Mike Holmans August 6, 2011

The era of great bowlers is not over

For my birthday, my mother sent me a copy of “Not In My Day, Sir”, a collection of letters on cricket published in Britain's most traditional newspaper, the Daily Telegraph
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Dale Steyn leads a clutch of current bowlers seeking greatness © Associated Press

For my birthday, my mother sent me a copy of “Not In My Day, Sir”, a collection of letters on cricket published in Britain's most traditional newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. The book amply bears out the implication of the title, that there is nothing so constant in cricket as the complaints of the middle-aged and elderly that the sport is going to the dogs because it was so much better when they were younger.

Being middle-aged myself, I adhere to this to some extent: I don't care what you say or what statistics you produce about any other player, I'm not going to change my opinion that IVA Richards is the greatest batsman I've seen. And I very much suspect that when I'm an old man I will annoy young whippersnappers now being born by droning on about none of the future's current leg-spinners being a patch on Shane Warne.

But only to that extent.

One of the currently fashionable moans is that there are no good bowlers any more. All the great ones of the last couple of decades have retired and there's no-one to replace them.

Really?

Is Dale Steyn going to end up as South Africa's best-ever fast bowler, or will that title remain with Allan Donald – and if it's still going to be Donald, by what margin?

Have India ever had a better pace bowler than a fit Zaheer Khan?

With the exception of Wasim Akram, which left-arm quicks have been better than Zaheer, who swings both the new and the old ball and was chiefly responsible for the wins which elevated India to the top spot in Test cricket?

What did Michael Holding do that Stuart Broad did not do while taking five for none at Trent Bridge?

Would Suresh Raina or Yuvraj Singh have been any more uncomfortable being worked over by Andy Roberts than they were by Tim Bresnan?

What extra weapons does Chris Tremlett need to be comparable with Joel Garner?

After a winter of success in swingless Australia and a similar performance on the fifth day at Lord's against India, while still retaining the ability to hoop the new ball both ways at 88mph, which England team from any point in history would the 2011 version of James Anderson not walk into? Getting Sachin Tendulkar out seven times in eight matches isn't bad going for someone who isn't top-class, either.

Those of you scurrying to Statsguru to drag up a lot of boring career averages to try and prove that I'm asking very silly questions indeed need not bother commenting unless you have a substantial point to make. Simply showing that fast bowlers who had the chance in the 1980s to bowl on the ultra-fast wickets at Perth or The Oval, on the terror tracks of Headingley or on West Indian pitches as lively as the discos in the stands have better averages than bowlers sentenced to toil away on pitches designed to make sure that corporate guests will have some very dull cricket to watch on the fifth day of a Test is not, to my mind at least, particularly convincing.

Right, the greats I've mentioned did their stuff over a long period – but Zaheer is the only one for whom the end of his career is even a cloud on the horizon, and there's no obvious reason to suppose that the rest are going to get worse over the next few years: Anderson, Bresnan and Broad are visibly better bowlers than they were a year ago.

More promising, perhaps, is the line that the Robertses, Garners and Akrams were pioneers. They showed people what could be done, and the present generation are simply benefiting from their invention. It's certainly true that there are many more bowlers around nowadays who bowl at West Indian quartet velocities: thirty years ago, the only English bowler at that level was Bob Willis on a good day; now almost every county has one. And reverse swing is no longer a Pakistani mystery but a skill which a lot of the best bowlers have to some degree even though the journeymen can't manage it at all. Internationally, apart from those I mentioned earlier, Morne Morkel, Fidel Edwards and Kemar Roach have the pace if not necessarily the skill, and one must presume that there's at least one to be found in the dozens that Australia are picking.

But it's a funny old argument that the game is going to the dogs because there are now a lot more bowlers who bowl like the greats of the 1980s than there were in the 1980s themselves.

Of course only some of the current contenders will have lengthy successful careers. Some will get injured, some will get so far and no further and we will shake our heads wistfully in years to come and mutter phrases about wasted talent. And whether any of the ones who do have long careers will end up on anyone's list of great bowlers, let alone everyone's, we cannot yet know. But I'll bet that some will and that when they have retired in 10 or 15 years time, there will be another wave of people telling us that the era of great players is over. And they will be wrong again, because the supply of great players is never-ending.

The difficult bit, apparently, is spotting them when they are right under our noses.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • J Smith on December 13, 2011, 20:40 GMT

    This what really irks me, you talk about great batsman and bowlers, um and leave out the likes of one Sir Richard Hadlee, can make that ball talk on any pitch home and away didn't need to bowl bouncers all the time to get wickets. And Martin Crowe injury robbed him I class him better than Alan Border,and many of the other so called greats.

  • John on August 14, 2011, 14:11 GMT

    IVA Richards? B A Richards was a much better batsman

  • Simer553 on August 14, 2011, 8:30 GMT

    Good point about the protection used these days. I watched a team mate of mine nearly bleed to death after being hit in the face from a top edge at U15!!! A cricket ball does hurt (I broke both my thumbs keeping wicket before i was 17 (doesn't say much for my technique I know)but the risk of taking a ball anywhere vulnerable without protection is going to change the way a batsman will behave and therefore make the bowler that much more potent.

  • Abbascheema on August 13, 2011, 10:09 GMT

    I wil like u to write an essay on the top ten emerging batsmen with career started after 1st jan 2009

  • Cricket Genius on August 10, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    seriously are u saying that this English attack has the ability to become even close to the great west Indian one .cmon they have only performed well in England .I really wanna see how there so called amazing bowling is when they cm to the subcontinent and Zaheer has just had a few good years

  • raju on August 10, 2011, 9:20 GMT

    Cmon auth. By comparing broad tremllet andersons with greatness , u are making a great joke and not the great bowlers list , they showed their fast bowling skills in the WC 11 , they are greats only inside their stables .

  • Prasad Pai on August 10, 2011, 8:17 GMT

    Sreesanth , Ishant , Zaheer and Praveen at their peak , is as good a bunch as any , that ever played test cricket !

  • faisal asghur on August 10, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    you can,t forget pakistan attack ,umer gul and affridi are one of the best in current aera .. junaid khan ,wahab riaz and m amir are the no 1 keep it in mind indian can

  • RGK on August 10, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    Neil Adcock was a great South African fast bowler. Of the medium quicks,Srinath is another great Indian seamer. Kapil was,of course,more than great. In England,Bedser and Tate. And what is your view of Patrick Patterson and Curtly Ambrose of the W.I.? I thought they were very quick and as frightening as any.

  • punit on August 10, 2011, 4:07 GMT

    mike u are comparing the greatest bowlers ever seen with some average bowling attack. Any bowler can take wickets on helpful conditions. if zaheer had been fit then he too would have gone through english batting order.Same attack was there in world cup wasn't it? what happened there. same attack couldnt get through even ireland and bangladesh. They havent toured sri lanka or india in recent past were you have to toil really hard to get wickets. If they are able to intimate batsman even in those conditions then you can compare them with bowling greats. steyn is world class bowler.zaheer is a good bowler not an all time great. broad, bresnan and tremlett are newbies cant judge them from one or 2 series. So mike allow them to settle for few years then compare

  • J Smith on December 13, 2011, 20:40 GMT

    This what really irks me, you talk about great batsman and bowlers, um and leave out the likes of one Sir Richard Hadlee, can make that ball talk on any pitch home and away didn't need to bowl bouncers all the time to get wickets. And Martin Crowe injury robbed him I class him better than Alan Border,and many of the other so called greats.

