Right from Wes Hall to Jeff Thomson to Richard Hadlee to the Caribbean Quartet to Wasim and Waqar, world cricket has over the years seen its fair share of fierce fast bowlers, who loved nothing but intimidating the batsman every time they had the ball in their hand. Although the numbers of those kinds of bowlers have reduced in modern day cricket, there are still a few who could give those stalwarts a run for their money. Here’s a look at 5 of the meanest fastest bowlers going around currently.
1. Dale Steyn
Modern day fast bowlers don’t get too much better than Dale Steyn. The South African, who has an action heavily influenced by his idol, Allan Donald, is as complete a bowler as one can imagine. Pace, movement, variations and a mean bouncer, he is a batsman’s ultimate nightmare. Steyn’s biggest strength is that he finds a way to pick wickets, whatever the conditions are like. Be it in England, South Africa, Australia or even in the subcontinent, there has been no territory left unconquered by the genius of Dale Steyn.
That spell of 7-51 against India at Nagpur was an exhibition of controlled reverse-swing bowling at pace. That spell at Cape Town against India when he breathed fire, but was impeccably negotiated by Sachin Tendulkar, was among the best passages of play one could ever witness.
340 wickets in 67 tests at an average of 22 with a strike rate of 41. You can’t ask for much more from your lead fast bowler, can you?
2. Mitchell Johnson
Erratic. Inconsistent. Over-rated. These are adjectives one often comes across while hearing others describe Mitchell Johnson. But, when he gets it right, watching Johnson bowl is an exhilarating experience, as we saw during the first Ashes test in Brisbane.
The Johnson of now, after making a comeback, is a much sharper bowler, and he’s added a good deal of pace to what we saw before. With the assistance of good planning and good captaincy, Johnson can be an asset, as he was in Brisbane. Most of his wickets were got by beating the batsmen through sheer pace
214 test wickets. 207 ODI Wickets. ICC Player of the Year in 2009. Slowly but surely, the Mitchell Johnson that we all enjoyed watching has got back, and got back with a bang!
3. Morne Morkel
Often, Morkel’s contribution goes unnoticed with the main show being run by either Steyn or Vernon Philander at the other end. But, without any doubt, Morkel is also a pretty nasty customer to face. Due to his height, he generates uncomfortable bounce from the most docile of pitches.
What Morkel does is that he compliments Steyn wonderfully. He’s got the physique to generate the bounce, and that can be unsettling for the best of batsmen. On more than one occasion, it has been Morkel who’s taken that one important wicket taht opened the floodgates for Steyn to destroy the opposition.
177 wickets in 51 tests and 121 wickets in 71 ODIs. Not bad for someone whose main role has been to support Steyn, is it?
4. Stuart Broad
Like Johnson, another one who has gone through ups and downs in his career. None more so, than in the summer of 2011 when his place in the side was under severe threat for the visit of India. But, the selectors stuck with him, and he rewarded them with a Man Of The Series performance in a 4-0 drubbing of the Men In Blue.
Broad has always been the man for the big occasion. In 2009, in the decisive 5th Ashes test at The Oval, Australia were cruising along at 100 odd for the loss of one wicket in reply to England’s 332. Broad delivered a devastating spell of 5-37 to ensure Australia were bowled out for 160, and that went a long way in ensuring that England regained the Ashes
5. Mohammad Irfan
Maybe the most unpopular choice on this list. But, when you are a fast bowler, and over 7 feet tall, you do strike some fear in batsmen’s heads. Irfan has had a great start to his international career, albeit at the age of 30, and he’s answered questions about whether he can handle the workload by delivering 30+ overs in test innings in the heat of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
When you’re that tall, you’ll obviously generate a lot of bounce, but Irfan also has the ability to swing the ball and has great control over his line and length. He also possesses a mean yorker, one that is really hard to play purely because it comes from such a height that it becomes difficult to pick.
If Irfan can keep fit and ensure he can withstand the rigours of test cricket, he might well be another of those from the factory of fearsome fast bowlers produced in Pakistan.