Home > Features > Moments in history >

Len Pascoe: A fast bowling terror who’s career did not reach the expected heights

Len Pascoe: A fast bowling terror who career did not reach the expected heights

Lenny Pascoe took 64 wickets in 14 Tests at an average of 26.06 and 53 ODI wickets at an average of 20.11 and an economy of 4.07 © Getty Images

Len Pascoe, the Australian paceman, was born on February 13, 1950. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the career of a man full of pace and raw aggression whose career was marred by World Series Cricket and injuries.

The bowler

Len Pascoe was your quintessential fast bowler. Tall, burly, barrel-chested, and dusky, he tore down the turf at the batsman with the velocity of a sprinter, his unruly mane of hair ruffled in the afternoon breeze; then, just before the release of the delivery, he leapt suddenly towards his left and released the delivery at brutal pace at the batsman.

Every now and then he hurled a bouncer – often unnecessarily – at the batsman; at his pace he was very difficult to hook. He often topped the 145 kmph barrier (he often reached 155), and had troubled batsmen with his raw, primal ferocity whenever he bowled. In his own words, he “liked to see fear in a batsman” (albeit not wanting to injure him).

Unlike most great fast bowlers, Pascoe’s speed was not generated from a scientifically measured run-up; it was sheer beastly power, and his broad shoulders helped him generate much speed. What makes it even more spectacular, though, is the fact that he could deliver at this pace for hours on shirtfront tracks against batsmen of the highest pedigree.

Pascoe believed that a good bowler should be able to take wickets on any track. He thought that “to be a really, really good player there needs to be an element of the maniac about you”.

Pascoe had modeled himself on Fred Trueman, and had lived up to his hero in terms of both pace and stamina (and certain off-the-field nocturnal activities). He did not play as much, though. He went on to play only 14 Tests. Yes, you have read it right: 14.

He took 64 wickets in those Tests at 26.06. Additionally, in 29 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) he took 53 wickets at 20.11 — second on the all-time list if we put a 50-wicket cut-off, after Joel Garner  — and an economy of 4.07. Despite all that, Pascoe seems to be a forgotten name, having played cricket in the era of the Dennis Lillees and Jeff Thomsons.
Early days

Len Pascoe was born of Macedonian parents – though the country was called Yugoslavia back then. He was originally called Leonard Stephen Durtanovich, but due to his surname he was the target of many a taunt from his friends. This was half a century back, and racism was still prevalent in Australia. The budding cricketer also realised that a surname like that would probably reduce his probability to make it to the highest level. He decided to change it to Pascoe.

Later, he has often talked about the difficulties that he, along with many other ‘first-generation kids’ (also called ‘separatists’, especially by his English opponents) in Australia, had to go through. They were often alienated by the ‘bonafide Australians’, and received a ‘dud rap’ in the media.

Born six months before Thomson, the two went to the same school (Punchbowl Boys High). This meant that life was miserable for the kids turning up to face them at school level. As they grew up, both of them turned out for Bankstown Club, and matched each other for raw, lethal pace.
International cricket

After making his way through grade and First-Class cricket, Pascoe burst into the international scene, making his debut in an Ashes Test at Lord’s in 1977. Opening bowling with his old mate Thomson in the absence of Lillee, Pascoe bowled his heart out, taking two for 53 and three for 96 on debut. He played two more Tests on that tour and picked up eight more wickets, but England went on to claim the Ashes. He also played two ODIs on that tour  —  and was claimed by World Series Cricket for two and a half years.

Pascoe returned in the home Ashes series against England, picking up 10 wickets at 24.10 from the two Tests he played in. Australia whitewashed England in that series. He did even better in the triangular Benson and Hedges World Series Cup that followed, picking up 12 wickets from five ODIs at a staggering 13.91. His strike rate was an astonishing 24.7, but despite his heroics Australia could not make it to the final.
The Centenary Test

On the morning of the Centenary Test at Lord’s in 1980 the selectors told Pascoe that he would get the new ball with Lillee. Pascoe, always one with a great heart (and one to realize the grandeur of the occasion), met Thomson and told him “Mate, it is not right. You and Dennis should be opening the bowling in a Centenary Test. I’m going to pull a hamstring, so put your boots on.” His mate responded “if you pull one I’ll pull one too”.

Pascoe reached the pinnacle of his career in this Test: he took the only five-for of his short career as he (five for 59) and Lillee (four for 43) blew England away for 205. Pascoe actually had a spell of five for 15 in 32 balls.
Later days and the injury

Back home, Pascoe ran into the Kiwis (he took 12 wickets from three Tests at 22.67) and the Indians (16 wickets from three Tests at 18.68). At 30, Pascoe was looked upon as one of the world’s most formidable fast bowlers.

He kept on taking wickets in ODIs as well. In the 1980-81 Benson and Hedges World Series Cup Pascoe claimed 19 wickets from 12 ODIs at 22.21 (strike rate 31.4); and went another step next season, when he could play only five ODIs – all against West Indies – and picked up 12 wickets from five ODIs at 15.25 (strike rate 22.9). However, during this period Pascoe picked up a knee injury that made him pull out of the 1981 Ashes.

Terry Alderman made his debut in that historic series and took an astounding 41 wickets. Geoff Lawson also made a name for himself, and when Thomson, Rodney Hogg, Lawson and Carl Rackemann all managed to injure themselves, Australia had to draft in the young Mike Whitney, who was playing for Gloucestershire.