  • John on August 14, 2011, 14:11 GMT

    IVA Richards? B A Richards was a much better batsman

  • Simer553 on August 14, 2011, 8:30 GMT

    Good point about the protection used these days. I watched a team mate of mine nearly bleed to death after being hit in the face from a top edge at U15!!! A cricket ball does hurt (I broke both my thumbs keeping wicket before i was 17 (doesn't say much for my technique I know)but the risk of taking a ball anywhere vulnerable without protection is going to change the way a batsman will behave and therefore make the bowler that much more potent.

  • Abbascheema on August 13, 2011, 10:09 GMT

    I wil like u to write an essay on the top ten emerging batsmen with career started after 1st jan 2009

  • Cricket Genius on August 10, 2011, 13:17 GMT

    seriously are u saying that this English attack has the ability to become even close to the great west Indian one .cmon they have only performed well in England .I really wanna see how there so called amazing bowling is when they cm to the subcontinent and Zaheer has just had a few good years

  • raju on August 10, 2011, 9:20 GMT

    Cmon auth. By comparing broad tremllet andersons with greatness , u are making a great joke and not the great bowlers list , they showed their fast bowling skills in the WC 11 , they are greats only inside their stables .

  • Prasad Pai on August 10, 2011, 8:17 GMT

    Sreesanth , Ishant , Zaheer and Praveen at their peak , is as good a bunch as any , that ever played test cricket !

  • faisal asghur on August 10, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    you can,t forget pakistan attack ,umer gul and affridi are one of the best in current aera .. junaid khan ,wahab riaz and m amir are the no 1 keep it in mind indian can

  • RGK on August 10, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    Neil Adcock was a great South African fast bowler. Of the medium quicks,Srinath is another great Indian seamer. Kapil was,of course,more than great. In England,Bedser and Tate. And what is your view of Patrick Patterson and Curtly Ambrose of the W.I.? I thought they were very quick and as frightening as any.

  • punit on August 10, 2011, 4:07 GMT

    mike u are comparing the greatest bowlers ever seen with some average bowling attack. Any bowler can take wickets on helpful conditions. if zaheer had been fit then he too would have gone through english batting order.Same attack was there in world cup wasn't it? what happened there. same attack couldnt get through even ireland and bangladesh. They havent toured sri lanka or india in recent past were you have to toil really hard to get wickets. If they are able to intimate batsman even in those conditions then you can compare them with bowling greats. steyn is world class bowler.zaheer is a good bowler not an all time great. broad, bresnan and tremlett are newbies cant judge them from one or 2 series. So mike allow them to settle for few years then compare

  • Ajinkya on August 10, 2011, 3:32 GMT

    To people running Zaheer Khan down- For starters, he is not military medium-he regularly bowls 130 to 135 kmph. Secondly, other than Wasim Akram, has anyone ever seen a more skilful left arm pacer? Vaas? He was good, but not in Zaheer's league. Zak can swing and seam it both ways, he can reverse it, he has a good yorker and to top it all he is a very smart bowler. He also has to bowl a lot on subcontinent featherbeds, unlike Anderson. Just because Zak does not have explosive pace does not mean he isn't a high-quality bowler. His bowling is art...the way he out-thinks and works out batsmen and also his sheer variety.

  • Meety on August 10, 2011, 3:19 GMT

    Well Mike you did a fine job on being provocative. I spent most of the time reading the article just shaking my head thinking "Jeez we've been lucky the Poms have been crap for 40 yrs", because I don't know how much of this talk about "aura" & great bowlers I can take! LOL! Not going to pour over stats, but I'd suggest the comparison between Holding & Broad was done after a good session in your local! I'd rather face Broad any day of the week than any of the Windies you've mentioned. Steyn IS outstanding, a statistical freak, I've been waiting for his S/Rate to rise because nobody can sustain a sub-40, but he has, & in an era where Bat dominates Ball. I think the analysis should stick to (for the time being), comparing the current attack versus other Pommy attacks thru history. Otherwise as AndyZaltzmannsHair - it devalues the word great. Anyways good fodder for Pub arguements!

  • Ajinkya on August 10, 2011, 2:59 GMT

    @Anonymous-[Madness. I think Clive Lloyd, Graeme Pollock, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Alvin Kallicharan, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Geoffrey Boycott and Mohammed Azharuddin (for starters) deserve a mention by anyone's standards, let alone those you apply to the second round of "greats" in the 90s-00s.] All the batsmen you mentioned were very, very good indeed, but none was an all-time great except Graeme Pollock, and he played in the 1960s mostly. I was talking about only the most elite of batsmen of the 1970s and 80s, and the rest you mentioned, as good as they were, simply weren't all-time greats. None of the batsmen you mentioned, except Pollock average above 50, while all the batsmen I mentioned average 50 except Inzy, Pietersen (both 49-odd) and Laxman(47 or 48).

  • Nick Prowse on August 10, 2011, 0:07 GMT

    what about the most formidable fast bowler combination ever larwood-voce,trueman-statham?

  • waleed on August 9, 2011, 20:01 GMT

    english attack is great may b you havnt seen world cup zaheer khan is good not great but no doubt about dale steyn

  • Anonymous on August 9, 2011, 18:35 GMT

    I agree,there has always been great bowlers and there will always be great bowlers.Some mention eras,every era carries stories of greatness.Test cricket is meant for the best and every time a test match is played,only the best is there to perform.Someone mentioned 300 or so wickets in test don't make a great bowler,then what makes a great bowler.Every nation has great players,it is true some excel above others,but that the way it has been and that the way it will be.

  • Sana boy on August 9, 2011, 18:22 GMT

    ***mike****

    Zaheer Khan really? I think Mitchell Johnson is a much better bowler that Zaheer Khan. Zaheer;s average has never been below 30. He is not fast - but rather military medium. When Wasim Akram, Allan Donald,Waqar,Ambrose and Walsh were around - Zaheer would be called a dibbly dobbly bowler.

  • Rohit on August 9, 2011, 17:24 GMT

    The only true statement in this article - IVA Richards is the greatest batsman of all time. With all the comments about the "live" and "green" picthes of yesteryear and lack of protection for batsmen, he was one who went after the bowlers. With his batting, the hunters became the hunted.

  • ZakSteyn < AkramMcGrath on August 9, 2011, 16:56 GMT

    Great timely article. This crossed my mind so many times in the last 5 years - where the heck are the great fast bowlers? With Akram and McGrath gone in the space of few years, we do not have any playing at this moment. Steyn, Zak irrespective of their current record have miles to go to even be talked about in the same line as McGrath and Akram. The last two 'almost-there' great ones - Lee and Akhtar showed lot of promise, but did not make the final leap. If Akhtar had a Tendulkar-esqe work ethic and discipline, I strongly believe he would have been right there with the two Ws if not above them. Tells an important thing about intl cricket. Super talent and skill is not enough, need loads of hard work and luck in that order. Being an Indian, feel very disappointed with the current state of affairs as regards to fast bowlers in the country. At the same time, have always enjoyed the fast bowlers of Pakistan. Mark my words - the next great one is brewing right next door in Pak.

  • NKJ on August 9, 2011, 15:16 GMT

    Someone mentioned this before, but have you not forgotten Lasith Malinga as a potential great? He has performed inmost conditons, mores than Broad and much much mcuh moreso than Bresnan, in terms of greatness, which other bowler has taken 2 world cup hatricks? (it says no where that this article is restricted to Tests),since this argument is not restricted just to stats as the Bresnan comparison shows, hasanother bowler been able to bowl yorkers as deadly and as consistently?(Garner possibly but not really. At this point in time I'd say its too early to gage Broads legendary status, Steyn is a real conteneder for beswt ever South African bowler and with that title comes legend status, while Anderson and Zaheer Khan will most probably be knwon as greats of their own rspective countries and greats of their times.

