December 6, 2010

The man who needs no introduction

He went from Wild Thing to nothing to everything a fast bowler should be
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Dennis Lillee still does television advertisements in Australia. There's more hair under his lip than on his head these days, and it's decidedly grey. He also has this signature gesture of pointing to the camera no matter what he's promoting, which he's been doing at least 20 years. But what's interesting about Lillee's ads is that his provenance is never explained. There's no: "Back in the days when I was bowling to Viv…" Nor is there any attempt at an expository caption: "DK Lillee, 355 wickets at 23.92." Nope: here is a man who needs no introduction, and he won't be getting one.

Maybe explanation is just too hard. This is the era of the speed gun, yet Lillee wasn't the fastest of his era by a long way. This is the age of getting it in "good areas", of just nagging away, of waiting for the batsmen to make a mistake, yet Lillee reminded you always why it is a "bowling attack", not a "bowling defence". This is a time of instant and perishable celebrity, yet more than 27 years after bowling his last delivery in Test cricket, Dennis Lillee remains one of his country's most recognisable cricket faces, despite his having remained a stranger to commentary, and making comparatively few public pronouncements - the ones he does make, like lauding Mitchell Johnson to the skies or calling the Australian top order "Dad's Army", tend accordingly to be treated as ex cathedra truths.

So why did Lillee capture Australian imagination - and then not give it back? Firstly, he emerged in barren years. For most of the 1960s, Australia got by on the smooth control of Garth McKenzie, with a bit of brawn from Neil Hawke and some persistence from Alan Connolly. The most menacing bowler around was Ian Meckiff, famous for all the wrong reasons. Lillee's hero growing up was not Australian at all. Just as Ray Lindwall first thrilled to Harold Larwood, so Lillee was inspired by watching Wes Hall bowl for West Indies at the WACA Ground in November 1960. He emerged as a teenager with a marathon run and wild eyes. To watch footage of Lillee in England in 1972 is to see fast bowling at its raw, riotous best. The legs pump, the arms are everywhere, the mane flows. It looks like a brilliant and crazy machine bound sooner or later to disintegrate - which it duly did.

This leads to the second aspect of Lillee's greatness. For fast bowlers these days, stress fractures are almost as hip as tattoos. In those days, they went undiagnosed, usually until it was too late, and when Lillee's back gave way in the Caribbean in 1973, his spine was fractured in three places. In those days, too, a cricketer's physicality was his own affair. There was little or no support from the game's administration. Lillee's recovery came under his own steam, and by his own resources, thanks to a doctor, Frank Pyke, who had been Lillee's physical education instructor at Belmont High School.

Pyke was a top-class Australian rules footballer, a runner-up in his league's Sandover Medal, and a first-grade opening bowler at Lillee's club, Perth. This was important. The treatment and exercise programme Pyke devised was specifically with cricket in mind. It was about rejuvenation as well as healing. It left Lillee aware as perhaps no bowler before him of his body, or its limits and of how to extend them; it contributed also to Lillee's sense of individuality, and mistrust of authority. Which leads to the third and fourth aspects of Lillee's significance.

In coming back from being perhaps as far gone as a bowler has been without actually quitting, Lillee worked his way towards what he condensed in the title of his second book, The Art of Fast Bowling (1977). Bradman had defined The Art of Cricket (1960), but his were batsmen's parameters. Bowling fast was commonly seen as an act of brute force and ignorance; in writing their book, Lillee, with Pyke's assistance, was crafting something as improbable as The Art of Bulldozing.

For Richard Hadlee, it was a case of WWLD: "When things are going badly I often think, 'What would Lillee do?' And the answer is: 'He would not give up'."

In the second half of Lillee's career, he did more than any other to expand the grammar of fast bowling. Having started his career simply with an outswinger, Lillee developed a change of pace, a yorker, leg and offcutters, a fast bouncer and slower bouncer. He perfected a shorter run. He experimented with different angles at the crease. Perhaps the definitive essay in Lillee's transformation was a Test in February 1980 on a low and pebbly Melbourne pitch, on which he would not have known how to bowl five years earlier, but on which he now obtained 11 English wickets for 138 bowling impossibly accurate cutters. Geoff Boycott, in prime form, shouldered arms to a ball two feet wide of off stump, only to see the width of Lillee's angle and the wickedness of his cut drag it back to kiss the timber.

For fast bowlers the world over, Lillee became a touchstone, in temperament as well as technique. "As far as I am concerned, the sign of an outstanding player is his ability to perform well constantly under pressure," said Imran Khan. "He must always be a complete team man. The bowler who stands out is Dennis Lillee." He remembered Lillee coming over to sympathise with and encourage him after a Melbourne Test in which Lillee had bagged 10 for 135 and Imran 5 for 237; Imran bagged a dozen in the next game. For Richard Hadlee, it was a case of WWLD: "When things are going badly I often think, 'What would Lillee do?' And the answer is: 'He would not give up'."

