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    March 13, 2006

    How true is it?

    I frequently hear/read opinions by cricket journalists, ex-cricketers etc. about how the standard of bowling in cricket is among the weakest in history. While it may be true, especially given the run gluts we're seeing so frequently, statistical evidence seems to the contrary.

    The argument doesn't seem to hold good when we figure out that among the top wicket-takers in test cricket history, the top five played in the last ten years while eight out of the top ten played in the last decade. Those chaps haven't done too badly, have they? Perhaps the batting hasn't been that great, which is what bloats up their numbers? Think again! Five out of the top ten rungetters played in the last decade.

    So is it really true?
    Thus spake Jagadish @ 4:26 PM |
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    18 sledge(s):

    Jagdish, the larger number of wicket takers and run makers is due to the number of test matches.

    It is definitely true that standards of bowling have decreased. For evidence just notice the number of batsmen averaging above 50 in test cricket and compare it with 10, 20 30 years ago. It is also true that pirches have become more standardised which has an effect of making bowling look crap at times.

    By Anonymous Pratyush (13-Mar-2006, 7:25:00 PM)  

    Jagdish,

    The reason for the top 5 rungetters / wicket takes playing in the last decade is more because of the number of matches being played, than the increase/decrease in the quality of players.

    By Anonymous Anonymous (14-Mar-2006, 1:06:00 AM)  

    pratyush & anonymous: Possibly. But isn't the number of batsmen avging > 50 also a function of the # of matches [which causes bowlers to get jaded]? So I wouldn't say that bowlers are crap nowadays. Every side has 2-3 *good* bowlers. This was the same situation through much of the previous eras, except for India's spin attack in the 1960s-70s, Aus' pace bowling in the 1970s and WI's pace bowling in the 1980s-early 90s and Pak's pace bowling from the late 80s-late 90s. Even if we factor in the # of matches, is it anyone's argument that the likes of Warne, Murali, McGrath, Kumble etc. [among current bowlers] are inferior to those of a different era?

    By Blogger Jagadish (14-Mar-2006, 8:31:00 AM)  

    Yes I also agree with the fact that these day the cricket is all round.Don Bradman played for 24 years and managed only 52 matches.
    I also think that lack of opposition is also helping matters a little teams like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and West Indies.
    The lack of quality players is a bit threatening to this game.

    By Blogger The Light-House. (14-Mar-2006, 12:55:00 PM)  

    Jagdish, even comparing with the 90s, the bowling attacks are depleting. How many Allan Donalds, Glenn McGraths, Courtney Walsh' and Curtley Ambrose's do we have right now?

    I do not believe it is just because the bowlers are jaded.

    By Anonymous Pratyush (14-Mar-2006, 2:53:00 PM)  

    tarun: Except for Murali, I don't think McGrath, Kumble & Warne have played Zim & Bdesh that often. I'm not really concerned about the future in terms of lack of quality players. Good players always emerge as long as a good environment exists

    pratyush: McGrath is still around. If he can get over his wife's troubles, I see him playing for 2-3 years more at least. Ditto for Warne, except the troubles are *with* his wife! Kumble should also be around for a similar timeframe. There're some good bowlers. Pollock, Shoaib, Vaas, Murali, Lee, Bond, Vettori, Kaneria. If not for being thrashed around in the Ashes, Gillespie would be on that list too.

    By Blogger Jagadish (14-Mar-2006, 4:38:00 PM)  

    Jagsih compare thw bowling attacks of each team in the 90s and now.

    RSA - weakened
    Eng - Strengthened
    Pak - Weakened
    WIN - Weakened
    Aus - Weakened or going to weaken any way in 2-3 years.
    SL - Same/Strengthened
    India - Can say same/strengthened.
    Nzl - Weakened/same despite a Bond.

    Where is the next generation great fast bowler? Spinners the position is not so poor as most of the guys are around and people are coming up as well like Kaneria but fast bowling standards have declined IMO.

    By Anonymous Pratyush (14-Mar-2006, 5:10:00 PM)  

    There are perhaps less great quick bowlers now. McGrath is, Pollock is (to my mind at least), Gillespie could have been and could still be, same for Shoaib and Bond. On the other hand, there spin bowling riches to be found with Kaneria, Kumble, Murali, and Warne leading the way.

    The main reason people say they are less great bowlers is because modern bowlers average more. But, and I'll admit I haven't fully checked this, strike rates haven't increased dramatically. Batsmen are just scoring quicker, which inflates the averages slightly of some batsmen and most bowlers.

    By Anonymous Geoff (14-Mar-2006, 5:29:00 PM)  

    Great post - you beat me to it!
    I don't believe bowling standards have dropped. There are still matches where teams are skittled out for less than 150. Stats tell all sorts of things, but the best bowlers of today would have stood out in any era, likewise great bowlers of the past would do as well today.