  • Steve Howe on August 9, 2011, 15:01 GMT

    None of the bowlers you mention were a patch on Larwood. Or Spofforth.

    Seriously, your assertion that Roberts, Holding etc were pioneers is dubious. A generation earlier there were Trueman, Hall, Tyson, Davidson etc. Go back further and there's Lindwall, Miller, Bedser etc. Back again to Larwood, Farnes, Bowes, Constantine... and so on past Martindale, Tate, McDonald, Gregory, Barnes, Richardson, Spofforth... all the way to Alfred Mynn. There have always been great bowlers and there will always be great bowlers.

  • Devraj on August 9, 2011, 14:41 GMT

    Wow !! Talking about the all time greats from the 70's and 80's and the current generation of pace bowlers, has everyone forgot the name "Glenn McGrath" that lies somewhere between these two periods of bowling greats ??

  • Ryan on August 9, 2011, 13:49 GMT

    This is absolutely ridiculous fine i rate Anderson and would say right now all of England's Bowlers are on form. OK lets take a look now at the West Indies fast bowlers of the past would you pick any of these over Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh. As a matter of fact how many of these are comparable to Ian Bishop, Franklyn Stevenson,Ezra Moseley, Wayne Daniel and that my friend is just in the West Indies. No 350wickets do not make a fast bowler a great but neither does a couple good summers.

  • CricketPissek on August 9, 2011, 13:16 GMT

    i think a lot of people have gone off on various tangents with their comments. (the comments such as 'where is XYZ are just silly! what makes you think this article was a list of 'greatest ever fast bowlers'?) but i do wonder what motivated the author to write this? who has been complaining that there are no great bowlers anymore? commentators? pub talk? former players? as with A Level results and job opportunities, the old fogies will always harumph saying "things are nowhere as tough as it was when i was your age". One thing though, in response to a comment about Vaas, I think you dismissed him far too easily. True, his average in England is very poor but he only played 6 matches! Would you have dismissed Cook as a batsman too if he had not played the recent ashes, as he had a horrendous record in Australia before that? With responses such as that, you've distracted us from the point you were originally trying to make IMO.

  • Anonymous on August 9, 2011, 10:07 GMT

    ["in the 1970s and 1980s plenty of great fast bowlers were around, but the only truly great batsmen were Gavaskar, Richards, G. Chappell, Border and Miandad-just 5 of them. In contrast, in the late 1990s and the 2000s, we have had a flood of good or great batsmen-Tendulkar, Lara, Dravid, Ponting, Kallis, Steve Waugh, Inzamam, Sehwag, Pietersen, Hayden, Laxman, Sangakkara..." - Ajinkya]

    Madness. I think Clive Lloyd, Graeme Pollock, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Alvin Kallicharan, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Geoffrey Boycott and Mohammed Azharuddin (for starters) deserve a mention by anyone's standards, let alone those you apply to the second round of "greats" in the 90s-00s.

  • Udaya Shankar on August 9, 2011, 9:58 GMT

    Considering current English bowlers as greats is a 'joke'.They are great bowlers but only in English seamer friendly conditions. Had they ever performed exceptionally well in sub-continent??? Steyn was the only bowler who was able to do it,almost every time he visits sub-continent.I agree Zaheer's poor strike rate may exclude him from the list of 'Greats'.But I guess his poor strike rate is mainly due to his mediocre past . If Zaheer's performance in last 2 years are alone considered ,his strike rate would be considerably great . But one thing which makes people think he is not a great bowler is his unfit body . Australians are always good in pace attack almost everywhere in the world. But still it is difficult to pinpoint one bowler(current bowler) from Australia and say "he is a master of pace", though there are many in the past. Malinga's name cant be left out here.But he should have been playing tests also. It is a sorrow that no West Indian and a New Zealander is in the list.

  • Roshan mishra on August 9, 2011, 9:26 GMT

    Well i am not so much fan of indian cricket but zaheerkhan is really good and could be great if he gives much to his fitnees..about english bowlers board is going good but just cant say only by this test but andreson is good..in case of odis i think lee can be a legend along with malinga infact 4me lee is already a legend somebody saying gillespie a great bowler really makes me suprise....

  • Guna on August 9, 2011, 9:24 GMT

    Very nice article. Since this article is focusing on promise and potential to be a future great, shouldnt Kemar Roach been mentioned? If Bresnan gets a mention to bounce out Yuvraj and Raina who are horrible players of short ball, Roach should get some credit for bouncing out Ricky Ponting, who is one of the best players of the short ball!!

  • Eskay on August 9, 2011, 9:17 GMT

    Lastly, pitches are far more likely to be covered and true than they were in the past era. Lightning fast pitches, variable bounce, unpredictable movement off the seam were all the pitch's doing, not in the repetoire of the bowler. And before anyone pounces on this, it is true even today. In those terms I conjecture that any one of Steyn, Zaheer and Broad would have been equally deadly bowling in the 70's and early 80's. To conclude, I will stick my neck out and say that bowlers of yesteryears could intimidate batsmen far more easily than can bowlers today. In those terms, today's bowlers are highly skilled as well, and very, very quick. There you go Mike, I think I have opened a hornet's nest!

  • Eskay on August 9, 2011, 9:17 GMT

    Next, body protection. Batsmen wear for more protection today than they did in the 70's and 80's. While you can argue that batsmen in the past had better technique playing first bowling, which they did and got very badly hurt in the process, that's not the moot point. Less intimidation factor today, including the chance of getting badly hurt than previously (broken finger bones being a part of any batsman's daily fare). I still fail to understand why the likes of Raina flinch like a shrinking violet, and freeze like a deer under headlamps...

  • Eskay on August 9, 2011, 9:15 GMT

    Much of this discussion is talking cross purposes. Mike's merely pointing out that today there are many more bowlers with similar speed to the Holdings and Marshalls of yesteryears, while some, like Steyn and Zaheer have skills comparable to them. Let us take into account three very important factors that have changed in the last three decades since the great era of fast bowling. The first , and very significant one is the no ball rule. Today, bowlers have to have their leading foot behind the crease at the point of delivery, whereas, when Garner, Lilleee, Thompson and Roberts were bowling, only their trailing foot needed to be behind the crease. Result, add an extra 5 klicks to the average bowling speed, or if you want to be pedantic, less time for a batsman to react to the delivery...

  • Muhammad on August 9, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    I would criticize Zaheer Khan's inclusion in this article, he is an average bowler, his stats suggest all. Yes Steyn is a brilliant bowler. I think ICC should take care of pitch preparation for all types of Cricket all across the globe, there should be some agreed code for pitches only then talent would speak, performances would be evaluated on merit, not that Harbhajan bowling on a sand pitch especially laid for him or a green top batsmen hunting track.

  • jerome on August 9, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    yeah mate a good couple of performances make broad comparable to MICHAEL HOLDING and chris tremlett to JOEL GARNER. ridiculous argument

  • Daniel on August 9, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    Steyn is a bowler of rare class, he will undoubtedly be seen as superior to Donald by the end of his career, unless he drops off dramatically. Zaheer is far and away the best paceman India has produced, and if Jimmy Anderson doesn't end up in the pantheon of ATGs, colour me surprised.