Most interestingly, perhaps, Lillee became a master of concentration, often discussed in the context of batting, almost never as a factor in bowling. He called his first autobiography Back to the Mark (1975), and he always made this walk a fascinating sight. He headed back straight, unsmiling, eyes ahead, gazing into a middle distance. He had this characteristic gesture: a single finger to the forehead. It went from the centre to his left, then back to the right, flicking off sweat like a windscreen wiper. The ball by this stage would have been conveyed round the Australian in-field to mid-off, who would be polishing it furiously. Lillee would turn his head just slightly right, and extend his arm just above shoulder height. Mid-off's throw would have to be timed precisely so that Lillee did not have to alter his stride, and could catch the ball in one hand. The ball would then continue with Lillee the length of his run, being shone meditatively the rest of the way. As he turned at his bowling marker, all was genuinely in readiness.

With the whiff of a wicket, Lillee then revealed the most minatory appeal in the business, and also the coolest. He had all the moves. He could entrechat like Barishnykov; he could be king of the club like Tony Manero. One personal favourite was the twist in the air to land on spread feet, right index finger aimed straight at the umpire's heart - perhaps it's where he got his pitchman's fingerpoint for advertisements. No wonder that Shane Warne's hero growing up and playing backyard games with brother Jason was "the great DK"; no wonder the great SK developed an appeal that made umpires quail.

Finally, there's that fourth and final dimension of Lillee's historical import, his wakening radicalism, his evolving contempt for the administrators of his time and awareness of his growing commercial value, which made him one of the first to take the Packer shilling, and with Ian Chappell probably the most influential. He fitted comfortably into Channel 9's pantheon of larrikins, lairs and knockabout ockers, as born to television as he was to cricket. "From a shy, gullible bloke when I first met him, he developed an unbelievable supreme ego," said Greg Chappell of his close comrade. "It's not a criticism. Most of us were the same." In "Ego Is Not a Dirty Word", the title track of a chart-topping 1975 album by the Australian band Skyhooks, the band's lead singer Shirley Strachan presented the pro argument:

"If you did not have an ego
You might not care too much who won."

With which Lillee would hardly have disagreed. The ad men are right. Dennis Lillee's need for an introduction, professional or personal, has long since past.

Gideon Haigh is a cricket historian and writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • waspsting on December 9, 2010, 21:25 GMT

    @Engle re: who would you rather watch? - Hadlee lacked aggresion in certain situations. Marshall was just as hostile and at the batsman as Lillee anyday. Imran was wonderful to watch because of the easy to follow sideways movement - all the others had much more subtle movement which you couldn't notice as a spectator. @TheOnlyEmperor - Thomson was no "support bowler", mate. he was awesome. in any case, Lillee's support was certainly stronger than Hadlee or Imran Khan. Plus, is this a point for or against? - it was the lack of support that allowed him to take more wickets per match than the West Indians! (like Murali versus Warne). @Thecompletebatsman - agree with you 100%. Calling Lillee great - absolutely, but why the "greatest"? on what basis ahead of Imran, Hadlee and Marshall? At best their equal, and IMO, just a tad under them.

  • Engle on December 9, 2010, 16:00 GMT

    Lillee was a firebrand cricketer, the type that get's people to sit up and take notice. Sparkplugs are essential to excite the team and make things happen. Also, they add color and character to the game. Hadlee, Marshall lacked Lillee's aggression. Lillee was the total package, the complete fast bowler. Put another way, who would you rather watch ? Lillee, Marshall or Hadlee ?

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 9, 2010, 7:59 GMT

    @CompleteBatsman : ".Lillee certainly wasn't a lone ranger like Hadlee, Kapil and Imran. He had bowlers like Thomson, Hogg and Pascoe aroun him."

    Thomson, Hogg and Pascoe were fast, but they weren't great bowlers. They were like Brett Lee and Shoab Akhtar of the modern era - good but essentially support bowlers. Contrast this with Marshall's bowling companions or even Wasim Akram who had to bowl with Waqar.

  • the_complete_batsman on December 9, 2010, 3:29 GMT

    I only want to ask this - on what specific basis is Lillee rated ahead of Marshall, Hadlee and Imran? I mean, all those bowlers have better stats than he does, have bowled successfully in the subcontinent and were hardly any less versatile than he was, (especially Marshall). What more should they have done to be acknowledged as being better than Lillee?

  • BillyCC on December 8, 2010, 20:00 GMT

    Zack1, if Lillee never played in the subcontinent, then we will never know whether he would have been successful or not. He may well have been. See my earlier post, he did not avoid the subcontinent at all. For your quote arguing the greatness of Marshall, there are plenty of others that argue for Lillee. Agree with your comparison of India vs Bangladesh. You need to scale it down however for the professionalism era. Players today are paid and need to perform constantly.

