Who is the greatest fast bowler of all time? It barely takes a couple of seconds to ask the question but the debate over the answer is never-ending. You can present tons of points in favour of your favourite bowler.
Over the years, lots of fast bowlers came and ruled the world of cricket. Some rattled the batsmen with devastating pace while others had the batsmen dance to their tune with vicious swing.
The debate has been raging on for years now. The likes of Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Richard Hadlee, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Dennis Lillee, Wasim Akram, Glenn McGrath are obvious names that crop up during the debate.
Besides them, Australia's Jeff Thomson, Craig McDermott, Brett Lee, England's Fred Trueman, Ian Botham, Bob Willis, James Anderson, West Indies' Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Pakistan's Waqar Younis, Imran Khan, Shoaib Akhtar, South Africa's Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, India's Kapil Dev have ruled cricket with the ball in hand.
But there is no way one can declare a bowler to be the greatest of all time because there is no such scale to measure greatness. Even, it's not possible to pick the greatest fast bowler looking at statistics.
If that was the case, then James Anderson would be the greatest fast bowler of all time. He is the highest wicket-taker among the quick bowlers in Test cricket. But stats are not the most important thing as far as greatness is concerned. Ability, talent, intelligence, the capability to trouble the batsmen in any kind of wicket - a lot of things need to be taken into account.
Legendary Caribbean fast bowler Malcolm Marshall was one cricketer who had all these qualities in abundance, and is believed to be the most complete fast bowler in the history of cricket. He could rattle the batsmen with pace, terrify them with bouncers and square them up with swing. He took 376 wickets in 81 Tests for the West Indies. A complete package, Marshall is a unanimous pick when it comes to talking about the greatest fast bowlers.
Another complete package was the legendary Wasim Akram from Pakistan. He was quite pacy when he started his career. But in his early thirties, he was diagnosed with diabetes and that caused Wasim to lose a bit of pace. But this was not a problem for him because he could make the ball talk whichever way he wanted to.
He could deliver six different deliveries in an over. With 916 international wickets (414 in Tests, 502 in ODIs), many pick Wasim Akram as the greatest fast bowler of all time.
Another Caribbean paceman's name crops up in the debate. Despite not being as devastating as Marshall and Wasim, Courtney Walsh performed at the highest level consistently for a very long time. The light arm fast bowler was the first-ever fast bowler in the history of Test cricket to take 500 wickets. The former bowling coach of Bangladesh finished his career with 519 wickets from 132 Tests and is considered one of the greatest fast bowlers to play the game.
Former Aussie fast bowler Dennis Lille is also someone to look at. Many predicted that his career would be shortened because of a chronic back injury. But Lillee bounced back stronger, picking up 355 wickets in 70 Tests.
Talking about Aussie fast bowlers, Glenn McGrath is undoubtedly one of the greatest cricketers to represent Australia. He didn't have too much pace, yet could trouble the batsmen with the vicious swing and uncomfortable bounce he could extract. On top of that, McGrath was extremely accurate, making life difficult for the best of batsmen. With 560 Test wickets, he is without any doubt one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time.
Richard Hadlee, the greatest fast bowler to have represented New Zealand, is another name to crop up in the discussion. In addition, he is one of the greatest all-rounders in history. Hadlee was the first bowler in Test cricket to pick up 400 wickets, finishing with 431 scalps from 86 Tests.
Though not being hyped much, Kapil Dev also ruled the world for a long time with the ball in hand. His longevity is unparalleled. No one else in the subcontinent has taken more wickets as a fast bowler than him. He never missed a Test match due to injury. Kapil took 434 wickets in 131 Tests and captained his side to their first-ever World Cup win in 1983.
Imran Khan and Waqar Younis are two bowlers who were lethal at the beginning of their careers. Imran took most of his wickets in the subcontinent while Waqar was devastating in all conditions. Waqar's strike rate in Test cricket is still one of the lowest among fast bowlers.
Bowlers with express pace like Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee, Shane Bond, Patrick Patterson, Wes Hall don't really qualify to be in the debate but have a lasting impression in the mind of the fans.
Dale Steyn is the first name from the modern day to crop up in the debate. His bowling was a deadly combination of pace, swing and bounce. He was invincible at home and has good record in England, Australia and India. Steyn finished his career with 439 Test wickets.
England quick James Anderson has the highest number of wickets among fast bowlers. But his record is not quite convincing away from home as he has taken 377 out of his 593 wickets in England. He is somewhat successful in South Africa. He hasn't performed in Australia as good as in England. His stats in the subcontinent are not great either.
For the same reason, there isn't much hype about Stuart Broad. A few days ago, he became the fourth fast bowler to reach the milestone of 500 Test wickets. He has taken 311 out of his 511 Test wickets in England. He hasn't been effective in the subcontinent. This is the reason why Anderson or Broad isn't considered the greatest of all time despite picking up truckloads of wickets.
Some of the fast bowlers who have represented Bangladesh spoke to The Business Standard (TBS) about the greatest fast bowler of all time. None of them could reach a conclusion, but all picked Pakistan's Wasim Akram to be their personal favourites.
Hasibul Hossain Shanto
It depends on a lot of things. Cricket is different altogether now. It was a different ball game in the earlier days. I would pick Glenn McGrath and Wasim Akram above others. If you ask me to pick one, it would be difficult as there are so many legendary fast bowlers like Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Darren Gough, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis.
Wasim may not have as many wickets as McGrath, but he is the greatest of all time for me. If he was born in Australia, he would get a lot more wickets. I haven't seen someone as skilful as Wasim. So he is my greatest fast bowler.
A lot of legendary bowlers played before my birth. I grew up watching Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. So I can't pick the bowlers whom I haven't watched.
Starting from the modern era, most of James Anderson's wickets are in England. He is not successful in this part of the world. Courtney Walsh was fantastic all over the world, so was Glenn McGrath. But my pick would be Wasim Akram. Despite being a fast bowler from the subcontinent, he performed everywhere. He had pace, bounce, swing and was one of the greatest exponents of reverse swing though he lost some pace in the latter part of his career. But in my opinion, he is the greatest fast bowler of all time.
A lot of bowlers' names come up while picking the greatest of all time. Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram, Curtly Ambrose, Glenn McGrath - I have to say these names. I also think that (James) Anderson's name can be put in the mix. A lot of names need to be mentioned because someone won't just become the greatest of all time just because you or I said so. This is something yet unsolved and which might stay unsolved. Just like the debate between Pele-Maradona or Messi-Ronaldo has not ceased to exist.
But still, if you tell me to pick, I will pick Courtney Walsh and Wasim Akram as the greatest-ever fast bowler. I have watched both of them play, maybe not their whole career, but bits of it. There are legendary seamers from before their time but I want to call them the greatest ever. Walsh had swing and bounce, he troubled the batsmen in all conditions. He was a great package. Also, Wasim was incredible. To me, Walsh and Wasim are the greatest of all time.
This is actually a very tough question. It is very difficult to pick the greatest fast bowler of all time because there are many legendary seamers in the history of the game. Walsh, Mcgrath, Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhter - there are many others. All of them are great bowlers. It is tough to pick one from all of these legendary bowlers. Wasim Akram was a game-changer, nobody was any match for him. Also if you look at records, there are many bowlers ahead of Shoaib. But the aggression, pace - I felt he was different than others. I have a different feeling for Shoaib. That is why I feel a little doubt, despite considering Wasim Akram the greatest of all time. But still, I would say, Wasim Akram, is the greatest of all time. I want to keep Shoaib Akhtar right after him.