November 25, 2013

Two more to Pakistan's fast bowling tally

It's too early to anoint Bilawal Bhatti and Anwar Ali as the next big things, but it's great to watch them send stumps flying and batsmen hopping
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Bilawal Bhatti: flamboyance, no; intensity, yes © ACC/Mithilesh Mishra

"How many Bhuttos will you murder? Each house shall give birth to one."

This slogan is one of the most popular in Pakistani politics. Part of a poem written by the late Naseer Kavi, it was originally shouted in defiance against the military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq. It was General Zia's coup that deposed the charismatic, polarising prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and it was Zia's regime that orchestrated the trial that led to Bhutto's hanging.

What interests me about this slogan is its premise, namely that Bhutto was an idea, not a person. Consequently, it argued that killing one Bhutto would be futile, since others would be born who would manifest the same idea.

If we are to commit a few leaps of logic and phrase, we could come up with a similar slogan for the bounteous stream of Pakistani fast bowlers as well. No matter how many are lost to injury, hubris, greed or international drug laws, Pakistan will always keep producing more.

I've noted previously how Pakistan's attack is led by a spinner now, and it is quite clear that the majority of the attacking options, particularly in limited-overs games, come via spin.

Yet fast bowling is intrinsically tied to Pakistan's cricketing soul, and it is one of the cornerstones around which the Pakistani imagination is built. Last night at Newlands, Pakistan gave extremely successful debuts to two fast bowlers, both seemingly evidence of the fast-bowler bonanza.

The first, Bilawal Bhatti, I've immediately taken to. A diminutive build and a complete absence of flamboyancy in his hair mean that he doesn't look like a conventional Pakistani bowler. When those on my Twitter feed saw him in the first T20, many paid him the worst insult possible for a Pakistani pacer - he looked like an Indian quickie.

Yet what struck with me was Bhatti's quiet, smouldering intensity. You saw it each time he delivered his well-directed bouncers, managing to look down upon his nose at batsmen several feet taller.

His spell in the second T20, 4-0-19-0, was crucial to the team's success, defending Pakistan's total. In the Cape Town ODI, Bhatti took another step forward with a match-winning all round display. Despite his three bowleds (another Pakistani trademark) the most cherished moment for me was when he bowled his first over to Jacques Kallis.

Few cricketers are able to execute their skills with the adherence to orthodoxy that Kallis does, and thus any time he has to adapt, it is a testament to the opponent's abilities. Twice in that first over, Kallis was left confounded, misreading the bounce in one delivery and then the pace of the next. He was able to crash the final ball for four, but it was proof that Bhatti belonged.

However, just as I was about to shout from the rooftops, a much wiser observer of Pakistani cricket, Osman Samiuddin, preached caution. He noted how Bhatti was similar to Yasir Arafat, and others mentioned Rana Naved-ul-Hasan - both bowlers who have no dearth of variety, are death-bowling experts in various domestic leagues, and are blessed with pace and guile. But for various confounding reasons, both never really made it to the pantheon of Pakistani pace.

And perhaps an even greater warning sign for Bhatti lies with his fellow debutant - Anwar Ali. One of the most famous Pakistanis on Youtube, Anwar rose to fame in the sort of scenario that B-movie producers would reject for being too trite. Defending a laughably small total against the arch nemesis in a global final, he became a Pakistani legend before he became a Pakistan player.

In the intervening seven years, his frame has become Watson-esque, and his hair has gone from Harry Potter extra to guitar god, yet the one thing that hasn't progressed is his career. Despite having travelled the world with the senior side, chances have been rare and he's had to wait five years to return after his 2008 T20I debut.

I am not aware of the reasons that have led to Anwar's stagnation, but the impossible expectations foisted on him the first time everyone saw him surely couldn't have helped. Therefore, it makes even more sense not to rush to anoint Bilawal as the latest heir to an immortal, infinite lineage of fast bowlers.

Yet, it is also important for us to celebrate last night as well. With all the (warranted) doom and gloom about the imbalance between ball and bat in the modern game, it was a sheer pleasure to see two young men send wickets flying and batsmen jumping. It was a relief to see Anwar work towards redeeming his career, and it was astonishing to see Bilawal punch above his weight.

It is still to early to know if that slogan has rung true and new pacers have risen again, but after this, we can hope to clear our throats soon.

