than a genuine pace bowler sneaking past the batsman’s defense and uprooting that middle stump.
Fast bowlers have to be lethal. They need that ‘death stare’ to tell the batsman “You might have hit this one to the fence, but beware of the cannonball coming right at you.” A fast bowler is someone who literally makes you shit your pristine white trousers when you see him charging down the run up like a 1930s steam locomotive. (Note: The above anecdote has no resemblance to reality and is certainly not out of personal experience.) So when he starts hurling those 5 1/2 ounce red (or white, depending on your preference and attention span) mortar shells at you, just be scared, very scared.
Now, I’m not trying to list out the greatest or the best fast bowlers of all time; just the most lethal ones. What does that mean? That means that you don’t necessarily have to be a world-class bowler but you have to be scary, demonic scary, one way or the other. It can be your pace, your wicket-taking ability, your sheer consistency or just the impact you had on the game or the batsmen’s psyche in your time.
Some 1200 fast bowlers have taken up the ball in the 2008 tests that have been played between 1877 and 2011; but these are the 25 that no sane man in his right state of mind would ever want to face. Here is the bottom 13 in the first of this two-part list.
25. SIR RICHARD HADLEE (NZ)
Tests- 86, Wickets- 431, Average- 22.30
Now here was a man with an insatiable appetite. A world record 431 wickets just weren’t enough for him, so he also scored 3,000 odd runs at an average of 27 with 2 tons. He was a genuine wicket-taking machine who racked up a monumental 36 fifers in his career, the most by any fast bowler. But he is so low on the list simply because; he wasn’t exactly the fast and the furious. He was effective, consistent, and even classy; but not outright lethal.
24. IMRAN KHAN (PAK)
Tests- 88, Wickets- 362, Average- 22.81
Imran Khan’s greatness was beyond numbers and lists. It lay in his presence on the cricket field, in the confidence he inspired in his team mates and the awe he inspired in his opponents. Add to this an astute cricketing brain that, at 40, was still sharp enough to lead a team of underdogs to a memorable World Cup triumph. And oh, did I mention, he was the pioneer of that irksome thing known as the reverse swing. But despite all this, he never got terrifying. His method of taking wickets never involved getting under the skin of the opposition, something that he left to his two famous protégés.
23. SF BARNES (ENG)
Tests- 27, Wickets- 189, Average- 16.43
Statistically, Barnes is to bowling what the Don is to batting- unmatchable. He took 189 wickets in his career at the rate of 7 wickets per match, a rate quicker than all the bowlers who have taken 100 wickets or more. In the pre- World War I days, Barnes epitomised bowling. To say that batsmen feared him would be like saying that US is not too fond of Al Qaeda; it tells the bare minimum. He was the nemesis to all batsmen in his age. Despite this, he goes no higher than 23 because sadly, Barnes was a medium pacer and he seldom bowled over 75 miles an hour. But even then, he was terrifying for the opponents and perhaps one of the select few, who could inspire fear without the advantage of raw pace. For that, R.E.S.P.E.C.T!
22. CHARLIE GRIFFITH (WI)
Tests- 28, Wickets- 94, Average- 28.54
Griffith was one-half of Windies captain Frank Worrell’s demonic new ball attack that might have been used to terrorise half the civilized world in the absence of any weapons of mass destruction. In 1962, a Griffith bouncer shattered the skull of the Indian captain Nari Contractor. Barely hanging on to his life, Contractor never played Test cricket again. Now any bowler good enough to end a career with a single delivery is lethal in my book. He was everything a Caribbean fast bowler should be- fast, menacing and unpredictable. The only thing that did him in was inconsistency. Had he played more, Griffith might have sent a few more promising batsmen to the trauma centre at the Kingston General.
21. FRANK ‘TYPHOON’ TYSON (ENG)
Tests- 17, Wickets- 76, Average- 18.56, Fastest- 94.0
They called him Typhoon Tyson. I think I should rest my case right here. With a name like Frank Holmes Tyson, he could either have been a bareknuckle brawler or a tearaway fast bowler. To the relief of several brawlers in London and the dismay of many batsmen around the world, Tyson chose the latter. Few can ever match him in terms of raw pace and aggression. However, his unorthodox action led to several injuries and he retired after just 8 years on the professional circuit.
