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Assault and Battery – II

September 20, 2008

Continuing from the previous post with my list of top-5 most ‘fearsome’ cricketers…

5 Waqar Younis

Few sights in world cricket are more awe-inducing than to see this man starting his run to the wicket. The long run up, legs pumping, jowls reverberating followed by the whiplash windup and round-arm release are forever associated with the emergence of the art of reverse-swing. At his peak, Waqar was faster than the best of them, and when he got his in-swinging Yorkers going, games looked like highlights packages. Having missed Waqar in his prime, my enduring image was of a test mach at home against the West Indies. The batsman had just creamed the first 3 deliveries of his over through the covers for four. The next delivery started on the left-hander’s offstump, was much fuller, swung in viciously at the last instant causing the batsman to fall over in his anxiousness to get bat on it and took out middle stump. The batsman? Brian Lara.

Memorable performance:5/52 v England (1992)

4 Virender Sehwag

It is difficult for a batsman from the subcontinent beginning his career post-2000 to differentiate himself from other stroke-happy peers on featherbed pitches. Sehwag made it on this list by repeatedly destroying bowling lineups with big names. South Africa, Pakistan, Australia; easily the best bowling sides of our times, have all been sent on leather hunts by this man. His, almost sleepy appearance belies his complete disregard for quality of bowler or match situation. One of the few batsmen around who has turned test matches on their heads with his no-holds barred approach to bowler domination.

Memorable performance: 195 (233) v Australia (2003)

3 Adam Gilchrist

The home crowd booed him when he took the field for the first time in a baggy green, making their displeasure clear about the man who had replaced the ‘irreplaceable’ Ian Healy. By the end of the series, Gilchrist was already the best thing to have happened to Australian cricket in a decade. Like most big-hitters, Gilchrist had an uninhibited technique with backswings and stroke follow-throughs describing complete circles. His greatest strength was his ability to pick length early and combined with his high grip, gave him the most leverage with which to hit the ball hard. While most in the list played favourites while picking their victims and formats, Gilly battered one and all alike, be it ODIs or test matches.

Memorable performance: 149* (163) v Pakistan (1999)

2 Sanath Jayasurya

You could swear that somehow the distance between the stumps and the boundary ropes had been reduced dramatically when this man got going as seemingly gentle wafts would sail over the point fence. If Jayasurya had a technique book, it would consist of only two lines; 1. get in the vicinity of the ball 2. extend bottom hand in quick movement. It’d be safe to assume that more than one retired bowler still wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat with the memory of Jayasurya going through his pre-delivery routine of touching all his equipment before lining him up. Through the mid-1990s, the equation was simple. If Sanath was around for anywhere between 10 and 25 overs, Sri Lanka won, easily.

Memorable performance:151* (120) v India (1997)

1 Andrew Flintoff

The top spot on this list is based more on a combination of potential with some stirring performances. Noone who likes cricket can dislike watching a charged up Flintoff spell of hostile bowling. He conjures wickets on surfaces that looked benign a few minutes ago with rib-snorting short-of-a-length bowling. With his trademark arms apart, open-chested roar after taking a prized wicket, there are fewer more worrying sights for a batsman in next. Flintoff is like the feared enforcer – Luca Brasi, in Mario Puzo’s cult classic, except human and likeable, even to his opponents. He bats much like he bowls, giving the ball a fearsome thunk every chance he gets, even though he has underachieved on that count. Somehow, I expect him to come into his own shorn of the captaincy and making oppositions very worried over the next few seasons.

Memorable performance:5/78 v Australia (2005)

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