Pace attack July 26, 2007

Fast bowlers, Kerry Packer, and the power of role models


Reading Mohammad Asif’s interview on Cricinfo—with his reference to the diet of the Punjab—reminded me that we are far from a convincing explanation for Pakistan’s relative abundance of fast bowlers compared with India. Asif’s explanation, which happens to be a common view among many people both sides of the border, is unsustainable. India and Pakistan are countries divided by a line drawn by humans not by dint of physical or dietary attributes. Indeed, India has had several bowlers who have periodically touched high speeds. Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar are examples.

I have an alternative theory: the power of the role model. In the early years Pakistan enjoyed the luxury of higher quality swing and seam bowling than might have been expected of the fledglings of world cricket. You couldn’t, however, have called them express pacemen. Sarfraz Nawaz, the godfather of reverse swing—and probably much else besides—was nothing more than fast medium from an enormous crazy-horse run. His rookie partner was a medium pace inswing bowler, Imran Khan.

When Imran and the other glitterati of Pakistan cricket joined Kerry Packer’s circus, they mixed with the game’s best and fastest bowlers. Clearly Imran was highly self-motivated and focused, but the Packer experience helped him understand the standard he and his country had to reach to compete at international level.

Post Packer, Imran became a true role model as fast bowler, captain, and glamour boy. Without him would we have had Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis? Probably yes, but in the way they developed, probably not. Without Imran, Wasim and Waqar would we have Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif? I guess not. It is interesting how many Indian fast bowlers also point to Wasim, in particular, as a role model.

All of which leads me to a troublesome conclusion. If you accept my hypothesis about the power of role model, what example are Shoaib and Asif setting? Shoaib’s unprofessional attitude has become legend, and an intermittent maestro is an unsatisfactory role model. Both of them have been tainted by the drugs scandal. Under a new captain, coach, and reprieve from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Pakistan cricket has the look of somebody who has cheated the electric chair: bewildered euphoria.

Shoaib and Asif must now become role models who will inspire their team but also the future fast bowlers of Pakistan, a serious responsibility. We will now discover if they are capable of greatness like the role models who went before them.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on May 16, 2008, 8:41 GMT

    Hey guys if any of you remember the final of the under 19 world cup 2006, you may remember the trio of anwar, jamshaid and imad.....why aren't any of the under 19 players given a chance in the senior squad? The BCCi was quick to bring in rohit sharma into the Indian squad. Pakistan needs pace bowlers then i don't c anything wrong with bringing in the pace trio that won Pakistan u 19 the world cup of 2006.

  • testli5504537 on August 20, 2007, 20:18 GMT

    I agree with your viewpoint on the importance of role models. The youngsters relate to international players at a very early age and try and emulate not only that player's game but also their attitude and temperament. Players like Flintoff, Shoaib, Gibbs amongst many others who constantly misbehave in public set very deep impressions in the minds of youngsters who idolize them and want to be like them. With great power comes great responsibility. Let me add that if I had any say with regards to the selection in international teams, the selections would be based on the highest level of professionalism and not talent and skill alone. I have full confidence that our sport doesn't need hooligans and controversies to increase its viewership. There are just way too many hard-working, well-behaved and spirited cricketers always waiting for a chance at the top level for us to worry about the 'bad boys' of cricket.

  • testli5504537 on August 5, 2007, 12:15 GMT

    Mr Javed A.Khan

    Imran Khan does the right thing by praising the youning players.What wrong thing has he done by admiring YOUNIS ASIF nd SAMI? Kelvin Pietersen is the fastest to reach 1000 ODI runs.He is the 2nd highest point scorer in ICC rankings after 25 Test matches only DONALD BRADMAN is above him.Pietersen has scored against Magrath MURLI WARNEetc and has proved him self in difficult and demanding conditions.I think you have forgotten what ASIF did against him.ASIF is in top 10 in bowlers ranking after just 9 tests and he will be on very top in the list of best strike rates after bowling 2000 deliveries. Younis is in top 10 in rankings and has scored a lot of runs in last two years thats the reason YORKSHIRE signed him. What Imran has done wrong by praising them.Dont foget he has a great telent identifing eye had he identified WASIM WAQAR AND INZAMAM. In case of SAMI he gives reason that he is not successful because of Inzamam's defensive captaincy.Dont forget that Imran used WASIM AND WAQAR as attacking bowlers and made them great bowlers. Asif can be arole model.He has only played 9 tests and he should not be criticized.Those who say that he caant be a role model should not forget that he is new to international cricket. WASIM AND WAQAR became greats after playing about 100 tests. In making Imran a hero his education is a factor.People also like his other qualities expect playing.

