In a South African cricket context, it is hard to imagine anyone looking down – even if it is just right – at Vintcent van der Bijl.
But if one is to believe their “official” talk-of-the-tape statistics, Proteas’ recently completed test fast bowler Marco Jansen (2.03 meters) can claim the mantle as the tallest SA national player in history.
Klerksdorp-born Jansen, 21, was a somewhat surprising inclusion – although he rarely offered, left-arm variation for the tempo attack – in the SA team for the first test against India, which is currently on the move in SuperSport Park.
The popular “Big Vince”, who reportedly measured 2.02 m, never played the recognized test cricket for the country when his heyday came during South Africa’s apartheid-induced years of isolation between 1970 and 1992.
But he was shut down under the pre-unity SA Cricket Union (SACU) banner for unofficial home tests against Graham Gooch’s English rebel side in 1981/82.
Van der Bijl, now 73 and considered by many critics globally to be one of the best tempo men who has not played in the Orthodox Test arena, got 767 wickets to 16.54 in a glittering first-class career for Natal, Transvaal and Middlesex.
The almost undisputed record holder for the tallest test cricketer in the world is Pakistan’s Mohammad Irfan, another left-arm bowler: although his numbers vary from one source to another, he is believed to stand at around a remarkable 2.15m.
Irfan played four Tests (but many more white-ball internationals) for his country – all in 2013 and against South Africa, either on our soil or in the United Arab Emirates.
But if Jansen’s estimated 2.03m is accurate, Warrior’s youngsters are potentially face to face with two other well-known former figures from the test landscape who come in at his height (and in a possible second place across the planet to Irfan): Joel Garner and Bruce Reid.
The former, nicknamed “Big Bird” and whose hand ominously tended to disappear across many sightscreens when bowling, was part of a legendary West Indian tempo arsenal in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including people like Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft and Malcolm Marshall.
But for the closest physical equivalent, given their noticeably pencil-slim build, Jansen has more in common with Reid, the Australian with the bean bar who also bowled with his left arm and operated on 27 tests – though he was pursued by injuries – between 1985 and 1992.
Although he played his entire international career for England, the late all-rounder Tony Greig was about two meters tall and came from Queenstown (now Komani) in the Eastern Cape.
The famous TV commentator died in Australia, aged 66, in 2012.
For a good idea of how impressive Jansen is in terms of height, he stands far taller than another famous “skyscraper” of fairly recent SA test attacks, the now retired Morne Morkel.
He measured 1.96 m and represented the Proteas in 86 tests (2006-18).
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