    By Blogger Chemosit (15-Mar-2006, 5:59:00 AM)  

    pratyush - Aus' bowling attack has, if anything, strengthened over the last decade. A lineup of McGrath, Gillespie, Lee & Warne [pre-Ashes of course!] is any day better than one of McGrath, Reiffel, Bichel (or some other chap) & Warne. Donald's retirement is the only change for South Africa. Pollock, Ntini & Nel are a pretty good attack while previously it used to be only Donald & Pollock having any sort of influence. Pakistan's and West Indies' bowling has definitely weakened. Sri Lanka's has become much better, with Vaas improving, but they will be concerned about the lack of progress from Dilhara, Zoysa, Maharoof & Malinga and no real spin backup to Murali. India's bowling lineup has certainly improved, especially away from India when now there're actually some chaps who can swing the ball. The seam bowling lineup is quite unstable though, with lots of young chaps being tried out. New Zealand's attack has definitely improved, but Bond needs to be fit & Vettori is class anyway!

    geoff - True, spin bowling is so much better off than it was over the last two decades. In the 1980s, it was pretty much Qadir being the lone quality spinner around. The 90s gave us Warne, Kumble, Murali, Vettori & Saqlain (briefly). Actually Saqlain's fall has been so dramatic, it is hard to believe. The likes of Harbhajan, Kaneria, Vettori should carry on for a decade or so at least, they're all 25-26 years old. Who knows, perhaps Panesar and Piyush Chawla will also join them for the journey! You're perhaps also right in terms of averages. While averages of 22 or so automatically propel a bowler into the 'great' category, nowadays 25 is a perfectly acceptable average, given the influence of batsmen & pitches.

    chemosit: Thanks. The problem with games where teams are skittled out for 150 is that the opposition team immediately complains about a pathetic wicket and an ICC backed investigation happens. I'm sure the bowlers never complain! I find no problem in preparing under-prepared wickets occasionally. Batsmen can't have it their way all the time! But I feel pretty sure that we'll have a standardization of pitches and balls.

    By Blogger Jagadish (15-Mar-2006, 11:24:00 AM)  

    seeing 3 spinners in the 500 wickets list just raises the question how good are batsman against quality spinners. pointing dosn't have a great record against spinners nor does the whole south african team.
    In the mumbai turner test india could muster only about 100 runs lead to chase for australia and the best team in the world could not chase it!.

    By Anonymous Pam (15-Mar-2006, 1:21:00 PM)  

    pam: It is true. The way batsmen play spin has markedly deteriorated. Then again, pretty much through history, spinners have done quiet well - South Africa's googly quartet in the 1900s, Grimmett & Tiger O'Reilly in the 1930s, Tayfield, Laker & Gupte in the 1950s, Benaud & Gibbs in the 1960s, India's fab-four, Underwood & Intikhab Alam in the 1970s, Qadir in the 1980s and the last two generations.

    By Blogger Jagadish (15-Mar-2006, 3:46:00 PM)  

    Australia - current versus what it has been over the past the current is easily worse. @ould you have seen a Mick Lewis in a one dayer for Australia in a one dayer?

    RSA - Apart from Donald and Pollock there were very good bowlers for RSA in the past Jagdish. There was DeVilliers who was superb. There was Schultz who, made impact in the little that he did play.

    We agree to disagree here. :)

    By Anonymous Pratyush (15-Mar-2006, 4:43:00 PM)  

    pratyush: Good point. Compared to _right_ now, Australia's attack in the past was better. But like I said, I'd not have said that before the Ashes. As for Sed Afriga, you're right about de Villiers. While he made a significant impact, he last played in 1997/98. After that, the void certainly existed, which Pollock filled. Then we had Klusener being a bowler for a while [8fer on debut, remember!]. Schultz hardly played, so he doesn't count :)

    By Blogger Jagadish (15-Mar-2006, 8:27:00 PM)  

    Past vs Present RSA

    Past also had McMillan as a support bowler apart from DeVilliers. For one dayers a Symcox was pretty useful as well. There was Craig Matthews who played a bit more than Schultz. Was no great bowler but would have made the team currently.

    Earlier they had 1 great bowler in Donald, a very good support bowler in Pollock plus the others.
    Now they do not have a Donald. A big void any way you look at it. I am glad Ntini has been bowling very well lately which means the bowling is improving. Also, there has been a Mfuneko Ngam lost.

    Bah cricket talk means endless debates. Does any other sport have this? :D

    By Anonymous Pratyush (15-Mar-2006, 11:17:00 PM)  

    Pollock, Ntini, Nel, and Langeveldt as a front four, with Kallis, Hall, van der Wath, Telemachus, Steyn, Zondeki, Hayward, and Kruger all as back up (this is without mentioning several talented youngsters). I would say South Africa have the greatest pace bowling strength in depth of any country at present, better than England, Australia, or Pakistan. Comparing attacks across generations is always difficult, but I'm certain they could hold their own against the attack of the nineties.

    By Anonymous Geoff (16-Mar-2006, 12:24:00 AM)  

    I am with you on depth Geoff. As a huge South African fan, I agree the Proteas have depth incomparable to other attacks.

    But one man separates the First XI attack of the 90s from now - Allan Anthony Donald. It is a big gap to bridge.

    By Anonymous Pratyush (16-Mar-2006, 3:15:00 AM)  

    This is turning out to be a nice discussion

    Yes, South Africa have always had quite good pace bowling backup, as has Australia. Pakistan almost always has _one_ genuine quick. A lot of the time, that chap has turned out to be the turn-to guy for them - Imran [or Sarfraz], Wasim, Waqar. Shoaib is _quick_, but he isn't the "turn-to" guy for the team because of his inconsistency and his own mentality/attitude problems.

    By Blogger Jagadish (16-Mar-2006, 8:37:00 AM)  


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