Who is the best bowler in the world in cricket?

In the modern era, spinners are ruling the bowling charts in all formats but one bowler has dominated totally.

R Ashwin celebrates a wicket. (Image credit: Twitter)
By Siddharth vishwanathan | Mar 16, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

When one looks at the history of cricket and bowling, there have been pace bowlers who have dominated for most periods. In Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand and to a certain extent Pakistan, fast bowlers have ruled the roost. In England, there have been greats of the game like Sydney Barnes, Fred Spofforth, Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman, Ian Botham, Bob Willis and the current lot of James Anderson and Stuart Broad who are dominating.

For Australia, Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Craig McDermott, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins have been dominant. Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander have been brilliant for South Africa. Fazal Mahmood, Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and now Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi are carrying the pace mantle ahead for Pakistan.

The West Indies also had initimidating pacers. Wes Hall, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh were all legends. Even New Zealand has seen great pacers like Sir Richard Hadlee, Danny Morrison, Shane Bond, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Lockie Ferguson. Currently, Kyle Jamieson is in an interesting prosepect.

However, in the modern era with three different formats, spin bowlers are still ruling the roost in all three formats. Be it in T20Is, ODIs or Tests, it is legspin and offspin that is dominating across formats.

Spin demons in all formats

If one studies the best bowlers since 2016 in all formats, then spinners occupy the top spot. In Tests, India’s Ravichandran Ashwin has taken 218 wickets at an average of 25. After his exploits in the Chennai Test, he has overtaken Australia’s Nathan Lyon, who has more wickets than the pacers. In ODIs, Afghanistan legspinner Rashid Khan has taken 135 wickets at a sensational average of 18. The fact that he is leading the charts is ample testament to Afghanistan’s rise in world cricket. The second bowler in the list is also a legspinner. Adil Rashid of England has been in sensational form with 133 wickets at an average of 29.6.

When one looks at T20I bowlers, once again spinners rule when one considers 50 wickets. Rashid again dominated with 87 wickets. The other spinners with over 50 wickets in five years are Yuzvendra Chahal, Shadab Khan, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi. There are only two pacers in the list.

Combination of all three

But, when one does a combination of all three formats, then pace rules. Kagiso Rabada of South Africa has the most wickets combined in the five years with 318 wickets. No other bowler in the period has more than 300 wickets. When one does a combination of all formats, then it is the pacers who are dominating.

Apart from Rabada, Boult, Starc, Cummins, Bumrah, Southee, Mohammed Shami, James Anderson, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and Jason Holder are the pacers who have dominated in this period. Thus, when one individually looks at formats, then spinners rule. In Tests, it is R Ashwin who is the best currently in the world. In ODIs and T20Is, it is the Afghan sensation called Rashid Khan currently.

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