  • harshthakor on December 8, 2010, 17:00 GMT

    I would like fans to note that in a statistical anlalysis conducted by Ananth Narayan of cricinfo in 2009 Dennis Lillee just edges Imran and Hadlee by about half a point.He is rated about 2 points above Mgrath and Marshall.In a second revised rating Lillee again is rated 2 points above Marshall and Mcgrath.,but half a point below Hadlee.Lillee was one of the greatest match-winning bolwers and took 5 wickets per innings ,which Mcgrath nad Marshall did not.This analysis of Ananath Narayan weighs a huge scale of factors which proves Lillee's ascendancy.

  • Dr.K.H.Iyer on December 8, 2010, 16:07 GMT

    Malcolm Marshall and Richard Hadlee are way ahead of Lillee! They performed EVERYWHERE! And let us not forget Glenn McGrath! He lived & DELIVERED in the age of batsmen!

  • Seether1 on December 8, 2010, 11:28 GMT

    Any idea where I can view videos of Dennis Lille vs Viv Richards? Youtube has a few clips but that doesn't really tell the story of the rivalry

  • ray1777 on December 8, 2010, 9:42 GMT

    I suspect not many of the contributors here have played Test cricket (self included). I think it is worth noting that Lillee is generally considered by opponents as the greatest fast bowler they have played against. Certainly Lillee, Marshall and Hadlee are possibly the best of the past 40 years. Stats alone do not tell the true picture. For those lucky enough to see him play would appreciate the tremendous skills he possessed. It is a shame that the calibre of fast bowlers that were around in the 70's, 80's and early 90's are not around today. It would certainly balance what has become a game where mediocre batsmen now average 45+ in test cricket.

  • Browndog1968 on December 8, 2010, 7:46 GMT

    It's a little boring hearing the comments "He didn't prove himself in the sub continent" Every player highlighted as a great generates that comment from our sub continent brothers. OK using that logic, how many Indian, Sri Lankan or Pakistani cricketers have proved themselves elsewhere? Judging by those teams successes anywhere else other than the sub continent I would say there haven't been many success stories at all.

  • waspsting on December 9, 2010, 21:25 GMT

    @Engle re: who would you rather watch? - Hadlee lacked aggresion in certain situations. Marshall was just as hostile and at the batsman as Lillee anyday. Imran was wonderful to watch because of the easy to follow sideways movement - all the others had much more subtle movement which you couldn't notice as a spectator. @TheOnlyEmperor - Thomson was no "support bowler", mate. he was awesome. in any case, Lillee's support was certainly stronger than Hadlee or Imran Khan. Plus, is this a point for or against? - it was the lack of support that allowed him to take more wickets per match than the West Indians! (like Murali versus Warne). @Thecompletebatsman - agree with you 100%. Calling Lillee great - absolutely, but why the "greatest"? on what basis ahead of Imran, Hadlee and Marshall? At best their equal, and IMO, just a tad under them.

  • Engle on December 9, 2010, 16:00 GMT

    Lillee was a firebrand cricketer, the type that get's people to sit up and take notice. Sparkplugs are essential to excite the team and make things happen. Also, they add color and character to the game. Hadlee, Marshall lacked Lillee's aggression. Lillee was the total package, the complete fast bowler. Put another way, who would you rather watch ? Lillee, Marshall or Hadlee ?

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 9, 2010, 7:59 GMT

    @CompleteBatsman : ".Lillee certainly wasn't a lone ranger like Hadlee, Kapil and Imran. He had bowlers like Thomson, Hogg and Pascoe aroun him."

    Thomson, Hogg and Pascoe were fast, but they weren't great bowlers. They were like Brett Lee and Shoab Akhtar of the modern era - good but essentially support bowlers. Contrast this with Marshall's bowling companions or even Wasim Akram who had to bowl with Waqar.

  • the_complete_batsman on December 9, 2010, 3:29 GMT

    I only want to ask this - on what specific basis is Lillee rated ahead of Marshall, Hadlee and Imran? I mean, all those bowlers have better stats than he does, have bowled successfully in the subcontinent and were hardly any less versatile than he was, (especially Marshall). What more should they have done to be acknowledged as being better than Lillee?

  • BillyCC on December 8, 2010, 20:00 GMT

    Zack1, if Lillee never played in the subcontinent, then we will never know whether he would have been successful or not. He may well have been. See my earlier post, he did not avoid the subcontinent at all. For your quote arguing the greatness of Marshall, there are plenty of others that argue for Lillee. Agree with your comparison of India vs Bangladesh. You need to scale it down however for the professionalism era. Players today are paid and need to perform constantly.

  • harshthakor on December 8, 2010, 17:00 GMT

    I would like fans to note that in a statistical anlalysis conducted by Ananth Narayan of cricinfo in 2009 Dennis Lillee just edges Imran and Hadlee by about half a point.He is rated about 2 points above Mgrath and Marshall.In a second revised rating Lillee again is rated 2 points above Marshall and Mcgrath.,but half a point below Hadlee.Lillee was one of the greatest match-winning bolwers and took 5 wickets per innings ,which Mcgrath nad Marshall did not.This analysis of Ananath Narayan weighs a huge scale of factors which proves Lillee's ascendancy.

