August 30, 2010

How do Pakistan produce so many fast bowlers?

Watching young Mohammad Amir make Ricky Ponting dance to his tunes was both a sight and a statement
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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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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...

  • 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..

  • 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

  • Akber Paracha on September 3, 2010, 6:35 GMT

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

  • 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

  • Abdul Gani on September 2, 2010, 16:55 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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...

  • 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..

  • 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

  • Akber Paracha on September 3, 2010, 6:35 GMT

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

  • 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

  • Abdul Gani on September 2, 2010, 16:55 GMT

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Muzammil Shah on August 31, 2010, 9:31 GMT

    I would like to say that if Pakistani players are proved involved in the match / spot fixing the PCB should ban them for ever. In sametime Mr. Yawar Saeed should be banned to enter Pakisatn as he is the man behind all the scandal. Look at the past when ever any scandal came out he was there with the team as manager. Pakistan should appoint someone who has international reputation in the Cricket former players like Majid Khan, Rameez Raja there are many more as PCB head. But one of these two names could be best to replace Ijaz Butt as PCB chairman. On the other hand if the allegation are proven wrong Pakistan should atke legal action against ECB, the News of the world and those are involved in the current scenario.

  • Arsalan taj on August 31, 2010, 6:35 GMT

    Thanks akash wee needed this article from you and i really feeling sorry for amir to get involve in such allegations ,we really love amir and asif and praying that all the allegations proves just allegations nothing more than that,coz if they gets ban we are going to miss smiles and upcoming ms.and its tru that we play with tennis ball which makes us so fast and different from all coz the tennis ball which moves in the air quite a lot and we try to ball as fast as it reaches to batsman in the way we wants,

  • Yasir Hasan on August 31, 2010, 5:17 GMT

    Nice article... finally something other than the fixing stuff... :-)

  • Virgin on August 31, 2010, 0:43 GMT

    All these names from Imran to Aamir have also had dubious records, cheating, drugs and match fixing. Maybe it is the class of people who bowl fast ??

  • shahrukh kazmi (Unlabeled) on August 30, 2010, 23:00 GMT

    With All the Controversies going on about spot fixing that article made me smile and right now i pray and pray hard for only one person and that is Aamir. I am shocked till the hearing of Scotland yard, Thanks Aakash.

  • Harsha on August 30, 2010, 21:22 GMT

    Save Amir, 18 year olds wont be knowing jack about Match fixing. He can be brought back into the fold of sane cricket if the influences above him are discarded.

    An Indian

  • thebigfatflapjack on August 30, 2010, 21:01 GMT

    First, I guess its the Pak tradition of producing fast bowlers which encourage youngsters to become fast bowlers themselves. If a 10 year old has Wasim, Waqar, Akhtar, Imran Khan to emulate, there isn't much to be said.

    Second, yeah, its the genes. Fast bowlers from Pak are generally tall and well-built being Punjabis/Pashtuns. If you've seen Hamed Hassan or the other fast bowlers from the Afghan team you could see the similarity. Hamed Hassan, although not in the same league as Wasim/Waqar, bowls at 90mph!

    Lastly, I disagree that tape-ball cricket is the predominant contributor to producing fast men (even though most Pak bowlers played it and honed their skills in that format). I'm saying this because, in Sri Lanka, a lot of young kids play tennis ball cricket. However, we still haven't produced anyone in the Wasim/Waqar mould.

    This shows that a culture of producing fast bowlers and suitable genetics are key to producing the next generation of fast men. Cricket boards, TAKE NOTE!!

  • Usman on August 30, 2010, 20:49 GMT

    Thank you Aakash. Yes its always about respect. I wish other people realize it too and stop making judgements on the basis of some fake videos.

  • sajjo on August 30, 2010, 19:58 GMT

    well thought out article. i really agree with this as a west indian because those same factors caused west indies to have so many fast bowlers back in the day. after all the injustice of colonialism, west indians were angry. also they were naturally agggressive and talented, so fast bowling was the obvious thing for them to get into. and i think is the same for pakistan now

  • Raja on August 30, 2010, 19:53 GMT

    You hit the nail at the head Chopra...Great observasion...

  • Arsalan Khalid on August 30, 2010, 19:31 GMT

    Right now, the top production is lost amid the controversy. if Aamir and Asif do get life bans, it will take some time even for this perennial factory to produce such quality products again!

  • Rajesh NJ on August 30, 2010, 18:41 GMT

    Mate, where are you...? Not following the news about spot-fixing allegations ? Not a good time to write about Mohammad Amir or Mohammad Asif or for that matter any other Pakistani cricketer... :-)

  • Rizwan Idaho, USA on August 30, 2010, 18:34 GMT

    Nice article, I don't understand one thing though, Pakistan and India have the same kinds of wickets then why does Pakistan produce better bowlers and India better batsmen?

