There are three are four different types of fast bowlers. Some depend on swing, some on seam, and some on raw pace. I am the kind of bowler who depends on seam and swing. I try to bowl within the stumps. If the batsman is beaten or deceived, the ball should go on to hit the stumps. My line and length is such that the ball should not go over the height of the bails. Some bowlers just like to see the keeper gathering the ball over his head. That looks good, but it's not much use.
Speed is a factor. You should have speed. But if you try and bowl too fast you lose out on line, length and variations. When you strive for pace alone you won't be able to pitch the ball where you want to. Bowlers like [Glenn] McGrath, [Shaun] Pollock and [Wasim] Akram were successful because they always focused on the important things: line, length, swing, seam - not pace.
When I began, I was able to swing the ball and my line was good, so people began comparing me to McGrath. Of course, I didn't mind that! It is an ability of mine, to be able to bowl a certain line and length. That's my strength and I just concentrate on that.
I always have a game plan, looking specifically at one or two batsmen. I generally know what a certain batsman's weakness is, and then try to bowl in such a way that I can exploit that. If someone is weak against the inswinger, I'll make sure I don't give him any outswingers, and keep bringing the ball in to him. The main thing, as I said before, is line. I try to bowl the same thing to top-order batsmen and tailenders, and that's the wicket-taking ball. There are obviously variations and different tactics you have to use for different batsmen.
I've got top-order wickets against many countries. But someone like Jacques Kallis has given me a tough time because he survives. He sticks to his game plan, no matter what you bowl. If he has decided to defend, then he just plays defensively, even if you bowl a loose ball. Batsmen like that are tough to get rid of. But then, for me it's like a hobby to get the best players in the opposition out.
|Even on tough pitches it's only bowlers who bowl a good line and length who are successful. As a bowler you should never forget that|
Cricket is now played at all times. June-July in the subcontinent is not a time to play cricket. Especially on some pitches it becomes difficult to survive as a fast bowler. But there are times when you come across a sporting pitch and you have to make it count. But it's always been that in the subcontinent there are very few wickets that are sporting for fast bowlers. But even on tough pitches, it's only bowlers who bowl a good line and length who are successful. As a bowler you should never forget that.
With the new ball, you have a fair idea of control. When you're bowling an inswinger, it should start at a line so that it ends up on the stumps when it's done swinging. It shouldn't be outside the stumps or down leg. With the outswinger it's the same. The ball should end in such a way that an edge lands in the hands of the slip fielder.
There's barely a chance for the ball to reverse swing in one-dayers these days. Nowadays the ball is changed as and when the batsmen want it. So how can a bowler even get reverse-swing going? Also, matches are mostly day-night, and with the dew coming into play, what little chance there is of reverse swing is killed off.
It [lows] happens in everyone's career. But in my case it all happened very fast and very early, and the burden came earlier. I've survived. I always look at it positively, thinking that since the bad times had come early, the good times were bound to follow. I worked hard at staying fit. I knew that good times would come and when they did I'd be able to hold on to them for as long as I could and make the most of it.
If you have natural talent and then work hard, you can become a legend. Every third player has talent. But you have to work hard and continue to perform and succeed. This is what separates the great from the good.
India has always produced batsmen and Pakistan have had strong bowling attacks. In Pakistan, especially from Punjab, fast bowlers come through. I don't know what it is about Punjab. But the aggression and physicality you need to be a fast bowler, that's something you see in people from Punjab. Maybe it's the diet plan, what you eat, what you drink. I don't know what it is but they're strong people.
Wasim, Waqar, Aaqib [Javed], people like this are very keen that young bowlers in Pakistan learn the tricks of the trade. They help young fast bowlers a lot. They always hope that more good fast bowlers should emerge from Pakistan.
The pressure on me is so much now that there's an expectation for me to get an early breakthrough every time. Thanks to God, I've been able to get breakthroughs at the top and then later break partnerships if the ball is thrown to me. But now the public's expectation has increased so much that they think I'll get a wicket every time the ball is thrown to me.
Too much cricket. Playing almost every day. You have no time for proper rest or proper training. Automatically injuries increase. Once your rest and training schedule is hurt, it is bound to show. That's also why people bowl below their full capacity and pace reduces.
It's the cricket board's decision. But whoever made the decision has obviously seen something in me and made the decision. They've been able to see that I have the ability to think and read the game.
There are plenty of coaches in the world. We also have coaches in Pakistan. Wherever the coach is from, he should be able to extract the maximum performance from you. He should be able to make you perform above your ability. That should be criteria in choosing a coach, not whether he is from India or Pakistan or abroad.
Batsmen should respect good bowlers. Especially if the bowler is in the middle of a good spell. They must respect someone who is bowling well, show patience, and then go after someone else who comes on to bowl later. If they don't show that respect, then they will get out. It's that simple.
Anand Vasu is associate editor of Cricinfo