  • Dr.K.H.Iyer on December 8, 2010, 16:07 GMT

    Malcolm Marshall and Richard Hadlee are way ahead of Lillee! They performed EVERYWHERE! And let us not forget Glenn McGrath! He lived & DELIVERED in the age of batsmen!

  • Seether1 on December 8, 2010, 11:28 GMT

    Any idea where I can view videos of Dennis Lille vs Viv Richards? Youtube has a few clips but that doesn't really tell the story of the rivalry

  • ray1777 on December 8, 2010, 9:42 GMT

    I suspect not many of the contributors here have played Test cricket (self included). I think it is worth noting that Lillee is generally considered by opponents as the greatest fast bowler they have played against. Certainly Lillee, Marshall and Hadlee are possibly the best of the past 40 years. Stats alone do not tell the true picture. For those lucky enough to see him play would appreciate the tremendous skills he possessed. It is a shame that the calibre of fast bowlers that were around in the 70's, 80's and early 90's are not around today. It would certainly balance what has become a game where mediocre batsmen now average 45+ in test cricket.

  • Browndog1968 on December 8, 2010, 7:46 GMT

    It's a little boring hearing the comments "He didn't prove himself in the sub continent" Every player highlighted as a great generates that comment from our sub continent brothers. OK using that logic, how many Indian, Sri Lankan or Pakistani cricketers have proved themselves elsewhere? Judging by those teams successes anywhere else other than the sub continent I would say there haven't been many success stories at all.

  • the_complete_batsman on December 8, 2010, 7:13 GMT

    @TheOnlyEmperor.....Lillee certainly wasn't a lone ranger like Hadlee, Kapil and Imran. He had bowlers like Thomson, Hogg and Pascoe aroun him.

  • pakwellwisher on December 8, 2010, 7:06 GMT

    The best part is that he scared the living day lights out of the overrated english team. But he is involved in a disgraceful incident with Javed Miandad and was suspended.

  • the_complete_batsman on December 8, 2010, 7:04 GMT

    That said, Lillee certainly deserves a hell of a lot of credit for coming back out of a serious injury and tranforming his style to remain one of the very best.

  • the_complete_batsman on December 8, 2010, 7:00 GMT

    Although undoubtedly a great quickie, Lillee simply did not have the complete all-round versatility of Marshall. Marshall had it all - pace, accuracy,mastery over swing and cut, a lethal bouncer, ability to out-think batsmen and he was devastating against everyone, everywhere and in a variety of conditions and situations. Simply the best, by far. Read the stats analysis on him in his Legends profile, you'll understand what I'm on about.

  • Zack1 on December 8, 2010, 4:00 GMT

    @ialfredmynn

    A look at the statistics will show that the Indian team won 17 and lost 19 matches in the 70's with 28 draws. Compare that to Bangladesh in the 2000's, won 3 and lost 59 with a mere 6 draws. There is simply no comparison, and to defend Lillee for not playing in India is utterly ridiculous. The bottom line is that Lillee was not successful in the subcontinent, and did not like to play there. He was only good in helpful conditions. Here's what Jeff Thomson had to say about Malcolm Marshall, `He just got wickets everywhere, on pitches where WE never did.' That's why Marshall is an all-time great and Lillee is simply not. If Thomson can be honest, why can't you?

    You can find Thomson's quote here. http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/330770.html

  • Meety on December 8, 2010, 1:33 GMT

    @Engle - great point - statistics can give you info, sometimes other factors combine to give a clearer picture. Lillee, Hadlee, Ambrose & Marshall all had great qualities that would not be a stretch to claim "greatest". I believe Lindwall, Spofforth, Trueman, Barnes & maybe Wes Hall are others worthy of consideration. @Paulk - true that McGrath's achievements have come during more batsmen friendly conditions. I tend to think that McGrath got alot of his wickets due to the prevailence of ODI's poisonining technique & temprement of batsmen. So whilst conditions favoured a batsmen, the average batsmen of that era were use to easy runs flowing at 4 runs per over or more, then coming against McGrath, where the runs dried up & they had to play defensively, they failed. Lille had more presence, McGrath was probably more bankable in ALL conditions.

  • Paulk on December 7, 2010, 18:27 GMT

    As great a bowler he is I am not convinced that he is the best Australian fast bowler. In an era of higher batting averages and protective gear, McGrath still has a better average and marginally better strike rate. Plus he has gotten top batsmen in all conditions all over the world. Sure his style is different, perhaps not as complete or flashy as Lillee but atleast if not more effective. My vote goes to McGrath for the greatest Australian fast bowler, just by very little though.

