August 30, 2010

How do Pakistan produce so many fast bowlers?

Aakash Chopra
Mohammad Amir bowls during the second Test at Headingley, which will be Rudi Koertzen's last as an umpire, Pakistan v Australia, 2nd Test, Headingley, July 21, 2010
Mohammad Amir is the latest in the lineage of quality fast bowlers from Pakistan  © Getty Images
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Watching young Mohammad Amir make Ricky Ponting dance to his tunes was both a sight and a statement. Despite the turmoil in Pakistan cricket, the crop of quality fast bowlers has rarely, or never, seen a downswing. Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar -- the lineage is potent and the character entrenched in their cricket.

Pace bowling continues to absorb Pakistan like nothing else. So what is it about Pakistan that ensures their supply line is never dry? After all, fast bowling is one of the most gruelling aspects of the game.

It ought to do something, or a lot, with their genetics. They come across as a tough race with an aggressive streak, which is an indispensable factor to bowl quick. They are born fighters and that streak ensures that they keep coming back at you. If cricket is just the expression of your true self, fast bowling exposes that vein better than anything else.

Then there's a strong culture of playing tennis-ball cricket in Pakistan. But unlike the usual tennis ball, they tape the ball to make it slightly heavier. Now, you can either be a fast bowler or a batsman to survive in that format, for spinners would be ineffective with a tennis ball. And if you choose to bowl quick, then you must develop a quick arm action, strong shoulders and an even stronger back to generate pace with a ball as light as a tennis ball. That's their first lesson in fast bowling but one which keeps them in good stead in the future.

Another thing that I have observed while playing with them in England is that fast bowlers from Pakistan are an extremely confident lot. Perhaps bordering on over-confidence, but I'd rather err on that side if I'm a fast bowler, because that very nature, at times, makes you vie for a comeback when all seems lost.

If all of these factors do their bit, this seals the deal - the legacy. Their fast bowlers have always been larger-than-life figures who'd inspire millions to be like them. Their persona and flamboyance is what a 10-year old kid would want to emulate when he grows up. The respect that a fast bowler gets in his community, village and town is beyond compare. And that respect is what a sportsperson craves for and its pursuit drives him for months and years.

The credit cannot and should not be given solely to the infrastructure or the system, for their meteoric rise is part of a sustained campaign by the nation as a whole. Respect and legacy are much bigger incentives than the technical support. Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet, doesn't run for Jamaica but for his village. And guess what, he never had the proper shoes to train, in fact he would run barefoot on the beach all the time. The same goes for Sansarpur, the 'Mecca' of Indian hockey which boasts of producing more hockey players than the entire country put together. And yes, even they lack the high performance facilities.

Resources can surely help but only if there's a genuine concern for the talent. As long as Pakistan can feel proud in the achievements of their faster men, they would keep producing Amirs by the dozen.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Deepankar, Indian on (December 8, 2010, 9:43 GMT)

Good observation! Aamer, I believe, is the most talented young fast bowler today. I would love to watch him play. I would always back him n urge others too to do so, don't wanna loose a gem like him...

Posted by varun on (September 24, 2010, 14:35 GMT)

superb article aakash.. yes..the wickets in pakistan are nowhere as fast as perth or durban but still when they can produce quickies who torment batsmen on slow wickets it shows the attitude and the will to survive and to prove a point...most of the bowlers are from small towns and have no access to proper training facilities..but when a small town kid can make life miserable for someone like ponting,it just goes to show that u dont need someone like imran khan to look upto..u just have to sieze the moment and show the world why u trust urself..i really like this kid aamir...i just hope he s proved innocent because i really love the way he bowls..

Posted by Alam on (September 4, 2010, 10:59 GMT)

very nice article Akash!! I m very much surprised why India could not produce quickies like Amer, Wasim and Waqar. I think for fast bowlers u have to conentrate certain part of the country like Punjab, Hariyana and Delhi. you cant produce quickies from Mumabai, Haydarabad, Bengal etc. The fast bowling needs extra muscular strength stemina and built. the best example is Kapil Dev. Kapil was quick at the begining then he realise that he has to bowl long spells so he just started concentrating on line and length and movement instead of Speed. You can understand what I mean if u want fast bowlers ln India, start looking in that provinces without politics. thanks

Posted by Akber Paracha on (September 3, 2010, 6:35 GMT)

Thanks Akash, loved reading again, Indian bowlers come from same process i guess.

Posted by Tanzeel fro rahim yar khan on (September 3, 2010, 6:18 GMT)

M.Amir and M.asif will come backe, indians hapiness will be fadded very soon

Posted by Abdul Gani on (September 2, 2010, 16:55 GMT)

You r right Akash. But then their administration should be condemned for all these controversies.

Posted by utanka on (September 2, 2010, 8:22 GMT)

Hi Aakash, The article is very well written. But the timing is not at all good enough to discuss this matter. but as you said, pakistan should fill proud that they have been producing very good fast bowlers in Asian soil ofr years.

Posted by Rohit Davidson on (September 2, 2010, 7:03 GMT)

Dear Akash. You've got it right this time. Tearaway quicks are common ingredients of a Paki squad. Wish we should learn from them in giving chance to such talents early in their careers. Ishant Sharma has been an exception though. But in recent years, thats all we have add despite perhaps the most evolved cricket echelons anywhere in the world. Pray the IPL throws some more local quicks at us. The Pace rack is empty Mr Srikanth. Are you listening?

Posted by Sohail Bashir on (September 1, 2010, 19:38 GMT)

Very well written article, there is no need to add any comments, its seems to me that you discover a perfect recipie producing a fast bowler in a region which has different circumstances. These circumstances have its own defination which doesn't apply every other country. This spot fixing allegations are more dangerous then whatever they could do to KILL a natural fast bowler in the past like one bouncer in an over, ball examination whenever they needed, free hit on a no ball bla bla bla....... you will see players hand examination will begun soon to find out any vaseline there.

Posted by speeky on (September 1, 2010, 2:39 GMT)

Hi Aakash, Thanks for writing something lovely about Pakistan in the time as the morale needs to be kept high. And u r right playing tapeball cricket myself I know that people learn to reverse swing when there is no seam on the tapeball, with hard work and sense to immulate Imran, Wasim and Waqar etc. As for everyone critising please people let the dust settle first.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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