  • Nampally on August 30, 2010, 18:17 GMT

    The dream of many budding cricketers is to bowl as fast he can. Hence it is best that at the school level India introduces the bowling action films of various fast bowlers with smooth action. I feel having a smooth bowling action which is least damaging to body is the single most important factor in a fast bowler. Ramakant Desai once opened the bowling for India and despite his slight build 5'-4" , he was one of the fastest bowlers India has ever produced. Sprinting ability is next big item. Every fast bowler must be a good sprinter. The third attribute is the body strength & flexibility. Having a height of 6 feet plus helps a lot. Last & most important aspect is hard work & practice to bowl controlled length & direction. I think the Pakistani pace bowlers have all these attributes & hence are confident. Ishant Sharma is good but lacks control in length & direction which Zaheer has. BCCI - Catch them young & imbibe these attributes to produce good Indian fast bowlers of future.

  • Toecrusher on August 30, 2010, 18:02 GMT

    Unless and until PCB Headquarters are shifted from Lahore to some other city, Pakistan and World Cricket will continue to face such humiliation. All players are picked from one province only and vast majority of them come from Lahore which makes it very easy for them to form a cartel and a betting syndicate. All those named in betting malpractice in the past come from this very elite & corrupt club. Only three were punished while others escaped accountability due to PCB in Lahore with Lahorites and they made millions subsequently. If the team is picked on merit and without any regional bias such situation would never arise. THE RACISM AND THE HEDGMONY OF PUNJAB ON PAKISTAN CRICKET MUST END ICC SHOULD NEVER EVER ALLOW PCB HEDQUARTER TO BE IN ANY OF THE CITY OF PUNJAB.

  • Irfan on August 30, 2010, 17:50 GMT

    Hi Akash,

    Spot on! Well it wasn't a secret but a lot of people didn't pay attention to what bowling with a tennis ball does to a would be fast bowler. If they can hurl a lighter ball through with a good speed imagine what they would do with the heavier one. Also, taped ball immediately give them a an object of intermediate weight (between tennis and hard ball) which is a good graduation as they learn to control and reverse the ball (chinks in the tape showing rough skin of the ball) I know that's what happened to me. We were reversing the ball on the streets way before it broke on the int'l scene.

  • Harsha on August 30, 2010, 17:49 GMT

    You'e got the flair for writing, Aakash & you are obviously very articulate. Nice hypothesis neatly drilled out & justified. Keep it coming!

  • Anthony on August 30, 2010, 16:01 GMT

    If only they had the same respect for the game itself.

  • pakistani_fan on August 30, 2010, 15:04 GMT

    Great article Aakash bhai. Thanks a lot for not throwing stones at Pakistan cricket (like all the other Indian writers of cricinfo) at a time when there are unproved allegations surrounding them. Why is everyone forgetting the fact that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. As for your article, that tennis ball wrapped in tape does a lot more than produce fast bowlers for pakistan, it also has a lot to do with reverse swing. I know many bowlers playing in the streets of Pakistan and bowling reverse swing almost naturally.

  • prakash on August 30, 2010, 13:49 GMT

    Nice article Akash.Compared to Pakistan India is a small scale industry when it comes to producing Fast Bowlers...But,they atleast dont ball big no balls and they don't need any gel or vasline to create swing..But, the article was awesome..The only only thing is the timing of this article turned out to be bad.

  • Praful on August 30, 2010, 13:19 GMT

    Yes!pakistan has certainly produced some world class fast bowlers. And even now the likes of Asif,Aamer hauve made it very difficult for all time greats like Ricky Ponting,Ross Taylor etc.If we compare our indian fast bowlers they certainly lack in that aggression and the body language full of activeness and agilement. They really do create pressure fo batsmen with their quicks and constantly bowling at 145 kph +

  • Sri Lanka on August 30, 2010, 12:16 GMT

    very good article. that explains why they seem to produce so many class quickies.

  • RM on August 30, 2010, 10:57 GMT

    You are right Akash Pakistan will keep on producing fast bowlers as long as they feel proud of their achievments. Taht is why it is all important that Amir and Asif come clean of this mess.

  • Anonymous on August 30, 2010, 10:17 GMT

    I guess Pakistan doesn't need an Aamer any more..wrong time for this article

  • P Subramani on August 30, 2010, 7:47 GMT

    While I agree that people from certain areas are hardier and more rugged that others based on teir genes and upbringing, I feel that the main reasons for Pakistan producing an assembly line of great fast bowlers is firstly, that they have the great Imran Khan as an inspiring role model and secondly, because the players do not have too many distractions in Pakistan through which young players can go astray. So their motivation is recognition as someone similar to Imran Khan. This is what explains the perfect cartwheeling action in almost all their pace bowlers, the weight transfer and the use of the wrist when delivering the ball.This can only come through total dedication at a young age when it is easier to immitate their heroes. If we are unable to produce fast bowlers it is because our players go astray with so many distractions. Fast bowling calls for hard work. I wonder if the Rohits and Yuvrajs have the capacity for the same. Wasim Akram is spot on in his assessment.

