Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the tallest fast bowler of them all?
Pat Cummins appeals as he takes his first five-for on debut (AFP)
West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach’s ten-wicket haul in last week’s Port-of-Spain Test against Australia is the catalyst behind this examination of the tallest quicks in test cricket history.
He became the first West Indian since Curtly Ambrose to capture 10 wickets in a Test against Australia.
That was in the Adelaide Test of January 1993, when the lethal six-foot-seven Ambrose was at his unplayable best, as he took 6 for 74 and 4 for 46 as the touring West Indians won a thriller by one run on Australia Day.
Will Roach trouble Michael Clarke’s men again in the final Test starting tonight (Australian time) at Roseau, Dominica?
As we await the climax of this engrossing slow-motion series, let me switch from cricket statistics to vital statistics.
Is Ambrose at 6’7” the tallest cricketer ever? Not by a long shot. Not even the tallest West Indian.
Joel Garner, another super quickie, stood at six foot nine and a half in his spiked shoes as he delivered deadly chin music, some of it going over batsmen’s heads.
It was interesting discussing this tall topic with Australia’s former batsman and medium pacer (now TV commentator) Tom Moody and The Roar’s Bayman at the SCG during a one-dayer this February. Moody is six foot seven and a half in his socks.
According to him, Garner is the tallest Test cricketer. “Greigy [Tony Greig] was six foot seven but seems to be shrinking,” he said tongue-in-cheek.
Steven Finn, the current England fast bowler, could be six foot nine (CricInfo gives his height at six-seven).
But the tallest first-class cricketer, mused Moody, is Will RI Jefferson who played for Essex at “a shade over six-ten”.
An article in The Cricketer magazine by HC Scales in June 2004 states that Surrey’s Anthony ATC Allom, the son of the legendary MJC Allom, is six foot nine and a half inches tall.
I did further research. New South Wales fast bowler Phil Alley, nicknamed ‘Barge-arse’, stood six-eight and a half above ground level, while South Africa’s Vincent van der Bijl and Kent’s John Graham were bit shorter at six foot eight.
Warwickshire’s opening bowler Paul Dunkels is six-nine. For an interesting figure curiosity, Dunkels scored three runs at an average of 3.00 and took three wickets in three first-class matches. On retirement he became a QC. Another quickie from Warwickshire, CG Ford, was six-seven.
Among Test players, Australia’s beanpole fast bowler Bruce Reid and England’s quickie David Larter touched the tape at six-six and a half. Chris Fitzgerald, Balmain’s left-arm fast bowler of the 1970s, weighed 267 pounds, stood six foot six and a half above the turf and was nicknamed Moose.
Another burly character was the mighty hitter George Bonnor, who played 17 Tests for Australia in the 1880s. Nicknamed ‘the Colonial Hercules’, he weighed 225 pounds and was six foot six tall. Curiously, he had two taller brothers, and George was called Shorty in his home town Bathurst.
Australia’s Glenn McGrath, Josh Hazelwood, Nathan Bracken and Michael Kasprowicz just touch six-six.
Other Australian quickies Craig McDermott and teenager Pat Cummins are six foot five inches tall, with India’s quickie Ishant Sharma at six-four. But they do not qualify for the tall list as they do not meet my six foot six minimum.
The research is far from complete. Roarers are requested to add to my tall poppy list and make corrections where necessary. This may keep you awake when watching the final Test in the West Indies on TV from midnight to 8 am, especially when it rains!
Also all the six-foot-six giants are quick bowlers. Who is, or was, the tallest spinner?
This story has been narrated before but here it for those who have not heard it. Watching Tony Greig and India’s Sunil Gavaskar,who stood at five foot five, bat together for the World XI against New South Wales at the SCG in November 1971, an elderly woman whispered, “I wonder how they communicate with each other?”
Sitting next to her was ABC commentator Norman May, who quipped, “They do it in Morse code; Gavaskar is a dot and Greig’s a dash.”
It could have been dot com in today’s lingo!
Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.