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2007 in review: The state of fast bowling
'Excessive cricket is hurting fast bowlers'
December 28, 2007
Cricinfo's panel of experts on the decline of fast bowling and whether there are any hopes of a revival
 
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Ian Chappell: "Apart from the emergence of Dale Steyn from South Africa and Mitchell Johnson from Australia, the names of the fast bowlers have remained the same" © AFP

Akhila Ranganna: In the third of our year-end specials on Cricinfo Talk, I asked our experts if they have seen a revival in fast bowling, which has been on the decline for a while. There have been some good performances late in the year: are we witnessing a turnaround? Here's what one of the great fast bowlers, Michael Holding, has to say.

Michael Holding: As you said, there have been a few sporadic performances by a few people, but I wouldn't say that there has been a revival in fast bowling. If there has to be a revival, you should be able to pick about four or five outstanding fast bowlers around the world and say, "Okay, they are the next generation and this is what is going to be happening over the next five to ten years." I cannot pinpoint a single individual in this regard right now. And when I say fast bowling, I mean fast bowling. I don't mean medium-pacers who can get people out.

Fast bowling is a completely different scenario. People have to bowl at extreme pace, like Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee and Shane Bond. We don't see too many of those. We also see constant injuries [to the fast bowlers] because they are playing too much cricket. [With] the amount of cricket that is being played, I doubt you'll ever see a revival in fast bowling.

AR: Ian Chappell captained the likes of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. Let's hear what he has to say on the current state of fast bowling.

Ian Chappell: Well, apart from the emergence of Dale Styen from South Africa and Mitchell Johnson from Australia, the names of the fast bowlers are still the same. So I don't see what has happened lately as a resurgence, to the point where fast bowling is heading back in the direction it was in the 1990s when there were some seriously good fast bowlers around. But perhaps it is a promising sign that there are a few young quickies on the rise. I hope that is the case because the game badly needs good fast bowling and good fast bowling characters.

However, I'm not sure that the climate at the moment is conducive to producing a whole bunch of really good fast bowlers, like we saw in the 1990s, [considering] the amount of cricket that's being played and the tendency to make batting-friendly pitches, particularly in one-day games. To a degree it is cyclical. I mean, you'll get your really good periods and then you'll get your low periods. That's always happened. But I think if the administrators keep going down the path they are on right now then I don't think you're going to see an era like the 1990s again.

AR: England have been struggling with injuries to their premier fast bowlers and here are David Lloyd's thoughts.

David Lloyd: Well, there have been some great role models in the past, and look no further than the great bowlers from the West Indies. But they're a team that is struggling now. There are signs of one or two tall, quick bowlers and that [being tall] is key for West Indies. [Daren] Powell seems to be a likely candidate. He bowls at good pace - over 90mph.

Pakistan have brought one or two quick bowlers through after Wasim [Akram] and Waqar [Younis].

I think India are fine, and that's why I think that they [India] should be able to challenge Australia because they've got good, quickish pace bowlers who can swing the ball and move it around.

England have quite a good battery of fast bowlers, but then again, we've always had good fast bowlers. I can say, being from the United Kingdom, that there are a number of quick bowlers coming through. The academy at Loughborough is working pretty well.

Fast bowling is the thrill of the game. If there is a decline, the ICC have got it within their powers to find a fast bowler by making it a global issue - making it attractive to become a fast bowler. Everybody who bowls fast - ask Shoaib Akhtar - wants to hit that magical 100mph mark.

 
 
I wouldn't say that there has been a revival in fast bowling. If there has to be a revival, you should be able to pick about four or five outstanding fast bowlers around the world and say, "Okay they are the next generation and this is what is going to be happening over the next five to ten years." I cannot pinpoint a single individual in this regard right now Michael Holding
 
AR: India's young pace attack, led by Zaheer Khan, have had some good performances in the recent past and here is what Sanjay Manjrekar has to say.

Sanjay Manjrekar: I believe in the cycle of life and the cycle of cricket. In the 1980s and 1990s we had fast bowlers and then slowly the number of genuine quick bowlers started to die down. Then one-day cricket became excessive, as a result of which fast bowlers became medium-fast bowlers to survive the daily rigours of cricket. But bowlers will realise that just bowling medium pace and in the "good areas" might not really help their cause and it will be worthwhile bowling quick. So any bowler who has the ability to bowl quick will find that if he wants to survive, make an impact, and shine among the others, he will have to bowl fast. I don't see the breed of fast bowlers going extinct.

AR: And finally, here are Tony Greig's thoughts on this issue.

Tony Greig: No, I don't think fast bowling has really declined. I think super-fast bowlers are born, I don't think they are made. I think there's been a bit of a decline in the art of swing bowling and that I think manifests itself in the fact that whenever there is some good swing bowling around, batsmen struggle. So some of the coaching and training, to get around the back problems associated with the bowling action, has been to standardise some of it. It has made the bowlers a little more square-on, which doesn't lend itself to the swinging ball.

When the Australians went to England [in 2005 for the Ashes], Troy Cooley was England's bowling coach. He got the bowlers to swing the ball and they cleaned up the Australians. So I think that fast bowlers are born, nothing much you can do about that. There will be a glut of them and then there will be a time when there aren't very many of them. Something can be done about swing bowling though.

Akhila Ranganna is assistant editor (Audio) at ESPNcricinfo


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