Sultans of Swing

Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi realizing that his seam bowler’s resources were bleak picked a wily bunch of spinners, unleashed the sublime spin quartet on to the world cricket. But on the other side of the border, led by the trundler-in-chief Imran Khan there was this wealth of fast bowling demons, who created havoc on the batsmen’s minds with just raw pace and swing. The border had not only split the two countries in half, but bifurcate talent in such a way both sides were left with distinct talents which was to set the trend for decades, inspire youth in picking seam and spin respectively. 

There is a strange, beautiful connection between Pakistan and fast bowling. The act of reverse-swinging the ball became an art and the Pakistanis had passed down this through its generation of fast bowlers. What really draws me towards penning this article is the surfeit of fast-bowling talent they have produced even after setbacks and drug scandals over the last two decades. Pakistan cricket has often been in the news for several wrong reasons, be it the betting scandal that rocked the cricketing world or the attack by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants on the Sri Lankan cricketer’s several years ago. Each was a blow of its own, but what has been surprising is that, the Pakistan cricket has still survived all these scares and kept producing cricketers and displays which have been nothing but awe inspiring! At the time of the recent betting fiasco – there was huge doubts as to who really would succeed the likes of Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif as it were big shoes to fill in, but the PCB had a readymade replacement in the form of Wahab Riaz & to an extent Mohammad Irfan. Agreed, Mohammad Irfan is not in the league of Amir and Asif, Riaz quite inconsistent which might prove my last statement to be wrong but quite frankly this has not been the only case where Pakistan had to search in for replacements for what has been a notorious group of fast bowlers over the last couple of decades. 

Talent pool: Tape-balls and their love affair with Pakistan’s streets

Every year, the month of Ramazan brings out hordes of young boys for night cricket tournaments on streets across the country. As the lights turn on, the makeshift wickets are arranged and the frenzy begins, bowlers are seen running in and once again rekindling an old national romance that keeps on giving: Pakistanis and fast bowlers. This was during the same time when Pakistan’s school cricket was taking a fall and tape-ball cricket was on the rise. The origins of tape-ball cricket are unclear, however, a large proportion concludes that it initiated from Karachi’s densely populated area of Nazimabad. Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, were all products of tape-ball cricket. All of these bowlers have impressed the cricket fraternity with their extraordinary pace. Bowling with the tape-ball in their teens, enabled these young cricket enthusiasts to develop fast-bowling muscles at a very early age that has eventually led to their meteoric rise. 

Accolades and Achievements: Champion fast bowlers

Of what has been a generation of successful fast bowlers after him, Imran Khan laid the sead which has transcended beyond a couple of decades. Khan who was to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame On the July 14th 2010, captained Pakistan to World cup glory in 1992 along with starlets Wasim Akram, Aaqib Javed. The former (Akram) who would then go on to become one of the finest exponent of reverse swing bowling, in tandem with the Borewala Express – Waqar Younis later became one of the lethal combos in world cricket that they shared a colossal 476 wickets between them at 22.39 in 56 Tests — most by any given pair in International cricket. In 1992 and 2002 respectively Wisden released a set of cricketers to be inducted onto the Hall of Fame and name one who could have been the best ever bowler in ODI cricket. Waqar and Wasim were inductees in these as they reaped rewards of what had been stellar careers not just with respect to Pakistan cricket but with World cricket too. Of the talent which followed suit, none laid a staked a claim as heir of their predecessors with consistency and continuity but though maintained the legacy of reverse swing and fast bowling with flashes of the past and glory days, as Pakistan’s quest for glory continues..

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