Even the prime minister is a fast pitcher: Pakistani cricket needs speed

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Karachi (AFP)

To understand the culture of fast bowling in Pakistan, look no further than Imran Khan – once a dreaded fast, and now the country’s prime minister.

Not all Pakistani pacemen will fly this high, but Khan’s rise underscores a tradition where speed is king, and a breakneck pace is essential for any team.

As if to reinforce that point, Pakistan have eight rapids in their 20-man squad for the three-test series against England, starting on Wednesday, ready to unleash their pace and swing.

They carry the baton passed by predecessors such as Khan, the great left arm Wasim Akram and his destructive partner Waqar Younis, the modest Aaqib Javed and Shoaib Akhtar, the dreaded “Rawalpindi Express” who is considered the fastest pitcher in the world. ‘history.

The current generation includes the precocious Naseem Shah, still only 17, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz, and the precise Mohammad Abbas.

The production line is so cohesive that when one player leaves another is ready to take over – as seen in 2010 when Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, banned for fixing in place, were replaced. by Junaid Khan, Riaz, Mohammad Irfan, Ehsan Adil and Rahat Ali.

Even Amir’s decision to step down from Tests at just 27 didn’t slow Pakistan down, as Shaheen became the spearhead and Naseem announced himself with a superb hat-trick from Test.

But the steady emergence of spirits – left-handed, right-handed, even ambidextrous – raises an obvious question: how does Pakistan continue to do so?

Former fast pitcher Sarfarz Nawaz, considered the reverse swing pioneer in the 1970s, said factors included the meaty diet of Muslim Pakistan – unlike predominantly vegetarian India, once known for its spinners.

“We are a nation obsessed with fast bowling,” Nawaz told AFP. “We eat body-building meat, we love slamming wickets and shivering batsman, so it’s only natural that we produce fast bowlers. ”

– ‘The two W’s’ –

Nawaz passed on his reverse swing skills to Khan under whose tutelage Wasim and Waqar became “The Two Ws,” a menacing partnership in the 1980s and 1990s.

Wasim said he has followed Khan’s legacy, and the pace of bowling matches the Pakistani mentality.

“I think it’s the culture (to become a fast bowler), especially this generation of Waqar and me and then Akhtar, we all had a role model in Khan,” he said.

“Usually when we talk about cricket it’s mostly about the fast bowlers, they get naps from the batsmen. We are aggressive people in nature and that is what helps. ”

Wasim often runs camps to train the emerging fast bowlers, swelling Pakistan’s ranks.

“When I got there I always wanted to be a fast bowler and then a series of fast bowlers came along, and now we have Naseem, Shaheen, Mohammad Hasnain and Musa Khan playing 140-150 km / h (87- 93 mph), ”he told me.

Perhaps the most deciding factor, however, is the Pakistani legion of tape-ball players, who play in disused parking lots and plots of land using tennis balls wrapped in electrical tape to weigh them down, prompting to the rhythm rather than turning.

Lahore Qalandars, a Pakistani Super League franchise that has been at the forefront of educating fast bowlers in recent years, has received more than 350,000 applicants for their talent hunt program – nearly half of them are of tape-ball players including ambidextrous pace wonder Yasir Jan.

“We give them a platform in our development program and send them to Australia to hone their talent,” said head coach Aaqib Javed.

Fast bowling runs so deep, Wasim said, Pakistan’s stocks will never run out.

“A lot of natural resources are going to dry up, but not the bowling reservoirs in Pakistan,” he said. “Our fast-paced bowling future is secure because they follow in the footsteps and run-ups. “

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