January 6, 2011

The return of swing and other stories

The top teams were on about an equal footing, which produced more absorbing cricket. And an exciting bowling art made a comeback
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The last couple of weeks of the year are among the most pleasurable for the cricket fan. Apart from England, the weather is pleasant everywhere. There are festivities. And there are Test matches on television. In 2010 it was a bit more special than usual because the top four Test teams were involved in engaging contests in two different time zones. If you are in the subcontinent, like I am, what bliss it is to wake up to Test cricket in Australia and carry on watching through the day till it is late afternoon in South Africa.

Despite the Tests having been one-sided, both series have been full of surprises, drama and brilliant performances, and the momentum has swung from one Test to the other, with both series yet to be decided going into the last Test.

As Australia have fallen from their perch, the era of great teams has ended, at least temporarily. It is both a blessing and a blight. An even playing field makes for tighter, more interesting contests. At their peak Australia were so far ahead of the rest that matches involving them got predictable and dull. Now we know that a team can get hammered one week and return the favour with interest the next. England have now beaten Australia at home and away, lost to South Africa at home and drawn with them away, and lost to India at home and away. South Africa have drawn against India away and are level at home at the time of writing. India have won 14 of their last 23 Tests but haven't won a series in Australia and South Africa. So damn the rankings, no one really knows who is top dog in Test cricket, and that keeps the Test scene spicy and simmering.

The flip side is that the bar has been lowered, and while contests between teams are now more even, it has been at the cost of quality. England have brought their best team in years to Australia, to be met by one of the softest Australian teams in memory. India must have the thinnest bowling attack for a top-ranked team. And South Africa continue to lose too many vital games.

And while Test cricket looks and feels healthy and vibrant when the top teams are playing each other, the news from the bottom half has got more and more depressing. New Zealand managed to hold India to two draws recently, but the series held little spectator interest. Pakistan continue to provide sparks but the tragedy of their cricket is both created from within and by circumstances beyond the control of players and administrators. In the West Indies it's tough to figure out who cares less, players or administrators. New Zealand face a crisis of talent. And Bangladesh still don't look like they belong in the Test arena.

While nothing is more rewarding than Test cricket played at a high level, when it is between unequals, or even among low-skilled opponents, it can be a drag. The last year provided enough evidence of the vibrancy and viability of Test cricket between the top nations, but it posed some serious questions about the way forward.

The bar has been lowered, and while contests between teams are now more even, it has been at the cost of quality. England have brought their best team to Australia in years, to be met by one of the softest Australian teams in memory. India must have the thinnest bowling attack for a top-ranked team. And South Africa continue to lose too many vital games

In other ways too, 2010 was year of contrasts. While Indian cricket glowed on the field, the cricket board found itself mired in controversies and court cases. Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif lit up the English summer with the magic of their wrists before spot-fixing allegations against them plunged cricket into darkness. Pitches produced gluts of runs and cascades of wickets. Mitchell Johnson misfired for most of 2010 but produced one of the great spells of the year, in Perth. And the Umpire Decision Review System threw up as many questions as it provided answers.

The need for competitive pitches
It's never been a secret: keep bowlers in the game and cricket will be rewarding. And to keep bowlers in the game you need pitches that aren't a one-way street in favour of batsmen. It isn't a coincidence that the last decade was among the most profitable for both batsmen and cricket boards. Most of the money in cricket is made from television rights, and television companies make their money from ads that run between overs. The longer games last, the greater the number of ads that can be run. Curators, after all, are employed by cricket boards. Even if they were not explicitly instructed to roll out flatbeds, they got the message.

Statistically 2010 wasn't any better. The runs-per-wicket ratio from 43 Tests stood at 36.48, the second highest in the last 10 years. But there were plenty of encouraging trends. Perth was restored to life, Durban produced bounce and pace, Nagpur and Bangalore had enough for spinners, and most of all, the English summer sparkled with life.

Over the last decade English grounds, the most favourable in the world to swing and seam bowling, produced increasing amounts of runs. Lord's became a batting paradise, The Oval lost pace, and even Headingley no longer remained a haven for seamers. But something changed in 2010. In the hands of some skillful operators the ball wobbled and seamed, and all eight Tests - two were neutral ones between Australia and Pakistan - produced results. The spot-fixing scandal at the end of the season took the sheen off the summer, but hopefully the lessons will have been absorbed. It's not merely enough to keep the players on the field for as long as possible; to keep fans of Test cricket engaged, it is essential to provide a proper contest between the bat and ball.

