Fast bowlers May 10, 2010

Strike fear with three

Fast bowling has been Pakistan's trump card, their national obsession, and a resource they have never been short of. Which men make it to the final XI?

The one constant in Pakistan cricket, from start to now, through the good days, the bad, the controversies, the scandals, the fights, revolts and madness has been the ability to produce fast bowlers the rest of the world envies.

Pace bowling is a national obsession. Wanting to bowl quick, to hit stumps or hit batsmen is as much a part of growing up in Pakistan as anything and it has been that way since at least the mid-70s. Even before that, with men such as Fazal Mahmood, Khan Mohammad and Mahmood Hussain, Pakistan was never short of a quality fast-bowling options.

Few countries have as rich a tradition of pace bowling as Pakistan; of the 14 fast bowlers who have taken over 350 Test wickets, only the West Indies has as many representatives as Pakistan (three). And unlike the West Indies, Pakistan has benefited from a great variety in its fast-bowling ranks.

There have been the super-quick, men such as Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Zahid. There have been the super-quick and ultra-rounded, like Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. And there have also been the not-so-quick, but very smart: Fazal, Sarfraz Nawaz, and from the modern vintage, Mohammad Asif. In reverse swing, they have also given the world the most significant fast-bowling innovation of the modern age. They are mostly the reason why Pakistan have won nearly a third of all their Tests and more or less a quarter of away Tests.

Most Pakistan XIs have used three fast bowlers and thrown a spinner into the mix. But an all-time XI can benefit from greater options, especially as Imran Khan provides such flexibility as an allrounder.

The contenders

Wasim Akram
The greatest left-arm bowler of all time and among the very greatest of any kind, ever. Akram had everything you could ask for in a fast bowler: pace, swing and cut, brains, brawn. Imran Khan said he was the most naturally gifted bowler he had seen and who are we to argue? Akram was a good enough batsman as well to be considered an allrounder. He remains Pakistan's leading Test wicket-taker, the only one with over 400 victims.

Imran Khan
Imran transformed himself from a middling medium-pacer to one of the foremost, most complete fast bowlers the world has seen. At his peak, in the late 70s and early 80s, he was also one of the quickest. He reverse-swung the old ball viciously, bent the new one like a banana, and in his youth, happily and successfully engaged in the bouncer wars of the era. He also had the most athletic, awe-inspiring action to boot. His 12-wicket haul in Sydney in 1976 arguably changed the face of Pakistan fast bowling and cricket forever.

Waqar Younis
Few fast bowlers around the world have been capable of as much instant destruction as Waqar. When he burst onto the scene in the early 90s, he was the quickest bowler around and reverse-swung the ball with greater effect than even Imran and Wasim. Proof of his destructive qualities lies in the remarkable statistic that no bowler with over 200 Test wickets has a better strike rate than him; once he got going, at his peak, he was difficult to stop. The majority of his wickets were bowled or leg-before. Even after losing his pace, he transformed himself into a very good new-ball bowler.

Fazal Mahmood The spiritual father of all Pakistan's pace bowling, Fazal was responsible for all of the country's earliest, greatest triumphs. He wasn't quick, but he had a truckload of stamina, unrelenting accuracy and a vicious legcutter. On matting wickets, or rain-affected surfaces, he could be unplayable. In key triumphs against India, England, West Indies and Australia, he took 12 or more wickets to help put Pakistan on the map. He was also impossibly handsome.

Sarfraz Nawaz
Sarfraz is the father of modern-day reverse swing and was one of the smartest bowlers Pakistan has produced. He didn't have the pace of an Imran or a Waqar, but his nous with the new ball was enough to see him through. He was an essential part of Pakistan's advance in the 70s, forming a very formidable new-ball pair with Imran, and always had the attitude of an out-and-out quick: he was easily drawn into bouncer wars. He remains a vastly underrated link in the chain that joins Fazal to the modern-day greats.

Shoaib Akhtar
Though his career has been ravaged by injuries and scandal, on good days Shoaib could be as dangerous as any modern-day fast bowler. He was always frighteningly quick, but as he got older, he also became much smarter with the ball. He swung the new ball out and brought the old one back in and developed, late in the day, an excellent loopy slower ball.

