Fast bowlers March 18, 2010

A slinger and some swingers

Five to pick from, among them the country's most successful quick, one who broke teeth and one who took four in four

Sri Lanka's cricket history is replete with fast bowlers, both in the pre-Test era and after, but they have never produced anyone of genuine pace, although many believe DS Jayasundera, a right-arm fast bowler in the 1930s and 40s, was genuinely sharp, and there have been none faster since.

In the post-war years Sri Lanka was blessed with fast-medium bowlers like Tita Nathanielsz; Tikiri Banda Kehelgamuwa, who claims to have bowled Geoff Boycott with a brute of a delivery that the batsman hardly spotted; Darrell Lieversz and Norton Fredrick, who played in Sri Lanka's first unofficial "Test" victory over India, in Ahmedabad in 1965; Tony Opatha, who played in the first two World Cups; and Mevan Pieris, who played in the 1975 World Cup and was referred to as the "king of swing" because of his ability to move the ball both ways. These fast bowlers mastered the art of swing and cut down on pace to get their wickets on the flat pitches of Sri Lanka.

Among those unlucky to miss out on selection are Graeme Labrooy, a quality swing bowler, whose career was sporadic due to the political climate in the country at the time; Pramodya Wickramasinghe, a bowler of gentle but accurate pace, who once took all 10 in a first-class match in 1992 and played in 40 Tests; and Nuwan Zoysa, a tall, promising lanky left-arm seam bowler, who is one of the few players in history to take a hat-trick in his first over in a Test, but whose career has been plagued by injury.

The contenders

Ravi Ratnayeke
A tall right-arm medium-fast bowler who could bowl at a lively pace and move the ball under favourable conditions. He took 8 for 83 in Sialkot in 1985 and 5 for 37 in Sri Lanka's second Test victory, in 1986 against Pakistan in Colombo. Ratnayeke was highly rated by Sir Garfield Sobers, Sri Lanka's one-time coach.

Chaminda Vaas
Regarded as the best fast bowler produced by Sri Lanka in the post-Test era. An accurate left-arm swing bowler, Vaas was Sri Lanka's flag-bearer for many years, operating alone from one end on unresponsive subcontinental pitches. He had an indipper and a well-disguised offcutter in his arsenal, to which he later added reverse-swing, which made him a consistent wicket-taker even on dead pitches. With spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, Vaas led Sri Lanka to several memorable Test and ODI victories. He is the country's second most successful bowler after Murali, with 355 Test and 400 ODI wickets.

Rumesh Ratnayake
A wiry right-arm fast-medium bowler who could generate a lot of pace with a slinging action similar to Jeff Thomson. Ratnayake's proudest moment was taking nine wickets in Sri Lanka's maiden Test victory, over India in 1985. In helpful conditions he could swing the ball and bowl at a lively pace, as he proved against New Zealand, when he broke John Wright's nose with a bouncer, and against West Indies, when he hit Larry Gomes in the face and broke his teeth during a match in Australia.

Ashantha de Mel
De Mel was the best Sri Lankan fast bowler of his generation. He was fast-medium rather than genuinely quick and he made his mark in the country's inaugural Test, against England in 1982, by taking 4 for 70 in the first innings. De Mel had a good high-arm action and an effective outswinger. He had a successful 1983 World Cup, where he finished with 17 wickets, one fewer than the leading wicket-taker, India's Roger Binny. A knee injury cut de Mel's career short in 1987.

Lasith Malinga
Malinga has developed into Sri Lanka's fastest Test bowler, with am unorthodox technique: he delivers the ball with a side-arm action learnt from playing softball cricket during his childhood. The coaches, thankfully, did not try to alter his unorthodoxy and he continued to confuse batsmen with his slinging deliveries. He took six wickets on his debut, against Australia in Darwin in 2004. Malinga has a reputation for troubling batsmen with his lively pace, well-directed bouncers and toe-crushing yorkers bowled at speeds of 140-150kph. He became the first bowler to take four in four consecutive balls, against South Africa in a 2007 World Cup match.

We'll be publishing an all-time Sri Lanka XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your fast bowlers click here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dasun on March 21, 2010, 14:53 GMT

    No Argument Vass is the best fast bowler Sri Llanka has ever seen......he has proven it yet again in the IPL 2010. Second choice should be Malinga. He is the fastest bowler in SL. He bowls Yorker and slow bouncer very well...

