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Thread: Pace in the past

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    State Regular GuyFromLancs's Avatar
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    Pace in the past

    Forgive me if this overlaps the Larwood thread, but what pace do you think players bowled at in previous eras?

    For instance, I think the general rule is that pace peaked in the 1970s - onwards. Reading Simon Hughes' "Ashes in 10 Test Matches" book, it was mentioned by him that the average man was about 5 feet 6 inches in the late 1800s. It's hard to imagine such demographic figures producing bowlers in the 90 mph range. The diets, and lack of knowledge about training and bio-mechanics would make such an event unlikely in my opinion. Although, I am perfectly willing to concede exceptions (like Fred Spofforth) were possible. And that every so often you would get a freak (for want of a better word) who would deviate from the norm and bowl faster than any of his contemporaries.

    For what it's worth, I think the same broadly applies to Larwood. 90mph merchants being freaks, and not the norm in his era. But this is largely academic anyway, because in Larwood's era, the real hazards were playing spin and medium pace cutters.

    But it would be interesting to read others' thoughts.
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    I really enjoyed Simon Hughes' description of Bowes as just medium pace. It would come as a surprise to Frank Watson and Walter Keeton whom he ko'd with blows to the head. Surprise George Headley too, if David Frith is correct, whom Bowes knocked unconscious with a blow to the chest. He was out for 5 desperate minutes according to the story and missed the touring side's next 3 games. They may have been softer back then though.

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    International Captain Migara's Avatar
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    Average wise I would say bowlers of yesteryear would have been much slower given demographic and fitness profiles. But once in a while you get a freak, who could bowl at high pace. Most of the so called fast bowlers would be fast medium today. Very few like Larwood and Tyson and few South Africans whom i could not recall be categorized as "fast" bowlers. I don't think any one bowled as quick as Zahid, Akthar, Lee or Thompson though.
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    Dan
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    As far as I'm concerned, 'pace' is relative. If everyone's bowling 150km/h, then a bowler hitting that pace really isn't that quick. If everyone's tossing them down at 110km/h and there's a bloke bowling 130km/h, he's quick.

    I don't care if Thomson bowled 180km/h as Rod Marsh claims, or 145km/h in an era where most bowled around the 130km/h mark (as the quote-unquote 'scientific' fastest bowler testing suggested). He was that much quicker than anyone of his time, and that's what makes him fast. Same goes for Larwood, really. Or Miller, Lindwall, Tyson and Spofforth. And even Akhtar, Lee and Tait in recent times.

    We might have some better light shed on the subject in 2 decades time, when we have empirical data using a similar methodology from about 40 years of bowling, to see if average bowling speeds have increased over time. Right now we're realistically sitting on a 15 year sample size that tells us very little, though anecdotally spinners seem to be throwing them down quicker than ever.

    And TBB, even if Bowes was delivering it at medium pace, that's still more than quick enough to do some serious damage when helmetless and hit flush. Express bowlers in park cricket hit the same pace as Michael Hussey if they're lucky, and they can be scarily quick for the average batsman and do serious damage to them.
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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Dunno if speed is necessarily relative tbh. If suddenly all the bowlers in the world transformed into Mark Ealham you might be able to sort out a few that were the "quickest", but they'd still obviously be drastically slower than bowlers that have gone before them.

    I see what Dan is getting at, insofar it's probably futile to try and compare the speeds of bowlers between certain different generations etc... but I don't think speed is a relative concept at all. How you measure up against your peers may once have been the best way of determining how "quick" one was, but that's certainly not the case any longer.

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    Dan
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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    Dunno if speed is necessarily relative tbh. If suddenly all the bowlers in the world transformed into Mark Ealham you might be able to sort out a few that were the "quickest", but they'd still obviously be drastically slower than bowlers that have gone before them.

    I see what Dan is getting at, insofar it's probably futile to try and compare the speeds of bowlers between certain different generations etc... but I don't think speed is a relative concept at all. How you measure up against your peers may once have been the best way of determining how "quick" one was, but that's certainly not the case any longer.
    Yeah, what I'm suggesting only holds if there is some form of semi-linear increase in pace throughout time; if all of a sudden we plateau or drop, then it wouldn't really work with modern players. Not to mention we actually have the absolute data by which to make comparisons, something we simply cannot do with earlier eras. But if we do assume an increase across time (an assumption I can understand, though impossible to prove true or false), then comparison to peers is really the only way to consider a bowler as 'quick'. It seems disrespectful to guys like Larwood and co. to write them off as Mark Ealham-style trundlers because they happened to come from an era where everyone bowled slower across the board (or to write off batsmen as inferior for never facing the type of pace generated by Mitchell Johnson). We can say the bowlers were bloody quick compared to the rest of the blokes rolling the arm over in those days, and not much more. That's where the reputation for being quick comes from - not absolute levels of pace.

