Understanding Pace Bowling - The Pace Quartet of the West Indies
The international cricketing fraternity in the seventies and eighties witnessed some of the greatest fast bowling combinations to have graced a cricket pitch. Australia had Dennis Lillee and John Thompson, Pakistan housed Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz, England
boasted of Ian Botham and Bob Willis while New Zealand had the services of Richard Hadlee and Ewen Chatfield.
However, the West Indies proved to be the best in the business. The attack comprised of Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, and the best of them, Malcolm Marshall.
The West Indies tour of Australia in 1975/76 raised many questions about their quality of fast bowling where they were hammered 5-1 in a 6 match Test series. During this time, Clive Lloyds only had the services of Andy Roberts along with a raw Michael Holding
in the squad. Meanwhile, the West Indies were trounced by Australia’s fast bowling power house comprising of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thompson and Rodney Hogg.
After the defeat, Clive Lloyd went back home with a mission to encourage youngsters to take up fast bowling in the West Indies. As a result, the West Indies was able to form a formidable bowling attack in the mid seventies and eighties which ran wild across
pitches in the world.
Clive Lloyd wanted his side to dominate every backyard in the cricketing world. He knew that they had some attacking batsman to help them along. In such a situation, the West Indian skipper knew that a four front pace attack was essential who would always
hunt in pairs in a bid to reply to Australia’s battery of pace bowlers.
Andy Roberts was a pace bowler who had the ability to move the ball off the wickets with searing pace. He bowled with a lot of pace and bounce, and more importantly, he bowled with accuracy. Roberts had a great bowling brain as he delicately used to plan
a batsmen’s wicket. It took him just two and a half years to take 100 wickets which was a world record back then. His best years came in the mid 70’s. Roberts cut down on his pace in the late 70’s, but his ability to move the ball accurately was still a factor
that kept him alive till the end of his career. All-in-all, he took 202 wickets in 47 test matches at an impressive average of 25.
Michael Holding then joined Andy Roberts in 1975, to turn a regular pace attack into a more useful one. He used to run like a silent assassin in a bid to get his prey without making any sounds through the run-up. Batsmen from around the world were mesmerized
by his run-up, and umpires didn’t know until Holding delivered the ball. As a result, the cricketing world dubbed him as the “Whispering Death”. He had great pace and accuracy combined.
During the 1976 English tour, the Oval test marked the rise to greatness for Michael Holding. He took 14/149 in the match, tearing away at the English batsmen who were awestruck by the man’s ability. He took 249 wickets in 60 test matches at an average of
23 in Test match cricket to prove his worth in almost every nook and cranny of the world.
Joel Garner, the 6 feet 8 inches giant delivered the ball as it was coming from the sky. He was one of the bowlers who bowled the yorker at will and with a lot of accurately. He made his debut against Pakistan in 1977 and made a mark in his first series
by taking 25 wickets in 5 test matches at an average of 27. Garner till date has one the best bowling averages in the history of cricket with a strike rate of 20.97 in Test cricket, only few have fared better than him. In the 1979 World Cup final, Garner took
5/38 which is still the best bowling figures for a bowler in a World Cup final. He has made 259 strikes in 58 test matches at a remarkable average of 20.97.
Malcolm Marshall completed the pace quartet who is till date considered to be the greatest West Indian bowler to have graced a cricket pitch. Marshall had swing, seam, cut, pace, bounce and accuracy. He gathered 376 test wickets in 81 test matches at a breathtaking
average of 20.94 - the best average for a bowler with more than 300 test wickets to his credit.
This pace quartet from the West Indies made sure that they did not lose a single series in 15 years - a feat only achieved by West Indies in modern cricket.