20. FRED ‘THE DEMON’ SPOFFORTH (AUS)
Tests- 18, Wickets- 94, Average- 18.41
Spofforth was probably the first great bowler in Test cricket history. During the times when Australia were nothing but a side England liked to beat every now and then, Spofforth was the one name that stood up to the likes of WG Grace and Arthur Shrewsbury. Though he was not a tearaway fast bowler, he managed to scare the opposition with a larger-than-life action and wicket taking ability. He single-handedly gave Australia their first ever Test victory in 1881 taking 7/44 with such ferocity that the opposition dubbed him ‘The Demon Bowler.’
19. BILL VOCE (ENG)
Tests- 27, Wickets- 98, Average- 27.88
In the 1932 Ashes series, when left arm pacer Bill Voce struck the Australian batsman Stan McCabe on the head, it almost caused a diplomatic row. The series was immortalized as the infamous Bodyline Tour where Voce confounded the Australian batsmen with his steep bounce and lethal line. But, he was not just a one-race-horse. Even after abandoning the bodyline technique, Voce terrorised the hell out of Bradman and company in several subsequent Ashes series taking wickets and breaking jaws at will.
18. KEITH MILLER (AUS)
Tests- 55, Wickets- 170, Average- 22.97
When Australia toured England after the Second World War, they stopped at Ceylon to play a practice game against the local side. The inexperienced groundsman at Colombo prepared a 20-yard pitch instead of the usual 22. When the Australian skipper Bradman found this out, he barked at the ground staff, “You expect them to play Keith Miller at 20 yards? Why don’t you break their fingers yourselves?” Miller was pace personified. He was raw, unbridled speed and could make any seasoned batsman feel like a lost kid trying to find his mommy. And before I forget, he started his career as a batsman and scored nearly 3,000 runs at an average of 37 with 7 tons.
17. GLENN ‘PIGEON’ MCGRATH (AUS)
Tests- 124, wickets- 563, Average- 21.64, Fastest- 88.5
Now before you slap a straitjacket on me and question my sanity, let me say this out loud for everyone to hear- he might not have had the pace but he sure was lethal. Glenn McGrath would probably be the last man on earth you’d want to face in the dying stages of any limited over game. That razor sharp accuracy, that stifling line and those questioning eyes earned him over 500 wickets at a phenomenal average. Without any express pace or deadly bounce, Pigeon still managed to break a few ribs along the way. (For those in doubt, contact Kevin Pietersen.)
16. DALE STEYN (RSA)
Tests- 46, Wickets- 238, Average- 23.21, Fastest- 93.8
Steyn looks more like a demonic apparition than any other cricketer in history. He seems to have taken over the mantle from Allan Donald in making batsman wet their trousers on a regular, consistent basis. He is currently the best bowler in the world, and that too by a country mile. On his day, Steyn can bowl at a whirlwind pace, generating an unbelievable amount of bounce and make batsmen rethink about their decision of taking up cricket in the first place.
15. BRETT LEE (AUS)
Tests- 76, Wickets- 310, Average- 30.81, Fastest- 99.8
In terms of sheer speed, there are only a few who can match up to this blonde bombshell. For over a decade, Brett Lee was relentless in churning out the fastest deliveries in the history of cricket and having a personal contest with Shoaib Akhtar over being called the fastest ever. He did not possess the wicket taking ability of Lillee or the accuracy of McGrath, but he had the heart of a lion that enabled him to bowl at a phenomenal 97 mph at the age of 34 in the 2011 IPL.
14. WASIM AKRAM aka ‘THE SULTAN OF SWING’ (PAK)
Tests- 104, Wickets- 414, Average- 23.62
In his heyday, Wasim Akram could bend it better than Beckham. The wholesale proprietor of the ‘banana swing,’ Akram used his mentor Imran Khan’s teachings to a devastating effect. He was rattling the off, middle and leg stumps of the world’s best when the likes of Akhtar and Steyn were in playschool; and to his credit, he continued to do so right until the next generation arrived. For a diabetic man to leave a sour taste in the batsmen’s mouth is surely the epitome of irony.
13. COURTNEY WALSH (WI)
Tests- 132, Wickets- 519, Average- 24.44, Fastest- 93.4
For the first half of his career, Walsh played the supporting role to the much quicker Malcolm Marshall; but soon after the senior pro retired, Walsh came into his own. He delivered the ball from a towering height of 10 feet, making it impossible for mere mortals to do anything but run for cover. Even in his late 30s, Walsh was untouched by injuries (note to self: send Indian bowlers to Walsh for fitness tips) and could bowl in the 90 mph bracket consistently with a steep, deadly bounce.
Catch the twelve most lethal ones in Part 2