The game of cricket has seen some phenomenal bowlers since its inception. Read on to find our picks for the 10 best bowlers of all time.
How often have you heard people say that Cricket is a batsmen’s game? A person going to the field with a willow bat is considered a gentleman. What does that all mean? It only means that a bowler’s job in this elite game is much of a tough grind.
Sweating all day with your fingers over the seamed leather that pinches the palm a bit, is not at all a facile thing.
That run-up of a fast bowler under the hot sunny noon in the summer scorch is no less than a commitment of a panther.
The curling of fingers to give the spin to the ball and then turning its trajectory on 22 yards pitch before it reaches the batsman, is something worthy of the utmost respect. It is not at all an easy task to come back with the same firing instinct after getting hit on the previous ball.
After all, it is the bowlers’ complaisance that a Test match sees a result when they conquer all the 20 wickets of the opposition.
Also Read: The 10 Best Batsmen of All Time
It is a bowler’s hat trick that makes everything so glorious. It always gives chills to watch them, whether it is a spinner who makes a batsman dance on the pitch or a speedster who coerces the batter to smell the leather.
Below are the 10 best bowlers of all time that this game has proffered.
The 10 Best Bowlers of All Time
Here’s our list of the 10 best bowlers of all time:
|6.||Sir Richard Hadlee||589|
10. Rangana Herath
I hope you are not surprised on seeing his name, but Rangana Herath is one of the greatest and underrated spinners of all time.
|Wickets in ODI||74|
|Wickets in Tests||433|
|Wickets in T20||18|
The left-arm orthodox made his test debut in 1999 against Australia in Galle International Stadium but hadn’t become any centre of attraction for a very long time.
But there was a big reason for him to play second fiddle to another genius spinner. He played under the shadow of Muralitharan for a very long time but still made sure that he never lost his place in the team.
He started walking on the path of greatness in 2011 when Muralitharan was about to retire. After that, he became Sri Lanka’s main spinner.
In 2011 only, he took 9 wickets at Durban to register a win by 208 runs against the home team Proteas. It was remarkable that he troubled batsmen like Smith, Amla and AB De in their den.
But his best came against Pakistan in 2014, Colombo, where he took 9 wickets in 1st innings and 5 in last, finishing with the figures of 14 wickets. He was lethal in home conditions as well as away. He took a total of 433 wickets in Tests.
He was equally good in white-ball games too. There aren’t many left-arm orthodox who have their surge in T20Is. In the 2014 T20 WC, Herath took 5 wickets for 3 runs in 3.3 overs to bundle out NZ on 60.
No matter how underrated, he was able to make his way into the hearts of fans all around the world, earning him a spot on our list of best bowlers of all time.
9. Harbhajan Singh
Harbhajan Singh, lovingly called ‘Bhajji’, was a passionate Sardar kid with a turban on his head when he made his debut against Australia in 1998 in Bengaluru. His start was not a fascinating one.
|Wickets in ODI||269|
|Wickets in Tests||417|
|Wickets in T20||25|
He was thrashed all over the ground by Aussies and he managed to get 2 wickets in the match. Nevertheless, he had the potential and ‘Dada’ knew it. That was the special thing with Sourav Ganguly as captain. He backed everyone on his instincts.
It was not soon that Bhajji got his breakthrough series 3 years later when Aussies came to India again in 2001. In the 2nd Test at Kolkata, which is known for Dravid-VVS heroics, Singh took a whole of 13 wickets contributing to a miraculous win.
His best came in the very next match against the same opponent where he ran riot with 7 wickets in the first innings and 8 in the last. His 15 wickets in that match turned out to be the best of his career. He finished the series with 32 mighty Australian scalps.
After that, he never looked back and performed consistently. Harbhajan was a handy lower-order batsman too. He took a total of 417 Test wickets.
Later, in the 2011 WC, Bhajji’s bowling helped India win the Cup after 28 years. With the emergence of Ashwin and Jadeja in 2012, he was sidelined for the role of the main spinner in the team, but he had done his job for the nation before saying bye to cricket.
On his day, he was a pure match-winner. Unquestionably, he was one of the best bowlers of all time.
