Monthly Archives: April 2012
Last time around, we took a look at bowling legends no. 30-21 in the Hatter’s list of the 50 greatest bowlers in the history of cricket. Now is the time to look at the big boys in numbers 20 to 11. Here are the next ten greatest bowlers the game has ever seen.
20. COURTNEY WALSH (WI) Right Arm Fast (1981-2001)
Tests- 132, Wickets- 519, Avg- 24.44, 5W- 22, Best- 7/37
ODIs- 205, Wickets- 227, Avg- 30.47, 4W- 7, Best- 5/1
1807 FC wickets at 21.71 with 104 five-wicket hauls
At 6 feet 7, Courtney Walsh was not just any fast bowler; he was perhaps the scariest of the lot- the bogeyman of his generation. Express pace bowlers have a limited shelf life. In order to survive longer, they either drop their pace or reduce their workload. Walsh did neither. No other bowler has managed to bowl with such fierce pace and accuracy for such long on the international scene and that too, with such remarkable consistency. His untiring vigil earned him the world record for most test wickets in 1999 and he later became the first bowler to reach the mark of 500 Test wickets. In the ODIs too, he was a formidable combination of pace, aggression and accuracy making him one of the most economical bowlers around.
19. IMRAN KHAN (PAK) Right Arm Fast (1969-92)
Tests- 88, Wickets- 362, Avg- 22.81, 5W- 23, Best- 8/58
WSC Matches- 5, Wickets- 25, Avg- 20.84, 5W- 0, Best- 4/24
ODIs- 175, Wickets- 182, Avg- 26.61, 4W- 4, Best- 6/14
1287 FC wickets at 22.32 with 70 five-wicket hauls
507 List A wickets at 22.31 with 18 four-wicket hauls
No one can challenge Imran Khan for the spot of being Pakistan’s finest cricketer ever. He was the man who took cricket from a hobby to a craze in the country. Handsome, suave, outspoken and phenomenally talented, Imran was just the role model the Pakistani youth were looking for. As a bowler, it was him and Intikhab Alam who pioneered the reverse swing and took the world by storm in the 80s. His reverse swinging yorkers were the best thing to have happened to bowling since Larwood’s bouncers half a century ago. Just like wine, Imran got better with age. He averaged just 19 with the ball in his last 10 years in Test cricket.
18. JOEL GARNER (WI) Right Arm Fast (1975-92)
Tests- 58, Wickets- 259, Avg- 20.97, 5W- 7, Best- 6/56
WSC Matches- 7, Wickets- 35, Avg- 24.77, 5W- 1, Best- 5/52
ODIs- 98, Wickets- 146, Avg- 18.84, 4W- 5, Best- 5/31
881 FC wickets at 18.53 with 48 five-wicket hauls
397 List A wickets at 16.61 with 23 four-wicket hauls
The ‘Big Bird’ was the scariest bowler who ever lived. When he delivered those 90mph bouncers from those giant shoulders and a frame of 6 feet 8 inches, it was indeed an intimidating sight to say the least. Garner was fast and menacing, possessing the ability to make the ball bounce from short of length rendering the batsman incapable of offering any shot to it. His toe-shattering Yorker was another lethal weapon in his arsenal and was used in abundance in the finishing overs of a one-day game. In Tests, few bowlers have a better average than him but in ODIs no one comes anywhere close to his figures.
17. FRED TRUEMAN (ENG) Right Arm Fast (1949-69)
Tests- 67, Wickets- 307, Avg- 21.57, 5W- 17, Best- 8/31
2304 FC wickets at 18.29 with 126 five-wicket hauls
In 1964, Fred Trueman became the first man to claim 300 Test wickets. In the five decades since, 23 more men have crossed that mark but only two have a better average than Freddie Trueman’s 21.57. In his heyday, Trueman was the best bowler in the world and that too by a country mile. Run-ins with the authorities meant that he was forced to miss many Tests, or else his tally might have been closer to 400. Trueman had great control over his swing and his solid and fluid action gave him a great amount of pace along with that swing, making him a dangerous bowler to face on all sorts of surfaces.
16. ALAN DAVIDSON (AUS) Left Arm Fast-Medium (1949-63)
Tests- 44, Wickets- 186, Avg- 20.53, 5W- 14, Best- 7/93
672 FC wickets at 20.90 with 33 five-wicket hauls
Davidson was a big game performer. Some of the best performances of this New South Welshman came when the odds were stacked against him. He took 11 for 222 in the Tied Test of 1960 (and scored 124 runs) even though he was playing with a broken finger. Starting as a lower order batsman and part-time bowler, Davidson graduated to the role of strike bowler in 1957. After that change, he took 170 wickets in 32 Tests at 19.25. For almost half a decade in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was the most feared fast bowler in the world. Remarkably consistent (he averaged below 24 against all opponents) and exceedingly menacing, Davidson was the greatest left-arm seamer the world had seen till then.