The return of swing
A look at the top wicket-takers' table for the year tells a happy story. Two of the top three are swing bowlers and there are a couple more in the top 10. Between them Dale Steyn and James Anderson have swung the ball in all conditions, and have done what opening bowlers are meant to do: take out top-order batsmen.

For over a decade Glenn McGrath specialised in the surgical dismantling of batsmen, but his control and accuracy were near freakish, and McGrath was arguably the greatest defensive bowler in the history of the game. In its own way, that perfection was both beautiful and terrifying, but in the hands of lesser practitioners, back-of-the-length bowling and the business of preying on the patience of the batsman can get tedious. In contrast, there are few better sights in cricket than aggressive swing bowling.

As Ian Chappell says elsewhere on this site, swing bowling is wonderful for cricket because not only does it bring the prospect of wickets but also the prospect of boundaries. To allow the ball to swing, the bowler must pitch it up, creating the opportunity for good batsmen to unfurl the most majestic of cricket strokes: the cover drive.

It is a somewhat mysterious art and often bowlers themselves don't fully comprehend it. Mitchell Johnson, who turned devastating when he managed to curl it into right-handers in Perth, readily admits he doesn't quite know how to get it going, and Sreesanth, who can bowl some unplayable outswingers on his day, goes whole days searching for one. For advice he can do no better than turn to Zaheer Khan, who has developed a keen understanding of the aerodynamics of the cricket ball.

Zaheer, however, is not an out-and-out swing bowler, and relies on various tricks, including seam, cut and reverse. For the revival of swing bowling the game should be thankful to Steyn and Anderson. With Anderson there always remained the question of his effectiveness away from English conditions, which he has dispelled emphatically by swinging the Kookaburra ball in Australia like no one has done in recent memory.

The player of the year
By a distance it was Sachin Tendulkar's year with the bat, but push me to pick a player of the year and I will unhesitatingly plump for Steyn. Anderson and Graeme Swann took nearly as many wickets, but no one took them more breathtakingly than Steyn. For that matter he also took them more regularly.

Steyn is that rarest of species, a genuine fast bowler who swings the ball late. The outswinger is his stock ball, but the predictability hardly makes it easier. He bowls a great length, and his perfect ball begins its journey with the natural angle inwards to the right-hand batsman and starts shaping out fractionally prior to hitting the pitch, but the line is still around middle and off, so the batsman has no option but to play it; only if he is lucky in the extreme does it evade the edge.

Steyn destroyed India in the first innings in Centurion and Durban, but those were pitches and conditions tailormade for him. His performance of the year, and arguably the bowling performance of the year, came against the same opposition, but on a flat wicket in Nagpur. After South Africa had plundered 558 for 6, Steyn removed Murali Vijay and Tendulkar in a searing opening spell and blew out the lower order with a five-wicket burst in his third spell.

During the Boxing Day Test his career strike rate dipped under 40 and he now stands as the best among those who have taken more than 200 Test wickets. In this club, only three bowlers - Muttiah Muralitharan, Richard Hadlee and Clarrie Grimmett - have a better five-wicket-haul-per-Test ratio than him.

If he can maintain his fitness and enthusiasm, he should end up as one of the all-time greats. Cricket needs the likes of him.

Tendulkar: an Everest of his own
What do you say about a man who has just had his best year in Test cricket after a 21-year career full of greatness? Sachin Tendulkar's place in the pantheons of cricket's greats had never been in doubt, but 2010 has perhaps made it a little easier to answer the perennial question: who after Bradman? Beyond everything else, it's a number that enshrined Bradman's undisputed status as the pinnacle of batting. Tendulkar has now created his own Everest: his tally of international hundreds - certain to cross 100 - and runs are unlikely to be surpassed ever.

Longevity is a crucial element of greatness and Tendulkar passed that test years ago. But the incredible aspect of his performance in 2010 was not merely his mountain of runs but that he is playing some of the best cricket of his career. In the 1990s, Tendulkar was a more entertaining batsman to watch: a combination of batting genius and the rush of youth produced some electrifying contests against some of the world's great bowlers. The Tendulkar of the 2010s is a mellower, cannier and tighter batsman, who knows how to temper his game to the rhythm of the match. He has adjusted his game to suit his body, his defence is tighter, and he still has all those shots. In fact, he has been playing more of them.