    Tremlett/Garner and Bresnan/Roberts are too early to tell, although I doubt Bresnan will be able to scale those heights, and Tremlett does have a mediocre first run to overcome.

    Completely resent that Stuart Broad even comes close to Michael Holding though. Holding didn't have injury-weakened, ill-prepared T20 batsmen to feast on, and took wickets in more that 1 series. Broad is still rubbish IMO.

  • Harvey on August 9, 2011, 7:05 GMT

    Are you serious? ZK is a decent bowler, but you ask who was a better left-arm seamer. Well, Ryan Sidebottom for a start, but I've never heard anyone suggest that he was a great bowler! Even Mitchell Johnson is better than ZK. I accept it's possible that one or two of the English seamers COULD go on to be great players, but they're a long way from that currently. The only bowler now playing international cricket who is anywhere near greatness is Dale Steyn. The truth of the matter is that arguably the highest quality era of cricket has come to an end with the retirements of so many genuinely great players. We're currently in one of those periods which happen from time to time when for whatever reason the quality of cricket on offer is not what it used to be. That doesn't mean that some existing players can't rise to positions of greatness or that the current era can't produce entertaining cricket, but the general standard of cricket today is undoubtedly poor compared with recent years.

  • Richard on August 9, 2011, 6:58 GMT

    I agree with all of the points in the article. Contrary to many peoples comments you cant mention all the bowlers in a single article. The game of cricket is evolving rapidly and with it so do the bowlers. We should also not forget the other great bowlers of cricket. Kapil dev, Richard hadlee, Ian Botham during the 70's and 80's. Waquar Younis, Chaminda Vaas in the 90's and 00's. In recent times bowlers such as Morkel, Lasith Malinga, Shane Bond deserve more respect. Shane Bond though retired was a spearhead of New Zealand along with Vettori. Malinga, though retired from tests, is a potent force in ODI"S and T20. He has many variations and at times unplayable. Morkel has to be one of the most improved fast bowlers in World cricket. He has replaced his brother Albie Morkel as a mainstay of the SA team in all formats and is a formidable bowler able to generate raw pace, bounce and bite from almost any pitch.

  • Hamza on August 9, 2011, 6:49 GMT

    Someone earlier stated to name bowler who can swing the ball both ways at 85mph. Buddy, have you watched much cricket? Firstly both these bowlers do not avg 85mph. And lets see, Ill name you 10 bowlers who did what you think is amazing. Andy Roberts, Wasim Akram, Malcolm Marshall, Glenn Mcgrath, Jason Gillespie, Damien Flemming(at times, wasnt quick generally), Alan Donald, Steyn, Dennis Lillee, Caddick, Imran Khan. Oh also btw apart from maybe caddick and Flemming, the rest of the bowlers where a bit quicker than 85 mph

  • Hamza on August 9, 2011, 6:42 GMT

    Well this discussion seems to have concentrated more on zaheer and anderson's credentials towards being regarded as greats. I am suprised to see so many people who think that Anderson is a better bowler than Zaheer. Mind you Anderson plays in England and pick up about 85 percent of his wickets due to swing. If u analyze his away record, you will find that he has struggled everywhere else, apart from India. Basically, Anderson has 240 odd wickets now, he is a swing bowler from England, yet he averages 30 which is pretty poor considering the conditions at home favor him greatly. If you compare Zaheer's away record, you will find that it is better than Anderson's. Again I want to state that i believe both these bowlers are not all time greats, but rather good bowlers.

  • Zain Mir on August 9, 2011, 6:08 GMT

    I am surprised to read this article, you have over rated alot of bowlers... i agree dale steyn is a gr8 bowler and his career figures reflect that, but how can you call zaheer, anderson and broad gr8 bowlers? all these three bowlers have their averages in 30s, more than 30 runs per wicket is this a good avg for a gr8 bowler? remember wasim,waqar, ambrose, mcgrath? they all averaged below 25 runs per wicket, zaheer & anderson has only taken 1 time 10 wickets in a match. and you comparing these guys with gr8 bowlers? i would just say that the comparisons you have done is just like comparing apples and oranges....

  • Anonymous on August 9, 2011, 5:28 GMT

    the game has really changed. in the 80s batsmen were genuinely scared of the ball against the quicks. now the worlds fastest bowlers play t20 and have to watch as they are mercilessly beaten into a pulp.

  • darklion on August 9, 2011, 5:04 GMT

    Re: Vaas

    Mike, now I guess it's your turn to go scurrying off to StatsGuru to drag up a lot of boring career averages. A couple of points that Statsguru will never show:

    Vaas was one of a small group of players whose talents were responsible for bringing Sri Lanka out of minnow-hood in the mid-90's and establishing them as a consistently strong team never to be counted out. That fact alone is enough to mark him as great.

    Zaheer has an entirely different set of standards to meet. India has long been deficient in the seamer department, despite being a cricketing powerhouse for decades. He is finally the best seamer in the best side in the world (provisionally)... but is he REALLY the best India can do? His skills would not have been enough to do what Vaas managed to do, to make what was a minnow seam attack into one which was not. Statistically, he is a consistent but mediocre performer. Vaas learned how to prosper as a seam bowler in the subcontinent; is that not a great achievement?

  • waterbuffalo on August 9, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    Depends on the countries, England has a fine bowling attack much better than the Wills/Botham era,also more depth, a bit like Australia in the eighties, 3 fast bowlers could be injured and OZ would find 3 more than capable replacements. McGrath is far better than Lee, but McGrath, Gillespie , Lee was a fine attack, not the case now, Johnson is nowhere near as reliable as a strike bowler. Pakistan doesn't have a single bowler who could've made the team in the 90's. India, like SL, always had one class bowler, Dev, Srinath, Zaheer, NZ doesn't have Shane Bond and certainly no one as good as Hadlee, Windies bowlers are average, and short or slow, I'd say only England and SA have fine fast bowlers, out of 8 teams.

  • ashwin on August 8, 2011, 21:55 GMT

    Though I disagree with a few minute points I must say I concur with the author's perspective. Most com mentors seem to be too attached to their country, trying to fret out their opinions either in passion or frustration. Mike's reply to one of the comment strikes a good point. People do tend to wait till a bowler reaches 350 wickets before proclaiming that he is great! And the most controversial mention apparently is of Zaheer.In some sense he is a great bowler for sheer improvement he has shown over the years. He has his limitations indeed but he still finds himself in the top bowlers list of the era and he bowls in India for Gods sake most of the times. But again pronouncing he is only next to Wasim in left hand bowlers is a bit more than the truth. If he manages to play continuously for 3-4 years without injuries with the same form he has been in I might concur. As for bowlers Lefties from Australia, they were bolstered by bouncy tracks and an intimidating lineup.

  • Sandeep on August 8, 2011, 21:15 GMT

    I can agree with names such as anderson and steyn.I certainly agree with your observation of how the bowlers of previous era had much more helpful conditions to bowl on,so most of the really good bowlers today might have been greats in the previous era.Although i am an Indian, putting zaheer khan in this list is a joke.He is a good but by no means is he a threatening bowler.As per the records part u mentioned in one of your comments I am sure zaheer khans strike rate would be way below most of the other bowlers(Low strike rate being the most important to consider yourself a strike bowler).He has got good skills but the part where he has never been fit enough to bowl quick along with swing for long periods of time(multiple spells) will always stop him from being a great bowler.Zaheer himself has admitted to conserving his energy for more important spells showing that his body cannot cope with raw aggression which bowlers in previous Era could do.