  • Engle on December 7, 2010, 18:25 GMT

    Lillee, during his time created waves amongst the cricketing fraternity that no other fastie since has, not even Roberts, Holding, Marshall, Imran, Hadlee, McGrath. This is similar to the effect that V.Richards created. Awe and Aura. It's one thing to accumulate runs and wickets. It's quite another to do so and have an affect on others. Inspiring, uplifting, motivating your teammates while destroying and demoralizing the opponents. Dennis Lillee: ' a fast bowlers fast bowler'

  • Kaze on December 7, 2010, 13:31 GMT

    Lillee is the best period, he is rated by a lot of people in the game as the best, likes of Holding and Marshall. To compare Marshall to Lillee is like comparing the pupil to the master very silly. Also Marshall was not as good as Holding so you really are making the wrong comparison. Tthe subcontinent at the time had Pakistan where people didn't tour that often and India, the Bangladesh of cricket at the time. I bet if Lillee was playing right now, he would make a mess of those Asian teams in the subcontinent with just his pace.

  • on December 7, 2010, 11:02 GMT

    Adding to my last comment, I rate Imran higher too (even as a pure bowler).

  • TheOnlyEmperor on December 7, 2010, 9:05 GMT

    The Packer era didn't do any good to the Aussie players in retrospect. After all playing for the country is one thing and playing for the "circus" is quite another, even if the "circus" lines your pockets. Ultimately, every person wants to leave a legacy which captures them at their very best. Sadly the Packer era, took this away from Lillee. If Lillee took wickets against a world-11, it's also because the world-11 didn't stand for any pride to defend as a TEAM. They were a bunch of individuals who played, bcos of the pride of being invited to be part of the world 11. Lillee was definitely a sight to watch and a breath of fresh air to competitive fast bowling, until of course the WI bowling greats came on the scene in droves! Lillee, Hadlee, Imran and Kapil were lone rangers who bowled without much support. That gave them opportunities to take more wickets, but in some ways didn't help them raise their bar even higher. That's why it's wrong to compare Lillee to Marshall.

  • memoriesofthepast on December 7, 2010, 8:04 GMT

    Lillee's career was more highlighted by his involvement in bad incidents like use of the aluminium bat in 1979 to damage the cricket ball, betting on Aus losing Ashes test at Headingley 1981 and coming in the way of batsman Miandad and trying to kick him in the Perth test of 1981- No other bowler of his era had been involved in such bad incidents. Lillee the menace also played a role in the underarm ball incident. Fielder, Lillee, did not walk into place, meaning that the underarm ball was technically a no-ball, because Australia had one too many fielders outside the field restriction line. Yet a no-ball was not given and Aus won that game against NZ. Lillee's unpunished acts surely inspired future Aus players like M Waugh, S Warne, G McGrath, R Ponting, S Katich, S Watson and many more to repeat them.

  • RoshanF on December 7, 2010, 7:16 GMT

    "Tad Overrated" says a know-not and not as good as Marshall says another of the same kind. i doubt if either of these ever saw Lillee in action. Ah yes the sub - continent 'failure' they quote.But he toured only Pakistan and Sri Lanka (at the tail-end of his career). I wonder if these doubters have ever heard of the saying fast bowlers hunt in pairs. Well, yes, I too believe Marshall was as good as Lillee BUT he hunted not as a pair but as a fearsome foursome. Roberts. Holding, Garner, Croft were his 'brothers-in-arms' at his prime and he had that support when he toured India or Pakistan. In Pakistan when Lillee got only 03 wickets he did not have even Thommo most of the time. But the final words come from true legends of that era - Hadlee, Imran and that connoissseur of fast men, of whom he managed the bulk of them, Clive Lloyd. Technically and effect wise Marshall was Lillee's equal but DK was much more aggressive and he was an out-and -out offensive bowler. Much more than anyone.

  • on December 7, 2010, 6:02 GMT

    Can't argue with Lillee's skill-set and his iron will. Not many could have come back from an injury like his with reputation and armory enhanced like him. That said - if I had to pick the greatest ever, I'd still go for Marshall, Akram, and Hadlee in that order. Lillee would probably slot in next. For sheer mastery of all kinds of conditions and operating at high pace right through Marshall has to be the perfect prototype of fast bowling. Akram's mastery was perhaps even a bit more with reverse swing and left armer's angle but he would be behind by a hair's breadth due to his mental strength. Holding lacked the entire variety, DK never proved himself in the subcontinent, McGrath's longevity and accuracy was superb but he wasn't an enforcer who could out-think allcomers. Lets not judge these by stats. If Hadlee, Trueman, Donald or Imran played as much as Kapil or Walsh they'd burn up those books. Conversely if Kapil/ Walsh didn't have to be the workhorse their stats would be different.