8. James Anderson
This man has done things beyond everyone’s expectations. He has been swinging the ball for 18 years. He is 39 and you might think he is at the end of his journey, but that’s what makes him different from everyone.
|Wickets in ODI||269|
|Wickets in Tests||623|
|Wickets in T20||18|
Whenever you think that he is done with his miracles, he produces the better one.
Having made his debut against Australia in 2002, he was a pure classical swing bowler who got a chance in the place of an injured fast bowler in the team. But he never looked back. In his home conditions, he is unplayable.
Not a single batsman in the world has ever felt comfortable against him when he is on the song. He troubled two of the greatest batsmen of two different eras i.e. Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli. This is a testament to his skill and dominance in itself.
The 2006 Ashes was a nightmare for him where he took only 5 wickets in the series. But 4 years later, he made his comeback with 24 wickets in The Ashes 2010. Nevertheless, he has everything in his bowling that a swing bowler dreams of.
He is currently the highest wicket-taking fast bowler in the Test with 623 scalps. He is now targeting the figure of 700. It is no less than magic that he seems ageless. It doesn’t seem that he will retire any soon and that means some great sights are still waiting for the fans.
7. Wasim Akram
Next up on our list of the best bowlers of all time is Wasim Akram. Wasim was a whole university of swinging the bowl with speed and line. Reverse swing was his maid and he could produce it at his will anywhere, anytime. He used to swing the bowl with a firing speed which is quite rare in cricket.
|Wickets in ODI||502|
|Wickets in Tests||414|
|Wickets in T20||–|
He came from a country that is said to be the factory of quality fast bowlers. His talent was so profound that he got to play the International matches without playing any of the first-class games.
He debuted in an ODI against NZ in 1984. Later, in 1984, he played his first test match against the same opposition. Akram took 5 wickets in both innings of the third test of the series. The only better bowler than him in the series was Sir Richard Hadlee.
He took 12 wickets in 2 matches. From there, he never looked back and improved with each match, each spell. In the 1999 WC, he led his team into the finals.
Later, in 2003, he announced his retirement with 502 ODI wickets and 414 Test wickets. Even today his analysis of the game is on spot. He has inspired a whole generation of swing bowlers. Wasim will remain the legend of the game.
6. Sir Richard Hadlee
Sir Hadlee was not someone who had fiery eyes or a very tall, giant persona like Windies. But he ruled the World with his sheer talent and skill, that too in an era when technology for the game was almost nil.
|Name||Sir Richard Hadlee|
|Wickets in ODI||158|
|Wickets in Tests||431|
|Wickets in T20||–|
He debuted against Pakistan in 1973. He was impressive right from the start but his magical spell came against Australia in Gabba where he took a total of 15 wickets giving Aussies a nightmare. He was the first bowler ever to reach 400 Test wickets.
With a white ball in his hands, his best came against Sri Lanka at Bristol where he dismissed 5 batsmen for just 25 runs. He has more than 3000 runs with the bat in tests including 2 hundred. Hadlee was a match-winner until he played for New Zealand.
It would not be wrong to say that Richard Hadlee was the first bowler in cricket who touched greatness in the game. With a wicket on the very last ball of his career, he retired in 1990. The World will always remember him as a legend who made the footmarks for others.
5. Dale Steyn
If you have ever seen a hot fireball coming with a bolstering speed, then you can imagine Dale Steyn perfectly because he either flamed the batsman or made them back off from wherever they are, physically or mentally.
|Wickets in ODI||196|
|Wickets in Tests||439|
|Wickets in T20||64|
He had the rare ability to swing the ball at maximum speed with utmost accuracy.
Steyn made his debut against England in the 2004/05 test series. He blew the stumps of Marcus Trescothick to register his first Test wicket.
Steyn’s best in red-ball cricket came against Pakistan in the 1st match of the 2013 Test series, in which he took a total of 11 wickets. In the first innings, Pakistan got wrecked with 49 all out.
His ODI best was also against Pak picking up 6 wickets for 39 runs. He was a genius T20 bowler too. In 2007, he accomplished a great bowling spell with figures of 4 wickets for 9 runs against West Indies at Port Elizabeth in a T20I.
Injuries made him bow down in the final stages of his career. He finished his career with 439 test wickets in 93 matches. Fans will remember him as the most feared bowler this world has ever seen.
4. Anil Kumble
When an engineering graduate in mechanical engineering decides to throw the ball, you know something special is going to happen. The same was with Anil Kumble who took up cricket after completing his BE degree.
|Wickets in ODI||337|
|Wickets in Tests||619|
|Wickets in T20||–|
He ended up taking 619 Test wickets that are a faraway dream for many, that too with an illusion that he was a spinner. The curiosity around him was that he never actually spun the ball or had any help from the surface.
But his line and length with a tall-top spin bowling action proved to be more lethal than many spinners.
He didn’t have a great start when he debuted against Sri Lanka in an ODI and later in the same year against England in Test. His big breaking came in the 1992 South Africa test tour, where he took 18 wickets from 4 Tests on pace and bounce friendly conditions.
But his best and magical spell that he bowled against Pakistan in 1999 was the best anyone ever could or will do. In that match, he featured against all of the 10 wickets of Pakistan in their 2nd innings, the only bowler to achieve this feat.
He retired in ODIs after India nightmare in 2007 WC and from tests in 2008. But he established himself as a great bowler throughout his glorious career.
3. Glenn Mcgrath
If perfection has a name on humans, Glenn Mcgrath would be one of them. The discipline that he inculcated in his high arm action bowling was just extraordinary. His line, length and accuracy were commendable.
|Wickets in ODI||381|
|Wickets in Tests||563|
|Wickets in T20||5|
He made his debut in a Test against New Zealand in 1993. It was his Perth spell against Pakistan in which he took 8 wickets in an innings to halt Pakistan at 72 runs. He was a bowler who can hit the same spot on the pitch for hours.
Mcgrath was as calm and composed as the Pacific ocean. He was the only bowler who troubled the GOD of cricket Sachin Tendulkar for a longer period. The batting great Rahul Dravid once said “No one challenged my knowledge of off stump as much as Mcgrath did.”
Only a great bowler can get 563 Test wickets in just 124 matches. He ended his ODI run with 381 scalps in 250 matches. No one can deny the genius of Glenn Mcgrath, the best bowler of all time.
2. Shane Warne
The greatest leg spinner to have ever stepped in cricket, Shane Warne made his debut against India in SCG. The beginning of his career was ordinary. But he rose through the days and kept faith in his skill and talent.
|Wickets in ODI||293|
|Wickets in Tests||708|
|Wickets in T20||–|
The next, he bowled the “ball of the century” to Mike Gatting. It pitched far outside leg and spun to the middle stumps crashing into the bails at off with Gatting standing clueless as he didn’t even offer a shot.
The non-strikers at the bowling side used to say that they heard a long “zeeeeee” sound whenever Warne released the ball. Probably, he rotated the bowl more than any other spinner, and he used to get those big turns even on pitches that were no friend of spinners.
He ended his career in 2007 being the 2nd highest wicket-taker in Test cricket with 708 scalps under his bag. No doubt, why he was one of the best bowlers of all time.
1. Muttiah Muralitharan
No one usually expects a spinner to have those fiery eyes and intimidating look like speedsters. But Muttiah Muralitharan was one of them, or we can say that he was the only one like that.
|Wickets in ODI||534|
|Wickets in Tests||800|
|Wickets in T20||12|
Many controversies were made about his eccentric action throughout his career but he rose against all of them. Even umpires called him to test his action by making him wear a cast every time he bowls.
He started his career in Tests against Australia in 1992. There was not a single batsman who could say that he played Murali comfortably. He had magic within himself. He could bowl anywhere and could generate a big turn. He was a freak with the bowl in his hands.
He took more than 1000 International wickets. He picked up a wicket on the last ball of his last match to get his 890th test wicket in 133 test matches. No one even came close to his impact with the ball. He is an undisputed winner on the list of the best bowlers of all time.
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So, this was our list of the 10 best bowlers of all time. Many bowlers could make this list but they are left out on a very personal liking. Honourable mentions: Lasith Malinga, Curtly Ambrose, Brett Lee, Daniel Vettori etc.