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Could Mitchell Johnson carry his Ashes form to South Africa. Damn right he could. At Centurion Park he ended with a career-best 12 wickets and inflicted some potentially serious scars on the South Africans. Writing for the Guardian website, Russell Jackson says that Johnson is now a must-view event, one where you stop what you are doing and race back to the TV set. It's a remarkable tale with, you sense, more to come.
He's also now an event himself, which is an astounding thing to achieve over the course of six Tests. It's Mitch as appointment television. It's Mitch as default headliner and Mitch as TV news bulletin place-setter. You find yourself rushing back with a drink in time for the first ball of his over. It's a cage fight and we're all clamoring for a better look. For opponents it's more about endurance and survival than winning or losing. In those six Tests he's taken 49 wickets at 13.14 with a strike rate of 27.1, a rare case of numbers doing justice to what you're seeing with your own eyes.
In a piece for the Guardian's weekly segment The Spin, Andy Bull questions whether fast bowling in Test cricket is actually losing its pace. Bull cites a study of baseball pitchers conducted by Glenn Fleisig of the American Sports Medicine Institute, and the latter has suggested that fast bowlers might also be reaching their physical limit. The important question is whether the trend may be depriving fans of one of the most exciting elements of Test cricket.
That mindset has been passed down by coaches, who see the perfect action as being the one that bears the most repetition while minimising the risk of injury and maximising the degree of control. As Brearley says, Test cricket is poorer for it, stripped as it is of the physical threat to the batsman and robbed of one its most exciting elements. But bowlers have longer careers as a consequence. Fans and players love to argue about who was the fastest. That's a debate that can't be settled. But it is clear that you won't find many contenders in this day and age. We are in a time of tortoises, not hares. The perfectly fast action, like the perfect game of draughts, is a thing of the past, a target players have long since stopped pursuing.
The Kanga League, one of Mumbai's and the country's toughest domestic environments, is slated to begin on Septmeber 7. The players walk out to wet, uncovered pitches that offer ready and often exaggerated help to seam bowling. As former Mumbai captain Shishir Hattangadi puts it, "If a batsman scored 30 or 50 runs, it would be considered equivalent to an 80 or a 100." Though the tournament has sustained several changes, stark among them being it beginning after the monsoon instead of during, former India cricketers reminisce the Kanga League's impact on their game in the company of Venkat Ananth of Livemint.
"The wet and soft pitches definitely helped develop my technique," says former wicketkeeper Chandrakant Pandit. "The wickets were a bowler's paradise and even after they eased out and got harder, they were usually two-paced. Survival was important. Your shot selection improved drastically. Whenever there were loose balls, you had to put them away, because they didn't come that often."
Former Pakistan seamer Wasim Akram first encountered the slower ball in England during a county season and thought "I am a fast bowler, why should I learn it?". However, with experience, he realised the potency of the delivery which has now become an indispensable variation for every quick bowler. Akram took Osman Samiuddin of the National over the important aspects involved in bowling the perfect slower ball.
"The key thing I learnt is that you have to toss it up, give it flight. If you throw it straight, it just skids on. The faster you run in, the shoulder should rotate as fast, but it's just the fingers and wrist. Some bowlers, when they try to bowl it, psychologically become a bit slower in their run-up, their shoulder rotation is a bit slower and batsmen read it. So you have to do the opposite - the shoulder will go around as fast, but you use the wrist to kind of twist the ball and get that dip."
Darren Lehmann boomed that Shane Watson was one of Australia's first choice openers well ahead of the first Ashes Test. But with the English bowlers exploiting his front-foot play - considered one of his great strengths - continuously to dismiss him, he was pushed down the order when Australia needed quick runs to set a target in the third Test, a situation that would have had Watson's name all over it had the batsman been in form. Malcolm Knox in the Age delves into the mystery of what ails the Australia allrounder.
His misfortune was perhaps to come into the Australian team when the baggy green conferred magical powers. Arrogance was required. Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting so dominated the pitch that they were practically hitting the ball out of bowlers' hands. This encouraged a front-foot technique and a policy of intimidation. What affected Watson were two changes. One was that the great players retired, giving him responsibilities beyond his abilities. The tide went out, leaving just the bluster. The other was DRS, which meant that batsmen could no longer get away with the front-foot stomp. Was Watson's failure to convert starts into big scores a weakness that was mental, or technical?
Osman Samiuddin of the National places the scanner on Wahab Riaz, who was carted for 14 runs in the last over of the third ODI against West Indies by Nos. 9 and 11. While charting the two extremes of the promising Pakistan quick, Samiuddin explains the difficulty a bowler faces when he is entrusted with the 100th over of an ODI
That rush of a World Cup semi-final five-for against India in India? Kaput, amid the hangover of a spell against them that read 4-0-50-0 a year later. His entire bowling persona can be defined in such extremities: potentially he is fantastic, but sometimes that potential is not just frittered away, it is blasted by a series of explosive breakdowns. If his career were lyrics, Kylie Minogue and Kurt Cobain would have to be the alternating writers, happy shiny, simple pop one day; dark, heavy brooding rock the next.
Hassan Cheema, in the Dawn, analyses Pakistan's batting woes following their poor showing in the Champions Trophy. One of their biggest problems, he says, is the persistence with proven failures.
Pakistan should have used the time between the 2011 World Cup until now building a team for the future. Instead, with the captain under fire before every series, conservative options have been taken and Pakistan are further away from an ideal team now than they were two years ago.
The argument made by Misbah and the selection committee has been that Pakistan need experienced batsmen; but the experience in their cases is one of failure. Pakistan now have 20 months, almost exclusively in friendly conditions, before the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. They could begin the process of building for that by removing the deadwood.
James Anderson has stamped his authority as England's leading bowler in the record books. He surpassed Darren Gough to become the country's highest wicket taker in one-day internationals, a month after claiming his 300th Test victim. Sam Sheringham of the BBC catalogues Anderson's interview with his colleague Mark Chapman, in which the he talks about the skill, physical and psychological requirements of bowling quick.
"When I first got picked for Lancashire I couldn't swing the ball, so [coach] Mike Watkinson took me aside and taught me how to do it: the grip and the seam position," reveals Anderson.
"He said imagine the feel of it coming out of your hand almost like an off-spinner, your arm coming over almost like a round-arm, or low-arm. That really worked for me because I'm a feel kind of bowler.