  • on December 7, 2010, 5:14 GMT

    I really can't bring myself to forgive you, Gideon Haigh, for writing an article patronising Dennis Lillee. After how he and Rodney Marsh deliberately underperformed under the captaincy of Kim Hughes and after all that they did to deliberately undermine him, including dissing him in front of other teammates, I really don't know how anyone could consider him as a great of the game. Include the fact that he actually betted for money against Australia winning one of the 1981 Ashes test, doesn't it count as match-fixing in some angle? A disgraceful character, to say the least...I wouldn't even have him in my top 1,000 legends! And for all of you who patronise him, please go and read "Golden Boy: Kim Hughes and the bad old days of Australian cricket" by Christian Ryan...hope the book will open your eyes to the real Dennis Lillee.

  • alfredmynn on December 7, 2010, 2:32 GMT

    I agree with some posters that it's hard to put Lillee at the very top of the fast-bowling list. Personally, Trueman, Ambrose and Marshall rate higher, and perhaps Wasim Akram. @cricket__fan, Lillee refusing to tour India then was like someone refusing to tour Bangladesh now. He must rather be commended for that. He did have a rough time in Pak but that was for 3 matches, hardly a good sample to base conclusions on as anyone can be out of form for 3 matches.

  • ian_ghose on December 7, 2010, 2:15 GMT

    DK Lillie, one of the few fast bowlers who could not just out-muscle but out-maneuvere and out-think the batsman. What could be a greater tribute to him than the fact that he forced Viv Richards to consult a psychiatrist after the 1975-76 series! Cunningly channelized aggression and un-compromising work ethic. Brilliant!! @cricket_fan...you should probably change your name to 1-eyed-indian-fantatic/moron. Sorry mate,the fact is that DK Lillie was bloody good, and the Indian team was really rubbish in the 1970s. Hell, they were getting walloped by anyone and everyone. Just because you're ignorant of history, doesn't mean it didn't happen. It was probably the same bunch of idiots questioning Greg Chappell's ability against Indian spinners. The last time i checked, the likes of Tony Greig and Zaheer Abbass were smashing them to pulp. Just because your uncle pulls the string at ICC, doesn't mean he can change history.

  • hakunamatata11 on December 7, 2010, 1:47 GMT

    One of the greats but not the greatest. What does stand out for me about the Leilee career was the subtle changes he made in his delivery over the years and how as he lost that yard or two of pace (which is to be expected) he became smarter and others learnt off this. Hadlee and Akram were two of note. IMO Hadlee would be my pick as the best though purely because he was practically an oneman team. How many wickets attributed to Lillee were from batsman trying to avoid 160kph screamers from the other end a la Thompson? In fact, all the top bowlers apart from maybe Imran and Hadlee had notable bowlers bowling from the other end, and tended to operate in tandem. Donald/Pollack, Ambrose/Walsh, Akram/Waqar, Marshall/Garner, Holding/Roberts, McGrath/Gillispie. Look at Hadlees stats in the continent and away from home. And then there's that 9/52 against Aus in Aus; which is still the single best performance I have ever seen.

  • Number_5 on December 7, 2010, 1:30 GMT

    A living ledgend of the game as evidence by his rightful place in the World Xi, any true cricket fan would acknowledge this..who can forget the sight of DK pushing off the sightscree to the chants of "Kill, Kill, Kill" just before he clean bowled the great Viv...still makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end...

  • KBowser on December 7, 2010, 1:06 GMT

    @Tova. You took the words out of my mouth - I couldn't have said it better.

    I grew up idolising Lillee, but would place Marshall slightly above him. The fact that so many of Lillee's contemporaries (including opponents, other bowlers and those from the subcontinent) thought that Lillee was the best bowler that they had seen speaks volumes more than some of the partisan and ill-considered comments posted here. Let's not also forget his record in World Series Cricket (including in the West Indies) which was outstanding against the best players of the era.

  • BillyCC on December 7, 2010, 0:53 GMT

    Zack1, you need to clearly research your facts before you write your comments. To the best of my knowledge, guys like Dennis Lillee and Greg Chappell did not control the scheduling of cricket matches in their day. That is the job of the Australian Cricket Board and the Indian equivalent. So since you haven't bothered, these are the facts. Dennis Lillee played his first test in 1971 and his last in 1983. During that time, there was only one scheduled test series in India featuring the Australians - a six Test series and guess what; it was during the Packer/World Series era. We know why Lillee and Chappell missed that series, so any accusation of avoiding India is ridiculous.

  • waspsting on December 7, 2010, 0:12 GMT

    Great, but a tad overrated, IMO. he's up there with the best, but its silly to say he was definitely greater than a whole host of bowlers from his own time - roberts, holding, garner, croft, marshall, hadlee, imran etc. I tend to rate the last three named as slightly better. @harshthakor... you make some good points, but note Hadlee's fine record on flat subcontinent tracks, and that Marshall's teamates were too good for him to have taken five wickets too often. Arguably the best of all, inarguably a great... but the extent to which he is thought to be the best of the time, is overstating things, IMO.