15. JIM LAKER (ENG) Right Arm Offbreak (1946-65)
Tests- 46, Wickets- 193, Avg- 21.24, 5W- 9, Best- 10/53
1944 FC wickets at 18.41 with 127 five-wicket hauls
Laker shall always be remembered as the man who took 19 wickets in a single Test, a feat achieved in the Old Trafford Test in 1956 taking 9/37 in the first innings and 10/53 in the second. No other bowler has taken more than 16 wickets in a single Test, which speaks volumes of what Laker did in that game. What makes that feat even more impressive is that the other bowlers (Statham, Bailey and Locke) managed just one wicket between them in 123 overs. But Laker was much more than that single feat. He took 46 wickets in that series in 5 Tests at a mind-boggling average of 9.60. He averaged below 20 in a series on four more occasions (14.85 vs. South Africa, 1951; 19.50 vs. Pakistan, 1954; 12.00 vs. South Africa, 1955; and 10.17 vs. New Zealand, 1958).
14. ALLAN DONALD (RSA) Right Arm Fast (1985-2004)
Tests- 72, Wickets- 330, Avg- 22.25, 5W- 20, Best- 8/71
Rebel Tests- 2, Wickets- 12, Avg- 18.67, 5W- 0, Best- 4/29
ODIs- 164, Wickets- 272, Avg- 21.78, 4W- 13, Best- 6/23
1216 FC wickets at 22.76 with 68 five-wicket hauls
They don’t make bowlers like the ‘White Lightning’ anymore. They just don’t. For much of his international career, Donald was not just the spearhead of the bowling attack but the only world class performer in his team. There were several talented players in South Africa but Allan Donald was head and shoulders above all of them. A genuine wicket taking bowler, Donald lost some of the best years of his playing career due to South Africa’s exile from Test cricket. But as soon as the ban was lifted, Donald broke free and all hell broke loose. Between 1995 and 2001, he had only 1 bad series out of 20. He performed fabulously against all opponents and in all conditions, making him one of the greatest match-winning bowlers ever.
13. CLARRIE GRIMMETT (AUS) Legbreak Googly (1911-41)
Tests- 37, Wickets- 216, Avg- 24.21, 5W- 21, Best- 7/40
1424 FC wickets at 22.28 with 127 five-wicket hauls
Grimmett started plating cricket at a time when there was a complete drought of spin bowlers in the world. Born in New Zealand, Grimmett made his Plunkett Shield debut at just 17. Sadly though, the First World War deprived him of any chance to play Test cricket. After the war, he tried his luck across the Tasman Sea but had to wait till the age of 33 to make his Test debut. He remains the only man to take 200 Test wickets after playing his first Test post-30. He took almost 6 wickets per game in an era dominated by batsmen, bowling to the likes of Hobbs, Hammond, Sutcliffe, Headley and Nourse. Amazingly, in his last series, playing at the age of 44, Grimmett took 33 wickets in 3 Tests at an average of 11.
12. MICHAEL HOLDING (WI) Right Arm Fast (1972-89)
Tests- 60, Wickets- 249, Avg- 23.68, 5W- 13, Best- 8/92
WSC Matches- 9, Wickets- 35, Avg- 23.09, 5W- 1, Best- 5/48
ODIs- 102, Wickets- 142, Avg- 21.36, 4W- 6, Best- 5/26
They called him the Whispering Death, referring to his long, mesmerising, stealthy and rhythmic run up. But make no bones about it; his bowling was even more lethal. Many swear that no one in the game has bowled faster with such accuracy- not Akhtar, not Larwood and not Thomson. His ability to take wickets on flatbeds and batting-friendly wastelands made him a legend in his playing days itself. His 14/149 at the Oval in 1976 remains the best bowling performance by a West Indian till date. A big game player, Holding was West Indies’ best bowler during their World Cup campaigns bagging 20 wickets in 11 games at just 17. Holding also shone in the World Series Cups in Australia taking 74 wickets in 50 matches at 16.70.
11. WAQAR YOUNIS (PAK) Right Arm Fast (1987-2004)
Tests- 87, Wickets- 373, Avg- 23.56, 5W- 22, Best- 7/76
ODIs- 262, Wickets- 416, Avg- 23.84, 4W- 27, Best- 7/36
In the 80s, fast bowlers bowled fast and short, aiming outside the off stump. Waqar Younis said, “To hell with that” and bowled full, aiming at either the base of the stumps (read: clean bowled) or the batsman’s feet (read: broken ankle). It earned him unprecedented success and made him the youngest to take 200 Test wickets with the best strike rate for any bowler with these many wickets (a record later stolen by Dale Steyn). Waqar took 4 or more wickets in an innings a phenomenal 50 times in 154 innings in Tests and 27 times in 258 innings in ODIs. Considering he had to share the bowling workload with the likes of Imran, Wasim and Saqlain, this is a mighty impressive record.