It's no secret what keeps Tendulkar going. Life outside the game has never held much interest for him. He enjoys being a family man and spending time with his close friends, but it's cricket that still consumes him. And because he has never taken the game for granted, his pursuit towards perfecting his craft continues. And he has become so much a part of the game that for his fans it is unthinkable to think of the game without him.

In part two, tomorrow: Pakistan, the UDRS, and India as cricket's bully

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on January 7, 2011, 19:06 GMT

    I saw a comment or two deriding Zaheer. Must be those jealous fans who can't stand India being no. 1 i guess. Anyways here's the stats for Zaheer in 2010 - 9 matches (8 in the subcontinent) 47 wickets at an average of 21 and a strike rate of 39!! Only Steyn is better folks and that is because he's fitter and hence maintains such stats over more matches, otherwise almost nothing between them.

  • on January 7, 2011, 13:20 GMT

    but as regards to swing bowling.......... no 1 is even near to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.....

  • nks1234 on January 7, 2011, 13:09 GMT

    When we compare SRT and Kallis in this series we must not forget that India did not have anyone like Steyn in their ranks. I would not rank Zaheer below Morkel but he cant match up to Steyn even in his dreams. We must also remember that S.A. batsmen played much better. Their batters(excluding bowlers) scored 1455 runs @ 50.17 whereas Indians scored only 1272 @ 34.38 only.

  • Jelanichem on January 7, 2011, 12:14 GMT

    The India South Africa test series, is the best I have seen in years. Finally we had pitches that had something in it for the bowlers where it required real skill and greatness for a batsman to make runs and therefore a result was likely instead of a dull, high scoring draw. Seems like the cries of the cricket fans for the curator to stop preparing lifeless pitches that were doing nothing more than padding the stats of ordinary batsmen while destroying test cricket has been heard. Give us more pitches like these so we can have enthralling contests like these and there will be a revival in the interest in test cricket. Test cricket is not dead, the game is just administered by people who seem to want it to die.

  • bhaloniaz on January 7, 2011, 10:19 GMT

    zaheer along with steyn and anderson. Zaheer is not among top 10 bowlers. Harbhajan is a top bowler.India's rise to number 1 has made so many people blind.While india can compete with top teams, Zaheer is NOT a top bowler. England, SA, even Aus can beat india in a neutral venue. SA drew the series,but it was clear who dominated the series. Indian batting is great,but so many teams have similar batting powers [SA, Sri, Eng, even Aus]. Indian batting has depth [Doni at 7 and Harbhajan at 8]. Swan or Harbhajan are good wicket taking threats [not the best], and them bowling long spells allows their team to play without the 5 bowler or the all-rounder.

  • ashish514 on January 7, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    @Muhammad Faisal Khan Durrani - Dunno about jealousy or partiality, but yes, Pakistan seems to never stop producing one good seamer after the other. Now and then a new Pakistani pacer bursts out into the scene with dangerous swing, good pace and stellar performances. The only think which lacks is consistency and focus. Who knows what Shoaib Akhtar could have been if his career was not marred by so many controversies. Same can be said about the Mohammad Amer, and Asif. And they themselves are responsible for it. With some discipline on their part and more discipline on Pak cricket administrators' part, who knows one of Amer, Gul, Asif, Shoaib, Sami etc. could have achieved heights similar to Waqar and Wasim. Some of them still have time. Wahab Riaz also looks promising, hope he learns from others' mistakes. Also, perhaps this is the reason of the neglect you are talking about. Though they are good, they haben't utilised their talents completely.

  • nish075 on January 7, 2011, 9:38 GMT

    I'm 21, and I've never seen the great Windies quartet or the likes of Dennis Lillee bowl. But I have seen Akram, Waqar, McGrath, Walsh, Ambrose and Donald and no one is as exciting as Steyn when he's in the groove. To bowl like that in the current day batting havens is simply out of this world!! His duel with Sachin in the 3rd test was absolutely gripping!!

