The West Indies cricket team was a dominant force in the gentleman’s game for more than two decades. Observers feel that what contributed to the team’s dominance was the region’s innate ability to produce young, athletic, and menacing fast bowling talent.
The bowlers were able to consistently seam the ball in both directions, astute in short-pitch bowling, and able to hit the block holes with their yorkers to embarrass batsmen.
Now, we will present the top 5 West Indian fast bowlers based on their average balls per wicket, strike rate, and economic rate through stats supplied by cricinfo.com.
All 5 players selected in this list are in the top 6 all-time West Indies wicket-takers list. Therefore, based on the statistical metrics these fast bowlers deserve to be on the list.
Number 5-Joel Garner
The fearsome Joel Garner was born on December 16, 1952, in Christ Church, Bridgetown, Barbados. At 6’ 8”, Garner was an imposing figure on the cricket pitch and was nicknamed “Big Bird” based on the ginormous character from Sesame Street.
In 58 matches and 111 innings, Garner tallied 259 wickets, at a ridiculous average of 20.97 and a measly 2.47 economic rate. This means Garner is 5th all-time in wickets, has the third-lowest average, and the 2nd best strike rate all-time as a West Indian playing at least 15 test matches. Garner terrorized batsmen by generating pace and bounce using his high delivery point. Garner also delivered on the big stage.
In the 1979 World Cup Finals, he took 5 wickets for 38 runs against England to secure back-to-back titles for the men in maroon.
His excellence in the shorter format shows a ridiculous average of 18.84 and a minuscule 3.09 economic rate.
Number 4-Courtney Walsh
Nicknamed Cuddy, the big Jamaican was born in Kingston, Jamaica on October 30, 1962. Courtney was the epitome of a strong work ethic and professionalism.
Walsh’s career spans three decades from 1984-2001, a longevity that commands appreciation.
He is the only fast bowler in West Indies history to play in 100 matches and he appeared in 34 more matches than the next best person. He also has the most Test wickets all-time as a West Indian with 519 and was the first bowler to record 500 career test wickets in world cricket. He has a career strike rate and average balls per wicket of 57.8 and 24.44 respectively.
A spell that was emblematic of Walsh’s brilliance was on December 3, 1986, against Sri Lanka. In a 4 and a half over spell in a Champions Trophy game, Walsh took 5 wickets for a single run.
The score went from 45 for 2 to 55 all out thanks to Cuddy’s brilliance. Another noteworthy performance came in a February 1995 test match in Wellington when Walsh took 7 for 37 in the first innings and following it up with 6 for 18 in the second innings.
In the man of the match performance, Walsh tallied 13 wickets for 55 runs inflicting an innings and 322 runs defeat of New Zealand.
Number 3-Michael Holding
Holding has the colorful nickname of the five men on this list with the legend known as ‘Whispering Death’. Michael earned the name for his quiet yet deadly approach to the crease in his run-up.
In 60 matches and 111 innings, Holding tallied 249 wickets at an average of 23.68 and a strike rate of 50.9. He has the 6th most wickets on the all-time list and the third-best all-time in terms of strike rate for a player involved in at least 15 matches.
Holding is considered one of the fastest bowlers clocked in a test match. In May 2015, Espncricinfo writer Martin Williamson described in detail an over by Michael Holding as perhaps the greatest over ever. The feat came in March 1981 against Geoffrey Boycott in the third test match of England’s tour of the region.
The over started with a sharp loosener rapping Boycott on the gloves. The next ball went past Boycott’s outside edge while the third ball struck him on the inside of his thigh. The fourth and fifth ball hurried Boycott, but he managed to survive. In the piece, Ian Botham jokingly stated that Boycott was “jumping about like a jack-in-the-box”.
After Holding ratchet up his pace after each delivery, ball six was the coup de grace pitched right up and at pace. It led to Boycott’s stump clattering 20 yards out of the ground and leaving Geoffrey with nightmares to this day.
Another special moment for Holding was an August 1976 match against England when he took 8 wickets for 92 runs in the first inning and then 6 for 57 runs in the second innings. In the game, he, therefore, tallied 14 for 149 runs as the Windies won by 231 runs.
Number 2-Curtly Ambrose
At 6’ 7”, Ambrose emulated Joel Garner in his ability to generate tremendous pace and bounce at his height. He also had a tremendous ability to hit the right line and length at a spectacular rate.
Ambrose is second in match appearances with 98 matches and 405 wickets. He is third all-time in his average with 20.99 and a good strike rate of 54.5. Ambrose’s most spectacular performance was a spell in January 1993 at the WACA ground in Perth.
Ambrose dazzled by taking 7 wickets for only 1 run getting the ball to move in, and away. It resulted in Curtly getting 6 of the batsmen to nick to the wicketkeeper and the slip cordon.
It was a man-of-the-match performance that led to an innings and 25 runs defeat. Although playing 34 matches less than Walsh, Ambrose was able to bag 22 five-wicket hauls and 3 ten-wicket matches which testifies to his cerebral ability to produce at a high clip.
Number 1-Malcolm Marshall
At only 5’ 9”, Marshall is the shortest bowler on this list, but he is the most dynamic of the bunch. He generated raw pace, moved the ball both ways, and had a vicious bouncer in his locker.
He had an unusual bowling action that allowed him to skid onto the unsuspecting batsman. In his career, he tallied 376 wickets, at a 20.94 average and a strike rate of 46.7.
It means that he has the third most wickets, the best average, and strike rate for someone playing in 15 or more matches. In 17 and 51 appearances less than Ambrose and Walsh respectively, he is tied with them for twenty-two 5-wicket hauls but edges them with four 10-wicket matches.
In a March 1988 third test against England, he produced a man-of-the-match performance as he picked up 9 wickets for 41 runs for an inning and 156 runs win.
The only regret with Marshall’s 13-year career was that it left us wanting more. Based on projections if he had bowled for another 5 years like Walsh he could have been the all-time wicket leader. Sadly, we will never know the answer.
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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