November 29, 2009

Preserving pace's space

November 29, 2009 Posted by Vijay No comments
When was the last time India had a bowler bowling at over 145 kph ? Oh well, recent memory might serve up Ishant Sharma. But, rarely has he touched 145 kph. He was effective more out of his height and the bounce he extracted. So then, who else ? Zaheer Khan when he initially burst on the scene was almost always in the 140 kph mark. Munaf Patel too clicked the high 140s. Even Agarkar used to clock the mid 140s until few years back. Well, these instances were not even spanning one season, forget more than a year. All of these bowlers are still playing active international cricket for India, but none of them possess the pace to trouble batsmen, even on foreign soil.

The recent decline in Ishant Sharma's form is hardly surprising. Within a month of a famous spell in Perth against Ponting, he was offered nearly a million dollars for Kolkata Knight Riders. Irfan Pathan is a similar story, when he burst on the international scene in Australia in 2004. He has become a part of distant memory of the selectors and the spectators alike. Unlike Ishant, his batting abilities helped elongate his struggle for over 4 years. Its quite remarkable that these supposedly quick pacers invariably lose steam within a season of international cricket.

Cricket fatigue is certainly one reason.  More emphasis on IPL and constant cricket all through the year can be mentally drain any cricketer. Its quite interesting that unlike India, Pakistan and even Sri Lanka keep producing bowlers who bowl consistently over 140 clicks. One major difference between India and Pakistan, Sri Lanka is how the fast bowlers are nurtured. While it is prestigious for any bowler to attend the MRF pace academy under Dennis Lilee's eyes, it does impact the natural ability of the bowler. Excessive nurturing which spoils the innate talent of the cricketer, is never a case in Pakistan or Sri Lanka.

How else can one explain how a Lasith Malinga has continued to be one of the fastest in the world ? Sri Lanka does not tamper with the natural ability of their players. Even Dilhara Fernando clocks consistently over 140 kph. Pakistan on the other hand, keeps producing a 140 kph bowler every couple of years. Mohammed Aamir is just 17 and clocks over 140 consistently. That's serious pace for a 17 year old. Remember Mohammad Sami ? He has fallen by the wayside, but he used his pace with devastating effect for his yorkers.

India somehow eventually loses the steam in its fast bowlers. Even Zaheer doesn't clock the 140 that he used to in his earlier days. Sreesanth's five wicket haul is refreshing, for the reason that he still is brisk in his speed, and hasn't lost his ability of bowling seam bolt upright. Ishant, sadly has just petered off alarmingly in the past few months. The only silver lining for him is his age. The one advantage that IPL does have on cricketers is the immense pressure of performance. Ishant would definitely have to perform or perish in next year's IPL too. If he does perform well,  he would have done a world of good for his career. Else, that contract would be in danger of not being renewed !