  • Nerk on January 7, 2011, 8:25 GMT

    McGrath was an awesome bowler. He bowled an inch outside off, the perfect, line. Not a foot outside like many current day bowlers. If anything McGrath was an aggresive bowler, with a deadly bouncer and a great yorker. He just never looked it. Looking at India, what a year! Great batting was the bedrock, but what I was most impressed about was the ability of India to comeback in a series. Against N.Zealand they drew the first two, just, and then thrashed them in the third. Against Sth Africa they got annihilated, then in the second BANG! I don't fancy their bowling attack without Zaheer, and if Harby goes I don't think Sree and Ishant have the maturity to lead the attack. But all the best to India and well done over 2010!

  • on January 7, 2011, 7:07 GMT

    Funny that somebody is worried about a player - Kallis - being left out, when a test playing nation is not mentioned at all. Sri Lanka anyone? and they aren't half as bad as Bangladesh either.

  • jeromix on January 7, 2011, 6:25 GMT

    NOT a WORD about Sri Lanka. 4th in TESTS and 3rd in ODI's after humbling the mighty Aussies At Aussie.

    What about MUrali? His retirement an end to a great era of the Worlds greatest Bowler?

  • on January 7, 2011, 19:06 GMT

    I saw a comment or two deriding Zaheer. Must be those jealous fans who can't stand India being no. 1 i guess. Anyways here's the stats for Zaheer in 2010 - 9 matches (8 in the subcontinent) 47 wickets at an average of 21 and a strike rate of 39!! Only Steyn is better folks and that is because he's fitter and hence maintains such stats over more matches, otherwise almost nothing between them.

  • on January 7, 2011, 13:20 GMT

    but as regards to swing bowling.......... no 1 is even near to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.....

  • nks1234 on January 7, 2011, 13:09 GMT

    When we compare SRT and Kallis in this series we must not forget that India did not have anyone like Steyn in their ranks. I would not rank Zaheer below Morkel but he cant match up to Steyn even in his dreams. We must also remember that S.A. batsmen played much better. Their batters(excluding bowlers) scored 1455 runs @ 50.17 whereas Indians scored only 1272 @ 34.38 only.

  • Jelanichem on January 7, 2011, 12:14 GMT

    The India South Africa test series, is the best I have seen in years. Finally we had pitches that had something in it for the bowlers where it required real skill and greatness for a batsman to make runs and therefore a result was likely instead of a dull, high scoring draw. Seems like the cries of the cricket fans for the curator to stop preparing lifeless pitches that were doing nothing more than padding the stats of ordinary batsmen while destroying test cricket has been heard. Give us more pitches like these so we can have enthralling contests like these and there will be a revival in the interest in test cricket. Test cricket is not dead, the game is just administered by people who seem to want it to die.

  • bhaloniaz on January 7, 2011, 10:19 GMT

    zaheer along with steyn and anderson. Zaheer is not among top 10 bowlers. Harbhajan is a top bowler.India's rise to number 1 has made so many people blind.While india can compete with top teams, Zaheer is NOT a top bowler. England, SA, even Aus can beat india in a neutral venue. SA drew the series,but it was clear who dominated the series. Indian batting is great,but so many teams have similar batting powers [SA, Sri, Eng, even Aus]. Indian batting has depth [Doni at 7 and Harbhajan at 8]. Swan or Harbhajan are good wicket taking threats [not the best], and them bowling long spells allows their team to play without the 5 bowler or the all-rounder.

  • ashish514 on January 7, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    @Muhammad Faisal Khan Durrani - Dunno about jealousy or partiality, but yes, Pakistan seems to never stop producing one good seamer after the other. Now and then a new Pakistani pacer bursts out into the scene with dangerous swing, good pace and stellar performances. The only think which lacks is consistency and focus. Who knows what Shoaib Akhtar could have been if his career was not marred by so many controversies. Same can be said about the Mohammad Amer, and Asif. And they themselves are responsible for it. With some discipline on their part and more discipline on Pak cricket administrators' part, who knows one of Amer, Gul, Asif, Shoaib, Sami etc. could have achieved heights similar to Waqar and Wasim. Some of them still have time. Wahab Riaz also looks promising, hope he learns from others' mistakes. Also, perhaps this is the reason of the neglect you are talking about. Though they are good, they haben't utilised their talents completely.