Well folks, hold on to your hats. With four installments done and dusted, it is time for the finale next, wherein we look at the 10 greatest bowlers in the history of cricket. Till then, peace out!
In part 2 of our countdown for the greatest bowler ever, we looked at numbers 40-31. Now let us move forward ten paces and look at bowling legends no. 30 t0 21 in the Hatter’s List of the 50 Greatest Bowlers in the History of Cricket.
30. BOB WILLIS (ENG) Right Arm Fast (1969-84)
Tests- 90, Wickets- 325, Avg- 25.20, 5W- 16, Best- 8/43
ODIs- 64, Wickets- 80, Avg- 24.60, 5W- 4, Best- 4/11
If there was an award for courage in the cricketing world, it should very well be named after Bob Willis. When he was 26, he had operations on both his knees, which meant he was in constant pain whenever he played. In fact, on certain days, he needed to run five miles in order to generate the strength to play. It was only through his will that Willis managed to play and succeed at the top level for nine more years. At 6 feet 6 inches, Willis was an intimidating fast bowler, one of the fastest England have ever produced. His pace, bounce, aggression and swing made him deadly on all kinds of pitches across the world.
29. RAY LINDWALL (AUS) Right Arm Fast (1941-62)
Tests- 61, Wickets- 228, Avg- 23.03, 5W- 12, Best- 7/38
Lindwall was Australia’s post-war bowling spearhead; a genuine all-rounder, a master of pace and swing and a bowler who could extract anything and everything from the pitch in all sorts of conditions. His opponents both feared and revered his devastating opening spells, reminiscent of pre-war greats like Larwood (on whom he modelled his action and bowling style). His peak came at a time when the world was abundant with quality batsmen like Hutton, Compton, Hazare, Worrell, Mankad, Weekes, Walcott and Hanif. Even then, Lindwall managed favourable returns against all the teams of his time, barring Pakistan against whom he only played 3 Tests. For those still in doubt about his bowling skills, his autobiography is called ‘Flying Stumps’.
28. BHAGWATH CHANDRASEKHAR (IND) Legbreak (1963-80)
Tests- 58, Wickets- 242, Avg- 29.74, 5W- 16, Best- 8/79
1063 FC wickets at 24.03 with 75 five-wicket hauls
Among the famed Indian spin quartet comprising of Chandra, Bedi, Venkat and Prasanna, no one could turn the ball like Chandra; no one could take wickets in demanding overseas conditions like him, no one could master the bouncy pace-friendly pitches of Australia and South Africa like he did; but most importantly no one could win matches like him. Others might have better records than him but Chandra was a true match-winner, delivering when the team needed his services the most. Remarkably consistent across the globe, Chandra did not let a childhood outbreak of polio deter him from achieving his dream. He turned this handicap into a gift, delivering legbreak rippers and baffling googlies at near medium pace and cementing his place as one of the greatest bowlers ever from his country.
27. FRED SPOFFORTH (AUS) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1874-88)
Tests- 18, Wickets- 94, Avg- 18.41, 5W- 7, Best- 7/44
853 FC wickets at 14.95 with 84 five-wicket hauls
Not only was Spofforth the first great fast bowler ever, he was also cricket’s first true fast bowler- one with deadly accuracy, overpowering aggression and good pace. His terrorising effect on the opposition batsmen earned him his larger than life nickname- ‘Demon’. It was his crippling 7/44 that gave England their first ever Test defeat and gave birth to the legend of Ashes. He was the first man to take a hat trick in Tests and his 14/90 at the Oval remains the second best performance by an Australian till date. Had business concerns not forced him to retire at the age of 34, Spofforth would surely have taken his already legendary career to even greater heights.
26. ANDY ROBERTS (WI) Right Arm Fast (1969-84)
Tests- 47, Wickets- 202, Avg- 25.61, 5W- 11, Best- 7/54
WSC Matches- 13, Wickets- 50, Avg- 24.14, 5W- 1, Best- 6/69
ODIs- 56, Wickets- 87, Avg- 20.35, 4W- 3, Best- 5/22
Had Sergio Leone seen Roberts bowl, Clint Eastwood would probably never have become the star that he is today. Roberts was the gun slinging cowboy of the cricketing world, intimidating batsmen with those penetrating and expressionless eyes. He was the first of the great Caribbean quicks, who helped West Indies dominate world cricket for over two decades. By the time, he joined Packer’s circus in 1977; Roberts was already one of the best in the world having taken 103 wickets in just 20 Tests at 22.56 as well as 17 wickets in 9 ODIs at 15.00. His pace was all about timing and accuracy and had no room for any showmanship. According to him, the measure of a good bowler was the wickets he took and not the bones he broke.