  • testli5504537 on August 5, 2007, 6:02 GMT

    For Mohd Asif

    Karachi A overpowers Lahore D 6-1

    Football need more power and strenght. who is physically better? You decided.

    Your statement is impropriate. Allah gave every one ability to perform. Always thanks to Allah who gave u apportunity and after that also thanks to ur domicile who helped you to become part of Pakistan cricket team.

    Gulab Khan Peshawer

  • testli5504537 on August 3, 2007, 5:31 GMT

    I don't understand the negative comments about Asif. He is the best hope for Pakistan in next 5 years or so. He is young and needs time to learn to face the media. Wasim and Waqar were lucky to be groomed under Imran and that is why it is so important to make some one like Wasim or Waqar as bowling coach or manager to groom these young cricketers. Fast bowling is about physical and mental strength, aggression and art of swing. Who ever have all these attributes and work hard on his fitness can be a good fast bowler. More bowlers are from Punjab because 60% population is Punjab and there might be a more interest in youth for fast bowling than other areas.

  • testli5504537 on August 3, 2007, 3:19 GMT

    Good Article and thought provoking as always...Kamran Sahab. I would certainly agree about role models, coming from India as kids we were always partial about batting, having said that growing up in Cochin-south india-every cricket match we played would have only one type of bowlers...i.e wanting to bowl fast because we used to play with rubber balls which would skid thru at a good pace and not spin much. Wonder where all those kids went when they grew up... I would also think that tape ball(of which i would think most indians who have played representative cricket) would be unaware off would be a big factor in breeding fast bowlers. I would disagree with the fact about punjab beeing the ideal breeding ground(having said that, yes-the portents are there on both sides of the border), if genetics is the issue, how do you account for the likes of Malinga, Dilhara Fernando from SL who can bowl at 90kmph or therabouts? I remember Javagal Srinath was clocked 155kmph once in South africa before his shoulder injury-and for the record he is a vegetarian. I would think it is more a role model issue, but surely this whole hype of punjabis alone being able to bowl hog wash. As far as India is concerned, the attitude towards quick bowling is slowly changing and the day is not far when indian express quick bowlers will be whistling it past the opposition's ears...Watch out. And as far as role models go...i think they transcend boundaries, i'm sure iin India or elsewher inthe world there are kinds wanting to emulate Imran, 2w's, Shoiab etc

  • testli5504537 on August 2, 2007, 20:55 GMT

    Sami Syed from Toronto

    Perhaps most of the people would agree with you but it seemz to be a wishfull thinking at the moment. we(Pakis) never held ourselves accountable whether its home or office (in general). Which is the root-cause of all the ills. I don't know how much time it will take but if we have to survive we have to start this process (accountability) sooner or later. We just don't want to live as a community, I don't know, Why? but it is how we are at the moment. We have to get rid of the words like this " Let him suffer, Coz I too suffered." Again a wishfull thinking........

  • testli5504537 on August 2, 2007, 15:18 GMT

    It may appear to some that I have digressed from the subject, I don't think so. Because, this thread is about fast bowlers and particularly about Imran Khan, his fast bowling and his role model capabilities. Hence, I raised this important question: Why Garry Sobers was preferred over Imran Khan as the greatest all-rounder? I don't want to be singled out here in defending Imran Khan and my name appearing on this blog like spam. I mean like, "The Spam" of Monty Python. I want more Pakistanis to express their views to defend their hero and this is exactly my point is about, Pakistanis in general love to criticize each other, they love mudslinging on their heroes but, when it comes to defend their heroes they are silent spectators. They have done this at every level, be it cricket (current victim is poor Inzi), politics or music (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, is another example).

    Here is my retort for Marcus & Rahul in response to their recent riposte. First, Marcus: Your view that the Panel does not have "an obligation to agree with the majority opinion - after all, they're not elected officials" sounds like a bureaucratic reply to me and its just like someone recently said: 'Pakistan's President does not have an obligation towards the nation in implementing any rule, he can impose his decisions on the public as he likes it, because he is not an elected official.' So, you talk about your rights and forget about your obligations? You are saying the Panel is under no obligation, it means the cricinfo also has no obligation? Then why sugar coat this process and call it a public survey to choose the world's best all-rounder by readers choice?