  • nish075 on January 7, 2011, 9:38 GMT

    I'm 21, and I've never seen the great Windies quartet or the likes of Dennis Lillee bowl. But I have seen Akram, Waqar, McGrath, Walsh, Ambrose and Donald and no one is as exciting as Steyn when he's in the groove. To bowl like that in the current day batting havens is simply out of this world!! His duel with Sachin in the 3rd test was absolutely gripping!!

  • Nerk on January 7, 2011, 8:25 GMT

    McGrath was an awesome bowler. He bowled an inch outside off, the perfect, line. Not a foot outside like many current day bowlers. If anything McGrath was an aggresive bowler, with a deadly bouncer and a great yorker. He just never looked it. Looking at India, what a year! Great batting was the bedrock, but what I was most impressed about was the ability of India to comeback in a series. Against N.Zealand they drew the first two, just, and then thrashed them in the third. Against Sth Africa they got annihilated, then in the second BANG! I don't fancy their bowling attack without Zaheer, and if Harby goes I don't think Sree and Ishant have the maturity to lead the attack. But all the best to India and well done over 2010!

  • on January 7, 2011, 7:07 GMT

    Funny that somebody is worried about a player - Kallis - being left out, when a test playing nation is not mentioned at all. Sri Lanka anyone? and they aren't half as bad as Bangladesh either.

  • jeromix on January 7, 2011, 6:25 GMT

    NOT a WORD about Sri Lanka. 4th in TESTS and 3rd in ODI's after humbling the mighty Aussies At Aussie.

    What about MUrali? His retirement an end to a great era of the Worlds greatest Bowler?

  • P.James on January 7, 2011, 2:59 GMT

    Well written article. Agree with you on all counts, especially your choice of players of the year.

  • on January 7, 2011, 2:37 GMT

    Article is OK......but in whole article I loved only one line .. .. the last line..... FOR SACHIN FANS, IT IS UNTHINKABLE TO THINK CRICKET WITHOUT HIM......

    Great players would come and go..... but we will never have another SAchin........ english dictionary doent have enough adjectives to describe him...... He is above all and truly ,"GOD of cricket!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

  • on January 7, 2011, 0:04 GMT

    swingi and seam has never left cricket because Pakistani bowlers are always bowling it. The issue is that others dont want to accept that fact, so if someone else bowls it, then they acknowledge it. A lot of jealousy about that. The bowlers produced by Pakistan and West Indies are by far the greatest and exciting, no match, period. No other ocuntry can produce these kind of bowlers and in so many numbers.

  • rajun69 on January 6, 2011, 22:41 GMT

    Strange that your aticle made no mention of Jacques Kallis? Besides saving the 3rd test for SA, his stats from the aticle posted by S. Rajesh show him to be a consistent performer...

  • jblades on January 6, 2011, 20:14 GMT

    Sambit, I have to disagree with your prognosis of the bottom half of the teams. It's not depressing. Those teams, when given the chance to play tests, have actually been involved in some absorbing contests. For example, Pakistan's test series with England in England during the year provided some pretty good viewing. And your comment about the NZ v India series holding little spectator interest couldn't be more wrong as far as I'm concerned. Us in NZ found that series totally absorbing as it showed the potential for our under-achieving team when they start to show some grit. If the bottom half teams were given more tests then they are currently allocated, I'm certain that better test teams would develop. The real question is: do the power brokers of world cricket want to have test cricket valued as the ultimate form of cricket or will they continue to place the emphasis on the meaningless "entertaining" formats? We need a fair test championship installed for the top 8 or 9 sides.

  • SudheerPusuluri on January 6, 2011, 18:27 GMT

    Keep them coming Sambit..it's a pleasure reading your articles..And you are absolutely spot on in picking the best batsman and the best bowler of the year 2010..

  • on January 6, 2011, 17:54 GMT

    glenn mcgrath was a defensive bowler in as much he relied upon the batsman making a mistake. he never really went for the kill like an allan donald or as steyn has shown so far. it was remarkable the battle between him n tendulkar because the bowler was at the same level as the batsman. he knew when to conserve his energy (i think that comment of his should be read in this context) and when to step it up (like the delivery to dhoni in the 1st test at the fag end of the day with an old ball.) steyn though i believe to go to the next level has to gain a level of mastery over the inswinger.asif i think is the best swing bowler purely as far as ability and control over swing goes but he isn't that great a bowler. amir's a fascinating prospect but he still has a long way to go. anderson's good but he hasn't conquered the sub-continent. steyn however, is now the master of the art of out swing bowling. a final word on amla. he's had a purple patch. kallis is far greater. pity sehwag failed.