All of a sudden a lot of fast bowlers had sprung up on the horizon. Pascoe, despite his form, now needed to fight his way back to the Test side.
The abrupt end

Despite his tremendous form, Pascoe was omitted from the Australian squad, but was brought in for Alderman to play the final Test of the Frank Worrell Trophy of 1981-82. West Indies required 236 for a victory, and Lillee was ruled out of the Test after bowling just four overs.

Pascoe bore the burden; he ran in hard, and after Thomson removed the openers, Pascoe ran through the defenses of Viv Richards and Larry Gomes, before removing Faoud Bacchus with West Indies on the verge of victory. He bowled more overs than anyone in that innings, but West Indies leveled the series.

Little did he know that it was going to be his last Test. The niggle in his knee came back, and though he went on to play three ODIs in New Zealand later that season, the injury turned out to be too much for Pascoe. Then, all of a sudden, he retired from international cricket altogether. He had probably realised that it was time to allow the youngsters to take over. Within a couple of years he had quit domestic cricket as well.

Pascoe is a classic example of a ‘what-might-have-been’. In 27 of the Test innings he bowled, he went wicketless in only two; and despite the solitary five-for, he picked up four wickets four times and three wickets eight times – which means that he picked up 3 or more wickets in almost 50% of the innings he bowled in.

Later years

Unlike most cricketers, Pascoe was never one to hog the limelight. He went on to coach New South Wales, and currently runs Len Pascoe Sports Entertainment.

Last year, though, he made it to the news. When the television drama “Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War” credited television John Cornell as the mastermind behind day-night matches, Pascoe protested. He claimed that it was he who had suggested the idea to Ian and Greg Chappell after the initial disaster of World Series Cricket: “I distinctly remember saying to the Chappells in a hotel bar that we play soccer under lights and we play baseball under lights, so why not play cricket under lights?” Soon afterwards, the balls were then painted with white shoe polish (they did not make white cricket balls in those days), and the players practiced under lights at the VFL Park – and world cricket was revolutionised in no time.

(A hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobiac by his own admission, Abhishek Mukherjee is a statistical analyst based in Kolkata, India. He typically looks upon life as a journey involving two components – cricket and literature – not necessarily as disjoint elements. A passionate follower of the history of the game with an insatiable appetite for trivia and anecdotes, he has also a rather steady love affair with the incredible assortment of numbers the sport has to offer. He also thinks he can bowl decent leg-breaks and googlies in street cricket, and blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in)

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 30, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 2, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Cuttack

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 3, 2014 (09:00 IST)   at Khulna

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 5, 2014 (14:05 IST)   at Adelaide

Sri Lanka tour of India, 2014

Nov 6, 2014 (13:30 IST)   at Ahmedabad

More

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 15, 2014  at Ahmedabad

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Nov 7, 2014  at Bengaluru

Match cancelled

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 30, 2014  at Hyderabad

Match cancelled

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 27, 2014  at Hamilton

No result

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 3 wkts

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test

Videos

Tendulkar provides teaser on upcoming book

Live Cricket Score Duleep Trophy Central Zone vs South Zone, final at Delhi Day 4: KL Rahul brings up 100 for South with a six

Live Cricket Score Pakistan vs Australia, 2nd Test, Day 3 at Abu Dhabi: Mitchell Marsh gets half-century

Don Bradman dismissed twice on the same day

Rohit Sharma looks to strengthen career after an inconsistent year

Yuvraj Singh — have we seen the last of the man who won India three World Cups?

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 Central Zone Duleep Trophy Duleep Trophy 2014-15 India Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Zone South Zone vs Central Zone Sri Lanka Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Rameez Raja says he never expected Pakistan batsmen to dominate Australian bowlers

South Africa vs West Indies 2014-15: Chris Gayle confident of West Indies touring South Africa despite dispute with WICB

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: Preparations for upcoming World Cup resume as Ind-SL face-off

Duleep Trophy 2014-15 final: South Zone 62/0 at Tea; need another 239 runs to win

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Asif Iqbal claims Younis Khan’s brilliance should silence the critics

Don Bradman dismissed twice on the same day

Virat Kohli’s captaincy opportunities important in context of India’s succession plans

Rohit Sharma looks to strengthen career after an inconsistent year

Younis Khan equals Javed Miandad’s record of most 150+ scores by Pakistan batsman

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: Manish Pandey showing signs of fulfilling potential

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

678 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Younis Khan century during Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test at Dubai

Happy New Year 1st week box office: Shah Rukh Khan’s film collects Rs 157.57 crore at domestic box office

Beauty Tip #43 — Get fuller-looking lips with home-made sugar scrub

Google extends “Ok, Google” hotword to third-party apps with six lines of code

India vs Sri Lanka 2014: Preparations for upcoming World Cup resume as Ind-SL face-off

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Ayurvedic treatment: 7 types of Ayurvedic massages you should know about

Snapdeal faulty delivery: Man orders Samsung Galaxy Core 2 Duos, receives bar of soap instead!

Gmail for Android updated with Material Design UI and support for other email services

After Bollywood, even Hollywood praises Abhishek Bachchan’s Happy New Year performance!

Duleep Trophy 2014-15 final: South Zone 62/0 at Tea; need another 239 runs to win

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here