October 5, 2009
Seven for two
One spot's a no-brainer. So who will the other two be?
Fast bowling has been New Zealand's strength, but at the same time, the number of years their fast men have lost to injuries has been a big source of frustration. After Richard Hadlee, almost every New Zealand pace bowler has had to deal with recurring injuries. Before him, in the sixties, Gary Bartlett, arguably the fastest New Zealand had produced until then, was a cautionary tale of a fast bowler lost to injury. Dick Motz, around the same time, went around bowling with a displaced vertebra without knowing of the condition. The pattern Bartlett set still holds: demanding action , recurring injuries, frustrated followers, and insinuations that the injuries are in the mind and not the body. Bartlett managed only 10 Tests, and doesn't make it to the shortlist: nor do Geoff Allott, Dion Nash and Simon Doull.
Regardless, the men who make it cut across eras, character types and kinds of fast bowling. There is the all-round mastery of Hadlee, the earnestness of Ewen Chatfield and Chris Martin, the swing of Danny Morrison and Motz, the pace of Shane Bond, the left-arm accuracy of Richard Collinge, and the pre-war mastery of Jack Cowie.
Cowie takes us back to the question Stewie Dempster posed in the openers' section: He didn't get enough opportunities to play in his day, but was rated very highly among his contemporaries for what he achieved when he did. This decision becomes more difficult than the one with the openers, because Hadlee inevitably is sure to take one place, which leaves seven others to fight for the remaining two.
Jack Cowie "Had he been an Australian, he might have been termed a wonder of the age," said the Wisden of 1938, a year after Cowie took 114 wickets at less than 20 on the tour to England. Nicknamed "Bull" for his strong will, he played in all of New Zealand's Tests during his time - nine - and was considered second only to Hadlee in terms of skill.
Dick Motz Before he learnt of the 18-month-old injury that would end his career, Motz became the first New Zealander to take over 100 Test wickets. Not express, but extremely accurate with his outwingers, Motz hardly ever bowled rank bad spells.
Richard Collinge Collinge's height - 6'5" - and his left-arm angle made him a tricky customer. He ended as New Zealand's highest wicket-taker - with 116 - and was part of New Zealand teams that achieved the country's first wins against Australia and England.
Richard Hadlee The greatest New Zealand cricketer ever, and one of the most complete fast bowlers of all time, Hadlee was one in a quartet of the greatest allrounders in world cricket. A smart, committed cricketer, from being a young tearaway he went on to become a model fast bowler. He was the first man to reach 400 wickets, and in just 80 Tests at that.
Ewen Chatfield Everybody loved Chatfield. Tall, unkempt hair, long sideburns, moustache - he was the perfect, untiring, unyielding foil to Hadlee in New Zealand's best period for fast bowling. He took 123 wickets in Tests, and was responsible for a fair few of Hadlee's, which owed to the pressure exerted by Chatfield.
Danny Morrison What he lacked in height Morrison made up for with his spirit. A round-arm action and a good natural outswinger made him a handful to deal with when he was at his best, but at the same time he was not the thriftiest.
Chris Martin The bald head, springy run-up with long steps, high leap before the stride, determination, and ineptness with the bat have made Martin a favourite with the New Zealand public. He has fought injuries, can bowl long spells without wavering in intensity, and has just gone past Morrison's mark of 160 wickets - and 24 ducks.
Shane Bond Before the script went wrong, first with injuries and then with the ICL, Bond and Martin held the promise of forming a Hadlee-Chatfield-like duo. Bond is one of the few genuinely fast modern men, and bowls with both hostility and smartness, but in a nine-year career has played only 17 Tests - for 79 wickets at an average of 22.39 and a strike-rate of 38.9
We'll be publishing an all-time New Zealand XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To vote for your top New Zealand fast bowlers click here
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo
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