  • Ahmad Saleem on August 30, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    The timing of this blog is not quite right. But its well written and lets hope they will not be proven guilty.

  • Nitin Kumar Jain on August 30, 2010, 7:28 GMT

    I thought the credit goes to ever lasting match fixing and money involved in it ... They can easily be maligned and are the first persons approached by bookies ... but you too well said ...

  • Anonymous on August 30, 2010, 6:39 GMT

    After what Amir and Asif have been involved in I just don't have the stomach to comment on your article Akash. But yes, I must say that you are a wonderful writer and I usually look forward to your articles.

  • Usman Malik on August 30, 2010, 6:11 GMT

    Its simple man , I am from pakitan and here in pakistan we use to eat a lot of beaf (cow's meat) , it contains a large amount of protein and other nutrient which are required for developing a strong arm , shoulders and back ... so we produce great fast bowlers . Indian wont be able to produce good fast bowlers ever unless they eat cow's meat and that's it !

  • Mohsin Jamal on August 30, 2010, 5:25 GMT

    Well said Mr. Akash. Pakistan has been producing quality fast bowlers since the cricket begin here. You dig deep to find the reasons and the motivation behind in producing men of this art consistantly, appreciated. Remove fast bowling from the cricket and there will be a no-sugar tart; bland. That means Pakistan contributed a lot into it. I am happy you mention. Regards.

  • Parvez Hamid on August 30, 2010, 4:58 GMT

    Not to forget the village near Peshawar which produced squash champions who dominated game for decades.

  • adnan rifat on August 30, 2010, 4:17 GMT

    pakistani fast bowlers ROCKS... scandal is made to defame pakistan cricket & yound talanted fast bowler muhammad amir.. pakistan will come out of this controvercy INSHALLAH.

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  • adnan rifat on August 30, 2010, 4:17 GMT

    pakistani fast bowlers ROCKS... scandal is made to defame pakistan cricket & yound talanted fast bowler muhammad amir.. pakistan will come out of this controvercy INSHALLAH.

  • Parvez Hamid on August 30, 2010, 4:58 GMT

    Not to forget the village near Peshawar which produced squash champions who dominated game for decades.

  • Mohsin Jamal on August 30, 2010, 5:25 GMT

    Well said Mr. Akash. Pakistan has been producing quality fast bowlers since the cricket begin here. You dig deep to find the reasons and the motivation behind in producing men of this art consistantly, appreciated. Remove fast bowling from the cricket and there will be a no-sugar tart; bland. That means Pakistan contributed a lot into it. I am happy you mention. Regards.

  • Usman Malik on August 30, 2010, 6:11 GMT

    Its simple man , I am from pakitan and here in pakistan we use to eat a lot of beaf (cow's meat) , it contains a large amount of protein and other nutrient which are required for developing a strong arm , shoulders and back ... so we produce great fast bowlers . Indian wont be able to produce good fast bowlers ever unless they eat cow's meat and that's it !

  • Anonymous on August 30, 2010, 6:39 GMT

    After what Amir and Asif have been involved in I just don't have the stomach to comment on your article Akash. But yes, I must say that you are a wonderful writer and I usually look forward to your articles.

  • Nitin Kumar Jain on August 30, 2010, 7:28 GMT

    I thought the credit goes to ever lasting match fixing and money involved in it ... They can easily be maligned and are the first persons approached by bookies ... but you too well said ...

  • Ahmad Saleem on August 30, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    The timing of this blog is not quite right. But its well written and lets hope they will not be proven guilty.

  • P Subramani on August 30, 2010, 7:47 GMT

    While I agree that people from certain areas are hardier and more rugged that others based on teir genes and upbringing, I feel that the main reasons for Pakistan producing an assembly line of great fast bowlers is firstly, that they have the great Imran Khan as an inspiring role model and secondly, because the players do not have too many distractions in Pakistan through which young players can go astray. So their motivation is recognition as someone similar to Imran Khan. This is what explains the perfect cartwheeling action in almost all their pace bowlers, the weight transfer and the use of the wrist when delivering the ball.This can only come through total dedication at a young age when it is easier to immitate their heroes. If we are unable to produce fast bowlers it is because our players go astray with so many distractions. Fast bowling calls for hard work. I wonder if the Rohits and Yuvrajs have the capacity for the same. Wasim Akram is spot on in his assessment.

  • Anonymous on August 30, 2010, 10:17 GMT

    I guess Pakistan doesn't need an Aamer any more..wrong time for this article

  • RM on August 30, 2010, 10:57 GMT

    You are right Akash Pakistan will keep on producing fast bowlers as long as they feel proud of their achievments. Taht is why it is all important that Amir and Asif come clean of this mess.