25. SHAUN POLLOCK (RSA) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1991-2008)
Tests- 108, Wickets- 421, Avg- 23.11, 5W- 16, Best- 7/87
ODIs- 303, Wickets- 393, Avg- 24.50, 4W- 17, Best- 6/35
T20Is- 12, Wickets- 15, Avg- 20.60, Best- 3/28
No one quite epitomizes the adage of “like father like son” like Shaun Maclean Pollock. His dad Peter made cut at no. 48 earlier in this list, while uncle Graeme was no. 16 in the corresponding batting list and Shaun rounds up the family gig here. Basically, Pollock was a line and length bowler, keeping the runs in check and the batsmen frustrated. An ODI economy rate of 3.67 speaks volumes of his expertise in this field. But there was never any doubt that he could take wickets as well. Partnering Allan Donald in the first half of his career and Makhaya Ntini in the second half, Pollock ripped through several celebrated batting line-ups, ending up as the leading wicket taker for South Africa in both ODIs and Tests.
24. SAQLAIN MUSHTAQ (PAK) Right Arm Offbreak (1994-2008)
Tests- 49, Wickets- 208, Avg- 29.83, 5W- 13, Best- 8/164
ODIs- 169, Wickets- 288, Avg- 21.78, 4W- 17, Best- 5/20
No country disregards its champions more than Pakistan and even then, somehow, they just keep producing more and more of them in each generation. Saqlain was a trendsetter, the pioneer of that H-bomb called the ‘doosra’. In his peak, Saqlain rivalled the likes of Warne and Muralitharan for the title of the best spinner in the world. Even though his career was peppered with controversies and injuries, he still managed to cement his place as the best spinner ever from his country. In Tests, he was a master, but in ODIs he was nothing short of a wizard. He raced away to 100 ODI wickets faster than anyone else in the game. Sadly though, apathy from his home association meant that his last international appearance came at the age of just 27.
23. DALE STEYN (RSA) Right Arm Fast (2003-12)
Tests- 54, Wickets- 272, Avg- 23.18, 5W- 17, Best- 7/51
ODIs- 63, Wickets- 91, Avg- 28.62, 4W- 4, Best- 5/50
T20Is- 21, Wickets- 29, Avg- 18.31, Best- 4/9
As the 21st century began, many feared that the art of fast bowling was slowly dying. Most of its flag bearers (Akram, McGrath, Walsh, Waqar, Donald, and Pollock) were aging and about to retire soon. The world needed a new fast bowling champion. Enter Dale Willem Steyn! Dale Steyn is the greatest bowler in the world today and he is far ahead of any competition that exists. He has already claimed enough records to be considered one of the all-time greats of the game and he is only 28 and at the peak of his bowling powers. Considering the stalwarts he bowls against (Tendulkar, Dravid, Ponting, Chanderpaul, Sangakkara, Pietersen, etc.) his performances become even more astounding.
22. GEORGE LOHMANN (ENG) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1884-97)
Tests- 18, Wickets- 112, Avg- 10.75, 5W- 9, Best- 9/28
1841 FC wickets at 13.73 with 176 five-wicket hauls
There have been very few bowlers who have dominated batsmen in their time and none have managed to match the extent of George Lohmann’s overpowering domination of the batsmen of his generation. His figures speak volumes of his bowling prowess but cricket is much more than just the statistics. He was purely a medium pacer but possessed the ability to seam the ball both ways. This ability, along with dangerous innovations and experimentations, made him the greatest bowler of his times and one of the greatest ever. He started slow, taking just 1 wicket at 87 in his first two Tests but never looked back after that, amassing 111 wickets in his next 16 games at 10.07, including four 8-wicket hauls and a world record 9/28.
21. ANIL KUMBLE (IND) Legbreak Googly (1989-2010)
Tests- 132, Wickets- 619, Avg- 29.65, 5W- 35, Best- 10/74
ODIs- 271, Wickets- 337, Avg- 30.89, 4W- 10, Best- 6/12
1136 FC wickets at 25.83 with 72 five-wicket hauls
For a spinner, Anil Kumble hardly turned the ball much. He did not possess a great amount of turn or variation but relied more on bounce and pace (typically the weapons of medium pacers and not spinners) but even then, this lion-heart from India emerged as one of the most successful bowlers of all time. His unusual action and bowling method made him virtually unplayable on wearing pitches (as Pakistan discovered at Kotla in 99). In a long and gritty career, Kumble revived spin bowling (along with Warne and Muralitharan) and claimed every Indian bowling record in the book. By the time he retired, Kumble was the third most successful bowler in international cricket history.
Next time, we move in the big league, looking at the back end of the 20 greatest bowlers the game has ever seen. The penultimate part coming soon!
In the inaugural part of this list, we looked at numbers 50-41 of the greatest bowlers in the history of cricket. Now let us move further up in the list and glance at the next ten legends on the list. So, here numbers 40-31.
