With the recent sudden retirement of the Australian fast bowler Brett Lee from international cricket the death of great fast bowlers has become quite evident. The question then arises is who are the greatest fast bowlers ever to grace the cricketing world? It is for this reason that I have undertaken a difficult task of selecting my all time top ten great fast bowlers that the cricketing world has ever seen. My list of the top ten great fast bowlers are as follows.
1. Wasim Akram:
“The Sultan of Swing” is what they call him and it certainly is a title that perfectly suits this genius of a left arm fast bowler from Pakistan who answers by the name of Wasim Akram. So be it in swing, out swing, the famous reserve swing or Irish swing for which he is credited to have been a master at he had exceptional control of swing rarely seen in bowlers. What also sets him apart was his ability to plan and execute the dismissal of a batsman with the utmost of ease. Also apart from being a great bowler he was a useful lower order left-handed batsman with a highest test score of 257 not out against Zimbabwe in 1996 to his credit. Overall a true master of his craft and like Zidane who was a magician in the world of football , so is Akram a true magician in the world of cricket.
2. Curtly Ambrose:
“The intimidating giant” from Antigua is what Curtly Ambrose clearly was standing tall at 6 feet and 7 inches towering over batsmen over the years. Apart from his intimidating body language what made Ambrose such a class act was his great ability of hitting a consistent line and length at great pace a deadly combination to have in any fast bowler. What made him even more special was the simple fact that with his height he could generate discomforting bounce from the wicket a real nightmare for any batsman worth his salt. Overall a real class new ball bowler who certainly put fear in the mind of most batsmen in the cricketing world.
3. Courtney Walsh:
If the title “The Gentle Giant” ever perfectly suited a fast bowler (which is rare) then it has to be the tall Jamaican with impeccable sportsman spirit from Kingston Courtney Walsh. Just as most of the West Indies fast bowlers during the 70’s and 80’s Walsh was gifted with great height i.e. 6 feet 6 inches and natural athleticism. Being gifted with consistent line and length along with creating awkward bounce for the batsmen he certainly had a class of his own. Although he did not possess the pace or the menace of his new ball partner Curtly Ambrose he certainly was adept at getting wickets in his own style of bowling and, as a result complementing Curtly’s style perfectly. Thus this “Gentle Giant” from Jamaica is certainly one of the finest exponent of his craft the world of cricket has ever seen.
4. Glenn Mcgrath:
“Hit the top of off stump” is an old cricketing idiom for bowlers and no one other than the Australian legend Glenn Mcgrath proved that this mantra is a sure way to become a successful bowler in international cricket. With Mcgrath sacrificing pace for supreme accuracy and subtle seam movement he tormented many a great batsman of his generation for many years. The most striking feature of his bowling style was his ability to make the batsmen play most of the deliveries rather than leave some and there lies his greatness. With great accuracy and a miserly economy rate Mcgrath is certainly one of the great bowlers in modern day cricket ever to have played the game.
5. Waqar Younis:
The term “Toe Crusher” appropriately defines the bowler Waqar Younis who for a decade terrorized batsmen with his lethal yorkers. He was famous for his ability to use the old ball and thereby produce reverse swing to destructive effect. Although he was not as consistent with the new ball he formed a great partnership with the legendary Wasim Akram and are till date considered as one of the greatest bowling partnerships ever alongside the great West Indian duo of Walsh and Ambrose. His mastery over the yorker made him a bowler who put fear in the batsman’s mind. With one of the best strike rates in the game till date Waqar Younis is certainly one of the great fast bowlers that will live in the hearts of cricket lovers forever.
6. Allan Donald:
The title “The White lightning” quite appropriately reflects the style of Allan Donald one of South Africa’s greatest ever fast bowlers to play the game. Ferociously quick with intimidating body language was a trademark of this bowler. The striking feature of Donald was his unique ability to swing the ball at great pace a rare quality in a fast bowler. Apart from swing Donald also used the short ball to good effect as a tactic of intimidation. Overall a great fast bowler with great skill set and will definitely will be considered not only as one of the greatest fast bowlers cricket has seen but also as the one of the greatest fast bowlers the rainbow nation has ever produced.
7. Shaun Pollock:
Just like Australian legend Glenn Mcgrath who believed in the idiom “Hit the top of off stump” so did Shaun Pollock of South Africa. With an illustrious background that includes the great Graeme Pollock being his uncle and son of former South African fast bowler Peter Pollock, Shaun with his disciplined line and length certainly carved a niche for himself just like his family. He was renowned for making the batsmen play majority of the deliveries rather than leaving them. Also a more than useful lower order batsmen with a couple of test centuries to his name. Overall a great bowler with great control over seam movement who will certainly be remembered as one of the truly great fast bowler that the game as seen and thereby preserve the legacy of the “POLLOCK” family forever.
8. Dale Steyn:
This is a bowler who is an absolute delight to watch and his rightly the best bowler in the world at the moment and his name is “Steyn, Dale Steyn”. Possessing a deadly combination of pace and swing Steyn has managed to trouble the best of the best for a few years now. Apart for pace and swing he is also a very clever bowler with an unique ability of changing his pace to deceive the batsmen. So be it in swing or out swing Steyn has mastered it all and is well on his way to acquiring a cult status in the cricketing world. Hopefully with more great bowling performances from this great bowler one can only hope that this juggernaut of Steyn continues to dominate world cricket even in the future.
9. Zaheer Khan:
There is a popular idiom that says “Older the wine better the taste” and this is exactly what India’s spearhead Zaheer Khan just like old wine has become i.e. a great bowler over time. Although he burst into international cricket as tear away fast bowler he slowly and intelligently sacrificed his pace for accuracy and guile in order to get wickets. Yet another “master” of the reserve swing and definitely the best bowler with the old ball in world cricket today. Also is master at using the short ball as a lethal weapon to plot a downfall of many a batsman around the world. With frequent injuries piling up for Zaheer and age not anymore on his side one can only hope that he continues to enthrall all cricket lovers around the world so long as fitness and age continue to be on his side.
10. Brett Lee:
Popularly known as “Binga” by his teammates this Australian bomber Brett Lee from New South Wales who recently retired from international cricket is certainly among the great bowlers to have graced international cricket. Initially a tear away young fast bowler who with age and maturity learnt the art of managing a balance of accuracy along with raw pace. Also a lethal old ball bowler with an ability to produce great yorkers making him a very difficult old ball bowler to face. As the “Sun has finally set” on the brilliant career of this great Australian fast bowler one can be certain that his legacy as one of the all time great fast bowlers in international cricket shall always remain in the heart of cricket lovers all around the world forever.
With the difficult task of selecting my ten all time great fast bowlers in the world of cricket done and dusted I as a cricket lover can only hope that in the near future we get to see more brilliant fast bowlers emerge and raise the standard of fast bowling for generations to come.