Fast bowling is one of the most fascinating things about international cricket. From the early 90s until now there have been some world-beaters from all parts of the globe. I’m not going to go further back than that because I wasn’t born yet and for me watching someone live or even on tv is the best way to compare them.
Yes, I know this pretty much rules out the West Indian attack of the 80s, Dennis Lillee and a few others but give me a moment and all will become clear.
Much like cricket, fast-bowling has evolved over the years throughout the 80s, 90s and 00. It was thought that fast bowlers had to be extremely fast and for the most part you wanted someone who could bowl over 90mph or 145kmph. Over the years as the game evolved batsmen became better, and pitches became flatter, so fast bowlers also have to adapt. It’s no longer about running in and bowling as fast as possible.
The likes of Vernon Philander proved that accuracy and movement were probably as important as pace. There is, however, no substitute for raw pace! Over the years that is one thing that has always sent shivers down the spines of batsmen, and I don’t believe that will change anytime soon, even with all today’s protective gear on- players can still get very badly hurt in the modern game.
So, let’s get down to it!
Remember this, being my opinion on who should be in the GOAT discussion. Starting in the 90s and being South African Allan Donald or white lighting as he was known back then comes to mind. Donald had exceptional pace and accuracy and the numbers to back it up. Donald played 72 test, took 330 wickets at an average of 22.25. Donald was a mean “S.O.B.” Who could ever forget that spell to Michael Atherton where he hit him multiple times? Donald is certainly up there when it comes to raw ability.
Next up, we have the Aussies best case for the GOAT, Glen McGrath. Glen, in his younger years, had the pace to rival any fast bowler in the game. McGrath is well known for his accuracy and the extra bounce he can extract from most wickets, being well over 6ft tall, Glen managed 563 wickets in 124 Tests at an average of 21.64. Some quite staggering numbers by the big quick indeed.
Jimmy Anderson, is definitely England’s GOAT when it comes to fast bowling. Jimmy has been one of the best fast bowlers worldwide for over a decade and is still going strong at the relatively young age of 38. He is also the only fast bowler to manage 150 test matches, which is a feat unto itself! Jimmy has taken 611 wickets in that time at an average of 26.5, and if it was purely based on the wicket tally, Jimmy is clearly the GOAT, and should you ask any Englishman, they would probably agree.
Last but not least we have Dale Steyn. Dale was phenomenal to watch when he was on song and absolutely unplayable when he got that crazy look in his eyes. He was like a man possessed, and the opposition knew that the writing was on the wall. Unfortunately, his last years were hampered by injury, but his numbers are still outstanding- considering he played a lot less than the likes of McGrath and Anderson.
Dale took a South African record 439 wickets in 93 Tests at an average of 22.9. If Dale had played as much as the other two, he would have well over 600 wickets, and perhaps touching 700 or 750. Due to S.A, not playing as much cricket as England and Australia, we’ll never know.
So, who is the GOAT?
First, let’s address the Elephant in the room. I know there were other bowlers during this period and you can name them all, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Stuart Broad, Courtney Walsh, Shane Bond, and Mitchell Johnson to name but a few, but in my opinion, all of these don’t come close to the four, I have mentioned above.
Dale Steyn is the greatest fast bowler of all time. His record in the subcontinent, or in fact anywhere, speaks for itself, and had he been able to play more cricket in his prime his wickets tally would probably be unobtainable.
Dale could single-handedly change a game and did on so many occasions for South Africa. The argument for Jimmy as number one, is a strong one, and things might change if Jimmy can get to 700 wickets, but with him being 38, I don’t think he will have enough time to get there. Jimmy has had a few injuries in the last few years, and England management has also spoken about managing his workload. Dale Steyn when he was in his prime, never vacated the No.1 spot in teat cricket, and it was, in fact, longer than Roger Federer was number one in Tennis.
A truly, remarkable cricketer, Dale ( the Phalaborwa express) Steyn, is the GOAT!