NEW DELHI: With Twenty20 cricket gaining more prominence and with the game of cricket increasingly tilting towards the batsmen, bowlers are finding it more and more difficult to compete with the willow wielders. With rigorous scheduling and the ever increasing fitness demands of the sport, it is the bowlers perhaps who face the largest brunt of physical exertion and performance issues with the change in formats.
And due to this most international teams have identified the bowlers they want to field for each format. While the experienced lot is taking care of the longest and the fifty-over formats, new faces are now being given more and more chances in the shortest version of the game.
But there was a time when the statistic of most wickets in a calendar year made for very interesting reading, like most runs.
TimesofIndia.com here takes a look at the top five bowlers with most wickets in a calendar year, which includes all three formats – Tests, ODIs and T20Is combined. Interestingly, the latest statistic in this top five list is a record from 2009, eleven years ago.
Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) – 136 wickets in 2001
Spin great Muttiah Muralitharan was devastating throughout his international career. Be it home or overseas, Muralitharan was one of the few bowlers who wasn’t overly dependent on ground and weather conditions. And it was his supreme self confidence combined with the incredible bowling skills that the legendary off-spinner took Sri Lanka to unparalleled heights during his glorious career. In the process, in 2001, the world saw the most prolific of Muralitharan, when the magician took a total of 136 wickets — the highest ever by a bowler in a calendar year. Muralitharan played 12 Tests and 33 ODIs in that year and he excelled in both formats, across continents. In a total of 1089.5 overs that Murali bowled during this period, the spinner had a brilliant economy rate of 2.49 overall and also bowled a total of 245 maiden overs. His best Test figures that year were 8/87 against India during the third Test in Colombo in August-September. He also finished the year with eight 5-wicket hauls and four 10-wicket hauls, both formats combined.
Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka) – 128 wickets in 2006
After creating a world record of becoming the highest wicket-taker in a calendar year across formats in 2001, Muttiah Muralitharan almost pulled off an encore five years later in 2006, when he took a total of 128 wickets in the 40 Tests and 30 ODIs combined, he played in that the year. In the 40 innings of 10 Tests and 30 ODIs, Muralitharan took wickets at an impressive strike rate of 40, and an average of 20.99. Even though Murali comparatively bowled fewer overs as in 2001 — 854.2 in 2006, but his wicket-taking ability had a striking resemblance when compared to the performance of 2001. With best bowling figures of 8/70 in the year, Murali also helped Sri Lanka win the third Test against England in Nottingham by 134 runs. 147 maiden overs also helped Murali maintain an impressive economy of 3.14. With a total of nine 5-wicket hauls/innings and five 10-wickets match hauls, Muralitharan bettered his 2001 performance on that front.
Shane Warne (Australia) – 120 wickets in 1994
Australian spin King Shane Warne was an absolute legend with the ball in hand. Throughout his glorious career there were innumerable occasions, when Warne bamboozled and floored the opposition with immaculate bowling. With his many variations combined with sharp match reading skills, Warne for a majority part of his career, remained one of the most feared bowlers in world cricket. Warne’s most prolific wicket taking year was 1994, just two years after his debut in 1992, when he took a total of 120 international wickets. It was the unforgettable year of 1994, when Warne stamped his authority on international cricket. In a total of 39 matches that included 10 Tests and 29 ODIs, Warne bowled a total of 902.2 oversin 1994 and took those 120 wickets at an impressive average of 19.32. Warne’s overall Test career’s best figures of 8/71 were also registered during this period in the first Ashes Test against England in Brisbane in November 1994. With a total of six 5-wicket hauls and two 10-wicket match hauls (Test match) Warne had an unforgettable year in ’94.
Glenn McGrath (Australia) – 119 wickets in 1999
Another Australian war-horse, Glenn McGrath, regarded as one of the best in Australian cricket history, was an exceptional pacer, who not only single-handedly won matches for the country but was also an inspirational figure for others to look up to. After making his debut in 1993, McGrath consistently worked on his bowling to becomeon of the most consistent bowlers in world cricket. In 1999, McGrath hit top form, taking a total of 119 wickets in 41 international matches — the fourth highest wickets tally in a calendar year. In the 14 Tests and 27 ODIs that McGrath played during this period, the legendary pacer stamped his authority on the game, across continents. From the Caribbean islands to sub-continent conditions, to his home country, McGrath registered one impressive figure after another. His best ODI figures in 1999 were an incredible 5/14, registered in an ODI against West Indies in Manchester. With six 5-wicket hauls and one 10-wicket match haul, McGrath was on top of the world and his cricket prowess in the year 1999.
Mitchell Johnson (Australia) – 113 wickets in 2009
Australian speed merchant Mitchell Johnson terrorized opposition batsmen for many years. From sending down terrifying bouncers to toe-crushing yorkers, the left arm pacer throughout his time in the park was an absolute treat to watch. A born-athlete, Johnson was at his prolific best in the year 2009, when he took 113 wickets in a total of 47 international matches. In the 13 Tests, 30 ODIs and 4 T20Is that Johnson played in 2009, the pacer emerged as the best that year. And with a total of 20 wickets in the Ashes in England, which also included 5/69 — his best Test figures of the year — Johnson proved his mettle in the international arena. Even though the left-arm speedster only had a couple of 5-wicket hauls that year and no 10-wicket hauls, but consistent performances across formats and stepping up his game at crucial junctures, helped Johnson clinch those 113 wickets at an impressive average of 28.18.