Gavin Larsen - Quality, Average or Period Player?
Watching cricket in the 1990s, I thought what this guy did was incredibly difficult, and took far more skill than many appreciate.
The margin for error at the speed at which Larsen bowled is basically in the realm of milimetres.
To put the ball consistently into a tiny area that renders you difficult to get away requires seriously high levels of focus, concentration and consistency of action.
We've all used the term 'dobber' playfully, but those who scorn the art of the laser-accurate trundler should probably ponder why, if it's such an easy artform to get one's head around, did every ODI side in world cricket not have two such bowlers in their line-up?
England messed about dreadfully with all-rounders and bits/pieces players in the 1990s. A dismal and quite obvious attempt to find a Larsen clone was one of their many failed experiments.
The stats in the wicket column were usually unremarkable, and he basically averaged one per ODI, but his economy rate (even allowing for an end-of-career dip which I'll go into in a minute) was a mightily impresive 3.76.
For a bowler to choke the scoring in such a way without the menace of 'wicket-power' is IMO akin to a boxer winning title contests without the means to deliver one-punch knockdowns, or a tennis player competing at the top of the world rankings without either a rocket serve or a booming forehand.
The level of skill that goes into bowling that accurately on a consitent basis is phenomenal IMO.
His test stats are also surprisingly good, and warranted further persistance in the format. I remember his debut quite well in '94, as he plugged away without much success or support, desparately trying to claw back some of what Heath Davis had flushed down the toilet.
Something that should be stated in the interest of balance - there was a quite apparent slide in the last 12-18 months of Larsen's career as the ODI game was changing. Batsmen started consciously targeting him for the treatment, and I remember a couple of matches during the 1999 World Cup where they were operating from well outside the crease to steal the play.
Would his type of bowler be as successful today in all but favourable conditions, with a more aggressive mindset being the norm from ball one? Almost certainly not in terms of runs-per-over, although more wickets to compensate are a near certainty also.
Thoughts appreciated - thanks.