Cricket makes for a tough contest between bat and ball. While the batters toil hard in net practices, bowlers often upgrade their skills and introduce stock deliveries to keep them in contention by deceiving the batsmen.
However, every bowler has a specific batter whom he fears since the latter is good at reading the ball and also gives a bulwark performance when he gets going.
Here are ten legendary bowlers and the batsmen they fear:-
James Anderson- Graeme Smith
England bowler James Anderson has the highest Test wickets among the current lot of cricketers. Anderson is famous for his ability to move the ball both ways. However, the 38-year-old once opened up about former South African skipper Graeme Smith as the most difficult batter he had ever bowled to.
Anderson referred to the South Africa tour of England in 2003 when the veteran pacer only had inswing in his arsenal, which was Smith’s strength, and thus the latter smashed two double centuries in that series.
“My first series against him was in 2003 and at that time I could only swing the ball back in, I didn’t have an out-swinger to a left-handed batsman. I was just feeding his strength, and I was getting so annoyed. He always got it through the leg-side. That series he got two double centuries and it was just impossible to bowl at him,” Anderson recollected.
Pat Cummins- Cheteshwar Pujara
Australian pacer Pat Cummins is currently ranked at the numero-uno spot in the Test rankings. Still, the pacer had a hard time bowling to Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara.
Pujara is a defensive player and relies on wearing out the bowler. Cummins revealed in an interview that Pujara was the bulwark for his side and stood firm like a rock in Border Gavaskar Series 2020/21. Critics also believe that Pujara was the anchor of the Indian team and led them to a historic 2-1 victory against the Aussies.
“There are a lot of them out there, unfortunately. But I am going to go with someone different, and he is Cheteshwar Pujara from India. He was a real pain in the back for us. He (Pujara) was an absolute rock for them in that series. (He was) Really hard to get out. Just ultra concentration all day, day after day. He is the hardest one in Test cricket so far, I think,” Cummins admitted.
Dale Steyn- Virender Sehwag
South African pacer Dale Steyn topped the Test bowling ranking charts for the longest period of time when he was in his best shape.
Steyn had a ravaging pace coupled with the ability to swing the bowl both ways. However, Steyn tacitly implied that Indian opener Virender Sehwag was the most difficult batsman he had ever bowled to by recalling his magnificent 319 against the might African side in a red ball contest in Chennai.
“Happy birthday Viru! Hope it’s been a good one, my friend. PS. I still have nightmares of Chennai @virendersehwag.” Steyn wished Sehwag on his 42nd birthday.
Mitchell Johnson- AB de Villiers
Former Australian speedster Mitchell Johnson is one of the most difficult bowlers to face. Johnson bagged 313 wickets in the 73 red cherry contests he participated in.
However, South African batsman AB de Villiers left Johnson in deep waters by displaying his ability to hit the ball around all the corners of the park. The right-hander helped his side chase 414 runs in a Test against Australia in Perth by smashing an unbeaten 106.
“AB de Villiers, he’s one outstanding player of our generation. He was always so difficult to get out and a huge challenge,” Johnson spoke about de Villiers in one of his interviews.
Harbhajan Singh- Younis Khan
Former Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh was known for insisting his captains to let him bowl long spells. However, the off-spinner was wary of Pakistan’s batter Younis Khan who had an ardour for rescuing his side from difficult situations.
“Younis has annoyed me too much. I used to feel like crying while bowling him,” Harbhajan admitted.
In addition to Younis, the Jalandhar-born also mentioned that he had difficulty bowling to Jacques Kallis, Matthew Hayden, Brian Lara and Inzamam-ul-Haq.
Muttiah Muralitharan- Brian Lara
Former Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan holds the record for the highest wickets in both Tests and ODIs. Though Muralitharan was able to deceive most batsman with his stock deliveries, former West Indies batter Brian Lara left him in deep waters.
According to Muralitharan, Lara had brilliant hand-eye coordination that helped the latter adjust to deliveries easily.
“I think, of all the batsmen in the world, he plays my bowling better than anyone else, including Sachin Tendulkar. His eyesight and hand co-ordination is very good and he’s able to adjust very quickly to very good deliveries,” the veteran spinner revealed.
Brett Lee- Jacques Kallis
Former Australian pacer Brett Lee was one of the best proponents of speed that the world of cricket ever witnessed. He could bowl yorkers as well as bouncers when required.
Lee ended up as the sixth most successful Aussie bowler in Test matches, bagging 310 scalps. The Wollongong-born named India’s Sachin Tendulkar, West Indies Brian Lara and South Africa’s Jacques Kallis as the batters who gave him a hard time.
Lee stated that while Sachin had extra time while facing a fast delivery, Lara could hit the same ball in different directions. For Kallis, Lee opined that he was a complete cricketer as the veteran all-rounder could bat in the top order as well as open the bowling for his team.
Anil Kumble- Brian Lara
Former Indian spinner Anil Kumble is remembered for his persistence to send the opposition batter back to the pavilion. With 619 wickets to his name, Kumble is the third-highest wicket-taker in the history of Test cricket.
Kumble once divulged that former West Indies skipper Brian Lara was the hardest batsman to bowl at since the latter could play four shots for the same delivery.
“Many batsmen who were very difficult to bowl at. But Brian Lara was probably at the top. He had four different shots to every delivery that you bowled and that was the biggest challenge, you thought you could beat him, you would get him but then he would change his stroke and sort of tap you through the third man,” Kumble stated in an interview with Pommie Mbangwa.
Jofra Archer- KL Rahul
England pacer Jofra Archer has been the mainstay for his side since 2019. The 26-year-old speedster had also featured in Wisden Cricketers of the year list in the same year.
Known for his rhythm and pace, Archer has bamboozled batters all over the world, but his rampage stops when it comes to India’s KL Rahul.
Archer revealed in an interview that the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 Orange Cap holder had got the better of him on most occasions.
“There is no one else he has found difficult to bowl to, not even Virat Kohli or Suresh Raina, two of the most successful batsmen in the tournament. It is just KL Rahul who had probably got the better of him on most occasions,” Archer enunciated.
Shoaib Akhtar- Rahul Dravid
Former Pakistan seamer Shoaib Akhtar is one of the fastest that the game has ever witnessed. Akhtar is said to have clocked over 160 kmph twice.
Yet one cannot the fiery spells of Akhtar to Indian batter Rahul Dravid, who used to defend the former’s red hot deliveries, thus ending the colossal run-ups in vain.
Akhtar argued in an interview that Dravid used to ‘bore’ him, and the veteran pacer knew that he would have to field two more sessions when ‘The Wall’ was on the field.
“The biggest nightmare I ever faced was Rahul Dravid. He used to bore me. He was the first batsman who could intimidate me, in terms of when he walked in. I knew I would have to field for at least two sessions more,” Akhtar said about Dravid in an interview.