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Fast bowling

January 30, 2014

On why India can't unearth an Akram

Raja Omer

Wasim Akram is frustrated by his fielders as Sachin Tendulkar looks on, India v Pakistan, Carlton and Breweries United, Adelaide, January 25, 2000
India's fast-bowling woes, as well as Pakistan's batting issues can be traced to a lack of role models Sandra Teddy / © Getty Images

Two things will forever be immortal in Indian cricket: Sachin Tendulkar and the apparent paucity of genuine fast bowlers. The latter being the quintessential monkey on the back consistently haunts the team in the final few overs of an ODI innings when teams are invariably looking to attack. Many a time we have seen the fast bowlers steaming in, taking the leap of faith at the popping crease, and getting whacked over mid-on for a boundary. It is as if Indian seam bowlers have taken their 'death' bowling a little too literally. But that is not the end of it; the fan's tribulation extends into the next match when he finds his team has retained the same bowling line-up.

At times, by the work of some epigenetic factors - I blame a dressing room filled with batting geniuses - India's bowlers turn into batsmen. Irfan Pathan and R Ashwin are prime examples. Coming into the international scene as mainstays of the Indian bowling line-up their contributions of late have been more with the bat in hand rather than the ball.

What can India's dearth of pace-bowling resources be attributed to? I would say the major underlying cause is the lack of role models in pace bowling. Since India have historically lacked great fast bowlers with the exceptions of maybe Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan there is very little for the youngster to emulate whilse growing up. Anyone doubting the influence of a role model-cum-mentor can simply look across the border and take Wasim Akram as a test case. A champion fast bowler in his time, we are now witnessing the full fruits of his legacy and contribution to pace bowling in Pakistan cricket. Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali and Usman Khan - all left-armers like Akram - have debuted for Pakistan in recent years. This is evidence of how one exceptional role model has shaped the future of Pakistan's pace battery.

It is not just Akram either. The legendary feats of Pakistani fast-bowling as a whole have inculcated within all kids a mindset about bowling fast. There is no concept of military-medium for the Pakistani youngster, no matter at what level he plays at - be it street, domestic or international cricket. This is perhaps the single most important factor behind Pakistan's rich history of churning out fast bowlers so regularly. Of course the innate susceptibility of Pakistan's batsmen - playing at any level - against the swinging ball further strengthens the resolve.

You could argue that by virtue of this cause and effect relationship India's bowling would have eventually come out to be the best in the world. Regular exposure to quality batsmen in the domestic circuit should have spurred the production of good bowlers. Going by the same logic Pakistan's domestic circuit would have begotten batting behemoths. But it seems nature has condemned Pakistan to flimsy batsmanship and India to toothless bowling, as if only to pay homage to both human obduracy and human limitation. No matter how fervently India searches for a Wasim Akram or Pakistan hunt for a Sachin Tendulkar, they don't seem to be having much like finding them. Even foreign coaches and academies have not been able to stop this rut for either of the two countries. However, I digress.

Perhaps India's great fast bowling hope is somewhere out there. Maybe he is just yet to pick up the cricket ball. Perhaps he's yet to find his calling - remember Mohammed Irfan, who worked late into his youth at a plastic pipe factory before taking fast bowling seriously.

Or maybe, he's just yet to grow a moustache. I am sure Mitchell Johnson agrees.

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Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 23, 2014, 21:11 GMT)

I have a suggestion if England can steal players from Ireland to South Africa why cannot India steal a few from Pakistan-after all we have a shared history just like the English and Irish ....just a suggestion

Posted by Naresh on (February 4, 2014, 12:49 GMT)

I feel that India has hidden talent, except the tap into it is not there. Right now there is a young fast bowler (Umar Nazir) - he has just started playing Ranji domestic game - assign a coach to him. The talent we speak of is in the Kasmir region. It is untapped.Once some ten years back...we had an article about the "Northern Lights" These players were brushed aside. Dennis Lillee spoke of - ABID NABI. It seems politics in selection policy spoilt this guy - now he is too old to play. It has to come from BCCI - they are the ones to change this.