  • Dr.K.H.Iyer on January 6, 2011, 17:10 GMT

    @NoPitchIsDead : Man Please look at the Batting strength India has! Two guys who have scored 10,000 runs each are in the Team! Add that to Laxman! Now if they hold the fort they are pretty much impenetrable! And on 5th day, conditions favour spinners! SA don't have any Great spinners! I hope that makes sense!@Rick: interesting about McGrath but he is greater than Lillee in my book at least!

  • sweetspot on January 6, 2011, 17:01 GMT

    Yeah, no kidding Maura Atapattu! Forgot a guy who's left the rest to play marbles!

  • mits6 on January 6, 2011, 16:41 GMT

    @ rick . I agree , steyn the best bowler & tendulkar the best batsman .

  • Dr.K.H.Iyer on January 6, 2011, 16:33 GMT

    @pakspin : Great sportsmen are made more of discipline than of talent and I have to observe that the former is a rare attribute for Pakistani cricketers! If Asif & Co. are not listed; it is because they like to fix matches, backbite each other and bring the game and their nation to disrepute! So Zaheer is a better bowler, by a long way! >>>Sambit, was Glenn McGrath a defensive bowler? He was probably the most aggressive bowler post Marshall and aggression is a matter of intent rather than temperament! >>>@AllroundCricketFan : Sachin scored more runs than Hashim Amla in tests! Look Up the stats! Flat tracks? Stop cribbing! He is still the best in business! In ODIs he played only two matches but scored what NO ONE has EVER DONE BEFORE! 200* !! Remember? Easily the best bat of the year! This series actually brought to fore the best in all depts of the game: Sachin, Steyn & Kallis (all rounder)! It is amazing how Kallis and Sachin are still at peak!

  • NoPitchIsDead on January 6, 2011, 16:22 GMT

    Soo much is said abt South African Bowling and Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.What happened today and why they could not bowl India all out? If it is India they will complain Sub-continent pitches dead pitches etc.But what happened now? Ok,now they will say 5th day etc,etc.Common if they win toss, overcast conditions, good bouncy pitch and 100 other reasons they are best bowlers in the World.Agreed!

  • Champ2000 on January 6, 2011, 16:13 GMT

    @AllroundCricketFan : He has got 1500+ run this year second only to mohd yusuf few years back.. And yes he did not play odi most part of the year. He score double century first ever in odi...He has hit 2 centuries in sa as well. it really does not matter to him.. when someone has 51 test hundred you should just respect him..

  • on January 6, 2011, 15:01 GMT

    good article i think. lets answer a few comments. murali, great as he is, has barely played in 2010 so he can't be cricketer of the year. mcgrath was a defensive bowler, he bowled defensively lines making the ball do just enough. most of mcgraths wickets came caught keeper/slip, not many of those were catches of attempted big booming cover drives. just because your own players aren't included in this article doesn't make the article wrong dale steyn is far and away the most consistent bowler and tendulkar is far and away the most consistent batsman. i'm english, i could argue for the likes of anderson, trott or swann being up there but the fact is they are nearly there, not actually there yet. anderson needs to take wickets in the subcontinent, trott hasn't been around long enough, swann, with the exception of his five for, he has looked ordinary in Oz. Stats can look however the person writing wants them to look, facts don't lie

  • pakspin on January 6, 2011, 14:44 GMT

    One of the comments rates Zaheer Khan over mohammed amir and Asif, lol..just have a look at Amir's speed and asifs average mate...ridiculous...supporting your players is fine, but please do it within the confines of reality and not rate sub par bowlers higher then some of the best in the business brother...that's like me saying Danesh Kaneria is a better batsman than Tendulker...I know that would be ridiculuos, even though i would be supporting my team by saying it..zaheer is an average bowler in his best days and a sub-par bowler on a good day..