    But at the same time, the argument could very well be made that increases in bowling speeds have proportionately been cancelled out by increases in batsmen's reflexes, insofar as there isn't a sudden glut of bowlers beating batsmen for pace on a regular basis - it's still only a select handful being seen as genuinely quick.

    Guys bowling with genuine pace could well be physical anomalies, 20 years ahead of their time in terms of absolute speed of delivery. The fact that everyone caught up later shouldn't detract from their reputation as being bloody quick when they played, IMO.

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    International Captain watson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    As far as I'm concerned, 'pace' is relative. If everyone's bowling 150km/h, then a bowler hitting that pace really isn't that quick. If everyone's tossing them down at 110km/h and there's a bloke bowling 130km/h, he's quick.

    I don't care if Thomson bowled 180km/h as Rod Marsh claims, or 145km/h in an era where most bowled around the 130km/h mark (as the quote-unquote 'scientific' fastest bowler testing suggested). He was that much quicker than anyone of his time, and that's what makes him fast. Same goes for Larwood, really. Or Miller, Lindwall, Tyson and Spofforth. And even Akhtar, Lee and Tait in recent times.

    We might have some better light shed on the subject in 2 decades time, when we have empirical data using a similar methodology from about 40 years of bowling, to see if average bowling speeds have increased over time. Right now we're realistically sitting on a 15 year sample size that tells us very little, though anecdotally spinners seem to be throwing them down quicker than ever.

    And TBB, even if Bowes was delivering it at medium pace, that's still more than quick enough to do some serious damage when helmetless and hit flush. Express bowlers in park cricket hit the same pace as Michael Hussey if they're lucky, and they can be scarily quick for the average batsman and do serious damage to them.
    Which is why pre-WWI 'fast' bowlers like Tom Richardson don't make ATG teams very often. There is little doubt that in his own era Richardson was 'fast', but to a modern batsman he might not be because 125-135 is perfectly ordinary. So while Richardson might shock one of the Grace brothers or Victor Trumper, he would be grist to the mill for someone like Viv Richards.

    Of course, Richardson might have bowled at 150-155 kph for all we know. But that's obviously not the general consensus by the vast majority of cricket followers because we just don't consider him worth selecting in ATG XIs despite the fact that his overall record is excellent.

    So no, pace is not relative when comparing fast bowlers from different eras. Especially pre-WWI V Jack Gregory onwards. In that particular context pace is an absolute and will always be.
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    Too much is made of lack of diets and fitness back then. Yes, the average dude was 5'6, but there have been 7 foot bodies found from the stone age. Apart from performance-enhancing drugs, I don't think there have been that significant increases in fitness as it would apply to cricket in the modern era.

    Yes, people run the mile under 4 minutes regularly and clock the 100M in under 10secs. Professionalism has had a huge impact on athletics. But cricket has been professional for a very, very long time, and moreover, the "amateur" players were extremely wealthy and lived in a society when it was actually OK to just be a lord or whatever and not do anything for a living other than maintain your estate. These weren't average guys. They had chefs cooking them 5 meals a day, bespoke shoemakers who probably had more expertise than most modern podiatrists, no TV or internet in which to waste their time, and the mental security of knowing that they were basically doing everything for fun and didn't have to worry about a career.

    Look at the number of wealthy, upper class dudes in the SAS. These guys are the best of the best because they are part of the elite that actually has the opportunity to be the best.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    As far as I'm concerned, 'pace' is relative. If everyone's bowling 150km/h, then a bowler hitting that pace really isn't that quick. If everyone's tossing them down at 110km/h and there's a bloke bowling 130km/h, he's quick.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hendrix View Post
    Too much is made of lack of diets and fitness back then. Yes, the average dude was 5'6, but there have been 7 foot bodies found from the stone age. Apart from performance-enhancing drugs, I don't think there have been that significant increases in fitness as it would apply to cricket in the modern era.

    Yes, people run the mile under 4 minutes regularly and clock the 100M in under 10secs. Professionalism has had a huge impact on athletics. But cricket has been professional for a very, very long time, and moreover, the "amateur" players were extremely wealthy and lived in a society when it was actually OK to just be a lord or whatever and not do anything for a living other than maintain your estate. These weren't average guys. They had chefs cooking them 5 meals a day, bespoke shoemakers who probably had more expertise than most modern podiatrists, no TV or internet in which to waste their time, and the mental security of knowing that they were basically doing everything for fun and didn't have to worry about a career.

    Look at the number of wealthy, upper class dudes in the SAS. These guys are the best of the best because they are part of the elite that actually has the opportunity to be the best.
    Yep. And there was a natural strength present in society that isn't there nowadays. The average man probably walked everywhere, chopped a heap of wood, did everything manually that we'd use gadgets or power tools for today etc etc.

