Cricket is a celebrated stage built to magnify the feats of batsmen. It is a theatre where only the helmet-clad, padded, willow-wielding, cold-blooded cherry-murderers act as heroes. The ones who polish the cherry, run in hard and stare down the heroes are the villains, the bowlers.
Right from the posters of big series’ to the logos of World Cups to the fanboy jerseys of players, every single fantasy of a child’s cricketing dream or an ad-maker’s creative mind revolves around batsmen.
We have a God, a modern day maestro, a switch-hitting machine, an average of 99.94..all batsmen….
Does anybody even know the bowler with the best bowling average or strike rate?
Pushing it up a notch… How many of you know the fast bowler with the most Test or ODI wickets?
Bowling is an underrated art at present. Yet, a Test match is only won when you pick up 20 wickets not matter how many freaking runs you score. Not convinced? Ask Australia about their epic 434 at Johannesburg several years ago.
An ODI is won only if you can take all 10 wickets or restrict the batsmen with your bowlers. Despite all this, bowlers have forever stuck away from the limelight, robbed of glory and stashed to the dark world where villains are meant to be.
Would anybody even have lauded Shahid Afridi’s bowling feats if he hadn’t been an incredible marauder with the willow in his younger days?
That he switched from the belligerent, attractive form of batting to the unheralded, unnoticed bowling did not make him an icon.
The 37 ball century did.
He has a 7/12 in an ODI against the mighty which is hardly ever spoken or written about.
Would Wasim Akram be so famous if not for his miraculous, near-deadly bowling in the finals of the 1992 World Cup?
For bowlers to be famous, they need to either tune up their game in the finals of a tournament or bowl an eye-popping leg-spinner that lands outside off and nips out the off-stump.
For a batsman? A 264 against a weakling opposition on a wicket so flat that the roads in America would be put to shame is more than enough.
This is not to ridicule the absolute beast of a knock some of these extraordinary batsmen produce these days. It is merely highlighting the ridiculous fate of a bowler who practices as hard, works as hard, runs even more and steams in day in, day out for his skipper, who by the way is most likely a batsman.
It is high time the bowlers are lauded and while the silken Steven Smith, brash Virat Kohli, smooth Joe Root and pleasant Kane Williamson make up the Fab Four of batsmen in modern day cricket, we put together a Fab Four of our own – one of the obscure, overlooked workhorses of cricket, the faster bowlers.
Fast, furious and a sight to behold. At 22, the scintillating South African fast bowler already holds the mantle of the nation’s fast bowling attack; this, in a team boasting of some lip-smacking, delightful seamers in Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel to name a few.
A hat-trick and a six-wicket haul in his debut ODI followed by a spectacular couple of years in Test cricket and you knew Rabada was the real deal. If the White Lightning had enthralled fans in the early 1990s on South Africa’s return to Test cricket, Rabada is a torch-bearer for multitudes of young, black, talented cricketers in the country.
He has all the time in the World to eclipse quite a few records – national and International – and all signs point toward a new-generation Makhaya Ntini, complete with an undying passion, relentless attacking mindset and bone-chilling pace. To put in short, if you would pay without thinking to watch one fast bowler in the World today, it has to be Kagiso Rabada.
Poor, young Josh Hazlewood living in the shadows of the gigantic, more celebrated Mitchell Starc, has churned out magnificent numbers for the country in Test cricket. In another age and time, Hazlewood would have been hailed as the best. Today’s world is all about pace and pace alone. Hazlewood has it but he isn’t wayward. He is the uncompromising, McGrath-like, intransigent hero that Australian cricket deserves.
At 26, he is a youngster expected to become the lynchpin of the Aussie pace attack. In every single known way, he epitomises what a fast bowler really should be. Hazlewood rarely errs in line, possesses swing, seam, bounce and has no fancy haircut or tattoo that projects out and makes him a superhero. Yet, he is one.
Why wouldn’t he be? With 73 wickets in the last 20 Tests of his career, Hazlewood has been a nightmare for quite a few batsmen. He is happy to remain off the limelight and this has made him an all the more difficult proposition to deal with for teams expecting the pace barrage from Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
At 28, Boult is probably a tad too old to be a part of this young quarter, but boy isn’t he good! With a quickish inswinger, impeccable lines and a Test match temperament that bests the best in the business, Trent Boult is New Zealand’s very own golden boy.
Nurtured under the watchful eyes of Brendon McCullum and Mike Hesson, Boult grew and how! That Wasim Akram is his childhood hero is almost a given considering the manner in which he runs into the wicket and angles the ball into the right-hander. In an era where swing bowlers were losing their sheen, Boult barged in as a breath of fresh air.
He owned the 2015 World Cup, pushed Tim Southee to the background and more often than not found himself amongst the wickets. While his ODI feats have gained more popularity, Boult the Test bowler is no lesser. New Zealand owe a large chunk of its recent success to this swashbuckling, nonchalant left-arm seamer.
When Mitchell Starc gets it right, he is a wild tiger violently chasing its prey through the forests but isn’t he a sight to watch and admire? The expression on James Vince’s face after Starc delivered a rip-roaring delivery from around the wicket pretty much summarises everything that needs to be said of this 27-year old.
In the post-Johnson era, Starc is an unforgiving beast. A creation so wonderful that people watching Australia play these days just cannot wait to see the Mitch steaming in from around the wicket and test the boot-strength of batsmen.
With 76 wickets in 14 Tests in the last two years, Starc has a strike-rate bettered only by Kagiso Rabada amongst fast bowlers. A natural ability to shape the ball back into the right-handers so late that the batsman has already committed to his stroke makes him a deadly, lethal fast bowler. When you pay to watch Rabada, hope to hell that South Africa are playing Australia with Starc in the side. Don’t miss this man bowling!