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Opinion

Who's your favourite fast bowler?

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20th December, 2019
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If there was one fast bowler to open the attack for your dream team, who would that be?

If you are like me, you spend considerable time on You Tube watching the great fast bowlers from the past and present. Medium pace and spin bowlers don’t often get a look in, except for maybe Shane Warne’s ball of the century.

There is something riveting about watching a fast bowler commencing his run-up, building pace towards the crease, releasing the ball with as much power as possible. There are so many variables in style, from the unorthodox Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah to the classic Dennis Lillee or Richard Hadlee. Some say that Jeff Thomson had the most classic action, a unique style that Thommo inherited from his father.

Thomson had a simple philosophy, “I’d just shuffle in and go whang!” Thomson’s aggressive approach is why we love watching fast bowlers.

Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson formed a formidable duo and inspired the saying, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if Thomson doesn’t get you, Lillee must”. Fast bowlers are typically cut from the same cloth and have similar characteristics. They’re not usually the shrinking violet type.

Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson together in England

(Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)

So if you had to assemble the perfect fast bowler from the components of other fast bowlers, who would you use?

I’d take Glenn McGrath’s accuracy and consistency, Richard Hadlee’s intelligence, Wasim Akram’s swing, Jeff Thomson’s speed, Curtly Ambrose’s aggression, and Neil Wagner’s heart.

If you combined all those components into one bowler, who would that be? Initially my list of notable fast bowlers grew to 35 candidates, but I whittled it down to my top 15: Wasim Akram, Richard Hadlee, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Shane Bond, Glenn McGrath, Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Pat Cummins, Waqar Younis, Dale Steyn, Joel Garner, Allan Donald and Andy Roberts.

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There are some great bowlers left out, including Kapil Dev, Ian Botham, Shoaib Akhtar, Bob Willis and Courtney Walsh. Brett Lee was pipped by Allan Donald because Donald fits the fast bowler mould slightly better. Speed is an essential factor, which is why some medium pace bowlers missed out. Although McGrath was not the quickest, he has to be selected.

Some may be surprised by Shane Bond’s inclusion and me being a Kiwi probably explains it. Although he had a short career interrupted by injury, he did impress as a complete bowler. Pat Cummins has also had a relatively short career but demands to be included based on current performances. Maybe in a few years he will be considered one of the very best.

We have a Test match on Saturday and must select our three most suitable fast bowlers from the 15. This won’t be easy, so here goes.

The man with the best in swinging yorkers must be in the team, Wasim Akram. The magnificent left-arm bowler from Pakistan has statistics including 414 Test wickets and 25 five-wicket hauls.

We need an out and out speed merchant – someone who will terrify batsmen with his sheer pace and wicked attack. There can only be one, Jeff Thomson. His unusual slinging action created enormous drive for the ball concealed behind his back.

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Not many batsmen could pick up what type of delivery he was going to bowl. He was recorded at 160 kilometres per hour, but some say that he bowled even quicker. No wonder he created mayhem on the pitch. At his peak, he had a better strike rate and average than Dennis Lillee.

One to go, who will it be? Remember this is about your favourite bowler, so therefore my next pick must be Sir Richard Hadlee.

I remember travelling to Eden Park specifically to say that “I saw Hadlee bowl live”. The atmosphere around the ground was incredible with the Hadlee chant quite deafening.

Did the burden of lifting his team up make him a better bowler? How would he have gone in, say, some of the great Australian teams? We will never know. His magnificent bowling in Brisbane 1985-86, taking 9/52, will long be remembered.

The Wisden Almanack recorded that Hadlee “was the most intelligent fast bowler the world has seen… there can be little doubt or argument”.

There you have the three bowlers named to play in the Test on Saturday. How do you think they will go? I know there are the unlucky ones including Dennis Lillee, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner but that is often the case.

So now the onerous task of selecting my favourite fast bowler in my lifetime. Remember the components that a fast bowler should have including intelligence, accuracy, speed, swing, aggression, heart and I must add excitement as well.

The bowler with most of these attributes and my personal favourite must be Jeff ‘Thommo’ Thomson at his absolute peak.

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