Ahmer Naqvi is a journalist, writer and teacher. He writes on cricket for various publications, and co-hosts the online cricket show Pace is Pace Yaar. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • screamingeagle on November 27, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    Btw, Bhatti currently going in this game at 3.3-0-39-0

  • screamingeagle on November 27, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    Taunting me is not the answer, read my statement and answer that instead of sidetracking the question :) And yes, I will follow my faves, no need for you to tell me what I should do. And no, I am not embarassed, why should I be?

  • on November 27, 2013, 6:44 GMT

    @Screamingegle... you will be more embarrassed if go beyond that , you guys simply cant match the talent we have, you are always afraid of us... you have your own created heroes , go and worship them.

  • heartbreakerz on November 27, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    @CricIndia208...yes, u are correct that bowlers win matches n that's why, Pakistan has a much better win% or win/loss ratio than india in all 3 formats of the game...

  • screamingeagle on November 26, 2013, 19:19 GMT

    @Tariq Mohuddin, Two series, two. That is what you base all your judgement on. I have lost track of all the sad outings of the Pak bats these days.

  • screamingeagle on November 26, 2013, 19:17 GMT

    @Waqar Ali, are you saying the Pak team is one of the most cohesive teams in cricket? I seriously doubt that and history would bear me out.

  • CricIndia208 on November 26, 2013, 16:50 GMT

    Bowlers win matches. But unfortunately, pakistan's so called great bowlers have not been able to win series in South Africa, Australia or even West Indies. Sad. India have at least won in West Indies, without the so called great bowlers.

  • M.gundroo on November 26, 2013, 13:27 GMT

    Heave sent blessing for pak team, with no batting depth, leading to a very defensive batting strategy which is not way pak has played in its glorious past at least since great Imran took over.I hope it gives our front line batsmen a chance to play to their natural strength and a positive cricket. With pak bowling strength, with a score of 240/250 pak will always win. I hope and pray with these two gifted players our days of regular disappointment are over.

  • on November 26, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    @Wäqär Älï ,

    Check the records of so called greates like Inzy and Anwar in RSA and Australia and Minandad and Abbas in West Indies and Australia before shouting.. They were good batsmen max very good at times but except Miandad that too probably no one can be classified as truegreat.

  • tazim on November 26, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    Well it seems few people are really excited over the the new bowling talents from Pakistan. But they had help from condition. I really dont think these bowlers namely Bhatti, Anwar Ali are capable of restricting India under 350 in subcontinent conditions. If given help from the pitch even Indian quickies become handy. Pakistan need to sort their Batting before they start bragging about their bowling. Their batting is even worse than Bangladesh.

  • screamingeagle on November 27, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    Btw, Bhatti currently going in this game at 3.3-0-39-0

  • screamingeagle on November 27, 2013, 8:46 GMT

    Taunting me is not the answer, read my statement and answer that instead of sidetracking the question :) And yes, I will follow my faves, no need for you to tell me what I should do. And no, I am not embarassed, why should I be?

  • on November 27, 2013, 6:44 GMT

    @Screamingegle... you will be more embarrassed if go beyond that , you guys simply cant match the talent we have, you are always afraid of us... you have your own created heroes , go and worship them.

  • heartbreakerz on November 27, 2013, 0:38 GMT

    @CricIndia208...yes, u are correct that bowlers win matches n that's why, Pakistan has a much better win% or win/loss ratio than india in all 3 formats of the game...

  • screamingeagle on November 26, 2013, 19:19 GMT

    @Tariq Mohuddin, Two series, two. That is what you base all your judgement on. I have lost track of all the sad outings of the Pak bats these days.

  • screamingeagle on November 26, 2013, 19:17 GMT

    @Waqar Ali, are you saying the Pak team is one of the most cohesive teams in cricket? I seriously doubt that and history would bear me out.

  • CricIndia208 on November 26, 2013, 16:50 GMT

    Bowlers win matches. But unfortunately, pakistan's so called great bowlers have not been able to win series in South Africa, Australia or even West Indies. Sad. India have at least won in West Indies, without the so called great bowlers.

  • M.gundroo on November 26, 2013, 13:27 GMT

    Heave sent blessing for pak team, with no batting depth, leading to a very defensive batting strategy which is not way pak has played in its glorious past at least since great Imran took over.I hope it gives our front line batsmen a chance to play to their natural strength and a positive cricket. With pak bowling strength, with a score of 240/250 pak will always win. I hope and pray with these two gifted players our days of regular disappointment are over.