40. FAZAL MAHMOOD (PAK) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1943-64)
Tests- 34, Wickets- 139, Avg- 24.70, 5W- 13, Best- 7/42
466 FC wickets at 18.96 with 38 five-wicket hauls
One always wonders how Pakistan has produced so many great fast bowlers when India has struggled to find even a handful even though the two nations share the same culture and landmass. I might not have the answer to that question, but I can name the man who began the trend for Pakistan. Fazal Mahmood was Pakistan’s first great quick, spearheading their first attack to several memorable victories against arch-rivals India. Tall, fair and handsome, Mahmood was Pakistan’s very own poster boy of cricket. They called him Pakistan’s Bedser and the comparison was a compliment to both greats. The way Mahmood brought pace, swing and accuracy all together, it seemed as if he was – in the words of Neil Harvey – “making the ball talk”.
39. CHARLIE TURNER (AUS) Right Arm Medium Fast (1882-1910)
Tests- 17, Wickets- 101, Avg- 16.53, 5W- 11, Best- 7/43
993 FC wickets at 14.25 with 102 five-wicket hauls
Image: (c) Getty Images
They called him ‘Terror’ because that is what he invoked in the opposition batsmen. One of the most dominant bowlers of all time, Charles Thomas Biass Turner was one of the first greats of the game and the predominant great Australian fast bowler of his generation. His only rival for the throne of the greatest of his age was England’s George Lohmann and despite Lohmann’s unparalleled exploits, Turner gave the Surrey quick quite the run for his money. During his first tour to England, Turner wreaked havoc, taking 314 wickets at 11.12. In the Tests, he took 21 wickets in 3 games at 12.42. In fact, Turner never averaged over 30 in a Test series, a feat beyond belief in today’s time.
38. LANCE GIBBS (WI) Right Arm Offbreak (1953-76)
Tests- 79, Wickets- 309, Avg- 29.09, 5W- 18, Best- 8/38
Spinners from the West Indies are a rare sight indeed. So it was quite a shocker when Lance Gibbs, a Caribbean spinner (yes, they’re not a myth) ended up as the leading wicket taker in the world when he broke Freddie Trueman’s record of 307 Test wickets in his final Test. Throughout the 1960s, Gibbs was arguably the best spinner in the world, taking over the mantle of the first-choice Windies spinner from Ramadhin. He combined some amazing spin with fierce accuracy and steep bounce to confound batsman from across the globe for nearly two decades.
37. CHAMINDA VAAS (SL) Left Arm Fast Medium (1990-2012)
Tests- 111, Wickets- 355, Avg- 29.58, 5W- 12, Best- 7/71
ODIs- 322, Wickets- 400, Avg- 27.53, 4W- 13, Best- 8/19
T20Is- 6, Wickets- 6, Avg- 21.33, Best- 2/14
Undoubtedly the greatest fast bowler from his country, Vaas shouldered Sri Lanka’s new ball attack mostly single-handedly throughout the 1990s and 2000s and that too, with both style and substance. His bowling average might be on the wrong side of the 20s, but that is much die to the fact that he has bowled mostly on the bland and flat pitches of the subcontinent that offer no or little help to fast bowlers like him. Experts widely rate him as one of the best left-arm fast bowlers of all time, probably only behind Wasim Akram of Pakistan and Alan Davidson of Australia.
36. KAPIL DEV (IND) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1975-94)
Tests- 131, Wickets- 434, Avg- 29.64, 5W- 23, Best- 9/83
ODIs- 225, Wickets- 253, Avg- 27.45, 4W- 4, Best- 5/43
Just how good can a bowler perform with the new ball if he has no consistent support from the other end? Kapil proved that even in the absence of speed, bounce and support, one can go on to be one of the greatest ever, solely on the basis of one’s determination and discipline. He was no Hadlee or Imran with the ball, but he could generate enormous amount of swing and bowled with a pace unprecedented for an Indian fast bowler. He shouldered India’s attack longer than any other bowler in the country’s history and never faltered along the way. A big game player, Kapil reserved his best for the big occasions and it does not come as a surprise that it was him who led India to their first World Cup triumph.
35. KEITH MILLER (AUS) Right Arm Fast (1937-59)
Tests- 55, Wickets- 170, Avg- 22.97, 5W- 7, Best- 7/60
They say no one could turn around a match with both the bat and ball the way Keith Miller could. One of the greatest all-rounders the game has seen, Miller’s transition from a classical top order batsman to a tearaway opening bowler was unprecedented and remarkable at the same time. A remarkable average of below 23 is testament to his bowling prowess which time and again demolished batting line ups across the world. He feared no one and the world feared him. He once sent down several bouncers down Bradman’s throat in a provincial game just to prove he could the better of the great man. West Indies captain John Goddard once said, “Give us Keith Miller and we’d beat the world.” Such was his class.
