Let’s take a look at some of the hardest hitting and boundary seeking brutal stroke-makers of all time, they have had the distinction of being the best crowd-pullers the world of cricket should be thankful to, for making the game as exciting as it is. The array consists of players who never backed down and countered every possible act of aggression from the bowlers.
The automatic choice when it comes to the first major hitter. The ‘golden boy of cricket’ had everything that makes a world class athlete and even good looks to top it up. When it came to batting he was often labelled a tad irresponsible for the choice of his strokes, but was effective nonetheless. On the uncovered pitches then, he never bothered about his technique, rather he always preferred attacking to let the opposition know his intent. A life transforming service to the Royal Australian air force made him even fearless and very temperamental. His flamboyance came in way of his captaining the baggy green post Bradman, but the ‘Brylcream’ endorser was the one the crowd came in for…..needless to say his bowling had same traits.
If I call him a hooker, don’t take me wrong. Such was his fondness for the hook shot. Someone who played a very aggressive brand of cricket had fantastic duels with the bowlers of that era who loved their halves of the pitch more than the upper half. The same shot did let him down, but could never curb his enthusiasm. Stackpole indeed was one of the fine players square on the legside and did it all while opening the batting.
Herbert, as he was known to his friends was one of the most brutal hitters ever. A left handed middle order batsman for the West Indies who even captained them to become their most successful leader ever. A strongly built man who had a very good defence to back up his ferocious hitting. Lloyd was more than just a hitter, he had a very good hand eye coordination and never backed away from pulling or cutting the ball, even on the grassiest of tracks. He was a good strategician as well.
Mohinder Amarnath recalls a match where he hit Amarnath out of the ground and met the non striker (Viv Richards) halfway down the track only to say that he did not middle the ball, to Amarnath’s horror. He instilled fear amongst opposition and his 1975 world cup final century stands out as his most memorable innings that had brutal strokeplay coupled with some classic drives.
Better known as Chris Cairns’ daddy, a very generously built man who could not defend the ball as well as he could demolish it. He is the only player from his era and an era each either side to boast of a 100+ strike rate. His six sixes against Australia in Melbourne against a very good pace attack led by Lillee is still a legend of sorts after getting hit on the head. He could hit the ball to amazing distances and never cared for staying long enough. A change of format was not good enough to change his approach as he was equally devastating in tests. It was Cairns’ 24 ball 49 that saw them chase down 296 set by England and create a record in 1982/83 after the top order laid the foundation.
“He backs off again and thrashes that one! And that’s cleared Graeme Wood‘s head at mid-off! That’s the sixth one! That must be an incredible bat he’s got! It must be made of extremely good English willow.”
“Very heavy English willow ! And there goes Excalibur into action again! Straight over the top of long-off, one of the most difficult shots in the book and umpire Tony Crafter‘s arms are growing heavy, he’s been putting them above his head so often he’s getting tired!”
His career could never get better after taking a blow on the head from a young Wasim Akram in 1984/85 after he decided to go in without a helmet.
The very sight of this man gave nightmares to most of the bowlers that bowled against him. He always batted to win a battle and never cared for a helmet at a time when grassy pitches were a norm and the world cricket saw a tremendous number of pacers coming up the ranks…..mind you there was no restriction on the number of bouncers per over. He had a brilliant defence to back up and a fantastic eye. He was capable of changing the course of a match in a session as most players of his time recall. The thing that stands out about his hitting is the fact that it was always proper and clean…..hardly rash. He favoured the leg side and loved it when the bowler took it to him. An average of over fifty in test matches says a lot about his batting prowess. But he could easily go down as the fiercest of all hitters to have played the game. One could probably write books on his play, but the thing that stands out is the fact that he never changed his style of play and never compromised on his aggression.
