Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Are modern bowlers really faster?

On Test Match Special a few days ago talk turned to the subject of fast bowling. The consensus was that there were many more fast bowlers around in the county game 20 or 30 years ago - most of them, of course, from overseas.

But Jon Agnew said that the modern bowlers are convinced they are faster than anyone who has gone before them. Aren't today sprinters and throwers better than their predecessors?

Let me offer a couple of pieces of evidence in favour of the idea that bowlers were faster 20 or 30 years ago.

First, George Ferris. He was an Antiguan fast bowler who played for Leicestershire in the 1980s. He was quick - often too quick for the comfort of county batsmen.

I remember watching him play for the Leicestershire against Warwickshire in 1987 - one of the last county championship games staged at Hinckley. Warwickshire batted first on an unseasonably cold day and, with the exception of Geoff Humpage, seemed relieved to get back into the warm after Ferris had blasted them out.

Yet, such was the strength of West Indian fast bowling in that era, Ferris did not win a single test cap. I am convinced that he would walk into their test team today.

Jon Agnew, incidentally, was playing in that game and foretold his future career by leaning back over the boundary boards at long leg and chatting with the crowd. And the Warwickshire team, with Dennis Amiss and Norman Gifford, looks like something from another age.

Second, take a look at the video above, which I am alarmed to find is almost 40 years old. John Snow and Peter Lever were both well into their thirties in 1975, but they look to be tearing in. Are Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson really faster than this?

A word of caution: some bowlers do look faster live than on television. I always think of Chris Old and Steve Watkin (who had a brief England career) in this category. So maybe it is possible to look faster on television than you really are.


Frank Little said...

John Snow and Peter Lever were both well into their thirties in 1975, but they look to be tearing in.
and from memory were not regarded as the fastest bowlers around.

Jonathan Calder said...

Among English bowlers Bob Willis and Alan Ward may have been faster in 1975, as I recall.

Luke said...

I reckon there are more tall bowlers around now. Never having faced a true fast bowler ,let alone a 6'5" fast bowler, I don't know how much difference that makes.

How about seeing how far back the slips and keeper are as the closest we get to an objective test?