  • Sanjiv on August 8, 2011, 18:34 GMT

    This is a joke right? The only bowler who is playing currently that has can be called a 'great' is Dale Steyn. Hands down he is by far the best pace bowler in Tests since he can perform considerably well home and away. Malinga can be called a 'great' in Sri Lanka but it is unfortunate he can not play Test matches. Zaheer is an extremely over-rated bowler. Yes he is a good bowler but not a 'great' bowler. He spearheads a mediocre attack which should not be confused with 'great' bowlers. Broad is another average bowler who the author seems to compare with one of the all time cricketing greats in Michael Holding. The English attack does seem fierce but I would love to see them tour the sub continent and produce similar results. Steyn seems to have done this and hence why I believe he is the only person who should be considered a 'great'. It's a real shame that Amir and Asif are both out of the game since I believe they have the talent and ability to become one.

  • landl47 on August 8, 2011, 17:25 GMT

    The majority of people here are doing precisely what you pointed out is always the case- judging today's players on the basis of their careers so far compared with the entire careers of the greats of former years. Who knows? I'm 63 so I've seen many greats, back to Wes Hall, Fred Trueman, etc. The current crop is pretty good and some of them will rate as great, I have no doubt. We just don't know what they will accomplish by the end of their careers. If Broad bowls for the rest of his career the way he has in the last 2 tests, he will be one of the greats. If he bowls the way he did against Sri Lanka, he won't. I'm content to wait and see.

  • Raj Balakrishnan on August 8, 2011, 16:49 GMT

    I know that he hasn't done much till now, but by the time he is finished Ishant Sharma would be one of the all-time greats.

  • Humungousfungus on August 8, 2011, 16:19 GMT

    The very valid point that the author makes is around the evolution of the game. I think that if you spin things around and ask how would some of today's bowlers have fared bowling at any of Perth, Sabina, Headingley, The Oval, Brisbane etc twenty or thirty years ago, we wouldn't be seeing the likes of Anderson, Zaheer, Broad etc carrying bowling averages in the thirties. With the evolution in bat power / weight ratios, and protective equipment, allied to the deadening of pitches and the shortening of boundaries the value of wickets taken in Test matches is higher by definition, and anyone averaging much under 30 is clearly exceptional. Also the likes of Holding, Garner, Lillee, Thomson, Roberts etc were bowling at batsmen who were literally in constant fear of death because they had no protection from the short ball other than bat, box, and gloves. Take that fear element out of the game, and you will see a few more pull and hook shots, and a few higher bowling averages...

  • Masum on August 8, 2011, 15:55 GMT

    You even didn't mention the name of gillespie, bichel of Australia, Pollock and Ntini of South Africa, Shane Bond, Cairns of Newzealand, Marvin Dillon of West Indies, Darren Gough, Andy Caddick, Harmison and Flintoff of England, Akhter, Asif of Pakistan who were played in the last decade and looked greater and more effective than your mentioned player like zaheer khan and Bresnan. Someone of them in my given names are already one of the greats like Gillespie, Pollock. And you didn't mention the best bowler in previous decade: Macgrath. You highlighted 70 and 80's bowler and totally overlooked the previous decade's greats. I think those guys were looked better than your present's star. These realy hurts me really. How can we forget those so early? Really amazing!!! I think once people didn't mention macgrath's name as a past star of cricket. I feared for this.

  • dr.shrikant on August 8, 2011, 15:42 GMT

    A good article. The rules should be changed in favor of bowlers as the game has become batsman friendly.Records of modern time batsmen carry no value as the standard is much low.

  • Jonathan Darrell on August 8, 2011, 13:53 GMT

    A lot of comments have ignored the fact that the point of the article was to look at current and future 'good' bowlers and surmise as to whether any of them might become 'great'. It wasn't saying they already were great. I wouldn't rule out any of the names given as not having the potential - they may continue to improve as they have been doing. If in five years or so Anderson has 400 test wickets he might be on the verge of deserving that description. I agree that there are certainly other bowlers out there who will in the future be considered 'great'. Having watched Fire in babylon yesterday, I'd agree with the sentiment that today's body protection would have gone some way to taking the edge off facing the real quicks, but the reason they had such power was based on 6 hours a day of constant 90mph + deliveries with no respite, from four bowlers. It was a constant, wearing, collective battering. Are England moving a step in that direction with Broad, Tremlett, Bresnan and Anderson?

  • zero_knowledge on August 8, 2011, 12:19 GMT

    fast bowling is not just about the skill and variety. if thats the criteria might be zaheer is good right now. but we should note that he has gained lot through experience. but it should also include things like how you maintain your body longevity etc.. zaheer seems to be a poor example in that sense breaking down every now and then. even more baffling is he isn't even out and out pace bowler like shane bond. i agree fast bowling isn't easy and injuries are quite common. but even then zaheer seems to be too brittle.compared to that akram's career spanned around 17-18 yrs and inspite of being a diabetic in the later stages he managed his body quite well and even in 2003 he bowled around 135+ kmph and could make the ball dance to his tunes.. in that sense i think srinath was more useful than zaheer to india inspite of rotator cuff and all he played till 2003

  • MattyMatty on August 8, 2011, 12:06 GMT

    Perhaps a little OTT, but a fair enough point.

    Bowlers like Anderson, a fit Zaheer and Steyn have just as much skill as Akram and Marshall and they have to do it on deader pitches, against inferior batsman and with more technology to counter them.

    Name me 5 other bowlers in the history of the game who can bowl inswing and outswing, with both the old and new ball, at 85+mph, without a discernible change of action. I can't!

    Yet Anderson and a fully fit Zaheer Khan can do that.

  • Chris on August 8, 2011, 11:10 GMT

    I think hamza makes a good point. Do people really say there are no good fast bowlers now? Everyone said it for the decade that went from approx. 1996-2005 because, McGrath excepted, any greats that were still around were in the twilight of their career and we had the pleasure of watching two of the all time great spinners at the top of their game. Hence, relative to spin, fast bowling was on the wane and there was an absolute drop in standard too.

    However, there is certainly the talent and potential at present for Steyn and others to become all time greats. As others have said, comparisons to the greats are difficult given the state of current wickets, improvements in protection and the restriction on the number of bouncers an over. However, McGrath bowled when all of these factors were the same as today and, thus, perhaps his average is a meaningful target for greatness for those who achieve more than 200 test wickets?

  • faumi on August 8, 2011, 10:23 GMT

    Author what are you talking and what are you trying to prove. Can you tell me any of the current spinners who will replace murali, if mohamed amer play again he is the only current bowlers have pottential to become a great.their is none even to replace glen magrah

  • sikg on August 8, 2011, 10:19 GMT

    i think u forgot to mention umar gul.

  • Mark on August 8, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    One of the funniest articles I've read in a while. Thanks for laughs, Mike. I like how you threw in Steyn to fool us out into thinking that you were being serious.

  • Awais on August 8, 2011, 9:35 GMT

    Let's not forget Amir and asif even though they are currently sidelined,what great bowling during the English summer,had they been currently performing they would easily have been the current champion bowling duo on a par with wasim and waqar.

  • udit on August 8, 2011, 8:47 GMT

    Most of the brickbats this article has received are laughable. I will only comment on what sree has written. @sree dude, nathan bracken, seriously? md. aamer? good but in 1 year u cant prove ur greatness and whatever he has done has washed away the good he did then. Vass? you have got to be kidding me. Hardly a fast bowler. Sanga and Kalu used to stand-up to the stumps when he was bowling. This is ridiculous. I agree with a lot of the comparisons made by Mike but i think we should hold the judgment on Broad and Tremlett. They have a long way to go.

