Ranking India's Top 5 Pace Bowlers of All Time
While India may not be renowned for producing a plethora of high-class fast bowlers down the years, there have still been a number of outstanding pacemen to have played for the subcontinental giants.
And so ahead of India’s much-anticipated tour of South Africa, we take a look at the five greatest pace bowlers the country has ever had, and then rank them in order of brilliance.
5: Venkatesh Prasad (1994-2001)
Total matches (Tests and one-day internationals): 194 (33/161)
Total wickets (Tests and one-day internationals): 292 (96/196)
Overall average (Tests and one-day internationals): 33.7 (35/32.3)
Test strike-rate: 73.3
ODI economy rate: 4.67
Four-wicket hauls: 4
Five-wicket hauls: 8
Ten-wicket hauls: 1
Tall, lanky paceman from the mid-Nineties who formed an at times devastating new-ball partnership with fellow fast bowler Javagal Srinath. This was especially true when playing outside the subcontinent, where Prasad’s figures in both forms of the game were far superior to those achieved in home conditions.
Prasad’s main strength was his ability to move the ball both ways, as seen to great effect when he toured England in 1996, although conversely his most potent spell ever came against arch-rivals Pakistan in Chennai. This happened in the opening Test match of the 1999 series, when he claimed six for 33, including a remarkable second-innings spell of five for none at one point.
However, it was really in the one-day arena that Prasad proved most effective for his country, where his cleverly disguised slower ball often brought him much success, while his nagging accuracy always made him hard to score off.
4: Ajit Agarkar (1998-2007)
Total matches (Tests and one-day internationals): 217 (26/191)
Total wickets (Tests and one-day internationals): 346 (58/288)
Overall average (Tests and one-day internationals): 37.6 (47.32/27.85)
Test strike-rate: 83.7
ODI economy rate: 5.07
Four-wicket hauls: 10
Five-wicket hauls: 3
Ten-wicket hauls: 0
An at times brilliant, and often under-rated, fast-medium bowler who was troubled by injury at various points throughout his career, and which no doubt prevented him from going on to make the most of his abilities with the ball.
And it is mainly his eye-catching form in the 50-over game that sees Agarkar make this list, where he picked up a hugely impressive 288 wickets in total in his 191 matches, including at the time being the fastest player ever to have captured 50 ODI victims.
However, you are left with the feeling that the all-rounder could have achieved so much more in his career.
3: Javagal Srinath (1991-2003)
Total matches (Tests and one-day internationals): 296 (67/229)
Total wickets (Tests and one-day internationals): 551 (236/315)
Overall average (Tests and one-day internationals): 29.3 (30.49/28.08)
Test strike-rate: 64
ODI economy rate: 4.44
Four-wicket hauls: 15
Five-wicket hauls: 13
Ten-wicket hauls: 1
Upon retirement from international cricket, only the great Kapil Dev had captured more Test wickets among Indian paceman than Srinath had (although Zaheer Khan did then go on to pass that figure), while no fast bowler has ever snared more than his 315 ODI scalps.
Srinath, who was deceptively quick for an Indian seamer, perhaps even the fastest his country has ever produced, made great use in the first part of his career of the off cutter, especially in subcontinental conditions.
However, as he got older and wiser, he then introduced the away swinger into his armoury as well, thus making him twice as effective as a bowler. Just like a fine wine, Srinath just got better with age, as demonstrated by his eye-catching displays for his country in his swansong at the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.
2: Zaheer Khan (2000-2012)
Total matches (Tests and one-day internationals): 288 (88/200)
Total wickets (Tests and one-day internationals): 564 (295/269)
Overall average (Tests and one-day internationals): 30.9 (32.35/29.43)
Test strike-rate: 59.7
ODI economy rate: 4.93
Four-wicket hauls: 21
Five-wicket hauls: 11
Ten-wicket hauls: 1
A real bowling enigma whose second half of his career was in stark contrast to the first, when he was mainly inconsistent with the ball and troubled by both hamstring and back injuries.
However, after a career-changing spell in county cricket with Worcestershire in the summer of 2006, when Zaheer took an impressive 78 wickets, the swing bowler started performing in both forms of the game like the great Pakistani left-armer Wasim Akram in his pomp.
And Zaheer’s real skill was not so much about how much he got the ball to swing, although that was a major part of armoury, but more the control he was able to exert and the innate ability he seemed to have about how and when exactly to go about dismissing opposition batsmen.
1: Kapil Dev (1978-1994)
Total matches (Tests and one-day internationals): 356 (131/225)
Total wickets (Tests and one-day internationals): 687 (434/253)
Overall average (Tests and one-day internationals): 28.5 (29.64/27.45)
Test strike-rate: 63.9
ODI economy rate: 3.71
Four-wicket hauls: 20
Five-wicket hauls: 24
Ten-wicket hauls: 2
Without question, India’s greatest-ever fast bowler, with an unrivalled 434 Test wickets, coupled with 253 ODI scalps too, collected across an outstanding 16-year international career.
And when Kapil did eventually decide to call it quits in 1994, he left the game as the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket having just passed Richard Hadlee’s total of 431 victims, with the all-rounder subsequently being voted India’s Cricketer of the Century in 2002 on the back of that achievement, as well as also captaining his country to their first World Cup triumph at Lord’s in 1983.
However, the medium-fast bowler will be best remembered for his always accurate and ever-nagging out swingers delivered close to the wicket at a brisk pace, brilliant stamina that allowed him to bowl for long spells and getting the absolute maximum that he possibly could from of his abilities.