No one who follows cricket can fail to be fascinated by the prodigious figure, part gargoyle, part avenging angel, of the express pace bowler.’
In The Pacemen, Drew Forrest celebrates the elite of South Africa’s fast bowlers, from the tragic ‘Krom’ Hendricks in the late 19th century to the trailblazing Vernon Philander in the 21st, providing a snapshot of their social and playing backgrounds and their characters.
Here, in chronologically arranged sketches, is South Africa’s rich and varied pace tradition: the fast bowler as the express-pace warrior-champion, in the awe-inspiring figures of Neil Adcock, Peter Pollock, Mike Procter, Allan Donald and Dale Steyn; the masters of swing and seam, in the style of Norman Gordon, Vince van der Bijl, Stephen Jefferies, Fanie de Villiers and Shaun Pollock; and the impact bowlers and partnership-breakers, such as JJ Kotze, Jacques Kallis and Brian MacMillan.
Also placed under the spotlight are the casualties of the fast bowling world, including Lindsay Tuckett and Lance Klusener, who briefly flared and faded, their careers curtailed by injury and overbowling. Others fell victim to South Africa’s political turbulence, forced by racialised sport to the margins or into exile, in the manner of Eric Petersen and Dik Abed, or condemned, like Clive Rice and Garth le Roux, to forfeit dazzling test careers to the international sanctions of the 1980s.
The Pacemen is a rejoinder to those who seek to efface from the record the great players of the pre-1992 era, black and white. It argues for a player-centred perspective, rather than one driven by the struggle politics of a bygone era, and shows how the fast bowlers of the present owe a large debt to those of the past.
‘The Pacemen contains fascinating stories of the antics of fast bowlers, their sledging, the fear, pain and suffering they cause, the expectations and excitement they generate in the crowd.’ – Clive Rice