    And Rahul, perhaps you are not aware of or, do not remember that, Imran Khan was out of the regular tests matches 'coz of playing for Kerry Packer and also his shin injury kept him out for three years during the peak of his bowling career. So, that answers your question? I am aware of Sober's performance and his average and, also his 365 against Pakistan, but in the same series the little Master Hanif Mohammad challenged the mighty West Indies of that era with a 337 in the second innings of first test (scoring a triple ton in second innings is not easy and it is still a world record) and Pakistan won the last test due to Fazal Mahmood and Nasim ul Ghani's bowling. Remember Sobers retired in 1974 and during those days he did not face stiff competition except from England and Australia. During Sobers era, both India and Pakistan cricket was in the process of evolution and team building, there was no Sri Lanka or South Africa and NZ was the fifth team in the cricketing world and they were considered as minnows.

    The author of that column tried to give Imran a carrot by saying; "he developed into a top class batsmen only later in his career." But, what he did not mention is, Sobers performance in the later part of his career declined and unfortunately for him his solo ODI in 1973 he scored a duck and also in the last test he played in 1974, he scored a duck and retired. Whereas, Imran retired more gracefully after winning the World Cup and, most people say he was at the peak of his batting career and "I am agree." ;-) And how can one ignore the leadership skills of a player in judging him as an all-rounder? They include fielding as a criteria but exclude the leadership skills, which often puts a player under pressure to perform as a bowler or a batsman. Tell me why Tendulkar refused to captain the Indian team?

    As regards the percentage of votes the report says they arrived at a decision after 10,000 readers have voted (read the last 2 lines of that column). So, what is more important? The readers votes? Or, the decision of the Panel lead by Mr. Sambit Bal? And do you deny the fact history is being re-written by the historians? Earlier it used to be the text books only, but now in this age its like, "journalism sans borders" and in this respect the Indian historians are way ahead of the Pakistanis. Wikipedia is an open source encyclopedia which is there to distort the facts by the users as it suits them, just look at the avatars of Wiki and you'll see who dominates there?

    Now, I would like to digress a little because, no one including myself can ignore Osman Samiuddin's latest article "A legend in limbo" on cricinfo about Inzamam and the PCB's decision to keep him out of the test team. It certainly needs to be discussed and I concur Sami Syed's request to initiate a thread on Inzi. Also, the subject of team selection without Mohammad Yousuf is another interesting point to be discussed. And finally, Khalid Arif Siddiqui, Sir - I have not lived in KSA - Jamais! And, I have no desire whatsoever to live there ever. Although I am not so religious yet I've been there twice in my life to fulfill my religious duties and obligations c'est ca and that is enough for me. Anyways thanks for reading the posts with interest and for the appreciation, credit goes to Kamran Abbassi for allowing my claptrap posts on this blog.

  • testli5504537 on August 2, 2007, 7:49 GMT

    Wasim Saqib, I don't know whether the series would have completely changed in England had Hair not been the umpire (maybe some of them were genuine mistakes in the first three tests), though I am sure Pakistan would have won if Akmal weren't wicketkeeping. Hell, we might have won in South Africa as well without Akmal. He drops catches at a phenominal rate. Any batsman, not only Pieterson, would score a century if dropped twice or thrice in an innings.

  • testli5504537 on August 2, 2007, 0:43 GMT

    KAMRAN SAHAB!!! (Did I get your attention yet?) Can you write a BLOG about INZAMAM-ul-Haq PLEASE!!!

    Okay, here is the way I see it about him... Miserable World Cup endeavour led to his ouster. He retired from ODI due to WC result and Bob's death, which is fine. However, why is he not being selected for TEST cricket is beyond me?

    He has probably the highest match-winning performances among all cricketers. He didn't perform so badly in the recent past either.

    What is it about PCB and Pakistan not appreciating their greats... Not being a chance for an honorable EXIT??? Now, even I believe youngsters need to be groomed and developed now, however he was the back bone of the line up. In his recent matches we saw what he can do even with the tail.

    Yes he might be older, and might not have the quick reflexes but I believe he is probably a better batsman than more than half the Pakistani cricket team right now... What India did to Ganguly is exactly what's happening to Inzamam. To be pushed out like that is not honorable for Pakistan and not fair to arguably Pakistan's best produced batsman. Even other players such as Waqar and Javed Miandad, didn't get that chance.

    So what about Inzamam, what about his chance to be playing a couple of TEST series for Pakistan. I think he can have a positive contribution, and youngsters can learn from his temprament...


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