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Rich crop of quicks promises bright future

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    Rich crop of quicks promises bright future

    My mother sent me this article.
    Although Filipina, she became a fan
    of Pakistani cricket because of me.


    Rich crop of quicks promises bright future

    By Syed Asif Ali

    Real fast bowlers are a rare breed. However, not in Pakistan, where there is rather a glut now. A continuous blast of genuine pacers into Pakistan cricket
    since mid 80s has really made the country a potent force in the sport internationally.

    While Wasim was still a sensation, the star of Waqar set out for ascendance. Then it was Shoaib who diverted all attention towards him. And now Shabbir
    looks set to dazzle Shoaib's radiance.

    While India, England and others are starving for even a fast-medium deliverer, Pakistan have a flood of fast bowlers craving to inundate the cricket world.
    Apart from the existing lot comprising Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis, Abdul Razzak, Azhar Mahmood and Shabbir Ahmed, waiting in the wings are
    Muhammad Zahid, Muhammad Akram, Kabir Khan, Shahid Nazir, Fazle Akbar, Aqib Javed and Amir Nazir etc.

    It's luxury for a captain to have a blistering pace at both ends all through the innings. Only Wasim Akram, of late, could imagine the frill Clive Llyod
    would relish in late 70s and early 80s when the West Indies had such a fearsome pace quartet that even quality spinners, like Ranjie Nanan and Derek Parry,
    were thought to be redundant.

    Imran Khan was Pakistan's first fast bowler who was equipped with penetrating pace. The former greats - Fazal Mahmood, Khan Muhammad and Mahmood Hussain -
    were never more than fast medium. Sarfaraz Nawaz and lesser luminaries, Asif Masood and Sikender Bakht, were also not quick enough to rank among genuine

    A debutante of 1971, Imran took five years to transform himself into a real fast bowler from a medium pacer, that he initially was. However, being the sole
    spearhead of the attack, he was overbowled from time to time.

    Not too long after the advent of the 80s, an overused Imran inflicted a stress fracture on his left knee that forced him to stay away from bowling for about
    two years. By the time Sarfaraz Nawaz had also reached the fag end of his career. It was a period of complete draught of pacers in the country. Many a
    bowler - Shahid Mahboob, Rashid Khan, Atiq-ur-Rehman, Azim Hafeez, Tahir Naqqash, Jalaluddin, Mohsin Kamal, Zakir Khan - were given a chance but none could
    serve the team for a longer period.

    It was not until 1985 that Imran was able to wield the bowl again; and that coincided with the emergence of Wasim Akram on the cricket horizon as an ideal
    foil to the great Khan.

    With Imran and Wasim at the outset of bowling, the graph of Pakistan's fortunes began to show unprecedented rise. They earned pompous victories on Indian,
    English and West Indian soils, and became a force to reckon with.

    Aqib Javed was into the fray in 1989, followed by Waqar Younis the same year. The Wasim-Waqar-Aqib trio not only made up for Imran's slow-down (after the
    West Indian tour of 1988) but also contributed immensely towards establishing Pakistan's hegemony in the sport for a good number of years to follow.
    Especially the duo of Wasim and Waqar proved disastrous for the opponents the world over. Their mysterious spells proved catastrophic for the opponents.
    Waqar, in particular, single-handedly earned his team a lot of victories in Sharjah and South Africa. So much so that Geoff Boycott was compelled to say,
    "Even with an orange in his hand (instead of the ball) Waqar could be as fearsome and productive." The two Ws gave an extended dimension to the art of
    reverse-swing invented by Sarfaraz Nawaz and well-inherited by Imran Khan.

    Currently, Pakistan are immensely fertile in this region. So unlimited is the choice that the selection job has gone uphill. Confronting the new crop of
    quicks, even Waqar and Aqib are unable to stake claims for a place in the team. Bowlers like Muhammad Akram, Kabir Khan, Shahid Nazir and Fazle Akbar are
    almost non-starters. What if Muhammad Zahid had been fit?!

    There's no dearth of experts who endorse Pakistan as having the best pace attack in the world. The unmatched skills of the national pacers have impressed
    almost everyone. Wasim Akram, despite age catching up with him, is a class of his own. He is still as economic and productive as he had been at the start of
    his career. Rather the maturity has extracted better out of him. Simply unconventional, his bowling depends upon last-minute body movement rather than a
    long build-up. It's unbelievable to generate such an immense pace and ferocious swing with just 12 paces up to the wicket and the delivery stride with no
    jump in between. His smooth run-up and effortless delivering exercise promise him an extended career. Even in the 16 year of his career, he shows no sings
    of wear and tear at all.

    No batsman enjoys facing real fast bowling. Think of Ganguly facing Shoaib Akhtar. The latter has really struck terror in the heart of the former, despite
    him being a superb front-order batsman. His sensational emergence on cricket front timely wrapped up Pakistan's quick-bowling worries arising out of Waqar's
    slow-down. The way he smoothly sprints up to the crease and turns his right arm over his shoulder, is enough to unsettle the best of the nerves.

    His lightening yorker can outpace anything coming in its way to the stumps. Imagine those two priceless deliveries that sent the stumps of Tendulkar and
    Dravid cartwheeling during a Test in India early this year. When he hits the stumps, they do not stay rooted, they are uprooted. Though a bit expensive at
    times, due to his attacking style of bowling, his strike rate is quite satisfactory.

    Shabbir reminds us of Big Bird Joel Garner who, though a bit slower than the rest of the West Indian lot, had accuracy and awkward bounce. That is what
    Shabbir appears set to mould himself into.

    In the blistering competition for a place in the team chockfull of fast bowlers, Abdul Razzak has so far bowled well enough to secure his position. Unlike
    Shoaib, he relies on length and direction and the movement off the pitch. Although a rare blend of bowling and batting, like Ian Bothom, Razzak can't afford
    to be complacent.

    However, Azhar Mahmood will have to do something extra to keep his place intact. Lacking pace, he needs to be more accurate so as to pick up pickets by
    compelling the batsmen to play most of his deliveries.

    Now some words on Waqar Younis, who is brimming with confidence to recapture his place as country's principal strike bowler. However, in the face of a tough
    competition and in view of his ordinary performance of late, the foggy evening of his career does not seem to escape the haze it has been under for the last
    couple of years. Gone are the days when his pace would send shockwaves among the opponents. He appears to have forgotten the wiles he was at home in once.
    His boot-crushing yorkers are no more there. His wayward line on a cut-down pace is even more pathetic.

    Whether or not Waqar resurges as a frontliner, his name will go into the record books as one of the best bowlers ever to grace the game anywhere. The
    influence of our fast bowlers is decisive to our team's triumphs over the years. Together they contain speed, swing and swerve and can cause problems to any