  • darklion on August 8, 2011, 8:13 GMT

    Have to respond to your apparent rating of Chaminda Vaas behind Zaheer Khan as a test bowler:

    Vaas was not only better than his Sri Lanka colleagues, he was far and away the best seam bowler in those conditions of his time; only a few Pakistani greats like Imran and Wasim & Waqar who were generations before him could outbowl him there. You don't seem to give him any credit for maintaining an average well under 30 in conditions which are traditionally a graveyard for seam bowlers the world over. He does own the second-best test match figures by a seam bowler in the subcontinent (14-191) only behind Imran's 14-116.

    Vaas only toured England twice; and unfortunately in that limited time he didn't pick things up right away. That shouldn't take away from the fact that in the subcontinent, Vaas is significantly better. Having a good record in England is not the be-all end-all determinant of the greatness of a bowler; other cricketing venues must have parity in this discussion!

    [Mike: Indeed. Vaas averaged 42 in India and Australia, 47 in South Africa and 77 in England. He did do quite well in West Indies. So when he bowled against competent batting line-ups outside Sri Lanka, he failed. Doesn't indicate much greatness to me.]

  • Sanchez on August 8, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    Mike: No. Decent Test-class bowler. More likely to take wickets on home pitches than most of his Sri Lankan colleagues. Pretty poor away, absolutely hopeless in England.

    You do realize Zaheer's overall track record is far worse than Vaas's don't you? Does that mean Zaheer's the most over rated bowler of all time? And I guess Alan Davison was another mediocre left arm trundler with a bowling average of 20. Funny!

  • sree on August 8, 2011, 7:33 GMT

    1.Is Dale Steyn going to end up as South Africa's best-ever fast bowler, or will that title remain with Allan Donald – and if it's still going to be Donald, by what margin?yes it might happen but both are greats

    2.Have India ever had a better pace bowler than a fit Zaheer Khan? I think no.from india's view he is da best from some margin.

    3. With the exception of Wasim Akram, which left-arm quicks have been better than Zaheer, who swings both the new and the old ball and was chiefly responsible for the wins which elevated India to the top spot in Test cricket? are u joking. 1.w.p.u.j.c.vass 2.Nathan bracken 3.unfortunate Mohammad ameer and more ..... author please correct me if i am incorrect

  • Hamza on August 8, 2011, 6:58 GMT

    Just wanted to add a bit on Zaheer Khan, i believe he had the potential to be the best fast bowler in Indian cricket history but due to lack of fitness and him trying to bowl a bit too quick he might not achieve that status. He should always have been the kind of bowler he has been for the past 3 years. But i just felt after watching him 5-6 years ago that he was trying to bowl to quick which caused him to not swing the ball and honestly even at his quickest he avg around 85 mphs(avg speed) and that pace isnt going to blow away good batting sides.

  • hamza on August 8, 2011, 6:46 GMT

    I dont know if I agree with your article. Yes of late the standard of bowling has been much better than say what it was 5-6 years ago but apart from Steyn, i dont see any bowler who will be remembered as a great. Zaheer and Anderson have been bowling really well for the past 3 years but they both avg in the 30's. To be even considered a great fast bowler, you need to avg at least below 25 IMO. I will say though that i am a huge fan of zaheer khan, but to say that he is next inline to Wasim is not doing justice to the likes of alan Davidson, Procter. I did feel that Aamir and Asif had the potential to be all time greats but we all know what happened with them. Morkel, Sharma, Roach all have potential but as of today only steyn can be categorized as a great. The people you mentioned are good to above average bowlers.

  • Thaitaff on August 8, 2011, 5:23 GMT

    The issue is more that the rules have changed. Being high pace and being allowed to knock it in half way down all day and intimidate the batsmen was the game in the 80's. Bowlers in that era were of a type, and the Windies exploited it brilliantly. In Holding and Marshall and Ambrose they had truly great bowlers, suited to the rules of the day. Today, batsmen get on the front foot so swing bowling along with reverse swing is the best way to get players out. However, bowling swing generally goes for more runs than bowling at the body, so the stats are different. The only one who seems to be breaking the statistical barrier is Steyn, but he is a couple of mph quicker than Anderson and will probably be an all time great. What India has to do to create sportier wickets I don't know, but outside Kapil, will they ever have a world class seamer?

  • Jimmy Stewart on August 8, 2011, 3:54 GMT

    Sorry, did you just compare Stuart Broad to Michael Holding?

  • Sanchez on August 8, 2011, 2:49 GMT

    Except Dale Steyn there are no great bowlers in the current game. Ever heard of Alan Davidson - one of the great left armers of the game? Zaheer Khan averages 31 with the ball and is aged 33 and isn't getting any fitter. His career might already have ended. If I ever saw a mediocre bowler who had a lucky purple patch. Same goes for Anderson who is halfway through his career and his figures aren't going to change drastically. These are all merely good bowlers. Nothing 'great' about them. Way to sensationalize facts.

  • asif on August 8, 2011, 0:47 GMT

    This is really funny.Zaheer khan????can u put this ordinery bowler with dale stayn???yes great bowlers era is not over yet.We have lasith malinga unfortunately retired from tests.but we have Mohammad asif.one of the great bowlers.Rubel hossain is better than zaheer khan

  • Chris on August 8, 2011, 0:07 GMT

    "What did Michael Holding do that Stuart Broad did not do while taking five for none at Trent Bridge?

    Would Suresh Raina or Yuvraj Singh have been any more uncomfortable being worked over by Andy Roberts than they were by Tim Bresnan?

    What extra weapons does Chris Tremlett need to be comparable with Joel Garner?"

    Wow. Let's not get ahead of ourselves here by comparing a reasonable bowling attack in friendly home conditions with the best bowling attack of all time.

    Holding did it consistently for an entire career (home and away), rather than finally when his entire career was on the line. And at a level that Broad could only dream of.

    I dare say that Raina and Singh would probably have faced an over and then generously retired, rather than face the sort of bowling that Andy Roberts would have sent their way.

    To be comparable with Garner, Tremlett would need a yard of pace, a yard of height, a yard of brain and a lot more than a yard of intimidation.

  • Rowan on August 7, 2011, 22:35 GMT

    I agree with mike, i am only twenty and here my dad discussing the players he watched. i looked at the current crop and think they wont match that. but he always said you can never judge a player totally until he is retired so you can look at the whole picture of what he did rather then his current form. i am a proud, proud south african and believe steyn is a bowler of the highest quality, and already the closest to greatness when he is gone (of course that could change). but i would like to say the issue with this site is total distaste towards english players. anderson for one has been the most consistent bowlers today over the past 3 years behind steyn. every one says he is useless if the ball does not swing, but he can make it swing any where now (australia). then the large proportion of indian supporters say he cannot perform in india (because indian bowlers have massive success in england), but shane warne did famously badly in india, which i guess makes him a poor player.......

  • Don Sobers on August 7, 2011, 21:37 GMT

    wow how spot on an article is this! I think the pitch situation is crucial - there are just so many flat tracks out there. It must be possible to quantify - perhaps 5-10 runs on top of individuals' batting and bowling averages? A case in point is Stuart Broad's bowling average - people were moaning early this year about 35 not being good enough - but look at his stats in draws (vs wins and losses), and remember that he's going to have to bowl on pitches in the subcontinent and elsewhere in which there's simply not going to be a result no matter what anybody does. I think the only real difference between the game now and in the past is just how far WI have deteriorated - a previously reliable source of top quality fast bowling. This is a real concern, and has been for a while now. But the bottom line is that the game changes, slowly and subtly, and what works now might not have done in the past. The only real issues are whether you win or not, and if anyone is watching.