  • on November 26, 2013, 11:52 GMT

    @Wäqär Älï ,

    Check the records of so called greates like Inzy and Anwar in RSA and Australia and Minandad and Abbas in West Indies and Australia before shouting.. They were good batsmen max very good at times but except Miandad that too probably no one can be classified as truegreat.

  • tazim on November 26, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    Well it seems few people are really excited over the the new bowling talents from Pakistan. But they had help from condition. I really dont think these bowlers namely Bhatti, Anwar Ali are capable of restricting India under 350 in subcontinent conditions. If given help from the pitch even Indian quickies become handy. Pakistan need to sort their Batting before they start bragging about their bowling. Their batting is even worse than Bangladesh.

  • on November 26, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    in clt20 2012 bilawal bowled with an average speed of 140/142 kph..now he is bowling with an average around 145 kph and in the 1st odi he bowled 148.7 kph and was faster than morkel,steyn and junaid khan in terms of average speed..pakistan has some genuine fast bowlers in irfan,sami,wahab,bhatti,talha,ahmed jamal similarly india has talented batters like rohit,kohli,pujara,dhawan etc so u can not compare a bowling powerhouse with a batting powerhouse..btw if india nd pakistan were not separated imagine our team would have been world beaters dhawan,rohit,pujara,younus,kohli,misbah,dhoni,ajmal,shami,junaid,irfan with sohaib maqsood,umer akmal,ashwin,shehzad,vijay,bhatti nd numeroys other talented replacements

  • on November 26, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    Sometimes it amazes me how fast Pakistani writers declare new players as new future heroes based on 1-2 performances and as soon as those new players will fail in 2 consecutive match and they become useless and villains!!!

  • on November 26, 2013, 6:06 GMT

    @ CricIndia208: I can see that tendulkar has made indian mentality focused on individual stats. Yes Wasim and Waqar played long (you forgot imran khan who got 350+ test wickets) but you are not in a position to understand that even though others didn't go long but they contributed to team's success as much as they played. How can u write off fazal mehmood, sarfaraz nawaz, aqib javed, shoaib Akhtar, Mohamed Asif, Irfan' s contribution to pak success. So we pakistanis think of team first not like indians who consider only personal acheivments to reckon a player great.

    @Jothiram 88: I think your cricket knowledge is very weak. Pak has produced world class batsmen Zaheer abbas, Miandad, Saeed Anwar, Inzamam, Yousuf, Younus...check their records if you don't know them.

    Cricinfo post my comment

  • Jothiram88 on November 26, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    2nd spot in tests and 1st in odi's and 3rd in T20. Is that possible without quality batmen and 'Indian Quikie'? So we are more than Flattrack bullies.

    Pace alone is not cricket.. When seeing this match its not their bowling alone win the game, its their tail end batting does the trick..

  • on November 26, 2013, 5:12 GMT

    Quality of so called Indian batsman, lost 5 in England and 4 in Australia, they are just flat track bullies, we always have great fast bowlers, as long as as we are keep getting them , who care how many stays

  • BoonBoom on November 26, 2013, 4:54 GMT

    May be the remarks of him looks like Indian fast bowler are a bit rude but we all got to accept that remarks do reflect reality. All Indian fast bowler never look like a true fast bowler.... When it comes to batting... no country has produced class batsmen better than India!

  • CricIndia208 on November 26, 2013, 4:54 GMT

    The important question is how many of them last. I can think of only two, wasim akram and waqar younis. The rest started big and faded away like Amir, asif, rana naved, etc.

  • altre on November 26, 2013, 4:49 GMT

    yes Pakistan has found may b 2 new bowling all-rounders but guys give them time to settle in international arena it was only their ist match ..nevertheess Gudluk to both of them..

  • Jothiram88 on November 26, 2013, 4:31 GMT

    'Indian Quickie' - u think it was a worst comment. If So, whats happens to your SouthAfrica Test tour (Paradise of Fast Bowlers) with the bunch of fast bowlers u have.. No use literally. Bowling 150+ didnt earn you the World Cup or success in the arena consecutively.. Please produce a quality succesfull batmen atleast 1:5 to the bowlers.