Was an aggressive Indian middle order bat who had a very vulnerable defence, but was a good hitter and great hand-eye coordination. He would aggressively no matter what and loved the slog sweep. His 174 that had a lot of boundaries against Australia after suffering a blow from Len Pascoe in Adelaide is still regarded very highly.
dean Jones would best be remembered for his double hundred under the most trying conditions physically as well as mentally in 1986/87, where he had to be admitted to a local hospital in Chennai( then Madras)…..physically very tough, the Victorian was a very aggressive middle order bat who had a good test match record and an exceptional one-day record not only for his time, but for the modern day as well- he would be a handful. He was very good at using his feet to the spinners in an attempt to not to let the tweakers settle down, but he was perhaps the first modern batsman who used to charge down the track-especially to the fast bowlers and thrash them over his favorite long-leg to mid-wicket zone, also he was very neat square of the wicket. A clean hitter with a very high strike rate, Jones retired earlier than expected, succumbing to injuries and irregularities. But, dean Jones would always be remembered as one of the most refreshing sights in cricket, owing to his aggressive approach.
He was also known as ‘Judge’ for his long-locks, born in South Africa, he moved to England following the footsteps of Allan Lamb. In the opinion of a large chunk of experts, nobody hit the ball harder than him. He had this strong built and high backlift to get all the momentum to pulverise. His weakness against the short ball did him no favour and cut his career short, he was especially given a lot of ‘parfuum(perfume) balls’ by the West Indians and that had him struggling, but whenever he could, he would do his thing to full effect. Having said that, he had liking to pacers (despite the caveat)and struggled against tweakers a lot. His trademark would be the square cut that reached the fence in no time virtually.
His remarkably attacking style of play was what made the first 15 overs critical in ODIs. He was a menace to most opening bowlers who relied on good direction and length, as he often contorted it through his brutal style. He was exceptional square of the wicket and never minded keeping the ball on the ground, 1996 world cup has to be his moment of reckoning. He hit a lot of boundaries and knew how to convert the good starts. He has even held the record for the fastest century in 48 balls before Shahid Afridi overtook him. A special liking for pacers was a good virtue indeed as he was decent against spinners, this made him a very dangerous player. He has a highest test score of 340 and a highest ODI score of 189…..a fact that proves his ability to score big and score fast.
The baseball stance of his made it very obvious what his style of play was. Someone who could hit the ball as hard as anybody and take calculated risks the way he did, was a big asset. The player of the tournament in 1999 world cup was a fabulous hitter who tended to hit harder when the bowl was bowled faster. Was particularly weak against spinners.
Totally unorthodox and raw hitting at its best is what this pathan brings to the table. Shahid Afridi has been perhaps the longest lasting hitter of them all with a career spanning over 15 years. Making his mark with a record breaking 37 ball hundred, he was recognised as a batsman after that special one off innings of his while bowling was his strength. He was made to open the innings at the beginning of his career to take advantage of field restriction in ODIs and attacking fields in tests, but he failed to make the major impact. He however manages to pull out special innings time and again, here and there, but with no consistency whatsoever. He hits it big and hits it hard, Afridi is one of the most feared of the modern hitters as he takes no prisoners.
Perhaps the only batsman who has been able to replicate the fear factor that Viv Richards brought to the table to some extent, primarily because of his imposing presence and technique to back up the hard and long hitting. A player who meditated his way out of inconsistency and became Australia’s finest opening batsman has to be there in the list, which otherwise would have a major chapter missing. He intimidated all the bowlers of his time and even charged down the track to pacers who bowled briskly enough. Has a fantastic record to put him amongst the greatest of all time.
The most ferocious hitter of this era, reminds everyone of Clive Lloyd owing to his build and stance and ferocity, but when Gayle hits the ball hard, it does make an impact. The Jamaican is the first man to hit a T20 century and it is a format that suits him the best. Like all great hitters he too is plagued by inconsistency and happened to play for a West Indies side that struggled a lot, but the hitting does make impact every now and then. He does all that with the heaviest bat in the cricketing fraternity in his hands, weighing at 3 pounds and a bit more.