  • Bilal M on August 7, 2011, 21:27 GMT

    "With the exception of Wasim Akram, which left-arm quicks have been better than Zaheer, who swings both the new and the old ball and was chiefly responsible for the wins which elevated India to the top spot in Test cricket?" - Mike. Have you forgotten Chaminda Vaas mate?

    [Mike: No. Decent Test-class bowler. More likely to take wickets on home pitches than most of his Sri Lankan colleagues. Pretty poor away, absolutely hopeless in England.]

  • Arun on August 7, 2011, 21:20 GMT

    I wonder to what extent the absence of helmets and thigh/chest/arm guards made the reputations of some of the 'fearsome' fast bowlers of the past. Modern express bowlers can and do intimidate, but even Shoaib and Lee don't/didn't make batsmen fear for their lives on uneven pitches the way Thomson or Holding did, one doesn't whisper their names in quite the same hushed tones. And the fear resulted in dismissals that might not have happened with all the protection around today. No way of knowing, of course, but I suspect it makes a difference in the way we think about modern and past quick bowlers (as well as batsmen).

    [Mike: I think there is a lot of truth in that.]

  • Omar Ansari on August 7, 2011, 20:44 GMT

    They are all dim wits that have their day on seamer friendly wickets against oppositions whose batsmen are too old to ride a ferrari and avoid ridicule.

  • Vishal on August 7, 2011, 20:21 GMT

    Mike, you have a point here. I think everybody agrees that today's pitches are slower than they used to be. So by that token if the greats of the past would have been bowling on the lifeless pitches today then may be they wouldn't have been that "great".

  • Ali Ashraf Karimi on August 7, 2011, 19:51 GMT

    I found no mention of Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif. Haven't they proved their worth?

    [Mike: And when are they likely to play again?]

  • Gurjot Singh Ahluwalia on August 7, 2011, 19:41 GMT

    Well, some of the questions you raised are very pertinent indeed but they mostly referred to individual performances. They need to be backed up by consistent performances especially in the case of Broad, Bresnan & Tremlett. And yes I agree bowlers like Steyn and Zaheer are definitely comparable with some of the greats.

  • red roses on August 7, 2011, 19:36 GMT

    waqar was the greatest bowler in the world n 92 he broke his back and the doctors told him his career is over , but he was back to the team and ruled on the world he was the toe breader .......

  • suhas on August 7, 2011, 18:21 GMT

    in that list of your's steyn and zaheer are the only guys who come close to being great broad and the other guys are "useful" bowlers these guys look ordinary in India or Sri Lanka irfan pathan is a prime example a bowler who looked like a great but isn't even in the team nowin that list of your's

  • titto lawrence on August 7, 2011, 18:10 GMT

    every era has great bowlers and great batsman. during the current era pitches are mostly flat so more great batsmans than great bowlers. whenever the pitches offer some help, u can see the zaheers and andersons perform brilliantly. most of the current batsman perform better on flat pitches. even sachin falters on the seaming wicket who is considered 2 b the all time legend of this game. asian batsmans have high average than australian, africans or english batsmans while the fast bowlers from the sub continent lag behind the counterparts from australia and africa. plus to much of cricket has added to their woes. today's cricketers has to switch between 3 formats and change their game accordingly.

  • Abbascheema on August 7, 2011, 18:01 GMT

    I think steyn will end his career as one of the great test bowlers n zaheer,andreson will be the greats of their sides.

  • Ajinkya on August 7, 2011, 17:53 GMT

    And I bet you that Marshall, Akram or any of the yesteryear greats would have done even better than Anderson or Zaheer had they been playing today! You make a few good points- Steyn is amazing and will go on to be a great. Zaheer is one of the greatest left-arm quicks ever, second only to Akram and maybe Davidson. Anderson is brilliant in the right conditions too. Tremlett and Morkel and a few others are very good bowlers too, but that's about it. Maybe some of these could go on to become greats, but for now, only Steyn makes the list.

  • Ajinkya on August 7, 2011, 17:32 GMT

    @Mike-"What I'm trying to point out....is that several of them could be (great)...if they carry on performing as well as they are doing now...."- that's exactly the point! Players become great only when they consistently turn out special performances-if Broad and Anderson carried on the way they are going now, they could become greats-but the question is, can they sustain it? A lot of players have produced great performances at some point in their careers, but not all of them are labelled great players, are they?

  • nadim on August 7, 2011, 17:32 GMT

    zaheer has always been over rated. with an average of 32 or so in tests, he cannot be considered a great. he is an average bowler who looks great in an indian team short of average pacemen, let alone good ones. show me a great australian or west indian team whose so called 'great' opening bowler had an average of 32.

  • Ajinkya on August 7, 2011, 17:24 GMT

    While I think there are many good or very good bowlers around still, the number of great bowlers certainly isn't what it was in the 1980s or 1990s. These phases are part of the game; in the 1970s and 1980s plenty of great fast bowlers were around, but the only truly great batsmen were Gavaskar, Richards, G. Chappell, Border and Miandad-just 5 of them. In contrast, in the late 1990s and the 2000s, we have had a flood of good or great batsmen-Tendulkar, Lara, Dravid, Ponting, Kallis, Steve Waugh, Inzamam, Sehwag, Pietersen, Hayden, Laxman, Sangakkara...its simply the other way round with bowlers!

  • Ajinkya on August 7, 2011, 17:10 GMT

    Again, you must ask yourself one question- if Marshall, Holding or Lillee were bowling right now, would they have performed better than Anderson, Zaheer, Tremlett and Broad?

  • Ajinkya on August 7, 2011, 17:06 GMT

    Of all the bowlers you mentioned, the only one who definitely will be called great 20 years down the line is Steyn. Morkel and Tremlett have the ability, while Anderson and Zaheer certainly will end up as greats of their respective countries, but maybe not all-time greats.

  • Anonymous on August 7, 2011, 16:34 GMT

    After reading this article I may just change my tune and agree that there are indeed a current supply of great fast bowlers. Seeing how the English bowlers and Zaheer (for the brief time he did bowled) perform on REAL pitches and seeing how Fidel Edwards positively scared the Indian batsmen with 92 mph missiles on the first helpful pitches the Caribbean has seen in a decade you may just be right in saying that the perceived lack of great fast bowlers have more to do with external factors than the abilities of the bowlers themselves.

  • AndyZaltzmannsHair on August 7, 2011, 16:34 GMT

    Your argument that there are a lot of bowlers around who imitate the great bowlers of the 1980's is misleading. Simply but they are "pale imitations" of the real thing. Only Steyn is probably going to become an all time great. Zaheer will be an Indian one, not necessarily an all time one. James Anderson will always be remembered as a great bowler of his era.

    The originals, as you put it, the Roberts, Garners, Akrams were more skilled, they were pioneers of their craft whose stats and ability on the field of play, at a time when Test Match cricket was more healthy, stronger and competitive is testament to that.

    By your reasoning surely the likes of Darren Gough, Kasprowicz, Jason Gillespie, Shoaib Akhtar, Ian Bishop, Javagal Srinath etc are all bowlers from the 90's who would by your estimation be considered all time greats... No? They are all as good as the bowlers you state as modern day "greats". But if we allow all these to be "greats" then it surely devalues thw word "great"

    [Mike: I agree with much of this. I'm not actually naming these bowlers as greats *now*. What I'm trying to point out, admittedly somewhat provocatively, is that several of them could be - and if they carry on performing as well as they are doing now, plus the improvement that more experience will bring, they certainly will be.