    And people might have been shorter on average, but guys like Jack Gregory certainly appear to be as tall as modern quicks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sledger View Post
    If suddenly all the bowlers in the world transformed into Mark Ealham
    Ah, an image straight out of the little book of Richard's wet dreams.


    Say, what happened to eld Dicko, anyway?

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    Request Your Custom Title Now! Flem274*'s Avatar
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    Height =/= pace. Height is going to get you more bounce (which is just as good as pace) but pace is generated by your strength (not just muscles but the gymnastish strength of your body) and your bowling action.

    Neil Wagner and Mitch M both look about 5'11 when they stand next to Taylor, KW and McCullum (6'0, 5'8, 5'7 respectively) and they're both noticeably quicker than Kyle Mills and in the same range or a bit sharper than the very tall Tim Southee. Milne isn't tall tall either and looking overseas, Waqar and Marshall weren't giants.

    On another note, I wouldn't be surprised to see some big disparities in perception v reality if we were able to put past bowlers under the gun. When radars came in and were halfway accurate weren't people amazed at McGrath's lack of pace? And almost every test you see a ball and the commentator goes "woah that was quick!" and then the gun reads 135kph.

    Maybe good bowling just looks and feels faster?

    Anyway this thread is just made for Thierry Henry. Can't believe he hasn't found it yet.
    Last edited by Flem274*; 04-11-2013 at 05:02 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flem274* View Post
    Height =/= pace. Height is going to get you more bounce (which is just as good as pace) but pace is generated by your strength (not just muscles but the gymnastish strength of your body) and your bowling action.

    Neil Wagner and Mitch M both look about 5'11 when they stand next to Taylor, KW and McCullum (6'0, 5'8, 5'7 respectively) and they're both noticeably quicker than Kyle Mills and in the same range or a bit sharper than the very tall Tim Southee. Milne isn't tall tall either and looking overseas, Waqar and Marshall weren't giants.

    On another note, I wouldn't be surprised to see some big disparities in perception v reality if we were able to put past bowlers under the gun. When radars came in and were halfway accurate weren't people amazed at McGrath's lack of pace? And almost every test you see a ball and the commentator goes "woah that was quick!" and then the gun reads 135kph.

    Maybe good bowling just looks and feels faster?

    Anyway this thread is just made for Thierry Henry. Can't believe he hasn't found it yet.
    I think that this might have something to do with how the bowler 'hides' the ball during delivery. I've heard a number of batsman say during interview that they found Brett Lee, Allan Donald, and Shoahib Akhtar easier to face than some slower bowlers because they could watch the ball right from the time the bowler began his run-up, through to the time that it hit the bat. No interuptions.

    By the same token, I've heard numerous batsman complain about the action of Jeff Thomson because the ball got 'lost' behind his body for a second before suddenly reappearing at the end of his 'sling-shot' action. This seemed to have mucked-up their reaction-time.

    As for McGrath, I think that his speed was increased by that excellent 'wrist snap' he gave the ball at the point of delivery. So while his arm appeared to 'come over slow', the extra bounce and seam off the wicket was generated by his wrist-action - as it were.
    Last edited by watson; 04-11-2013 at 08:01 PM.

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    State Vice-Captain schearzie's Avatar
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    What about back foot no ball rule. It's an extra few feet of reaction. Someone like Thommo who was there when they changed the rule iirc in the middle of his career. So as he starts to get slower he has to bowl from further away, poor fella.

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    Quote Originally Posted by schearzie View Post
    What about back foot no ball rule. It's an extra few feet of reaction. Someone like Thommo who was there when they changed the rule iirc in the middle of his career. So as he starts to get slower he has to bowl from further away, poor fella.
    The back foot rule went out in 1962... a little before Thommo's time.

    In various other threads I have queried the assumption that bowlers have become quicker over time. Just on the basis that it clearly isn't true in the past twenty years, and probably not the past 35 years. So why do we assume it was true for every other 20 year period? No-one bowling today is quicker than any of Lee and Akhtar or Donald or Waqar, and not even as fast as the likes of Bishop pre-back-injury.

    Dickie Bird played and watched cricket for 50 years and he reckoned the quickest bowler he ever saw was Tyson, 20+ years before Thommo, Lille and the Windies quicks. Maybe Tyson was just a freak and the average bowler was slower in the 50s than 20 years later, but there seem to have been plenty of these freaks. Gregory, Larwood, Martindale + Constantine, Lindwall, Bartlett... India's fastest ever test bowler probably played before the war.

    I wonder if there is just a reasonable maximum speed you can achieve while still maintaining enough accuracy and technique to get some movement. Without the latter attributes, even the quickest bowler won't get much beyond lower grade cricket. Occasionally someone with particular physical attributes like Lee, Thomson, or Shoaib come along who can break the natural limit, but otherwise the rest of the bowlers will bowl 138-142 at best most of the time.
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