Are fast bowlers getting slower? It often feels like they are. Admittedly, fast bowling of the past is arguably mythologised more than anything else in cricket and pitches now are more benign than they were a quarter of a century ago, not to mention that batting techniques and protective equipment have improved radically, but even accounting for this, it is hard to shake off the feeling that today's bowlers just don't seem as quick as those who came before them.
But even if the pace of fast bowling is not getting slower and is in fact staying fairly constant, the really fascinating thing is it is certainly not getting any faster, when really it could, and should, be doing so.
Significant developments in sports science in recent years have redefined the limits of the human body. At the highest level of sport every aspect of an athlete's body, lifestyle, diet and psychology are analysed and fine-tuned. This information revolution has pushed many sports into unchartered territory, with new records set astoundingly regularly.
Fast bowling, however, appears to have been left behind in this pursuit. The volume of cricket now played is most culpable. Bowling actions, training programmes and fitness plans are defined not so much in the name of speed, or even efficiency, but longevity and fitness instead. Since the retirements of Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar, only Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait can lay claim to being part of cricket's speed elite. This is incongruous with an age in which sports science is pushing contemporary athletes to the brink of human capabilities.
There is, however, hope yet that a resurgence in fast bowling is not only possible but a natural and inevitable stage in cricket's continuing evolution. As the T20 format matures it is becoming clear that the framework of the game lends itself to the production of fast bowlers the likes of which cricket has never seen before. The relatively limited physical demands of bowling in a T20 - a maximum of 24 deliveries - coupled with increased opportunities and enormous financial rewards of the format at domestic level mean we could be on the cusp of a fast-bowling revolution.
The enforced decision of England's Tymal Mills, plagued by a serious back injury, to focus his attention solely on T20 is portentous. Unable to bowl more than a handful of overs a week, 15 years ago Mills' career would have been ended by such an injury - now he could end up earning more money bowling four overs a match in T20 leagues around the world than he could have in a decade of toil in first-class cricket.
At just 23, Mills is possibly the youngest professional player to commit to T20 specialisation but his situation is far from the last stop in this evolutionary process. A generation of players who intend to only play cricket's shortest format have most likely already been born and the possibilities of this, especially for fast bowlers, are tantalising.
If a portly Shoaib, whilst balancing the demands of white- and red-ball cricket, could break the 100mph barrier then imagine just for a moment what a bowler bred for T20 cricket could achieve. A bowler whose entire career from age-group cricket onwards is focused on bowling 24 balls a match at searing speed.
Raw pace is an asset in any form of cricket but in T20, where the balance of the game is most skewed in favour of the batsman, it is at its most valuable. The size of bats and boundaries and the strength and power of batsmen are rendered irrelevant by speed.
"Seriously fast bowlers will always have a place because the reaction time of the batsman is negligible," explains fast bowling coach Ian Pont. "Defences get ripped apart, techniques get shredded and it doesn't matter how brave you are or how good you are, 100 miles an hour tests every fibre in your body as a batsman."
T20 has reversed the psychology of the player with the ball being the one to be feared. Now, gym-monsters with enormous bats are the most intimidating individuals on the pitch. The T20 format offers genuinely fast, specialist bowlers the opportunity to turn back the clock and become the fear again; the consequences of that could be game-changing.
Freddie Wilde is a freelance T20 journalist. @fwildecricket