We'll be publishing an all-time Pakistan XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your fast bowlers click here

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Akhtar on May 13, 2010, 20:45 GMT

    I don't understand how some of the readers can pick Shoaib ahead of Fazal. This shows the lack of cricket knowledge. All the Pakistan's earlier victories against the best four teams of that time were due to his bowling. He took 12 or more wickets against Australia, England, West Indies and India and won those tests almost single handedly. Not even Imran, Wasim and Waqar could boast of such a record. With Imran selected as an all-rounder the choice of the rest is very easy. Three fast bowlers for me are Wasim, Waqar and Fazal.

  • murtaza on May 13, 2010, 19:21 GMT

    Mr. BoomBoomAdnan, If you are fast its mean not that you are best, If you are thinking that fastes mean best then FORGET WASIM, WAQAR, IMRAN and give the place to MOHD ZAHID, MOHD SAMI and your favourit SHOAIB AKHTARRRRRR... BECAUSE ALL THESE ARE FASTER THEN THREE GREATS. and for kind of your information we are seleceting all time pakistan elleven, not your favourit elleven. please think about it. THANKS

  • QGR on May 13, 2010, 18:09 GMT

    I think Imran Khan is an automatic choice for any Pakistan team any time for any format as a fast bowler, all-rounder, specialist batsman, captain.... and the list can go on. Imran at his prime was undoubtedly the most complete first bowler. Wasim Akram joins the list as well, being the best left arm fast bowler the world has seen till date. Even if you have to choose an all time best World XI, both Imran and Wasim will be serious contenders. The third one is tricky. Fazal and Sarfaraz haven't played modern day's cricket with the standard of fielding, and I believe they could have done wonders. Shoeb is an under-achiever and his quest for speed was at times irritating. Waqar was a fantastic fast bower and if he was not on and off for good few years in his carrier, his stats would have looked far better. I am missing Selim Jaffer and Aqib Javed in the list, both of them could end up in any line up in the world with their talent. Finally it has to be Imran, Wasim and Waqar beyond doubt.

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2010, 17:12 GMT

    No ther choice than the two W's ,imran khan as an allrounder and captain,saqlain as aspinner alongwith abdulqadir and MOin khan as the wicket keeper. the batting must be saeed anwar, hanif mohammad,zaheer abbas, javed miandad and inzaima ul haq

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2010, 13:40 GMT

    wasim,waqar and fazal mahmood are best options .imran khan is best for allrounder and captain position.shoaib akhtar and sarfraz nawaz also good even with their controversies but we are talking about the best.

  • Atif on May 13, 2010, 12:59 GMT

    This one's easy. Wasim, Waqar, and Fazal. Imran is already in as an allrounder and Shoaib was a mess. Please don't insult the all time Pakistan XI by picking the selfish Shoaib

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2010, 12:44 GMT

    i think Imran , Wasim & Waqar are the example & best.

  • shahid on May 13, 2010, 0:04 GMT

    Sarfraz, fazal & khan may be good bowler but no one is gonna pick any of them at the cost of Shoaib. So its easy choice; wasim, Waqar and Shoaib. And Imran plays as an alllrounder. This 4 man battery will tear any batting line apart. So Now it all looks like this:

    Hanif Said Anwar Zaheer Abass Javed Miandad Inzimam-ul Haq Imran Khan (capt) Rashid Latif Wasim Waqar Shoaib Qader

    Rashid Latif is chosen instead of Bari (the best) to strengthen the batting as we operate with 4 bowlers and one allrounder. But I am sure it will be in good balance as being captain Imran has an average of +50.

  • Cricinfouser on May 12, 2010, 22:51 GMT

    wasim, waqar and shoaib people who dont like shoaib should pray to god to give them sum brain how can u not have the fastest bowler ever born to be not in the team PATHETIC.

  • Dummy4 on May 12, 2010, 22:00 GMT

    Imran Khan as an all-rounder and captain! Two Ws and Shoaiby as fast bowlers!

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