  • Desihungama on November 26, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    Well, New guys coming in tend to exert a bit more so I am not too sold on Bilawal just yet. It's hard to maintain the pace with his frame he was generating the other night but nonetheless awesome performance. As for Anwar Ali. Well, Welcome. I am optimistic about him full filling the elusive all rounder role.

  • on November 26, 2013, 1:58 GMT

    bilawel bahti,soib maqsood good fined never ever drop them let them play 3 formate for Pakistan till world cup,introduce new player like sherjeel,harris, etc bating coach inzi pleas

  • cricsavvy on November 25, 2013, 22:00 GMT

    Ahmer, No need to make fun of Indian fast bowlers. India keep producing quality batsmen who take the world by storm. No Pak fast bowler since Akram is noteworthy! Please publish

  • on November 25, 2013, 20:29 GMT

    @karachikhatmal - thanks bro. I have really been enjoying your writing on Cricinfo - in particular that piece about Misbah and Trott as Dark Knights was legend !

  • on November 25, 2013, 17:13 GMT

    Bhatti is a gem. Proper pace and aggression. Ali is a medium fast nobody and wont amount to much.

  • on November 25, 2013, 14:48 GMT

    Paksitan desperately needed All Rounders for replacing Razzaq and Afridi

  • karachikhatmal on November 25, 2013, 14:28 GMT

    Hamaad:

    Som excellent points there, particularly in your critique of Anwar Ali's failings. I think I feel very similar to your analysis, particularly about the lack of swing, carry and skid. However, a few people have mentioned how he is finding his feet again after a lot of unnecessary work on his action. That and the fact that I've only seen him twice means that its fair to give him a chance or two. But I feel it Bilawal who would prove to come through.

  • ikafridi on November 25, 2013, 14:10 GMT

    To me, I wasn't expecting such dominence from Bilawal. Being in his startup days, he is going above 140ish is a good sign. The bowling coach has to work with him.

  • on November 25, 2013, 12:52 GMT

    Barring a serious injury or Pakistan ( cricket ) politics, I predict a very bright future for Bilawal. With such small physique how on earth can he generate such pace and bounce?! In the last three matches I've seen him play he was easily the fastest bowler on show. And those deadly yorkers were reminiscent of Waqar and Wasim in their hayday. Well done and good luck Bilawal.

  • on November 25, 2013, 12:38 GMT

    @omer khayam afridi plays for karachi while ahmed for lahore in domestic

  • wrenx on November 25, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    I'm glad to see more reasons why we should not entertain the possibility of Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif returning to the test side after serving their bans. Let's continue to look forwards, not back

  • on November 25, 2013, 10:58 GMT

    Bhatti's case is different from Rana Naveed and Yasir Arafat. He is raw talent he his name has been shouted out for 3 years before he made his debut. And we all are talking about how batted better than top order is all because both of them are stung by politics even before they entered. I will also mention Ahmed Shehzad this is the only reason he is performing because he had paid price for playing in the same domestic team with Afridi. But his performance in International leagues and stinches with Hogg and Gayle groomed him well.

  • imghani on November 25, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    Well done both Bilawal & Anwar. I think we should give more opportunities to the youngsters rather than sticking on the old cricketers who have lost their wrist energy.

    Iqbal Ghani

  • on November 25, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    I am quite excited about Bilawal primarily due to his intensity as the author has pointed out. However, I don't see much in the way of comparison to either Rana or Yasir Arafat. Granted he has a similar build to Arafat, and has the variety that both Rana and Arafat bring. What makes Bilawal different though is the added pace, bounce and carry, plus the fact that he seems to have a much better big-game temperament than Arafat at least.

    Anwar Ali - while his debut performance was great - I am worried about his complete lack of swing/seam, particularly at the pace that he bowls. Moreover, unlike Bilawal, he seems to have less carry and skid off the wicket - that will make him an easy proposition to deal with on less spicy pitches.

  • soaf on November 25, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    bilwal looks to to me as a talanted individual but is very raw.while anwar ali doesnt look as an int'l bowler.he dosent have pace and neither have swing.but can cement his place in the team as an allrounder which pakistan desperately waiting to have in their ranks after razzaq.I think pakistan is still in need of quick fast bowler who can swing the ball at firey pace.junaid khan also going to slump and somehow forget to bring the ball in right handers and dosnt seem to have any idea of bowling at death.surprise to see our bowlers struggle at death because we were considered as masters of death bowling during the 90s.now we are taking battering from like of steyn and morkel.