  • AllroundCricketFan on January 6, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    Sambit, I think u got your players of the year all wrong. How can you say Sachin has been the best batsman. Wait he is from India. And he batted on flat tracks to not even register a 1000 runs in the year... Someone whos made a 1000 in both Tests and ODI's is Hashim AMLA, who even every other pundits eyes IS the player of the year. Not Tendulkar or Steyn!!! I think u should reconsider your choice

  • on January 6, 2011, 13:02 GMT

    I would like to say that, this article is a summery of the last year.Nice to see the swinging-seam bowling is re-knocking at the door once again.

  • Unifex on January 6, 2011, 12:51 GMT

    Interesting stuff, but... McGrath a defensive bowler? His strike-rate was better than Curtly's and Wasim Akram's.

  • on January 6, 2011, 12:22 GMT

    forgot 800 test wickets..???? a player called Muralitharan..????

  • on January 6, 2011, 11:00 GMT

    Steyn will go onto be one of the all time greats. Anyone who can bowl 85mph outswingers that start at middle and off will take boat loads of wickets. I watched the highlights yesterday of him bowling against India. He was absolutely unplayable most of the time. To watch Tendulkar play him was watching cricket at its absolute best. Cat and mouse, batsman getting forward to negate the swing, the frequent play and miss. Wonderful cricket. But the ball he bowled to Harbajhan that started at middle and leg and clipped the off stump to appear to be a caught behind, was probably close to being the ball of the century. Absolutely unplayable.

  • amit1807kuwait on January 6, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    Sambit - very well written, was a pleasure to read this article! The point on revival of swing bowling is very apt in today's time. I only hope that the cricket world discovers someone like Shane Bond or Imran Khan who could bowl great in-dippers to complement the likes of Dale Steyn and Anderson who are primarily outswing bowlers (though I admit Anderson is quite skillful and bowls inswingers too!). But once again, a fantastically written article this one. Keep them coming!

  • on January 6, 2011, 10:24 GMT

    Perhaps if enough games have been played and if the nightmarish saga of spot fixing had not happened (That's a big if!) Aamir and Asif would have figured in top swing bowlers list. It is good to see the revival of swing bowling after seeing a decline in the quality of it in the past couple of years. Nothing can be a great treat to watch than a tussle between a bat and a ball. Finally, a year which produced a great bunch of fast bowlers - Steyn, Zaheer, Anderson, Aamir, Asif and Morkel in that order. What a bunch of bowlers to call upon when you need to pick up that elusive wicket!!!

    Hope 2011 sees the growth in swing bowling and perhaps new bowlers will lighten up this year. I would like to see the return of Johnson and sreesanth (Who knows what wishful thinking might produce!!!)...

  • Vindaliew on January 6, 2011, 8:55 GMT

    Dale Steyn, barring any injuries to him in his career, will most definitely be considered as one of the greats of the game. As it is he will have his own slice of history, but he will need more time and more wickets to be mentioned in the same breath as Lillee, Ambrose, Marshall etc.. it's only a matter of time, though. There's absolutely no doubt about his quality and we all hope he'll have a long and fruitful career!!

  • SamAsh07 on January 6, 2011, 8:38 GMT

    Umar Gul is a treat to watch when he's at his peak in T20s, in other formats, he's a normal bowler, M.Amir is good too and I think he'll have a article like this soon if he comes back that is, Anderson will also be famous soon and Dale Steyn...no words, this guy is just the best bowler I've ever seen in recent memories. That pure swing, pace and unpredictability...you just got yourself a new fan Steyn!! *Bows*

  • on January 6, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    ya steyn is the best bowler i have seen, if he stays away from injuries he may become one of the greats

  • mak102480 on January 6, 2011, 8:19 GMT

    Did someone just compare Dale Steyn and Shane Bond? You must be joking right? Shane Bond was a really really good bowler...but in the "same class" as Steyn? No way. Steyn is a class apart. The sample size was too small for Bond.

  • on January 6, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    Nice Article ... Dale Steyn is of the same class as Shane Bond in his golden days minus the injuries. Pace & Swing is always treat to watch and Dale Steyn has done that consistently. Hats off to him. But I really feel for Shane Bond, he had everything which Steyn has but Injuries & ICL drowned his what could have been a fantastic career... I am a die hard Indian Supporter but Steyn's bowling has really thrilled me in this thrilling series.. Awesome bowler...

    Tendulkar has been fantastic as ever & to me he has been the performer of the year with lots of achievements..

