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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