In the Gentleman’s game cricket, fast bowlers come in all shapes and sizes. While some greats like the ‘Sultan of Swing’ Wasim Akram have been great exponents at swinging the ball, others like Dale Steyn have used the seam to great effect in cartwheeling the stumps of premier batsmen.
Speed merchants like Jeff Thompson, Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar knockout off the stumps of the best batsmen with their sheer pace while the likes of Waqar Younis and Lasith Mallinga have bamboozled the best with the willow with their deadly toe crushing Yorkers.
The untiring efforts which goes into making a champion bowler, leaves many promising paceman straddled, injured and forced to cut short their careers. It eventually comes down to those war horses who can withstand the hostile element of Test cricket and keep themselves fit enough to prolong their careers for getting into the class of all-time greats.
England seamer James Anderson got to 500 wickets in recently concluded Test series against West Indies and cemented his place as one of the all-time great bowlers of the game.
Cricketing nations like Australia, South Africa, England, Pakistan and the West Indies have produced fast bowling greats with superlative consistency. The inventors of the game England have always had the luxury of a pace heavy attack all through their Test history.
In the 50s and 60s, Fred Trueman, Brain Statham and Alec Bedser proved to be the pioneers of the great tradition. The likes of John Snow and Chris Old carried on the legacy in the 70s. The 80s saw Bob Willis and Ian Botham spearheading their attack and the 90s had Chris Lewis, Darren Gough, Andrew Caddick and Dominic Cork to name a few forming the nucleus of the seam attack.
With such an illustrious list of seamers, England were looking towards the next crop who could burden the responsibility of leading their pace attack at the turn of the century. Few sons of the soil put up their hands to take on the herculean task. Matthew Hoggard, Stephen Harmison and James Anderson emerged as the most promising of the lot.
While Hoggard and Harmison spearheaded the attack and led them to some memorable victories against the old foes Australia in the Ashes during the Hussain-Vaughan era, Jimmy Anderson was still playing second fiddle to his comrades, learning the tricks of the trade.
Swing was Anderson’s forte and he left a mark in the cricketing circles for moving the ball viciously and late through the air in seam friendly conditions. Harmison saw his career hampered by a string of injuries and ‘Freddie’ Flintoff’s body was not able to bear the brunt of Test cricket.
There were flashes of brilliance by the likes of Ryan Sidebottom, Simon Jones, Liam Plunkett and Chris Tremlett but none proved to be of Test match pedigree.
The ‘King of Swing’ James Anderson took on the onus of leading his country’s pace attack. There was a spring in the steps of ‘Burnley Express’, who transformed himself into the strike weapon of the English bowling attack.
The seam friendly English conditions were tailor made for the Lancashire seamer to ply his trait with great degree of success. Anderson found an ideal bowling partner in the tall and lanky Stuart Broad, who mastered the art of getting the ball to seam off the deck from good lengths.
Anderson and Broad complimented each other perfectly and have ever since become the backbone of the English attack under the aegis of Alastair Cook as captain. The support cast hasn’t been too bad either.
The likes of Steven Finn, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes have played the role of the first change seamer to great perfection and taken off the work load from Anderson and Broad. The Anderson led England attack is considered by many pundits as the most formidable seam attack in the world at present.
Perhaps the South African pace attack of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Veron Philander rank in as the next best. With Steyn nursing an injury, the English attack has the edge for the time being.
With over 500 wickets in his kitty, Anderson has leapt into the league of bowling legends like Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Glen McGrath and Courtney Walsh. After getting to the milestone, the champion bowler has expressed his burning passion to play till the 2020 Ashes.
The Englishman is in the best shape of his life, so one won’t be surprised if Anderson goes past Aussie great Glen McGrath’s record tally of 563 Test wickets, the most by a seamer in the longer format. If he does so, he shall lay a strong enough claim for being hailed as arguably the best swing bowler the world had ever witnessed.