    Regards, Ashootosh

  • crisspyman on January 6, 2011, 4:37 GMT

    True fast bowlers are almost extinct...............Very happy to see swing bowlers performing.............But really want to see a fast bowler bullying the opposition with true pace........Always a treat to watch

  • TamilIndian on January 6, 2011, 4:16 GMT

    An excellent one from Sambit. I wait for your columns and consume them with glee!

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  • TamilIndian on January 6, 2011, 4:16 GMT

    An excellent one from Sambit. I wait for your columns and consume them with glee!

  • crisspyman on January 6, 2011, 4:37 GMT

    True fast bowlers are almost extinct...............Very happy to see swing bowlers performing.............But really want to see a fast bowler bullying the opposition with true pace........Always a treat to watch

  • on January 6, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    Nice Article ... Dale Steyn is of the same class as Shane Bond in his golden days minus the injuries. Pace & Swing is always treat to watch and Dale Steyn has done that consistently. Hats off to him. But I really feel for Shane Bond, he had everything which Steyn has but Injuries & ICL drowned his what could have been a fantastic career... I am a die hard Indian Supporter but Steyn's bowling has really thrilled me in this thrilling series.. Awesome bowler...

    Tendulkar has been fantastic as ever & to me he has been the performer of the year with lots of achievements..

    Regards, Ashootosh

  • mak102480 on January 6, 2011, 8:19 GMT

    Did someone just compare Dale Steyn and Shane Bond? You must be joking right? Shane Bond was a really really good bowler...but in the "same class" as Steyn? No way. Steyn is a class apart. The sample size was too small for Bond.

  • on January 6, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    ya steyn is the best bowler i have seen, if he stays away from injuries he may become one of the greats

  • SamAsh07 on January 6, 2011, 8:38 GMT

    Umar Gul is a treat to watch when he's at his peak in T20s, in other formats, he's a normal bowler, M.Amir is good too and I think he'll have a article like this soon if he comes back that is, Anderson will also be famous soon and Dale Steyn...no words, this guy is just the best bowler I've ever seen in recent memories. That pure swing, pace and unpredictability...you just got yourself a new fan Steyn!! *Bows*

  • Vindaliew on January 6, 2011, 8:55 GMT

    Dale Steyn, barring any injuries to him in his career, will most definitely be considered as one of the greats of the game. As it is he will have his own slice of history, but he will need more time and more wickets to be mentioned in the same breath as Lillee, Ambrose, Marshall etc.. it's only a matter of time, though. There's absolutely no doubt about his quality and we all hope he'll have a long and fruitful career!!

  • on January 6, 2011, 10:24 GMT

    Perhaps if enough games have been played and if the nightmarish saga of spot fixing had not happened (That's a big if!) Aamir and Asif would have figured in top swing bowlers list. It is good to see the revival of swing bowling after seeing a decline in the quality of it in the past couple of years. Nothing can be a great treat to watch than a tussle between a bat and a ball. Finally, a year which produced a great bunch of fast bowlers - Steyn, Zaheer, Anderson, Aamir, Asif and Morkel in that order. What a bunch of bowlers to call upon when you need to pick up that elusive wicket!!!

    Hope 2011 sees the growth in swing bowling and perhaps new bowlers will lighten up this year. I would like to see the return of Johnson and sreesanth (Who knows what wishful thinking might produce!!!)...

  • amit1807kuwait on January 6, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    Sambit - very well written, was a pleasure to read this article! The point on revival of swing bowling is very apt in today's time. I only hope that the cricket world discovers someone like Shane Bond or Imran Khan who could bowl great in-dippers to complement the likes of Dale Steyn and Anderson who are primarily outswing bowlers (though I admit Anderson is quite skillful and bowls inswingers too!). But once again, a fantastically written article this one. Keep them coming!

  • on January 6, 2011, 11:00 GMT

    Steyn will go onto be one of the all time greats. Anyone who can bowl 85mph outswingers that start at middle and off will take boat loads of wickets. I watched the highlights yesterday of him bowling against India. He was absolutely unplayable most of the time. To watch Tendulkar play him was watching cricket at its absolute best. Cat and mouse, batsman getting forward to negate the swing, the frequent play and miss. Wonderful cricket. But the ball he bowled to Harbajhan that started at middle and leg and clipped the off stump to appear to be a caught behind, was probably close to being the ball of the century. Absolutely unplayable.