Who will be the next great 82mph bouncer bowler now that Neil Wagner has retired?

Who will be the next great 82mph bouncer bowler now that Neil Wagner has retired?


2 minute read

Everyone has a favourite batter. Everyone has a favourite fast bowler. Everyone also has a favourite fast-medium short ball workhorse bowler… and it’s always Neil Wagner, because no-one else in the history of cricket has ever made that work.

Unique cricketers usually stand out for very obviously freakish physical reasons. Muttiah Muralitharan is the most obvious example. Only the tiniest proportion of people on Earth are physically capable of moving their body in the way that made his off-wrist-spin possible.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul is another. No-one else has ever seen fit to employ Shiv’s Artful-Dodger-with-rickets batting technique. Lasith Malinga and his horizontal arm also come to mind.

But Wagner? Or to give him his full name, The Great Neil Wagner? He was a left-armer, yes, but his action was unremarkable, his height was unremarkable and his speed was right in the fattest part of the bell curve of professional seam bowlers. He was actually once clocked at 160km/h, but it turned out this was down to interference from a seagull.

Just imagine for a moment being the coach of a very young Wagner as he explains how he plans to take 260 Test wickets at 27.57.

“I’m going to bounce them out.”

“Um… okay? You know you’re not exactly express pace, right, Neil?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Um, I think it does. Are you planning to surprise batters with the occasional lifter or something?”

“No, I’m going to bowl pretty much nothing but short balls.”

“Do you really think you’re going to be trusted with the new ball with that approach?”

“I’m going to do it with the old ball.”

“Okay…”

“And I’m going to bowl 15-over spells.”

“Right.”

Neil Wagner is unique because he made this method work in defiance of all history and logic. He did it so well that he earned the highest honour in cricket when he was named Lord Megachief of Gold 2019.

Almost anyone could bowl like Neil Wagner, yet no-one has ever before succeeded by doing so, and we find it very hard to believe that anyone ever will again.

Wagner was his own brand of unique. Uniquely unique, if you will.

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