A West Indies international from 1997-2005, Mervyn Dillon was initially perceived as the heir apparent to West Indies greats like Courtney Walsh and Curtley Ambrose. Born in Toco – a seaside town on the northern side of Trinidad – Mervyn Dillon evolved into a tall, lean, fast-medium bowler and a barely competent lower order batsman. He even possessed a high-arm action that once caught the eye of the illustrious Malcolm Marshall in 1996.
Dillon was discarded by West Indies selectors at the age of 31; the victim of unreasonably high expectations. Dillon’s statistics reveal that he was a good stock bowler who can be expected to deliver wickets. However, he also served up many juicy full-tosses, half-volleys and harmless bouncers to grateful batsmen.
Geoff Boycott remarked that Dillon bowled great wicket-taking deliveries, but served up too many “four balls’ that made him expensive.
In his career, Dillon took 131 wickets in 38 Test matches with an average of 33.57. His ODI returns were 130 wickets from 108 matches with an economy rate of 4.61. While “Big Merv” was no rabbit with the bat, his batting was at times comical and over-ambitious. He even appeared as if he would threaten Courtney Walsh’s record for highest number of “ducks” in a Test match.
Although his returns from international cricket made him an above-average cricketer, Dillon’s efforts were often overlooked because he was not the strike bowler that the W.I. selectors felt that he should be. He was the strike bowler for Trinidad and performed very well in this capacity. At Test level, however, Mervyn Dillon was a stock bowler who could take wickets. Expectations of him were perhaps too high.
A comparison to one of the current crop of bowlers shows that the parlous state of West Indies cricket is due to fundamental problems and is not merely an issue of finding better bowlers than Dillon. Daren Powell- considered a strike bowler in the 2008 team- took a grand total of 73 wickets after 30 Test matches at a poor average of 47.28 (up to December 12, 2008). This would have been acceptable if Daren Powell was not a “rabbit” with the bat. Powell needed 82 balls on average to get a wicket in a Test match compared to 66.4 for Dillon.
The high-arm action of Mervyn Dillon was truly a beauty to behold. In his prime, Dillon was able to deliver genuinely quick deliveries with speeds of up to 140 km/hr. His consistency in ball placement often left a lot to be desired. However, Mervyn Dillon’s West Indies career was cut short prematurely by those who felt that younger, quicker bowlers should be given a chance. The fact that these younger, quicker bowlers pale in comparison to Mervyn Dillon is an emphatic indictment of West Indies cricket.
An international comeback for Mervyn Dillon is highly unlikely at the age of 35 (in 2009). He has not retired from First-class cricket, but has stepped aside to allow younger fast bowlers to emerge from Trinidad and Tobago. Even in the twilight of his career, “Big Merv” still has many overs left in him.