  • Dwight on March 20, 2010, 23:16 GMT

    to SLfan- its cause the sl selectors are truly idiots, the sign of a true legend is their ability to adapt to change and comeback from adversity..and that is excatly what Vaas is doing, i was so happy to see him bowl sanga for a duck (the man who dropped him from the squad) in his last IPL game..selectors please bring back the legend to the national side at least for the 2011 world cup and let sanath, murali and vaas retire together!

  • shafeen on March 20, 2010, 17:57 GMT

    getting a bit ahead of whats in front of us - I disagree with the basic chemistry of this side. 3 pace bowlers and two spinners, at the expense of a batsmen doesn't make sense to me when the bowlers aren't of particularly high quality. I would have six batsmen instead. as for bowling - apart from Murali, none of the bowlers, either pace or spi,n are particularly penetrative (its a surprise when they take 10 wickets in a match). all in all then, better to have 3 pace bowlers and Murali then 2 pace, 2 spin. Back up spin is provided by Jayasuriya, Aravinda De Silva (who are sure to be in the side), and I'd also have Dilshan (who's not a certain pick, but I'd go with him) taking into consideration his bowling abilities. 6 batsmen makes batting strong - keeper and Vaas are useful bats too. bowling centered on Murali and 3 pacers. The three pacers will be rested enough to be at their best when needed, Murali is Murali, and back up spinners to be used when pitch favorable

  • Tharindu on March 20, 2010, 15:01 GMT

    I would choose Rumesh Ratnayake, Chaminda Vaas & Ravi Ratnayeke....I believe that selecters have done a big mistake by not selecting Vaasy for 30 men T20 world cup squad. Let's say....that's ok, anyone can make mistakes! But the best thing is to take necessary actions to correct the mistake, after realizing the mistake. Earlier they had ignore Jeewantha Kulatunga from the squad, despite he was named as the 'Player of the recently concluded domestic T20 series'. Later they corrected the mistake by naming him for the squad. Why won't they do the samething for Vaas??... Still I'm hoping that they'll name Vaas for the squad, taking in to consideration his excellent form in IPL !

  • Mark on March 19, 2010, 22:22 GMT

    I think there should be the option of picking only 2 fast bowlers and then picking 2 spinners, given the quality of sri lankan fast bowlers over their history has not been fantastic. I think Malinga, while he has been very good at times, has not played consistently for long enough to be considered part of an all-time best eleven.

  • D on March 19, 2010, 15:52 GMT

    Rumesh Ratnayake, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga

  • Azhan on March 19, 2010, 8:01 GMT

    I dont think picking the best fast bowling line up should be a test at all. Shri lanka has been trying to add that element of pace for so long. Finally we got that in Malinga. No Lankan fast bowler troubled the Aussie the way Malinga did in 2004, the way he shook up the New Zealand team with seering pace was never achieved before and even in England it was Malinga's telling presence that helped Lanka secure a draw in the series. So for all those people who are being emotionally retrospest, I call on for logic and reality. Vaas, Rumesh/Ratnayake, and Malinga would Shri lanka's best crop to charge into the Australian, English and Kiwi all time greats.

  • Sampath on March 19, 2010, 7:15 GMT

    I'm amazed that Champaka Ramanayake's name is no where.How can we forget him ? I can remember in 92 Aussie tour he was at his peak & Tom Moodys stumps were shattered by one super in swinger. Later in the day Moody came with mark Taylor & requested for a video tape of that delivery. He was a master of swing bowling. Other notable omit ions from the honorable mention list are Saliya Ahangama, Dulip Liyanage & Ravindra Pushpakumara(his bowling action was similar to Great Waqar Yunis) , who played for considerable time & were some promising fast bowlers. My best three would be Rumesh, Vassi & Malinga.( I should say if we play Vassi for another 3 years it will not do any harm to SL cricket. We really missed him in flat indian wickets.)

  • Vasu on March 18, 2010, 22:35 GMT

    We are missing D.L.S de Silva here, very good fast bowler, Unfortunately he met an accident and died. My team will be Sidath & Sanath to open Roy Dias at No 3, Mahela at No 4, Aravinda at No. 5, Sanga at No. 6, Aruna Ranasinghe at No. 7, Vass at No. 8, D.S. de Silva at No. 9, Murali at No.10 & Silva at No. 11.

  • Raman on March 18, 2010, 19:41 GMT

    I think Sanga should only be in the SL team as batter, as it appears he was reluctant keeper. Talkings of keepers Kalu should be in SL best ODI squad as opener as he was one of the pioneers of pinch hitting.

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