Len Pascoe

'I liked to see fear in a batsman'

He rose fast, he fell fast. Len Pascoe talks about the love of his life, fast bowling

Interview by Nagraj Gollapudi  |  

"The batsman kept me from everything I wanted in life. He was just in my lane" © Getty Images

My imagination about cricket was very fertile even before I decided to take the up the game seriously. As a 12-year-old I would be listening to the radio at night with [John] Arlott and [Brian] Johnston giving the ball-by-ball of how the Australian team was doing in England.

I never hated the batsman. The batsman kept me from everything I wanted in life. He was just in my lane - the more batsmen I went past, the more I was going to get forward.

Bill O'Reilly gave me some very good advice. He said, "Son, aim at that off stump, hit the seam, hit the keeper's gloves as hard as you can."

Viv Richards was just awesome: he would destroy you mentally, physically and emotionally if you did not get on top of him.

Isn't genius associated with madness? To be a really, really good player there needs to be an element of the maniac about you. So it is with the fast bowler, where you are being pushed to the limits. There is a fine line between dropping over on one side and just giving the impression that you are losing it.

The guys today are far more professional than in our time.

I was the 12th man for New South Wales in the 1975-76 season. We were playing against Western Australia at the SCG. Dennis Lillee had bowled for a session and a half on a very hot day. During one of the drinks breaks I walked all the way from the centre of the wicket to the far end to give Dennis some water, even though he was in the opposition. I said, "Never mind, you'll be given a break soon." He looked at me, took the jug, poured the entire contents on my boots, and said, "You don't take wickets from fine leg." Within six months we were bowling together.

Of all the fast bowlers, I wanted to be like Fred Trueman. He was a colourful, strong person.

In the beginning fast bowling was about progression. It was like being caught in a rip in the water - you are going with the flow. I found myself being picked in teams - I didn't know why. I didn't know if I really wanted to be.

I came from a European background, so there were some small barriers to be crossed.

It is very hard to explain to someone who can't do it. A fast bowler runs off 30 paces and builds up momentum. By the time he hits the crease, he has a full-blooded sprint, and leaps up and lets go with all the venom he can muster. And then you see the ball swing as it flies over the off stump, the batsman is late into the shot, and it cannons into the keeper's glove. It is a special, special feeling. Shoaib Akhtar knows it, Brett Lee knows it, Thommo knew it, Lillee knew it. It is an adrenalin rush.

I never liked the spotlight.

The first time I was picked in any meaningful side was when I played for New South Wales Colts. I was 18-and-a-half. I took a hat-trick on a no-ball, broke a bloke's arm, knocked out another bloke. And I was the first-change bowler. Dave Renneberg was retiring, and NSW were looking for fast bowlers. I went to school with Jeff Thomson then. He had already been part of the Australian schoolboys' team, and I'd got a jump on him. But I wasn't interested.

Long spells or short spells, it doesn't matter.

If the umpire was incompetent I would let him know, and that got me into a lot of hot water. I did that because I felt if I was working hard to reach a certain standard, I expected the same from the people who adjudicated on my peers and me.

A fast bowler gives a team energy.

"Isn't genius associated with madness? To be a really, really good player there needs to be an element of the maniac about you"

When I played international cricket I mellowed a lot because I realised there was a lot of responsibility riding on my shoulders. There were people back home who could be affected by the things you said and did.

I liked to see fear in a batsman, but I didn't want to see him hurt.

A good fast bowler has to be mentally very strong, physically fit, and needs to possess a sense of killer instinct. More importantly he needs to have a love for bowling quick - that will get you through when you are sore, when it is a hot day and others don't want to bowl.

To me the most dangerous and fearsome fast bowler was Jeff Thomson.

The Centenary Test was one of my best matches from the results point of view, but not the cricket. On the morning of the match they told me that I was going to open the bowling with Lillee, and Jeff was the 12th man. I was going up the steps of Lord's and Jeff was coming down. I checked with him if he had heard, and he said, "Yeah." I said, "Mate, it is not right. You and Dennis should be opening the bowling in a Centenary Test. I'm going to pull a hamstring, so you put your boots on." He said, "If you pull one I'll pull one too." So, when I went out there I bowled for both of us and ended up taking five wickets in the match.

I would never finish a nets session on a note that was anything but what I wanted.

Today technology is forever infiltrating the private world of a bowler. So you have to be honing yourself all the time, and be mentally strong.

If you are a good bowler you can take wickets on any pitch.

I miss fast bowling every day.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo