FAST BOWLER – defined as a bowler in the game of cricket, who bowls consistently at the speed of 85-90 miles per hour and above.
Every team has had at least 5 great, genuinely fast bowlers in their cricket history; some teams have had more than 5. But India has always been plagued by the lack of genuine pace bowlers since its start in the Test arena.
India have been fortunate to have some of the most gifted exponents of the art of swing bowling, but we can count on our fingertips the bowlers who were of genuine pace and sustained it for a long part of their careers.
The first Test team in 1932 had two genuine pace bowlers in Mohd. Nissar and Amar Singh.
Mohammad Nissar was a well built genuinely quick bowler, who partnered with Amar Singh and troubled the English batsmen on India’s debut tour.
But after that, India’s bowling attack became spin heavy with the likes of Erapalli Prassanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Bishen Singh Bedi and Srinivas Venkatraghavan dominating the Indian bowling scene for years to come. There were glimmers of hope in the fast bowling department when likes of Ramakant Desai cropped up. But for the most part, tearaways like Ajit Wadekar, Sunil Gavaskar. Karsan Ghavri and even wicket keeper Budhi Kunderan opened the bowling for India as fast bowlers.
That was the scene until the arrival of Kapil Dev. He was a genuine quick bowler, with a natural out-swinging delivery, and was correctly nicknamed “The Haryana Hurricane“.
It was Kapil Dev who supported the spin attack and even managed to upset the opposition with vicious speed and accompanying swing. For some years, he was counted amongst the fastest in the world.
By this time, the pitches in India were tailored to suit spin instead of fast bowling and hence, many youngsters took up either spin or swing bowling as a part of their career development. In the meantime, teams like West Indies had Garner, Holding and Roberts, Australia had Lillee, Thomson and Mackenzie, Pakistan had Imran, Sarfaraz and Wasim, England had Botham, Snow, Old and Willis.
India were difficult to beat at home at that time due to pitches that supported spin bowling, but Pakistan, England and West Indies manage to beat India in India on the basis of fast bowling alone in the 1980s. There were bowlers like Madan Lal, T.A. Sekar and others who managed to break on to the scene, but no one could last long enough to form a potent pair with Kapil. Kapil then found an able partner in the out-and-out swing bowler Manoj Prabhakar.
The next really quick bowling sensation to come out of India transpired in 1992. A young fast bowler was making quite a name for himself on the domestic circuit and his name was Javagal Srinath. Srinath made his debut for India in the tour to Australia in 1992.
In Srinath, India had found an able partner for Kapil who would carry India’s fast bowling hopes in the coming future. Srinath was not terrifying quick, but was quick enough to comfortably bowl in the 135kph-142kph range for long spells.
He was ably supported by Venkatesh Prasad and Ajit Agarkar for the latter part of the decade, but India couldn’t find anyone to replace him. Many bowlers like Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel came forth, but they sacrificed speed for line and accuracy. Others like Sreesanth, David Johnson and Ajit Agarkar were victims of their own inconsistency and indiscipline.
Recently, two young pacemen made their mark in the Indian cricketing world by virtue of their bowling speed. Their names are Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Both Yadav and Aaron have shown that they can bowl genuinely quick, at 90mph and above. But only Yadav has shone the physical sustainability that comes with this speed. Varun Aaron has been plagued with injuries, which have hurt his progress.
Now the current option in genuine pace in front of us is Umesh Yadav, who genuinely hits the speeds of 85mph to 92-93 mph and he has been doing it consistently in both Tests and ODIs. He can be really potent on foreign pitches, which assist fast bowling.
The current fast bowlers in the Indian squad, R.Vinay Kumar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Mohd. Shami, Mohit Sharma and Jaydev Unadkat, all lack that extra edge of genuine pace. They have the gift of swing, but when they don’t get favourable conditions to exploit, they are just sitting ducks for opposition batsmen.
This has been evident in the ongoing series against Australia. Our fast bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Vinay Kumar failed to get any amount of swing or seam on a pitch where Australian fast bowlers wrecked havoc.
Ishant Sharma, the bowler who made life hell for Ricky Ponting, is nowhere to be found. The current Ishant looks to be bowling mechanically, without any strategy of any kind. His speed has constantly dropped, resulting in his yorkers being ineffective, if he ever bowls them. Otherwise, he just bowls short of length and is taken to the cleaners.
The only solution to this is that the Indian board needs to find and make a pool of 6-7 of genuine fast bowlers and take measures in making sure they stay healthy and fit, so that we can perform much better on pitches outside India that offer no help to our spinners. Or else we would forever be waiting for another Kapil to come through.