34. SIR IAN BOTHAM (ENG) Right Arm Fast-Medium (1974-93)
Tests- 102, Wickets- 383, Avg- 28.40, 5W- 27, Best- 8/34
ODIs- 116, Wickets- 145, Avg- 28.54, 4W- 3, Best- 4/31
No one has contributed more to a team than Ian Botham. When he was there, England were world-beaters. In his absence, they looked like a bunch of lost pre-schoolers. Within a year of his first-class debut, he was playing for England and within three years of that, he was already one of the best bowlers in the world having taken 139 wickets in just 25 Tests at 18.52. But the best was yet to come. The 1981 Ashes series will always be remembered as Botham’s Ashes as England’s prodigal son took 34 wickets at 20.58 along with 399 runs at 36.27 to give England one of the greatest Ashes victories of all time.
33. SIR ALEC BEDSER (ENG) Right Arm Medium-Fast (1939-60)
Tests- 51, Wickets- 236, Avg- 24.89, 5W- 15, Best- 7/44
1924 FC wickets at 20.41 with 96 five-wicket hauls
More than all the batsmen that dominated his decade, Bedser was responsible for the revival of English cricket after the Second World War. He spearheaded a strong English attack comprising of himself, Brian Statham and Frank Tyson, and led them to several routs of a strong Australian side in the 1950s. He bowled England to an unforgettable Ashes triumph in 1953, snaring 39 wickets at an amazing average of 17.48. Powerfully built and extremely quick, Bedser was also incredibly fit for his age. Despite of the fact that he played Tests till the age of 37, he left the field only once in his entire career.
32. DEREK UNDERWOOD (ENG) Slow Left Arm Orthodox (1963-87)
Tests- 86, Wickets- 297, Avg- 25.83, 5W- 17, Best- 8/51
WSC Matches- 4, Wickets- 16, Avg- 25.87, 5W- 0, Best- 4/59
ODIs- 26, Wickets- 32, Avg- 22.93, 4W- 1, Best- 4/44
2465 FC wickets at 20.28 with 153 five-wicket hauls
On rain-affected pitches, Derek Underwood was a giant; virtually unplayable. His teammates at Kent conferred on him the nickname ‘Deadly’ and he proved them right in a long and consistent career with the English side. England’s last great spinner, Underwood was known for his accuracy, biting pace and stunning variation. He burst on to the scene taking 100 wickets in his debut first-class season at the age of 18. He went on to fulfil all the promises he displayed in this early age by finishing as England’s most successful spinner in Tests. Had he not dropped out of Tests for World Series Cricket and the rebel tour to South Africa (the moves cost him 5 years of international cricket), he would surely have added another 100 Test wickets to his tally.
31. WES HALL (WI) Right Arm Fast (1955-71)
Tests- 48, Wickets- 192, Avg- 26.38, 5W- 9, Best- 7/69
For any batsman in the 1960s, there was no sight more frightening than a charged up Wes Hall steaming down his run up to deliver his 90mph projectiles of terror. He showed his true class by claiming 46 wickets in 8 Tests at 17.76 in the 1958 tour to the subcontinent where he terrorised the Asian batsmen even on the flat and low pitches of India and Pakistan. In 1962, he demolished a strong Indian batting line up comprising of Pataudi, Umrigar, Jaisimha, Sardesai and Manjrekar as he nabbed 27 wickets in 5 games at just 15.74. He averaged just 20.05 on the flat Asian pitches (54 wickets in 11 Tests), a testament to his greatness.
In the next installment of the list, we take a look at numbers 30-21 in our countdown to the greatest bowler in cricket history.
They say cricket has become a batsman’s game. The biggest superstars of the game have always been batsmen. From Grace to Bradman; from Hobbs to Richards; from Hammond to Tendukar, they have been the game’s big ticket draws. Bowlers have hardly dominated world cricket since the end of the 19th century (save for the Bodyline and a brief period in the 1970s). But even then, bowlers possess the ability to turn a game around much faster than a batsman. They can initiate those fourth day post-tea collapses to induce result in a seemingly dead Test. They can rip out that unbelievable spell of six overs to cripple that ODI chase just as it was gaining momentum. They can bowl a maiden at the death to take the target further away from the batsmen. No matter how many runs batsmen might score, you don’t win a game if the bowlers don’t take wickets. So, here is the follow up to my earlier batting list– a five part list of the 50 greatest bowlers in the history of modern-day cricket.
50. JOHN SNOW (ENG) Right Arm Fast Medium (1961-80)
Tests- 49, Wickets- 202, Avg- 26.66, 5W- 8, Best- 7/40
ODIs- 9, Wickets- 14, Avg- 16.57, 4W- 2, Best- 4/11
1174 FC wickets at 22.73 with 56 five-wicket hauls
Anyone who played alongside or against John Snow would vouch for the fact that he was a true character. For almost a decade starting the mid-1960s, he was England’s best fast bowler by a margin. But despite that, his Test appearances are limited to 49 only because he found himself on the wrong side of the administration very so often (like a typical fast bowler). He was selected for only three overseas tours but took 62 wickets in them at just 20.91. His performances came against the strongest sides of his age- West Indies and Australia. 155 of his 202 wickets came against these two teams including all of his 8 five-wicket hauls.
