How good is Yasir Shah? Although Pakistan lost the recent Test to England, by a huge margin,the cricketing story of the year is still the new leg spinner.
In only his first nine Test matches Shah reached 50 wickets — the fastest Pakistan player to do so, and only bettered by four other players this century.
He is currently on 87 wickets in 14 Tests — the quickest to 100 is 16 matches, a record set over 120 years ago. The quickest in modern cricket is 18 Tests, by Ravichandran Ashwin of India. Shah may well beat that.
Does being quick off the mark set a course for greatness? As a late starter in Test cricket and already 30, Shah won’t be able go on to match the feats of the great spinners Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan, who took 708 and 800 wickets respectively.
However, fast starts in Test cricket don’t seem to count for that much. Very few of the bowlers who took 100 wickets in 20 matches or fewer are in the top of the list of all-time wicket-takers.
The graphic shows how the best bowlers of all time accumulated their wickets — showing those with 300 or more. From Test seven onwards, Shah is ahead of everybody. A slower start didn’t stop Warne and Muralitharan getting to the top. Only Anil Kumble and Sir Ian Botham had over 70 wickets after 14 Tests, and that’sstill behind Shah on 87.
Shah doesn’t have the time to realistically get over 500 wickets, but given his current pace, and that spinners often play longer than fast bowlers, perhaps 300 isn’t out of the question. Great start, no question.