30 Days, 30 Questions: The best pace bowler today

It's time to settle the debate. In this batsman-friendly world, which pacer puts the fear of god in batsmen's hearts?

Today in 30 Days, 30 Questions:

Steyn can gobble up batsmen and snake-shaped sweets alike.

Question: Who is the best pace bowler today?

Few sights in cricket are more compelling than that of a fast bowler steaming in from the top of his run up. There are fewer sights still that infuse the mind of a batsman with undisguised fear. Little wonder then, pace bowlers have always been an enigmatic, dreaded and pivotal aspect of the game. So, who is the best contemporary practitioner of this back-breaking art?

Is it South Africa’s Dale Steyn, who has wreaked havoc on minefields and placid tracks alike? Is it Pakistan’s Umar Gul, whose mastery of reverse swing gives him an added edge once the ball wears out? Is it our very own Zaheer Khan, whose control and angle have confounded batsmen the world over? Or, how about the young crop of speedsters from down under – Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson – who have given a fair indication of the shape of things to come. To say nothing of England’s purveyors of shape and shift – James Anderson and Stuart Broad, Sri Lanka’s deadly slinger Lasith Malinga, and the pocket dynamite that answers to the name of Kemar Roach.  

Let the slanging match begin.

Please leave your answers in the comments below. We will republish the best ones.


[Update on March 24]: Thanks for your amazing responses, again.

The verdict is overwhelmingly in favour of Dale Steyn — no surprises there. Nevertheless, here are the notable responses:

Pranjal is sold on the South African:

He is a complete package of fast bowing — aggression, accuracy, swing. I have never seen him become frustrated even though he went for runs occasionally. He is always focused on what is he supposed to do in the field and work on his grey areas quickly. He has tremendous fitness levels, something Zaheer Khan didn't have. He could have been easily been the best. Umesh Yadav is a rising star. God save him from the BCCI politicians.

So is Captain PK Sethi:

There are only three top pacers in the world today - Dale Steyn, Dale Steyn & Dale Steyn; the rest come in later.

Arnab feels pacers hunt best in pairs, and Steyn benefits from the company of bowlers like Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.

I think you have heard the saying "Pace bowlers hunt in pairs". History proves this.

Gul doesn't have a good partner (after what happened to Asif and Aamer). Zaheer is plagued with injuries. Pattinson, Starc, Umesh and Aaron have played very little and Roach also doesn't have a very good partner.

So it comes down to: Steyn and Philander, Malinga and Kulasekara, Anderson and Broad. And I would pick Steyn and Philander because they are deadly with the new ball and succeed against most opposition.

Ankur thinks Steyn is Donald 2.0 and laments what Aamir did to himself:

A perfect combination of pace and accuracy. He is the upgraded version of Allan Donald. James Pattinson and Vernon Philander are still in their early days. Ditto for Mitchell Starc and Patrick Cummings. Umar Gul goes for a lot of runs on many occasions. Mohammed Aamir could have been there but he ruined himself.

Vishal Gogia says it's remarkable what Steyn has achieved in the age of Powerplays.

For Test matches, a thumbs up for Steyn purely. His average of near 23 is mind-blowing. For ODIs, Malinga (especially for slog overs) and Umar Gul (containment in Powerplays) are tied first followed closely by Stuart Broad (good at breaking partnerships) and Zak (the lone warrior). I have picked Zak purely for emotional reasons.

Abhigyan says:

Dale Steyn definitely because he is the only bowler who seems to cause problems for batsmen each and every ball. He is remarkably accurate, generates a lot of pace, can reverse the ball and is extremely fit too. He contributes with the bat too and like most Proteans is an excellent fielder. Among the newbies, James Pattinson stands out. He has pace and accuracy plus he is gifted with a sharp cricketing brain. He needs to work on his fitness though.

Muhammad B says Gul is suffering due to the new ball rules.

Unfortunately Pakistan don't have a strike bowler who can be relied upon. Umar Gul is good at times and not so good at others. His main weapon of reverse swing has been stripped off due to the new rule which mandates the use of new balls at each end. And having no adequate partner has really affected the fear he used to put in batsmen's minds.

Lavish picks Malinga.

His ability to bowl great yorkers and slow deliveries in the slog over make him the most feared bowler of the current lot. He has single-handedly turned many matches in favour of Sri Lanka. An example is the ODI against Australia where he took 5-28.

Zoheb picks Steyn with a caveat:

There is one more option, but he has ruined his own image by getting involved in the spot-fixing scandal. Mohammed Aamir, according to Wasim Akram, was cleverer then he was at age 18.

Vinit gets nostalgic.

I actually miss The Swing of Wasim Akram, The Swinging yorkers of Waqar Younis, The aggressive line and length of Allan Donald, Consistency of Glenn McGrath, In Swingers of Shaun Pollock, Bouncers of Walsh and Ambrose. Well right now I see a lull in fast bowling all around the world. Though, in my opinion, Zaheer Khan and Dale Steyn are the best today.

Jayanta Mukhopadhyay misses the days gone by. So do we, sir, so do we.

Once upon a time there were lots of fast bowlers around. Hall, Roberts, Marshall, Garner, Holding, Lillie, Thomson, Botham, Hadlee, Imran, Safraz, Wasim, Waqar, Ambrose, Walsh, Donald and so many more. But for the last few years, their crop has declined with cricket becoming a game of batsmen. McGrath, I think, was "The Last Samurai".

We look forward to your continued participation.

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