49. TICH FREEMAN (ENG) Legbreak Googly (1914-36)
Tests- 12, Wickets- 66, Avg- 25.86, 5W- 5, Best- 7/71
3776 FC wickets at 18.42 with 386 five-wicket hauls
Alfred Percy ‘Tich’ Freeman was a great slow bowler, even though he wasn’t a regular in the Test side and even though he did not possess any great variations or surprise deliveries. He makes this list by the sheer weight and volume of his wickets. Wisden called him “one of the greatest slow bowlers the game has known”. His peers described him as a wizard of spin with unbelievable levels of stamina that allowed him to bowl an entire day unchanged. He missed many years due to the First World War but made up for all of it in grand style. From 1928 to 35, he took over 200 wickets each year (a total of 2,090 wickets in 8 years) and remains the only bowler to take 300 wickets in a year, a feat he achieved in 1928.
48. PETER POLLOCK (RSA) Right Arm Fast (1958-72)
Tests- 28, Wickets- 116, Avg- 24.18, 5W- 9, Best- 6/38
Pollock hails from one of the greatest cricketing families ever. His brother Graeme is widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen ever (no. 15 on Hatter’s list of the Greatest Batsmen) and his son Shaun also makes an appearance later in this list. Peter Pollock was the spearhead of one of the greatest bowling attacks in Test cricket history, the 1960s Springboks (South Africa, before they were called the Proteas). He was a tearaway fast bowler who had the ability to terrorize batsmen with pace alone, but his nagging line and accuracy made him even deadlier. Sadly, he was only 29 and the peak of his bowling powers when South Africa was forced out of international cricket due to their policy of apartheid.
47. BOBBY PEEL (ENG) Slow Left Arm Orthodox (1882-97)
Tests- 20, Wickets- 101, Avg- 16.98, 5W- 5, Best- 7/31
1775 FC wickets at 16.20 with 123 five-wicket hauls
Robert ‘Bobby’ Peel was one of the first great slow bowlers in Test cricket history and certainly the greatest of all 19th century left-arm spinners. He excelled both for his county Yorkshire as well as for MCC (as the English Test side was then called). A master of fine length who had splendid command over spin, Peel bowled England to several memorable Ashes victories. His partnership with Johnny Briggs haunted the Australian batting line ups throughout the 1880s and 1890s. Amazingly enough, Peel was no bunny with the bat. He was more than competent as a batsman, scoring over 12,000 FC runs with a highest score of 210.
46. SHANE BOND (NZ) Right Arm Fast (2001-10)
Tests- 18, Wickets- 87, Avg- 22.09, 5W- 5, Best- 6/51
ODIs- 82, Wickets- 147, Avg- 20.88, 4W- 11, Best- 6/19
T20Is- 20, Wickets- 25, Avg- 21.72, Best- 3/18
Here is the Greek God of cricket. Chiselled, blonde, lethal and fragile; Bond’s tale seems straight out of a Virgil or Homer epic. The unstoppable warrior single-handedly carrying the load of his troops, but tragically enough, his body lets him down so often on the battlefield that he cannot ensure victory for his side. No one has managed to leave such a lasting impression on world cricket in an international career so small. Batsman today shudder to think what he would have done had he played more than his measly 18 Tests and 82 ODIs. The greatest testament of his greatness is his success against the pre-dominant side of his times- the mighty Aussies. He took 50 wickets against them at an average of 20, across all forms of the game.
45. HAROLD LARWOOD (ENG) Right Arm Fast (1924-38)
Tests- 21, Wickets- 78, Avg- 28.35, 5W- 4, Best- 6/32
1427 FC wickets at 17.51 with 98 five-wicket hauls
Probably the fastest and most dangerous speedster of all times, Larwood remained an enigma throughout his playing career and an icon long after he retired. The mere mention of his name was enough to spread terror across the enemy ranks. He was England’s Goliath; their Kryptonite for the Australian superman named Bradman. He dismissed Bradman more times than any other bowler and restricted his legendary scoring prowess substantially. The main protagonist (or antagonist, depending on which side of the equator you live) of the infamous Bodyline series, he ripped through the celebrated Australian batting line up comprising of Woodfull, Bradman, Ponsford and McCabe, taking 33 wickets in 5 Tests at 19 and injuring almost the entire opposition at least once.
