Ahmed Jamal wins nationwide pace competition
Ahmed Jamal, the Pakistan Customs fast bowler, has won a 'King of Speed' competition, a nationwide search to unearth new pace talent. His fastest delivery was clocked at 143kph and won him Rs 1 million in prize money.
Jamal, 24, is from Abbottabad in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 68 miles north of Islamabad. He took five wickets on first-class debut for Pakistan Customs in 2009, and has 127 wickets in 34 games.
Jamal was one of four quicks selected for Wasim Akram's camp from a countrywide talent hunt earlier this month. The others were Muhammad Imran from Karachi, who bowled 136 kph, and Faisalabad's Abdul Ameer and Faisal Yaseen, who both bowled at 135kph.
"I am thrilled and very happy," Jamal said in Karachi. "My feet were on the ground before I won this and will remain on the ground after winning the prize as I want to make a name for myself. I had planned to spend this money, but I am not going to disclose it now."
Jamal was among 24 bowlers who were undergoing a 10-day training camp led by Wasim Akram. He said Shoaib Akhtar was his inspiration. "I was always inspired by Shoaib Akhtar who was very fast so I wanted to bowl like him."
At the camp, Akram worked with the country's best fast bowlers, including members of the national team and some new talent. It was organized ahead of the Champions Trophy in England, amid growing concerns about the depth of Pakistan's fast-bowling reserves. "These ten days are the best of my life," Jamal said. "What I have learnt during these days are a big thing for me and I want to move from strength to strength."
Akram was optimistic about the future of fast bowling in Pakistan after the camp. "I am happy to see that we still have great fast bowling talent in Pakistan, we just need to find that talent and polish our youngsters," he said. "Fast young bowlers like Ahmed Jamal are the future of this country; they can become part of our national team and take Pakistan cricket to new heights of glory.
"It was a short camp and we will not stop here. I feel captain's role is very important in grooming the fast bowlers, if a bowler is low on confidence then the captain can lift it by backing his bowler and that raises the confidence.
"I am sure that [Mohammad] Irfan and Junaid [Khan] will improve with time," Akram said. "Irfan is a rare talent and should be used properly and Junaid is also showing great improvement. I feel the boys showed great passion for learning and because of that my passion also increased. I think we have talent in pace department."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here