Posted by Mehul on (February 3, 2014, 19:11 GMT)

This reminds me of a clip from channel Aaj Tak. In the midst of all biggies sitting from India & Pakistan cricketers namely Kapil, Imran, Akram, Waqar, Ganguly, Azhar. Kapil was asked why couldn't India produce great bowlers like Pakistani legend sitting there, he said "because batsman are looked upon as officers and bowlers are labourers. Who wants to become labourer given a choice. Its physically harder work. A batsman's century is given more importance than a bowlers 5 wicket in the same match"...funny, but true.

Posted by Rizwan on (February 3, 2014, 13:30 GMT)


Tendulkar is NOT a clutch player - in CRUNCH situations , Tendulkar blinks and rarely has played a match defining innings - This is the reason NONE of Tendulkar's 51 test centuries was featured in the WISDEN 100 ( analysis carried by statistician Narayan) - VVS Laxman , Bradman , Lara et la were included because their centuries WON matches

Posted by Code on (February 3, 2014, 9:47 GMT)

@Kiwirocker, You say Fast bowling requires lot of strength, and that is where Pakistanis have the edge. How can you making such a sweeping statement w/o any concrete reason behind it? The diet among Indians and Pakistanis is pretty same, except for maybe a couple of things, so that can't be it. As far as genetics is concerned, I highly doubt that as well. All these reasons require a scientific analysis, and doubt if that too would provide much of an answer. The reason lies more in the psyche and how batsmen are almost given a divine status in India.

Posted by Kiran on (February 3, 2014, 7:17 GMT)

@ KiwiRocker - Inzamam won matches for Pakistan and Tendulkar did not? How many matches did Inzi win in Australia with an average of 30 in tests and 26 in ODI (over 45 ODIs !!!) or SAF with an average of 31 in tests and 28 in ODI (over 34 ODI- which is boosted by a 116 not out against SL) or England with an average of 42 in tests and 34 in ODIs. These numbers CLEARLY show that he is a flat track bully if there ever was one. Corresponding stats for Sachin - Australia - average of 53 in tests and 35 in ODI, SAF - Average of 46 in tests and 38 in ODI, England - Average of 54 in tests and 44 in ODI. These numbers show that Inzi not even in the league of Sachin forget about better than him. He can score tons of runs on flat tracks and he is a decent leader - agreed. But he is dismal out of Asia. The difference in Australia which is the best team in the 90s and 00s for tests is 23 runs !!! Being at the crease when a winning run is scored is not called winning the match for the team.

Posted by Bobby on (February 3, 2014, 5:36 GMT)

I disagree with this article. Number of assumptions made are flawed. It has nothing to do with role models. It is unfair to judge Pakistan's current line of batters. Pakistan had a far superior batting than India in 80's and 90's so theory of role models do not hold well. Salim Malik, Javed Miandad, Ijaz Ahmad, Amir Sohail,Saeed Anwar, Inzemam Ul Haq, Muhammad Yousaf were on par or better than Indian batters. The problems Pakistani batters are facing is because Pakistan does not play at home. Their techniques are being exposed. On other hand, India has never produced quality fast bowlers. Kapil Dev came close due to his sheer well, and natural hard work, but really other than that India has produced pretty average medium paces who are hyped to be next big thing but they disappear. The answer lie with genetics and diet. Fast bowling requires a lot of strength and thats where Pakistanis have natural edge. For record, Inzemam Ul Haq was better than Tendulya as he actually won matches!

Posted by Ahmad on (February 3, 2014, 5:06 GMT)

Indian teens should eat meet to develop power required for fast bowling. I will ask Indian cricket administrators to look towards Kashmir for hunting fast bowlers. Indian struggles in sports when powers and stamina involves like football.

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