Ian Bishop October 23, 2009

'Fast bowling is an emotive art'

Ian Bishop on growing up idolising the great West Indian pacemen, the importance of intimidation, and coming back from injury

Fast bowling is a little bit under the radar. Most people come to see the batsman score runs, and therefore the fast bowler is the villain, so to speak.

I started as an opening bat in school, and then at 14 I started bowling more, so I had an appreciation for both batting and bowling from a young age.

When I read the stories of Ray Lindwall, Frank Tyson, Keith Miller, Malcolm Marshall, it helped me realise that these were ordinary guys who fell in love with something, worked hard at it and came through.

I remember my brother and I lying in our living room beside an old transistor and listening as Viv Richards scored his century in Adelaide in 1976. We had a notebook out and we were scoring every run that he made according to what the commentators were saying.

We watched the Holdings, the Daniels, the Marshalls, the Garners, over and over. Then we would go to the Queen's Park Savannah and practise different run-ups, different actions, and try out things.

The quality of batsmen during my time was pretty good, pretty tough, and I enjoyed that cricket.

Malcolm Marshall was a complete fast bowler. His control of length, his variations, and his ability to adjust to a given wicket were great. I used to stand at mid-off, and he would tell me on his way back to his mark: "Look, just go a bit wider" or "Come a little straighter," because he was going to do this or that. And the ball would come straight to where he had told me to move. He understood angles and how they could create problems for batsmen. He showed me that fast bowling was a cerebral art.

I was very nervous before my international debut. I was fielding at fine leg and someone tickled one down the leg side. I said to myself, "God, I have to be enthusiastic." When the ball got to about 20 yards from me, I dived. You can imagine: diving from that distance - you'd never get close to the ball. So it was comical, to put it mildly.

I set myself targets. I wanted my average to be a certain thing and my wicket-haul for a series to be a certain thing, and I had all of those sort of printed out. But once I got on the field, I found it hard to remember all that. Once I was wrapped up in a game, I was swept up into what the team required.

It is important to know the history, the paradigms of fast bowling. It helps you understand the art form.

Once, the wicketkeeper came up to me and said, "Give him another one". I said, "No, he's already sort of shivering." This was when I was relatively young, before I was hardened to the culture of fast bowling.

"The great fast bowlers are always looking at their ability to step up against the best players and seize control"

The great fast bowlers are always looking at their ability to step up against the best players and seize control.

Viv Richards would be the most destructive batsman I bowled to. In the opposition, certainly Sachin Tendulkar, against whom it was very, very difficult to find control.

A good run-up, a nice bound, a decent delivery stride and a good follow-through are some of the fundamentals a good fast bowler needs to have.

Intimidation is extremely important. The fact that you can put doubt and even fear into a batsman's mind by means of a quick, short delivery and your body language and confidence, is something that can lift your game.

Pitches do matter to an extent. If you've got quick pitches, it encourages young people to bowl fast. But then, once you establish yourself, pitches shouldn't matter all that much, as Imran Khan, Kapil Dev and Wasim Akram showed.

Fast bowling is an emotive art - you run on adrenaline and emotion.

Coming back from injury more than once is something I wouldn't wish any fast bowler to go through. The first time it happens you are scared, but if you get the right medical advice you can make it back after a while. But then when it happens again, you think it is becoming chronic. It starts messing up your natural ability and you are forced to change.

Edgbaston in 1995, where I broke Robin Smith's cheekbone, was one of the fastest spells I bowled. The pitch was green, I was full of adrenaline, the ball flew, and everything came together in that little spell.

West Indies have the ability to perform a lot better than they are. I believe that can happen, and the signs are there to see with former heroes like Clive Lloyd, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge and others being roped in to play a bigger role in the running of cricket.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo. This interview was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine in May 2006