  • Meety on December 6, 2010, 23:35 GMT

    To bloggers detracting from Lillee's career, its worth noting that for most of Lillee's career their were only 2 sides that were competitive against Oz, - being England & WIndies. Pakistan was an emerging contender in the making, India was poor & NZ would punch above their weight (as usual but Hadlee hadn't blossomed until the mid 80s). So to use Pakistan or India as a benchmark for Lillee's success is misdirected bias based on the 21st Century standings - where it is a far more challenging assignment. @cricket fan - he toured Pakistan once, which is not a statistically great database to make comment. Pakistan was very difficult to tour for off the field reasons then & now. @harsh_vardhan2002 - not going to argue re: speed & skill, but it's debatable about better. I am a Marshall fan. @Ankit Jain - some great names except Donald & McGrath. Donald's temperment meant he was hot & cold, McGrath never swung the ball & rarely seamed it. Ambrose didn't do any of the above - didnt need to!

  • Tova on December 6, 2010, 23:33 GMT

    Some of the comments on here really do show the lack of knowledge by some of the people comenting. Lillee never dodged playing in India. Australia only toured there once during his career, in 1979, when he was involved with World Series Cricket. Also that series in Pakistan in 1980 was played on wickets tailor made for spin and to neutralise Lillee's effect... The spinners dominated that series... Lillee took many wickets on flat tracks in Australia, England and the West Indies. Just because he played most of his tests in Australia and England does not mean he played in "helpfull conditions" all the time. Australian wickets can be very flat as can the English wickets... I too would rate Marshall slightly above Lillee, but he is still an absolute all time great of fast bowling. Someone Australia could really use right now!

  • Zack1 on December 6, 2010, 13:13 GMT

    An excellent bowler, but only in helpful conditions. His record outside Australia and England is very average, a fact which is not mentioned anywhere in the article. He avoided tours to countries like India, where the pitches are not helpful to fast bowlers.His statistics are therefore inflated. Would we consider Tendulkar a great batsman if he had (deliberately) never toured Australia? Why should it be OK to completely ignore someone's record outside half the cricket playing world when deciding whether he is an all-time great. Shane Warne's record in India is also terrible, but at least he had the guts to show up. Compare Lillee's record to that of Malcolm Marshall, who destroyed batting lineups in every country he played in.

  • gujratwalla on December 6, 2010, 9:29 GMT

    My first sight of Dennis Lillee in 1972 encaptured the man in the mind for ever;long hair,wild,tearing run up.tremendous speed,a brash,colourfull but amusing character with exceptional stamina and courage.He had his problems of course but the way he defeated his back-injury and came back modified but even better has few peers.Dennis was Australia's Fred Trueman...fast,strong,verbal and great!If i ever would ask for a memory it would be the Lillee of 1972 tearing into the English batsmen!Spectacular!

  • on December 6, 2010, 5:44 GMT

    One of the greats of the game. But I don't quite agree with the popular opinion that he is the greatest fast bowler of all time. I tend to rate Marshall, Hadlee, Ambrose, McGrath, Trueman and Donald higher.

  • tikna on December 6, 2010, 5:39 GMT

    And going on to set up the pace foundation in Madras which has churned out so many good bowlers and Sachin Tendulkar. Awsome

  • on December 6, 2010, 4:37 GMT

    Legend - full stop! ........................................................................................................

  • CharlieAlanJakeHarperFamily on December 6, 2010, 4:19 GMT

    malcom marshall was the quickest and complete as he could swing the ball at pace much quicker than lillee

  • harshthakor on December 6, 2010, 3:45 GMT

    Richard Hadlee may have been statistically better but could not equal Lillee on a docile track.Lillee had the repertoire of deliveries and variations.Similarly Mcgrath has a better bowling average but did not have Lillee's versatlity or agression.Both Hadlee and Mcgrath had greater control and acccuracy but lacked Lillee's innovative ability,pace and agression.Lillee's greatest rival Marshall did not capture 5 wickets per innings nor had as many 10 wicket and 5 wicket hauls as Lillee.Against the greatest batsmen like Viv Richards Lillee was a champion,as he dispalyed in the Packer Supertests ,both in Australia and the Carribean.His most inspiring spell to me was his 7-83 against the Wst Indies at Melbourne in 1981-92. which won the test for Australia,after they were hoplessly place in the first innings,scoring 198.His 8-29 at Perth in 1972 agaisnt Rest of the World is one of International cricket's greatest spells ever.

  • cricket__fan on December 6, 2010, 3:41 GMT

    Another over-hyped cricketer from Australia! He was a a quality international bowler, no doubt, but nothing more than that. He never played in India and on good batting tracks in Pakistan, his bowling record is appalling.

  • harshthakor on December 6, 2010, 3:36 GMT

    Arguably the greatest and most complete fast bowler of all time.Posessed every asset of a graet fast bowler posessing lethal pace,versatality,correct action control ,intelligence,accuracy combined with great temprament.No bowler has ever had such a never say die attitude.In his day he overhadowed the likes of Richard Hadlee and Andy Roberts.He captured 5 wickets per innigs and adding his Packer Cricket haul and 1972 games against Rest of the World would have captured 446 wickets .At his best on flat batting tracks like against England at the Oval in 1981 and 1972 where he captured 10 wickets in bothtests as well as at Melbourne in 1977 and 1979-80 when he captured 11 wickets in both tests.His leg-cutter and outswinger were lethal in addition to his bouncer.A great match-winning cricketer,who could turn a lost cause into a winning one.

