Saturday, 26 February 2011

Pakistan's Fast Bowling Legacy Continues By Umer Rana

It was winter of 07 here in Pakistan; Pakistan cricket team was on South African tour and one nil down in the series of three tests. Everyone was talking about the Shoaib’s return in Port Elizabeth, as it turned out Shoaib was in team and he bowled one of his fiery spell to produce 4 wickets and as a result South Africa bowled out for 124 in just two sessions or so. I was following the game on the South African channel Super Sport and in lunch interval for review, there was a Black Zimbabwean commentator as expect (I do not remember his name but surely he was not Pommy, if any one knows his name please do let me know). Host asked him about the great Pakistani fast bowlers. In reply to my surprise, he described Shoaib Akthar as a last great Pakistani fast bowler, I just shouted spontaneously million miles away,”In your dreams son, what would you know about the factory of fast bowlers in Pakistan”. As it turned out, Asif bowled a canny skillful spell in second innings to set up the match. After little gap, Pakistan keep on bring out new youngsters with flying hair, knocking people over and causing real sensation in cricket viewers all over the world.
Indeed, Pakistan had been and is the real factory of fast bowlers, whereas India and Sri Lanka madly looking for even single quality fast man for support of Zaheer and Malinga, there are rows of young fast bowlers coming out from Pakistan. It has nothing to do with the conditions, pitches, domestic cricket in fact condition are so hot that never suited to bodies of fast bowlers just imagine bowling fast in mid 40’s, pitches are so bare and unfriendly that fast have to do everything with their own skills no response from deck like playing cricket on road and domestic structure is as poor as it can possibly can be anywhere around world but it has everything to do with culture of fast bowling that we have here in Pakistan. The mind set of fast bowlers and coaches is totally different from that in whole world. For example, everywhere in world, coaches tell the fast bowlers to maintain line and length by cutting down pace but here in Pakistan when a fast bowler emerges first thing people look at is his pace and it is general rule, if you are in Pakistan and you have no great pace, you have no place in Pakistan cricket unless or until you are not Asif. Another and most prominent feature of Pakistani fast bowlers is reverse swing and bowling at depth of innings. Everyone knows about the reverse swing in his modern age but no one able to use the reverse swing to the other than Flintoff and Jones that to only in one series. At a time, when world is looking for new inventions for death bowling slower bouncer and different sort of things. Even today, world’s best fast bowler Dale Steyn goes for plenty in death overs despite of using his all his armory of different type of slow ball and bouncers, but for Pakistani fast bowlers’ yorkers with plenty of tail in is way to go. Pakistan stands a mile ahead of world in death fast bowling and no one here in Pakistan accepts the excuse from any fast bowler that he cannot bowl yorker over and over again, as experienced lately Asif, who was evenly left out from the limited overs XI before English tour. If you see yorkers of other bowlers and Pakistani fast bowler straight away difference is realized. Even in best in business of yorkers Malinga does not have menace like that Waqar, Wasim or even for that matter Shaoib and Gull has. There is something special in yorker of Pakistani as compared to non Pakistani, plenty of reverse, a lot of effort and mostly getting stumps on the way to keeper.
Pakistan probably had the best fast bowling opening attack and certainly the best bowling fast bowling attack before the start of September last year and outbreak of spot fixing scandal which itself has not decided its fait even after 5 months. Even without the most skillful bowler of the world of the world cricket which stands head and shoulders above the other bowlers of his generation in Asif and one the brightest talents in the game of last two decades in Amir, Pakistan bowling attack comprising of Shoiab, Gul, Wahab and Tanvir looks better than the most bowling attacks in World Cup. There are rows of young quick men in pipe lines likes of Junaid, Talha, Rameez, Asad Ali and many more. Latest of Pakistani net picks Abdul Haq, who looks to be a fine fast bowler but probably needs a season or two before he is thrown into team. Many made their judgments in just two games about Irfan that he is not international material, which is not right at all. Two games are not good enough to judge a bowler; he was played when he was not 100% and I have seen him bowl in full flow and he was just unplayable, getting awkward bounce from length. He definitely deserves another chance but unfortunately, he found himself in the setup where there many fine fast men waiting for their opportunity and his next chance looks far away for the moment now.