  • on November 25, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    I hope this time these two youngsters will be given as many chances as Nasir jamshed and Wahab Riaz who have performed miserable but stilll they are part of playing 11 on most of the occasions.

  • on November 25, 2013, 8:54 GMT

    I agree with Mr. Ahmer Naqvi. Pakistan's top order always collapses at the start of Pakistan's play. And our middle order is also fragile. Hence it is very important to bring some quality bowlers who could play with the bat to post good total on the score board.

  • part_time_cricketer on November 25, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    Yes. Both BILAWAL & ANWAR are good prospect for Pak cricket. Not only in bowing, but also in batting. Because they batted better than pak top order yesterday. Best of luck in coming games.

  • Tester on November 25, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    Testing. Kindly ignore! Yet, it is also important for us to celebrate last night as well. With all the (warranted) doom and gloom about the imbalance between ball and bat in the modern game, it was a sheer pleasure to see two young men send wickets flying and batsmen jumping. It was a relief to see Anwar work towards redeeming his career, and it was astonishing to see Bilawal punch above his weight.

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  • Tester on November 25, 2013, 7:26 GMT

    Testing. Kindly ignore! Yet, it is also important for us to celebrate last night as well. With all the (warranted) doom and gloom about the imbalance between ball and bat in the modern game, it was a sheer pleasure to see two young men send wickets flying and batsmen jumping. It was a relief to see Anwar work towards redeeming his career, and it was astonishing to see Bilawal punch above his weight.

  • part_time_cricketer on November 25, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    Yes. Both BILAWAL & ANWAR are good prospect for Pak cricket. Not only in bowing, but also in batting. Because they batted better than pak top order yesterday. Best of luck in coming games.

  • on November 25, 2013, 8:54 GMT

    I agree with Mr. Ahmer Naqvi. Pakistan's top order always collapses at the start of Pakistan's play. And our middle order is also fragile. Hence it is very important to bring some quality bowlers who could play with the bat to post good total on the score board.

  • on November 25, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    I hope this time these two youngsters will be given as many chances as Nasir jamshed and Wahab Riaz who have performed miserable but stilll they are part of playing 11 on most of the occasions.

  • soaf on November 25, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    bilwal looks to to me as a talanted individual but is very raw.while anwar ali doesnt look as an int'l bowler.he dosent have pace and neither have swing.but can cement his place in the team as an allrounder which pakistan desperately waiting to have in their ranks after razzaq.I think pakistan is still in need of quick fast bowler who can swing the ball at firey pace.junaid khan also going to slump and somehow forget to bring the ball in right handers and dosnt seem to have any idea of bowling at death.surprise to see our bowlers struggle at death because we were considered as masters of death bowling during the 90s.now we are taking battering from like of steyn and morkel.

  • on November 25, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    I am quite excited about Bilawal primarily due to his intensity as the author has pointed out. However, I don't see much in the way of comparison to either Rana or Yasir Arafat. Granted he has a similar build to Arafat, and has the variety that both Rana and Arafat bring. What makes Bilawal different though is the added pace, bounce and carry, plus the fact that he seems to have a much better big-game temperament than Arafat at least.

    Anwar Ali - while his debut performance was great - I am worried about his complete lack of swing/seam, particularly at the pace that he bowls. Moreover, unlike Bilawal, he seems to have less carry and skid off the wicket - that will make him an easy proposition to deal with on less spicy pitches.

  • imghani on November 25, 2013, 10:55 GMT

    Well done both Bilawal & Anwar. I think we should give more opportunities to the youngsters rather than sticking on the old cricketers who have lost their wrist energy.

    Iqbal Ghani

  • on November 25, 2013, 10:58 GMT

    Bhatti's case is different from Rana Naveed and Yasir Arafat. He is raw talent he his name has been shouted out for 3 years before he made his debut. And we all are talking about how batted better than top order is all because both of them are stung by politics even before they entered. I will also mention Ahmed Shehzad this is the only reason he is performing because he had paid price for playing in the same domestic team with Afridi. But his performance in International leagues and stinches with Hogg and Gayle groomed him well.

  • wrenx on November 25, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    I'm glad to see more reasons why we should not entertain the possibility of Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif returning to the test side after serving their bans. Let's continue to look forwards, not back

  • on November 25, 2013, 12:38 GMT

    @omer khayam afridi plays for karachi while ahmed for lahore in domestic