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  • harshthakor on December 6, 2010, 3:36 GMT

    Arguably the greatest and most complete fast bowler of all time.Posessed every asset of a graet fast bowler posessing lethal pace,versatality,correct action control ,intelligence,accuracy combined with great temprament.No bowler has ever had such a never say die attitude.In his day he overhadowed the likes of Richard Hadlee and Andy Roberts.He captured 5 wickets per innigs and adding his Packer Cricket haul and 1972 games against Rest of the World would have captured 446 wickets .At his best on flat batting tracks like against England at the Oval in 1981 and 1972 where he captured 10 wickets in bothtests as well as at Melbourne in 1977 and 1979-80 when he captured 11 wickets in both tests.His leg-cutter and outswinger were lethal in addition to his bouncer.A great match-winning cricketer,who could turn a lost cause into a winning one.

  • cricket__fan on December 6, 2010, 3:41 GMT

    Another over-hyped cricketer from Australia! He was a a quality international bowler, no doubt, but nothing more than that. He never played in India and on good batting tracks in Pakistan, his bowling record is appalling.

  • harshthakor on December 6, 2010, 3:45 GMT

    Richard Hadlee may have been statistically better but could not equal Lillee on a docile track.Lillee had the repertoire of deliveries and variations.Similarly Mcgrath has a better bowling average but did not have Lillee's versatlity or agression.Both Hadlee and Mcgrath had greater control and acccuracy but lacked Lillee's innovative ability,pace and agression.Lillee's greatest rival Marshall did not capture 5 wickets per innings nor had as many 10 wicket and 5 wicket hauls as Lillee.Against the greatest batsmen like Viv Richards Lillee was a champion,as he dispalyed in the Packer Supertests ,both in Australia and the Carribean.His most inspiring spell to me was his 7-83 against the Wst Indies at Melbourne in 1981-92. which won the test for Australia,after they were hoplessly place in the first innings,scoring 198.His 8-29 at Perth in 1972 agaisnt Rest of the World is one of International cricket's greatest spells ever.

  • CharlieAlanJakeHarperFamily on December 6, 2010, 4:19 GMT

    malcom marshall was the quickest and complete as he could swing the ball at pace much quicker than lillee

  • on December 6, 2010, 4:37 GMT

    Legend - full stop! ........................................................................................................

  • tikna on December 6, 2010, 5:39 GMT

    And going on to set up the pace foundation in Madras which has churned out so many good bowlers and Sachin Tendulkar. Awsome

  • on December 6, 2010, 5:44 GMT

    One of the greats of the game. But I don't quite agree with the popular opinion that he is the greatest fast bowler of all time. I tend to rate Marshall, Hadlee, Ambrose, McGrath, Trueman and Donald higher.

  • gujratwalla on December 6, 2010, 9:29 GMT

    My first sight of Dennis Lillee in 1972 encaptured the man in the mind for ever;long hair,wild,tearing run up.tremendous speed,a brash,colourfull but amusing character with exceptional stamina and courage.He had his problems of course but the way he defeated his back-injury and came back modified but even better has few peers.Dennis was Australia's Fred Trueman...fast,strong,verbal and great!If i ever would ask for a memory it would be the Lillee of 1972 tearing into the English batsmen!Spectacular!

  • Zack1 on December 6, 2010, 13:13 GMT

    An excellent bowler, but only in helpful conditions. His record outside Australia and England is very average, a fact which is not mentioned anywhere in the article. He avoided tours to countries like India, where the pitches are not helpful to fast bowlers.His statistics are therefore inflated. Would we consider Tendulkar a great batsman if he had (deliberately) never toured Australia? Why should it be OK to completely ignore someone's record outside half the cricket playing world when deciding whether he is an all-time great. Shane Warne's record in India is also terrible, but at least he had the guts to show up. Compare Lillee's record to that of Malcolm Marshall, who destroyed batting lineups in every country he played in.

  • Tova on December 6, 2010, 23:33 GMT

    Some of the comments on here really do show the lack of knowledge by some of the people comenting. Lillee never dodged playing in India. Australia only toured there once during his career, in 1979, when he was involved with World Series Cricket. Also that series in Pakistan in 1980 was played on wickets tailor made for spin and to neutralise Lillee's effect... The spinners dominated that series... Lillee took many wickets on flat tracks in Australia, England and the West Indies. Just because he played most of his tests in Australia and England does not mean he played in "helpfull conditions" all the time. Australian wickets can be very flat as can the English wickets... I too would rate Marshall slightly above Lillee, but he is still an absolute all time great of fast bowling. Someone Australia could really use right now!