The case of the missing pace

This is the real case of the missing pace – a very common phenomenon in India. I am not sure whether the BCCI have filed a FIR at the police station; but going by so many of these cases in recent years in Indian cricket, it is high time a FIR is filed immediately or a JPC is set up to investigate why this phenomenon is so self-repeating like corruption in India.

It’s not rocket science nor a brilliant invention that would provoke an ‘Eureka’ that in cricket (whether the classical test cricket or the shortened version of one-day cricket or the ‘tamasha’ version called T20) that every cricketing nation would love to have certain quality pace bowlers in her armoury – a set of pace bowlers who justify the word ‘pace’ in all respects. This is because a genuine pace bowler can be a match-winner and can potentially ‘destroy’ not only the batting of a team, but also the mental strength that the team has. His impact is huge – both literally and psychologically.

The very sight of a ‘real’ pace bowler is a true poetry : his running down his run-up, gathering momentum while glaring at the batsman on the other end, the final leap with his hands as high up as possible, the shifting of the momentum to his shoulders, the grump accompanied by the fast movement of the arms downwards, the shifting of the center of gravity as the body is hurled towards the ground, the lightning fast passage of the ball like a bullet and then the final recovery of the bowler to restore balance and destroy the huge energy generated by his bold steps in his follow-through, occasional glare at the batsman after he manages to evade the 145 km / hour ball kissing the sweat generated in his wavering nose …. Aggression at it’s best and that is what we all look for from each pace bowlers.

People of my generation had been accustomed to see Dennis Lillee, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall followed by Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Bob Willis, Curtley Ambrose ; then followed by Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Alan Donald and finally to the recent generation of Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee, etc. Everytime, we used to think – if we had even one of these qualities, then who can stop us from winning matches ? What did we get from our own system ? Except for Kapil Dev (that too, he did not have that genuine pace as compared to others), we always craved for more – and our answers were limited to Manoj Prabhakar, Chetan Sharma, Jawagal Srinath ! What a contrast !

However, it’s not that we did not hear of pace bowlers in the truest sense whenever somebody made a debut. When I was very young, I heard from my uncles that there was a great pace bowler named Barun Barman who could not make to the team because of one Kapil Dev. Then heard of a bowler bowling at a great pace – Winston Zaidi – who again could not make it big. In recent times, players like Munaf Patel, R P Singh, V R V Singh, Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan made their debut who could bowl consistently at 140 km/hr and some of them like Zaheer could bowl swinging yorkers at that pace. We were so much happy when we saw their bowling – when they broke the stumps repeatedly in their first 2 / 3 series.

However, only in India we have the unique case when we have the same young pace bowlers bursting into the international arena and then losing their pace at such a pace that we, the cricket fans, can’t keep pace with ! That’s a mystery nobody has been able to resolve yet. Because all these ‘promising’ bowlers, who started their careers at 140 km/hr pace (with some of them like Ishant Sharma even hitting 150 km/hr) lose their pace within just 1 year of international cricket.

Look at the case of Munaf Patel – his initial pace was huge and we were proud to have answered Brett Lee ! But within one year, his pace dropped considerably and now probably bowls at 120-130 km/hr ! That has provoked Andy Roberts to make a sarcastic comment of “When Munaf Patel came here in 2006, he had some pace. Now he is spinning the ball!” !

Why does this happen only to Indian players – whereas within the same sub-continent, Pakistan and even Sri Lanka has been consistently producing bowlers of that quality ?

  • People blame the docile pitches in India for this debacle – my point is that why will a bowler lose pace just because the pitches do not have any ‘life’ for a pace bowler ? They might not be able to take wickets – but as they come to international cricket by bowling at high pace on the same wickets, then why will they lose pace just after 1 year ?
  • People blame the pace academies that we have – my point is that through the same academies bowlers like Chaminda Vaas can bowl at same pace, then why can’t our bowlers bowl ? And if someone says that the coach named Dennis Lillee cannot teach how to bowl fast, then who can ?
  • People say that bowlers tend to pickup injuries fast (example is Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel) – my point is that is applicable for all bowlers across countries … how many times Brett Lee has picked up injury, how many times Donald has picked up injury ? After injury, I haven’t seen them dropping pace considerably – specially when they are below 30 years.

Frankly speaking, I haven’t found any solid reason behind this concern – except that the bowlers tend to ‘relax’ and ‘enjoy’ once they are selected in the Indian team. To me, it’s more of an attitude problem than anything else ! Maybe the bowlers themselves know best and it is high time they think seriously that this is not a joke that other countries would like to continue saying in the future !

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  1. Agree totally. Remember some less acclaimed bowlers also like “Patrick Patterson” as well, who endeared themselves to use only due to sheer pace. One should also not forget some masters of swing like Michael Holding, Coutney Walsh etc who, despite having relatively lesser pace, used to still bowl at more than 140 kmph.

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