At 6ft 7in, Curtly Ambrose was in the standard-issue mould of hostile West-Indian fast bowlers of the ’80s. His loping run up to the wicket with the high release must have been a scary sight for batsmen facing him © Getty Images

At 6ft 7in, Curtly Ambrose was in the standard-issue mould of hostile West-Indian fast bowlers of the ’80s. His loping run up to the wicket with the high release must have been a scary sight for batsmen facing him © Getty Images

 

By Anoop Vijaykumar

 

The below list are batsmen who played havoc to well-laid plans. Advantage gained through several painstakingly hours are blown away when they go ballistic. When they do, there is a touch of inevitability to the proceedings. Their aura does not need statistics for validation. They inspire a more visceral kind of terror because of their ability to annihilate oppositions in quick time, often making a mockery of conditions and opposition. And because it’s something that cannot be gleaned from other’s point of view, I’ve included only those that I’ve seen in action. I can fully imagine how those who’ve seen Viv Richards, the West Indian pace quartet of the ’80s, Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson operate would consider this list, but then I’d set out with the minimum qualification of having experienced for myself the goose bumps or the sinking feeling as a prerequisite to be on this list.

 

My top 10 list of the most fearsome cricketers in world cricket over the last couple of decades:

 

10. Saeed Anwar

 

He would probably make it to most lists compiled by Indian cricket fans who have seen him surgically eviscerate Indian attacks with monotonous regularity in the mid-90s. Silken with his strokes square on the off-side, he pierced packed off-side fields with ease. He undoubtedly preserved his best for ‘the old enemy’ as his performances were rarely in the same league against the other big guns.

 

Memorable performance: 194 (146) vs India, Independence Cup, 1998.

 

9. Lance Klusener

 

A former South African secret service policeman, everything about Klusener was unnerving. Built like a barn door, his huge, baseball-style back-lift probably intimidated bowlers at their run-up. A bludgeoner, he thrashed the cover off the ball. His best performance is remembered for the wrong reasons; for officially granting SA the title of ‘Chokers’.

 

Memorable performance: 75 (58) vs India, 5th ODI, 2000.

 

8. Andrew Flintoff

 

A charged-up Flintoff with the ball is a sight to behold. He conjured wickets on surfaces that looked benign with rib-snorting, short-of-a-length bowling. With his trademark arms apart, open-chest roar after taking a prized wicket, there were fewer more worrying sights for batsmen. 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 whack, even though he has underachieved on that count.

 

Memorable performance: 5/78 vs Australia, 2005.

 

7. Curtly Ambrose

 

At 6ft 7in, he was in the standard-issue mould of hostile West-Indian fast bowlers of the ’80s, except you seldom saw him use words to make a point. His loping run up to the wicket with the high release must have been a scary sight for batsmen facing him. His windmill celebrations, after taking key wickets, were fascinating to. Dean Jones must still be cringing the day he complained about his white wristband that saw him play havoc on the Aussie line-up by taking seven wickets for a run!

 

Memorable performance: 7/25 vs Australia, 1993.

 

6. Andrew Symonds

 

Had he not mellowed into a thinking big-hitter, Symonds would’ve figured higher on my list. With immense upper-body strength that enables him to muscle his shots high over midwicket. He entered the scene purely as a destructive batsman, intent on hitting everything for six. The 2003 World Cup saw him shun some of those instincts and bat more and more consistently. The Symonds threat still looms large!

 

Memorable performance: 143 (125) vs Pakistan, 2003.

 

5. Waqar Younis

 

Few sights in world cricket were more awe-inspiring than to Waqar’s run-up. 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 the fastest. And when he got his in-swinging yorkers going, games looked like highlights packages. Having missed watching him at his prime, my enduring image was of a Test at home against the Windies. The batsman had just creamed the first three deliveries of his over through the covers for four. The next delivery started on the left-hander’s off-stump, 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 vs England, 1992.

 

4. Sanath Jayasuriya

 

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 Jayasuriya 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 nightmares of Jayasuriya going through his pre-delivery routine of touching all his equipment before getting ready to face the bowler. Through the mid-1990s, the equation was simple: If Jayasuriya was around for anywhere between 10 to 25 overs, Sri Lanka won easily.

 

Memorable performance: 151* (120) vs India, 1997.

 

3. Shane Warne

 

Perhaps more skilful than any other bowler to tweak the ball, it was his predator-like demeanour that made him the fearsome bowler he was. When on song, you couldn’t help but feel for the batting side (often England or South Africa), as one after the other, they groped and prodded and at times swung only to capitulate finally to either a flipper or a googly or a leg-break or sometimes rank hops and full tosses.

 

Memorable performance: 6/64, Ashes 2nd Test, 1994.

 

2. 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, he battered one and all alike, be it ODIs or Tests.

 

Memorable performance: 149* (163) vs Pakistan, 1999.

 

1. 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 quality bowling attacks of South Africa, Pakistan and Australia. His sleepy appearance belies his complete disregard for the quality of a bowler or match situation. One of the few batsmen around who has turned Tests on their heads with his no-holds barred approach to bowler domination.

 

Memorable performance: 195 (233) vs Australia, 2003.

 

(Anoop Vijaykumar’s tryst with cricket is a series of experiences that have stayed in the mind long after they went by. The hyper-ventilation that accompanied appeals against India’s No. 10 in the late 90’s, the thrill of the 1st session of a Boxing Day Test, the thundering run-up of Waqar Younis before he let fly with his searing in-swinging yorkers… The list goes on. Of course, I’m also one of the millions fans who believe that having enormous gully cricket experience added to some university and club cricket experience qualifies me to analyze and critique the game at the highest level. I also blog at outsideedges.com)