    After all, at Stuart Broad's age Malcolm Marshall was a pale imitation of a great bowler.

    It just really annoys me that some people seem to need to wait until a bowler has take 350 wickets before they will begin to recognise that he might be quite useful.]

  • virant on August 7, 2011, 16:18 GMT

    yeh zaheer is proving us all to be the best pacer way better than steyn just check how he is obliterating the English along with harbajhan...o wait

    [Mike: His previous record, however, shows him to be a bowler of rare class.]

  • Mehran on August 7, 2011, 15:34 GMT

    Have you forgotten Mohammad Amir??? or you had discarded him because of Spot-Fixing?????

    [Mike: I started writing a paragraph about him but then realised that there's really no way of knowing what he's going to be like after five years without playing top-level cricket. Otherwise he would definitely have been second on the list.]

  • Abbascheema on August 7, 2011, 14:40 GMT

    How can u mention those english bowlers who perform only on pacy n seaming pitches?for me, only those bowlers who cud perform on each n every pitch,whether supportive or not.dale steyn is gud for this list bcoz he can perform in all conditions.he got 7-51 in a test in ind n 5 for in world cup vs ind.u can mention zaheer who can do it on lifeless sub-continent as well as seaming english.there is lee,for whom there is nthng to speak abt.there is malinga who bowls 145 kph 6 yorkers an over.there is gul who can reverse swing in t20,can perform in nzl,aus.,takes 5 for in a high pressure t20 against nzl,6 for in eng to win a match 4m nowhere in eng,6 for in test against sl on dead lahore pitch where teams score 600+ n there iz hardly any result.but how can u mention broad,andreson, tremlet after wkts in eng n aus?

  • absha on August 7, 2011, 14:34 GMT

    Ummm, ever heard of Kapil Dev? Sorry, this article does not hold. Steyn may have a shot at greatness but the rest is hogwash.

    [Mike: I have heard of Kapil Dev. I also watched him bowl on several occasions. A brilliant swing bowler in his youth whose venom was drawn later on because he had to bowl far too much.]

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  • absha on August 7, 2011, 14:34 GMT

    Ummm, ever heard of Kapil Dev? Sorry, this article does not hold. Steyn may have a shot at greatness but the rest is hogwash.

    [Mike: I have heard of Kapil Dev. I also watched him bowl on several occasions. A brilliant swing bowler in his youth whose venom was drawn later on because he had to bowl far too much.]

  • Abbascheema on August 7, 2011, 14:40 GMT

    How can u mention those english bowlers who perform only on pacy n seaming pitches?for me, only those bowlers who cud perform on each n every pitch,whether supportive or not.dale steyn is gud for this list bcoz he can perform in all conditions.he got 7-51 in a test in ind n 5 for in world cup vs ind.u can mention zaheer who can do it on lifeless sub-continent as well as seaming english.there is lee,for whom there is nthng to speak abt.there is malinga who bowls 145 kph 6 yorkers an over.there is gul who can reverse swing in t20,can perform in nzl,aus.,takes 5 for in a high pressure t20 against nzl,6 for in eng to win a match 4m nowhere in eng,6 for in test against sl on dead lahore pitch where teams score 600+ n there iz hardly any result.but how can u mention broad,andreson, tremlet after wkts in eng n aus?

  • Mehran on August 7, 2011, 15:34 GMT

    Have you forgotten Mohammad Amir??? or you had discarded him because of Spot-Fixing?????

    [Mike: I started writing a paragraph about him but then realised that there's really no way of knowing what he's going to be like after five years without playing top-level cricket. Otherwise he would definitely have been second on the list.]

  • virant on August 7, 2011, 16:18 GMT

    yeh zaheer is proving us all to be the best pacer way better than steyn just check how he is obliterating the English along with harbajhan...o wait

    [Mike: His previous record, however, shows him to be a bowler of rare class.]

  • AndyZaltzmannsHair on August 7, 2011, 16:34 GMT

    Your argument that there are a lot of bowlers around who imitate the great bowlers of the 1980's is misleading. Simply but they are "pale imitations" of the real thing. Only Steyn is probably going to become an all time great. Zaheer will be an Indian one, not necessarily an all time one. James Anderson will always be remembered as a great bowler of his era.

    The originals, as you put it, the Roberts, Garners, Akrams were more skilled, they were pioneers of their craft whose stats and ability on the field of play, at a time when Test Match cricket was more healthy, stronger and competitive is testament to that.

    By your reasoning surely the likes of Darren Gough, Kasprowicz, Jason Gillespie, Shoaib Akhtar, Ian Bishop, Javagal Srinath etc are all bowlers from the 90's who would by your estimation be considered all time greats... No? They are all as good as the bowlers you state as modern day "greats". But if we allow all these to be "greats" then it surely devalues thw word "great"

    [Mike: I agree with much of this. I'm not actually naming these bowlers as greats *now*. What I'm trying to point out, admittedly somewhat provocatively, is that several of them could be - and if they carry on performing as well as they are doing now, plus the improvement that more experience will bring, they certainly will be.

    After all, at Stuart Broad's age Malcolm Marshall was a pale imitation of a great bowler.

    It just really annoys me that some people seem to need to wait until a bowler has take 350 wickets before they will begin to recognise that he might be quite useful.]

  • Anonymous on August 7, 2011, 16:34 GMT

    After reading this article I may just change my tune and agree that there are indeed a current supply of great fast bowlers. Seeing how the English bowlers and Zaheer (for the brief time he did bowled) perform on REAL pitches and seeing how Fidel Edwards positively scared the Indian batsmen with 92 mph missiles on the first helpful pitches the Caribbean has seen in a decade you may just be right in saying that the perceived lack of great fast bowlers have more to do with external factors than the abilities of the bowlers themselves.

  • Ajinkya on August 7, 2011, 17:06 GMT

    Of all the bowlers you mentioned, the only one who definitely will be called great 20 years down the line is Steyn. Morkel and Tremlett have the ability, while Anderson and Zaheer certainly will end up as greats of their respective countries, but maybe not all-time greats.

  • Ajinkya on August 7, 2011, 17:10 GMT

    Again, you must ask yourself one question- if Marshall, Holding or Lillee were bowling right now, would they have performed better than Anderson, Zaheer, Tremlett and Broad?

  • Ajinkya on August 7, 2011, 17:24 GMT

    While I think there are many good or very good bowlers around still, the number of great bowlers certainly isn't what it was in the 1980s or 1990s. These phases are part of the game; in the 1970s and 1980s plenty of great fast bowlers were around, but the only truly great batsmen were Gavaskar, Richards, G. Chappell, Border and Miandad-just 5 of them. In contrast, in the late 1990s and the 2000s, we have had a flood of good or great batsmen-Tendulkar, Lara, Dravid, Ponting, Kallis, Steve Waugh, Inzamam, Sehwag, Pietersen, Hayden, Laxman, Sangakkara...its simply the other way round with bowlers!

  • nadim on August 7, 2011, 17:32 GMT

    zaheer has always been over rated. with an average of 32 or so in tests, he cannot be considered a great. he is an average bowler who looks great in an indian team short of average pacemen, let alone good ones. show me a great australian or west indian team whose so called 'great' opening bowler had an average of 32.