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Lillee forever, Steyn today

Eight former fast bowlers pick their all-time and current favourite quicks

Interviews by Nagraj Gollapudi

November 12, 2011

Comments: 165 | Text size: A | A

Malcolm Marshall bowling in Barbados
Malcolm Marshall: speed, swing, accuracy and determination © Getty Images

Richard Hadlee

All-time favourite fast bowler Dennis Lillee. He was a complete package. He had a presence. He ran in straight at you, hard and fast, with a wonderful side-on technique. He had the skills. He could intimidate to get you out. Three hundred and fifty five Test wickets, striking at five per Test. Statistically there might be better bowlers, but Lillee was the always the role model for me.

Current favourite
James Anderson has been impressive - outswinger, inswinger, good control. He is lively and has really come on in the last few years. He is probably the No.1 fast bowler at the moment, followed by Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Curtly Ambrose

All-time favourite fast bowler My two favourite fast bowlers of all time are Wasim Akram and Glenn McGrath. Akram, to me, had done things with a cricket ball not too many people could do: he could swing the ball, new or old, any time of the day, any time of the match. He was just a special bowler. McGrath was very similar to me. We both kept it very simple: we could put the ball on the spot all day long, the whole week. It was just natural. Both of us just improved with years.

Andy Roberts

All-time favourite fast bowler Any one between Dennis Lillee, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall. Lillee - for his aggression, his control and that he could swing the ball both ways. Mikey - his smoothness, his pace and his consistency. Malcolm - his approach to fast bowling was very different and he could do anything with the ball both ways.

Current favourite
There is only one, Dale Steyn. I admire his approach to fast bowling, his aggression. And he is like me - you hardly ever see him smile because he has work to do.

Courtney Walsh

All-time favourite fast bowler Malcolm Marshall, as a complete fast bowler. He stood out for his skills, swinging the ball, control, good pace, accuracy, determination. A very talented bowler. I learned a lot from him.

Current favourite
For England, Anderson is very good. I have always also been impressed by Fidel Edwards, who has good pace. The one that I would really like to see play but is always injured is Jerome Taylor. He has got a lot of ability and talent.

Clive Rice

All-time favourite fast bowler Dennis Lillee was fantastic. His skills, his attitude would easily make him a mentor and hero. When you talk about a fast bowler you are talking about a specialist fast bowler. Dennis Lillee was that one.

Current favourite
I like Steyn. He is quick, he is a very good bowler, he has got the skills.

Glenn McGrath

All-time favourite fast bowler My hero growing up was Dennis Lillee. But from my playing days, the guys who stand out for me, and I like watching, were Ambrose and Akram. I liked watching Curtly - he could just crack and get everyone one quickly, and he looked so laidback and relaxed. Akram just powered through the crease left-arm, could swing the ball both ways, was an incredible fast bowler.

Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn celebrate the wicket of Michael Hussey, South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town, 2nd day, November 10, 2011
Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel: batsmen get that sinking feeling when they get together © Getty Images

Current favourite
To me, of the current, they have not played enough Test matches to really qualify for the best fast bowler grade. In saying that, I have definitely been impressed by the England fast bowling unit. Jimmy Anderson has always had good potential and he is now doing well outside of England. Bresnan has impressed me with the areas he bowls and builds good pressure, as does Broad.

Mike Procter

All-time favourite fast bowler Dennis Lillee. He always gave a 100% on the field. He was a complete trier. He never gave up. And he was very hostile. He was a true great fast bowler.

Current favourite
Dale Steyn is the best. He is an out-and-out fast bowler. He has a lovely action, has good control, bowls a nice away-swinger and always looks like taking wickets.

Shane Bond

All-time favourite fast bowler Growing up, Richard Hadlee was my hero. He was consistent, got so many wickets, and I followed him very closely. I still have all his books and videos and they taught me a lot. He was theguy I tried to copy. I was lucky to see him get his 400th Test wicket at Christchurch, where I was working on the sightscreens then.

Current favourite I was always impressed by Brett Lee, who paid a lot of attention to fitness and the way he went about his work. Dale Steyn is another very good athlete and a very good fast bowler.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by SyedArbabAhmed on (November 16, 2011, 5:48 GMT)

Lillee average is not great as the averages of Malcolm Marshall or Wasim Akram, and he also bowled most of the time either in Australia or in England, but Wasim Akram bowled mostly on dead Asian wickets, so he was the best to me in all respects.

