The top three wicket-takers at the 1992 World Cup were Wasim Akram (18 wickets), Mushtaq Ahmed and Chris Harris (16 wickets each). The reason I mention this is because it shows that every type of bowler has an equal chance of topping the table, irrespective of the conditions. Also, my journalistic instincts urge me to give a balanced view. But honestly, how does one pinpoint the best in an art as diverse as bowling?
This World Cup has a generous smattering of quality pacers, spinners and also some good medium-fast bowlers. So it would be wise to discuss at least 5-6 bowlers.
Let's first look at the fast bowlers. There is a lot of promise in Mitchell Johnson, James Anderson and Morne Morkel but the two names that pop up immediately are Dale Steyn and Lasith Malinga. Steyn's physique doesn't scream fast bowler but he sure can rip through any batting order. He doesn't compromise pace for line, has a very good slower delivery and is equally good with the old ball. An average of just over 25 and an economy of 4.80 shows how top-notch a pacer Steyn is.
It would have been easy to go with Steyn alone but a man called Lasith Malinga complicates the calculations a bit. I'm pretty sure if all the ODI captains were asked to pick their favourite death overs bowler, Malinga's name would have been taken in unison.
Among spinners, Rangana Herath is a worrying character. Except Australia, and to some extent Bangladesh, all other teams in Group A - England, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Scotland - are bound to find Herath's accuracy stifling. And that is just the start. Teams will look to capitalise on the middle overs, knowing full well Malinga could be miserly in the end. That might work in Herath's favour.
Next are R Ashwin and Shahid Afridi. Ashwin is a better bowler in ODIs than Tests and his height will give him some advantage in getting extra bounce. Afridi has always been a show-stopper. He might not extract much spin but Afridi is the best example of a person making the most of his limited abilities. This being his last World Cup, I'm sure Afridi will pull out something from his hat. Also, do watch out for those trademark skidders.
Quality medium fast bowlers are a shrinking tribe but there are still some who could make a difference. Like Australia's James Faulkner. He has the ability to change his length and speed according to the situation and if fit, Faulkner should figure in the team as an all-rounder. A lot has been said about Stuart Binny's inclusion so how he reacts to all that is to be seen.
But enough of playing safe. Cricket would have been the half the game had it not been for the fast bowlers. Watching Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Shane Bond and Brett Lee steam in and bamboozle stumps was nothing less than a privilege. And among the current lot, only Steyn looks to fit the bill. So for the sake of thrill, nostalgia and the goosebumps that they have provided over the years, I would love to watch Steyn 'gun' down batsmen.
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