What does catalyze this fast bowlers production? It is mystery to many because pitches, domestic and climate goes totally against them in big way, pitches are so dead that even once great Dennis Lillee called them grave yard for fast bowlers yet if you have under age group cricket trials anywhere in Pakistan, you will find more children willing to bowl fast than that with will to bat. Similarly, a Pakistani fan enjoys more a fast bowler charging in hitting people on heads and sending stumps for rides to keeper with toe crushers than a batsman smacking a sweet cover drive for a four. Fast bowling is the mentality of the whole nation, a prime example is that of Umar Akmal and Amir, both young guys of same age more or less made their debut at same time. Despite of the greater early success of Umar compared to Amir, fast bowler remained the masses’ favorite in Pakistan.
Pakistani fast bowling history has its deeps roots; to me it started all in 70’s when a young man made his debut in 71 called Imran Khan. All though, Pakistan had fast bowling heroes likes of Fazal and Sarfaz before him but Imran revolutionized the fast bowling in the Pakistan like no one has ever done in this world any field and probably no one ever will. Before him there was not no concept of all and all out fast bowlers in Pakistan but he introduced the raw pace by transforming himself and how use this pace to rattle the best in the business. Sarfaz may have discovered the art of reverse swing but Imran just perfected the art. He handpicked fast bowlers likes of Wasim, Waqar and Aqib who served Pakistan cricket for many years. Aqib was not lucky enough because of some more capable bowlers making inroads in the team like of Shoaib and Zahid. Imran passed his heritage of attacking fast bowling and reverse swing to W’s which is pretty much in its exact shape as it was two generations ago in Imran’s time. Most importantly, Imran with his charming personality left a glittering legacy which has lasting effect even now after two generations after him. That is the reason why, even today’s Pakistani fast bowlers think Imran as their mentor and role model. The difference in Pakistan and other Asian countries is that Pakistan had Imran Khan a hero, a role model and a guiding beacon which lighten the young fast bowlers. Imran is the truly the best thing a cricketing country can have because he has given his country what no one even Bradman has given to Australia, a complete culture of fast bowling. This is why to me; he is the greatest cricketer of the world. Once he, set the tone there were many to follow and take the torch forward likes of Wasim, Waqar, Aqib, Zahid and Shoaib. Now it has become a phenomenon which induces itself like virus. This virus is having more and more capable patients quick and fast.
Another important thing which is most fruitful for fast bowling culture is tape tennis ball cricket common known as tape ball cricket. Every Pakistani cricketer plays tape bowl cricket even before playing with regular cricket ball. Having played it for many years, I can tell it is really tough for bowlers. The thing most need in tape bowl is raw pace and it makes all the bowlers to use every bit of power and bowl fast. Even with pace if you do not have almost perfect yorker or well disguised slow ball you can go for as many sixes as many times you miss both these deliveries. I have seen people go for six sixes in over that to nearly bowling almost perfect yorkers that good are some hitters. As a result, tape ball cricket develops the pace of bowlers and minimum margin of error. It is perfect early development of the bowler who has to ball at pace. Tape ball is the reason why, Pakistan always had little bit more pace to work with it tank.
Faces may change but I can assure you Pakistani fast bowling reserves are in safe hands especially with Imran army’s favorite sons Aqib and Waqar in charge. Fast bowling has now found its place in the Pakistani blood; new upcoming young Pakistanis fast bowlers will continue to thrill the world with famous Pakistani reverse swinging yorkers and breathe taking bouncers. Every Pakistani is proud of this great fast bowling legacy and really has given the nation some of most glorious moments.

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