When Fred Trueman became the first man to take 300 Test wickets back in 1964, the outstanding England fast bowler, asked if anyone might break his record, reportedly replied: “Aye, but whoever does will be bloody tired.”
Fast bowling is hard work. It takes a toll on your body and as time goes by, many are forced to retire due to injuries. So in a way, Stuart Broad’s 500th Test wicket is a triumph that goes beyond numbers because it showcases a very rare kind of perseverance.
He kept plugging away and did it with enough quality to have already played 140 Tests for England. The wicket also made him part of a very elite group of fast bowlers (James Anderson, Glenn McGrath, Courtney Walsh) who have taken 500 wickets or more.
However, Broad believes that he might even be the last member of this club given the amount of cricket that is played these days.
“You need a lot of Test matches to get 500 wickets,” said Broad. “I think there’ll be people who have the talent to get the numbers but whether they’ll be able to play the amount of Test cricket the seam bowlers have to get that feat remains to be seen.”
And that might be something to look out for in the future.
But for now, let’s take a look at the records of the four fast bowlers who have taken more than 500 wickets:
(Note: Scroll horizontally or swipe right to view all columns in the tables below.)
Fast bowlers with more than 500 wickets
Home and away
Greatness is often also defined by consistency. The ability to perform in favourable and unfavourable conditions... to do it regardless of age, opponent or venue. And that is why great emphasis is laid on how players perform at home and away.
The reasons for that are simple. A player gets used to home conditions – they figure out their method, the length to bowl, they know how the pitch plays at certain venues. And all of that together helps them excel.
When playing away from home, many of these advantages disappear. And it means the player needs to adapt quickly. This is something that even the greats of the game have struggled with.
A quick look at the home and away numbers of Anderson and Broad show a marked difference in the average. In Walsh and McGrath’s case, the difference is almost negligible though.
Anderson - home and away
McGrath - home and away
Walsh - home and away
Broad - home and away
When do they strike
Fast bowlers are usually at their most lethal on the first day. The pitch is fresh, the ball is new and the batsmen, at least initially, are not set.
Spinners, on the other hand, usually come into their own after there is some wear and tear on the pitch.
But the truly great bowlers find a way to take the pitch out of the equation. They are at your throat all the time.
Anderson is pretty consistent, Walsh was superb in the third and fourth innings, Broad shines in the first and fourth innings but McGrath was simply superb all the time.
Anderson - by innings
McGrath by innings
Walsh - by innings
Broad - by innings
Do they take their team to victory?
The performances that inspire a team to victory are always valued very highly. A hundred or a five-wicket haul has its own place in the game but the true value of a cricketer is directly related to how often they help the team triumph.
Anderson’s performances in wins are absolutely exceptional. When he gets it right, he is unstoppable. But when he gets it wrong, England stutter badly. The same is probably true of Broad too.
With Walsh there isn’t that big a difference in average in wins and losses but McGrath once again is outstanding.
McGrath found ways to succeed all over the world and continuously honed his craft to a point where his captain and coach knew exactly what they would get with him. It helped that he had a bowler of Shane Warne’s class in the attack with him but the manner in which he worked out batsmen allowed him to sustain himself over a long and very successful Test career.
In conclusion, even in this league of legends, Glenn McGrath does stand out because of his incredible consistency and class. To do it for so long and so well requires a special kind of determination and the Australian had that in heaps.
(Stats courtesy: ESPNCricinfo Statsguru)