Greatest Fast Bowlers (based on career peak) by Abdul Habib 21st September 2003 Who were the greatest fast bowlers of all time? If we look at each players 6 year career peak (first day of the 1st year to the last day of the last year) and list them by their strike rate then who would be the greatest fast bowler of all time? I'm sure most of us would have an inkling as we read this but I assure you apart from the No.1 position, the placements of most of the remaining names are quite surprising!!! My first task was to choose a selection of bowlers and this had to have some limits or I could never have completed this list. Firstly a lot of the names suggested to me are 'pages of history' and not sportsmen as we would know them today. Some suggested the Australian fast bowler Spofforth but when I checked his stats he'd only ever played against England and no-one else. After checking a few other names I decided to set the bar at the 1970's because it was only after this decade that we can really say that there was true competition in cricket amongst a variety of teams at a competitive level. Fast bowlers before this period had not faced the variety of quality batsmen on varying pitches around the world that the post-70's bowlers have had to contend with. Also there is a lot more cricket played these days, so todays bowlers have to be physically fitter and have an attack full of variety just to survive! Much of the bowlers and batsman before this period played the same teams (or even team) over and over again, they got to know each others weaknesses and strengths. If there was a player today who had only ever played against one team then would we call him great? The players from centuries ago may hold importance for those fans and pundits whose teams havent produced any truly world class players since then but the rest of us know different. If you sent Wasim and Waqar back 80 years in a time machine during their peak, I believe they would probably blast out any teams batting order within the first 25 overs. The players we have today are professionals and incredible at what they do. It's unfair to both sets of cricketers for us to compare todays dedicated professionals to the leisurely amateurs from era's gone by, for whom cricket was nothing more than a hobby or something to do when they got bored. Anyway I believe cricket only got truly competitive during the 70's with an array of teams all fighting it out in differing conditions against all sorts of players and brand new varieties of deliveries. The players I chose were... Australia - Lillee, Gillespie and McGrath England - Botham India - Srinath and Kapil New Zealand - Hadlee Pakistan - Imran, Waqar and Wasim S Africa - Pollock and Donald W Indies - Garner, Marshall, Holding, Ambrose and Walsh. ...some people may suggest other names that I may have missed and I know the above werent all 'strictly speaking' fast bowlers but they are all great bowlers! I will be comparing each players 6 year peak at their discipline because when we are choosing players in all time greatest teams then we are choosing them for their peak powers and not their overall performance. Any player that can turn out all time great figures for 6 consecutive years is a great in my book! I dont like to hold injuries against any player because that is something out of their control so 6 years is the perfect length of time for even the most injury prone players to prove their worth!!! There will be two categories, the all time greatest bowlers and the 'great' bowlers. To qualify for either category a player must meet the benchmark set and each player will be ranked by their strike rate, since this is the most important factor in a test match bowlers figures! All Time Greatest Bowlers The benchmark set for each bowler will be exactly the same, they must have a strike rate below 50 and an average below 21 to qualify as one of the all time greatest bowlers. They must have sustained these figures for a 6 year period when they were at the peak of their abilities. Below are the results... 01. 194 wkts at an avg of 20.02 with a S/R of 38.0 for Waqar (90-95) 02. 154 wkts at an avg of 14.85 with a S/R of 40.9 for Imran (81-86) 03. 238 wkts at an avg of 18.90 with a S/R of 43.1 for Marshall (84-89) 04. 233 wkts at an avg of 19.88 with a S/R of 43.1 for Donald (95-00) 05. 222 wkts at an avg of 18.76 with a S/R of 46.1 for Hadlee (83-88) 06. 195 wkts at an avg of 19.87 with a S/R of 46.4 for Wasim (90-95) 07. 286 wkts at an avg of 20.50 with a S/R of 48.1 for McGrath (95-20) ...only seven bowlers made it into the all time great category. I know the benchmark was a bit high but then dont we expect the very best from our all time greats especially at the very peaks of their careers? Waqar's S/R at his peak is unmatchable and the only one to come close is Imran Khan. I've deliberately left out a certain controversial bowler because he has just hit his peak now and has only one 5 year period to his name at the moment! I did a little check on Shoaibs last few 3 year periods and his best figures are... 84 wkts at an avg of 16.52 with a S/R of 32.2 for Shoaib (00-03) ...if he can keep free from injury and sustain similar form for another two years then Waqar may have a serious challenger for his top spot!!! Great Bowlers Not every bowler from the 17 in my list made the benchmark and that surprised me since I felt most of them bowling at the peak of their powers would have made it but sadly they didnt. So I have created a second category for 'great bowlers' so that everyone could see where their favourites rank. Obviously these bowlers are still some of the best in history and fans from their respective countries will back them to the hilt as being entitled to be in the 'greatest bowlers' group but they didnt meet the benchmark set, which I'm sure most of you will agree was quite fair when we are talking about the best bowlers in the business. The benchmark for the 'great bowlers' category is a S/R below 55 and an average below 25, the results are... 08. 151 wkts at an avg of 21.61 with a S/R of 45.9 for Holding (81-86) 09. 203 wkts at an avg of 22.17 with a S/R of 45.9 for Lillee (76-81) 10. 189 wkts at an avg of 20.24 with a S/R of 50.8 for Ambrose (93-98) 11. 129 wkts at an avg of 23.18 with a S/R of 52.2 for Walsh (85-90) 12. 249 wkts at an avg of 19.95 with a S/R of 52.9 for Pollock (96-01) 13. 170 wkts at an avg of 20.62 with a S/R of 53.3 for Garner (81-86) 14. 267 wkts at an avg of 24.99 with a S/R of 53.5 for Botham (78-83) ...So there you have it, the 7 greatest bowlers (at their peak) of all time from the modern era and 7 bowlers who didnt quite make the grade but will always have a special place in people's memories and whose names will always be mentioned alongside the names of the greatest bowlers. There were 3 bowlers who made the 'great' category on strike rate but missed out due to their averages they are... 15. 142 wkts at an avg of 25.26 with a S/R of 50.2 for Gillespie (97-02) 16. 239 wkts at an avg of 26.94 with a S/R of 53.6 for Kapil (79-84) 17. 142 wkts at an avg of 27.55 with a S/R of 56.0 for Srinath (95-00) ...from these three, Gillespie came closest missing out by 0.27 runs on his average. Its also good to see players from our era like Donald, McGrath and Wasim up there with the greatest of all time. Imran is very very underrated as a fast bowler and at his peak he was something special, he maintained a 14.85 average (the best here) and combined it with a S/R of 40.9 (the second best here) for SIX years! In summary, the king of fast bowlers was a foregone conclusion but the rest of the list makes for quite interesting reading, most of the people I've spoken to about fast bowlers would agree with me that Waqar at his peak was peerless and even the stats bear that fact out.