What makes Pakistan's left-armers a handful
Apart from creating awkward angles to right-hand batsmen, Amir, Wahab and Irfan each manage to pose questions with their distinctive skills
While there are plenty of right-arm outswing bowlers, we don't see as many left-arm pacers who can swing the ball away from left-hand batsmen. And if they are able to do so, they aren't as competent at bringing the ball back into the right-handers. The reason for this is the positioning at the crease and the line that they have to start with while bowling to right-handers. To bring the ball back into right-handers and finish within the stumps, they must start from slightly outside off. If they start within the stumps, the ball will end up missing leg stump. In order to start from outside off, they must come really close to the stumps, because it's impossible to bowl the outside-off line and bring the ball back in while bowling from far out on the crease. Amir comes close to the stumps, starts from outside off, and since his wrist is firmly behind the ball, it tails back in sharply. In addition to that, he bowls in the high 140s and has the ability to pitch the ball fuller.
On his day, Wahab can be the quickest of them all. He's the kind of bowler who is associated with bowling a "heavy ball", that hits the bat harder than expected. But while pace is his great asset, he doesn't seem to have the ability to swing the ball in the air. His wrist is not behind the ball at the time of release. If Amir's wrist is at 90 degrees at the point of release, Wahab's is at 45 degrees, and though the ball doesn't wobble after release, it doesn't swing either, because the seam isn't upright.
As expected, the tallest of them all gets the maximum bounce too. Irfan's strength is to get extra bounce from a good length. The biggest challenge for a batsman facing him is that he's forced to recalibrate his eyeline. As a batsman you're conditioned to keeing your line of sight almost parallel to the pitch, for that allows you to follow the full trajectory of the ball. If you're looking slightly high, you may not be in the best position to play full balls, and if you're looking slightly low, you may misread short balls. In Irfan's case, you're forced to look higher, and so you start to think that every ball is a lot shorter than it actually is. In addition, the extra bounce he extracts also fools you into believing that you aren't actually misjudging the length, and that's when you end up going back to the ball that's pitched fairly full. Or you're so keen to go on the back foot that you're too late on the balls that you should be getting forward to. While facing him, you must remind yourself to prepare for the full ball and react to the short ball. Also, you must keep the hands and bat higher than usual, even on low, slow subcontinental pitches, to deal with the bounce.
Aakash Chopra is the author of three books, the latest of which is The Insider: Decoding the craft of cricket. @cricketaakash