Posted by Shan156 on (November 15, 2011, 17:52 GMT)

People talk up Zaheer as if he were Wasim Akram. He is good but an Akram, he is not. If Anderson is ordinary, then so is Zaheer.

Anderson has been too good in the last few years not just in the helpful English conditions but also in Australia where he was ordinary in 2006-2007.

Yes, Steyn is good but has he really proved himself in all conditions against all teams? He averages 34 against England, 36 in England, 36 in SL and 46 in UAE. Granted they were only a few tests but then you have to reserve judgment till he plays a few more tests against England and in SL. Just because he has great stats in India doesn't mean he could be compared to the greats of yesteryear. He could well go on and even finish with a career better than the Marshalls and Holdings but he still needs to prove himself against a few other teams in few other conditions. Chances are he will do very well in England if he played a few more games but that isn't a given.

Posted by JUUREL on (November 15, 2011, 13:08 GMT)

Steyn is by far the best bowler in the world. He has been tested in all condition and has come up tops. As far as Anderson and bresnan are concerned, in helpful conditions they are good but otherwise they seem pretty ordinary. If it was not the fastest bowler then Zaheer Khan should have got mention with his ability to swing the ball both ways and his superb control..

Posted by   on (November 15, 2011, 2:44 GMT)

I saw Afridi bowl a one-off 136km ball here in NZ last year, off his usual run-up in an ODI. can't see many spinners do that

Posted by serious-am-i on (November 14, 2011, 21:38 GMT)

@waleed: The fastest spinner isn't Afridi, I think its Anil Kumble. If some one can put up their max speeds we could know difference and I am pretty sure there isn't much between them though.

Posted by BillyCC on (November 14, 2011, 21:10 GMT)

@amitgarg78, that is flawed reasoning to say that any fast bowler who doesn't pass the Asia test cannot be great. You need to have played a lot of tests in Asia for that test to be relevant, Lillee only played a handful so we actually don't know how good he would have been in Asia. Everyone uses Steyn as an example of current great fast bowling in India. But he has only played a handful of tests there and so it wouldn't take much for his average to balloon over 30 if he has a couple of poor series.

Posted by andrew2011 on (November 14, 2011, 19:58 GMT)

anyone who mentions Hadlee's strike rate needs to consider that he was the primary bowler in his team ... a great bowler (and all rounder) but had a lot more opportunity to accumulate wickets than the individuals in a 4-prong world class west indian line-up

for me the best was lillee ... but there were so many from the 80's/90's that could be considered great - from all nations ... just makes you think how weak fast bolwing has become now when we can only think of a couple of good fast bowlers ... also makes you think how good the batsmen who averaged 50+ like g.chappell etc were compared to the numerous batsmen who end up in the 50's today!

Posted by bsriramster on (November 14, 2011, 17:11 GMT)

The complete fast bowler for speed,accuracy,run-up and action Wesley W.Hall is my favorite.Hall hardly bowled a no ball when back-foot rule was applicable.Moreover Hall did not exhibit ferociousness over batsmen and bowling fast came naturally to him. Remember his eight ball over in the tied test at Brisbane in 1959-60 series.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (November 14, 2011, 10:56 GMT)

@wagon_wheel, so by your reasoning then Sub-continental batsmen should be judged differently as the bat on roads most of the time?

Posted by   on (November 14, 2011, 3:16 GMT)

For however long they play for or whatever their final stats are guys like Khan, Lee & Anderson will or can never be regarded as truly GREAT bowlers.Very few men were and still are but Hadlee IMHO is one of them. Classic effortless action, unerring back of a length and line accuracy, effective even on the flatest and most benign of tracks, a 'thinking' man's bowler; he genuinely bowled to dismiss batsmen with at times unplayable deliveries (rather than they get themselves out) He was especially prolific towards the end of his career while guys of today (e.g. Broad, Morkel, Johnson, Edwards) just run in, bang it down to see what happens and then gradually get and remain more erratic and expensive - their bowling averages and strike rates - Steyn apart- are off the charts compared to his. The only other bowler that really matches him is McGrath who apparently doesn't know what he's talking about?. His favourite bowler of all time?... RJ Hadlee...enuff said!!!

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