44. HUGH TRUMBLE (AUS) Right Arm Offbreak (1887-1904)
Tests- 32, Wickets- 141, Avg- 21.78, 5W- 9, Best- 8/65
929 FC wickets at 18.44 with 69 five-wicket hauls
Trumble was a dead-wicket specialist, perhaps the pioneer of the trend. He was a challenging bowler on normal wickets but almost unplayable on wet and sticky wickets. His off-spin was more like medium pace, much like Kumble and Afridi a century later. The pioneer of the slower delivery, he was the first man to take two Test hat tricks (a feat achieved only twice again). His variations in flight and pace were good enough to bamboozle the likes of Grace, Shrewsbury and Wilfred Rhodes. Trumble had the rare fortune of signing off his career with a remarkable performance, when he bowled Plum Warner’s England for 101 taking 7/28 in a memorable Ashes victory.
43. RICHIE BENAUD (AUS) Legbreak Googly (1948-64)
Tests- 63, Wickets- 248, Avg- 27.03, 5W- 16, Best- 7/72
Richie Benaud is a man of many faces. He is the charismatic captain, the champion all-rounder, the insightful cricket expert and the influential mentor all rolled into one. In this list however, we talk of Benaud- the shrewd leg spinner. His bowling was full of baits and traps for the batsmen, carrying forward the legacy of Grimmet and O’Reilly. His presence on the field was inspiring for the team mates and intimidating for the opposition. He was undoubtedly the greatest leg-spinner in the world during his heyday. His impact on the game can be gauged by the fact that one his protégés went on to play for Australia himself; a fat little bloke by the name of Shane Keith Warne.
42. ABDUL QADIR (PAK) Legbreak Googly (1975-96)
Tests- 67, Wickets- 236, Avg- 32.80, 5W- 15, Best- 9/56
ODIs- 104, Wickets- 132, Avg- 26.16, 4W- 6, Best- 5/44
If wrist-spin is alive and kicking (ass) today, much of the credit for that should go to Abdul Qadir- Pakistan’s spin wizard from the 80s. Qadir is the embodiment of mystique. Batsmen of his time had no idea what he was going to do next; there were just so many different arrows in his quiver. Many believe that with his temperament, he could very well have been a fast bowler but he chose spin and the gods of cricket thank him for it. A man who could bowl six different deliveries in an over, Qadir thrived on variety and spectacle, distracting and confounding the batsman at the same time; and that too in a way that no one had done before him and no one has done since.
41. SONNY RAMADHIN (WI) Right Arm Offbreak (1949-65)
Tests- 43, Wickets- 158, Avg- 28.98, 5W- 10, Best- 7/49
758 FC wickets at 20.24 with 51 five-wicket hauls
Ramadhin was the epitome of a ‘buttoned down’ cricketer. His shirt was always neatly tucked in and sleeves were always buttoned at the wrists. In more ways than one, he was more English in his style than Caribbean. Ramadhin shot to international prominence in 1950 when he baffled stalwarts like Hutton, Simpson, Edrich and Bailey with his ability to spin the ball both ways without any discernable change in action. He formed one of the most effective spin partnerships with his spin twin Jamaican Alf Valentine (who debuted alongside him) through the 1950s. A champion of long spells, Ramadhin brought out his best against England, troubling the likes of Colin Cowdrey and Peter May even when he was nearing the end of his career.
Stay tuned for the next ten bowling greats in part 2 of the list.
ग़िला1 नहीं कोई, जलन नहीं, बस कौतूहल2 सा उठता है,
इतनी ग़र्दिशों3 में रहकर भी कैसे वो मुस्काते हैं,
मेरे क़ुफ़्र4 को हँसकर वो, नादानी यों कह जाते हैं ।
तेरे बताए रस्तों पर भी वो ठोकर ही तो खाते हैं,
तेरी रहमत की यों आस लिए वो तार- तार हुए जाते हैं,
फिर भी मुफ़लिसी5 में वो बस तेरे ही गुन गाते हैं ।
स्याह-सफ़ेद नहीं हयात यह, हैं और कई रंग इसमें,
यह इल्म6 मुझे है फिर भी दिल में कुछ ख़्याल उठ जाते हैं,
लहू चूसकर मानवता का, हाजी वो बन जाते हैं,
और इन्सां के लिए मिटकर भी हम क़ाफ़िर ही कहलाते हैं ।
तुझसे बैर नहीं है मुझको, मज़हब से पर ख़फ़ा हूँ मैं,
नीयत को मज़हब के तराजू में तुलता देख ग़मज़दा7 हूँ मैं,
ईमान क्या इस क़दर मता-ए-मज़हब8 हो चुका है,
क्या फ़ितरत9 तोलने का हर साफ़ ज़रिया खो चुका है,
गर ऐसा है तो तेरे वजूद10 को मानने से इनक़ार करता हूँ,
अपने क़ाफ़िर होने का आज इक़रार11 करता हूँ ॥
“Kaafir” means one who is bereft of faith.
1- complaint; 2- curiosity; 3- misfortune; 4- lack of faith; 5- poverty; 6- knowledge; 7- sad; 8- the domain of religion; 9- nature; 10- existence; 11- accept