An Indian Fast Bowler – A Distant Dream

Posted: January 12, 2011 by The CouchExpert in Cricket, India Cricket

Prasad Moyarath


12 January 2011

The history of Indian cricket can be divided into two, Before 1983 World Cup and After 1983 World Cup. This article is on Indian fast bowling after 1983.

When India won the Prudential World Cup defeating West Indies in 1983, the whole nation rejoiced. The newspapers highlighted the all round performance of Mohinder Amarnath and the wonderful catch by Kapil Dev in the finals. But even the most fanatic Indian fan was unwilling to accept India as the World Champion in cricket. The fact that India didn’t have a fast bowler made every one doubt India’s credentials. Cricket was not the most popular sport in India then. This victory changed the face of cricket in India.

The West Indians toured India immediately after the 1983 World Cup and demolished the Indian side with ferocious fast bowling. Those Indians who never followed cricket till then got a real time demonstration of quality fast bowling from Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Winston Davis, Andy Roberts and Wayne Daniel on that tour.

India won the Benson & Hedges Trophy in Australia in 1985 and had many victories in Sharjah, but had to be contented with the medium pace of Kapil Dev, Chetan Sharma, Sanjeev Sharma etc. BCCI’s inability to find a quality fast-bowler hurt the country so much that a corporate giant came forward to help the country. MRF started the MRF Pace Foundation at Madras in 1987 with Dennis Lillee as the chief coach. Youngsters getting selected to this academy and then playing for their state teams in Ranji Trophy made news in sports pages of national dailies at that time.

India toured Pakistan in 1989 under K. Srikkanth which saw the birth of Sachin Tendulkar as a batsman in international cricket. India had two MRF Pace Foundation products in that team viz. Salil Ankola and Vivek Razdan. There were no speed guns to monitor the speed of the bowlers and the sight of these two youngsters bowling with a long run up excited many though they didn’t make any impact like Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar. These two played some more matches and vanished from the scene with injuries.

1990s saw the rise of Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad. Though Srinath had raw pace, Prasad was a swing bowler. After 2000 speed guns became popular and people started rating pacers by the speed of the delivery. Zaheer Khan excited Indian fans with his 140+ kmph deliveries in the 2000 Chanmpions Trophy. Munaf Patel troubled Steve Waugh in the nets of MRF Pace Foundation with his pace and the news of Dennis Lillee declaring Munaf as the fastest bowler in India was read with great interest by Indian cricket lovers. Atul Wassan, Subrato Banerjee, Abey Kuruvilla, D. Ganesh, David Johnson, Paras Mhambrey, Avishkar Salvi, Ajit Agarkar, Tinu Yohannan and L. Balaji were some of the Indian pacers who appeared and disappeared from the scene in quick succession. Injury was a common problem for all these fast bowlers and all of them kept losing pace after each injury. Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel who used to bowl at 140+ kmph at the start of their careers are now bowling at 130+ kmph or even less. Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth are no different.

Many Test nations have come-up after 1983 like SriLanka, Bangladesh etc and they all have quality fast bowlers without any training facilities. Don’t forget that MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai is training fast bowlers from these countries too.

Lack of fast and bouncy pitches in India was always cited as the main reason that prevented the emergence of a quality fast bowler in India. But a comparison with sub continental teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka will reveal that this is not the root cause. Fitness is a major concern for many. There is a popular belief that Indians cannot become tear away fast bowlers. If stamina was the major handicap, we would have seen many quick opening spells in our first class cricket. Even after getting selected to the national team, there is no improvement in the pace of fast bowlers even though we see a difference in their body weight. Every now and then our former cricketers express their opinion that speed is not the first priority for a fast bowler. I believe that these comments are having a negative impact on the mindset of young fast bowlers. The fast bowling coaches, the coaches of the State teams, our first-class cricket system and also our national bowling coach, all should be under scanner and as a responsible body for the development of cricket in India. The BCCI should appoint a committee to scientifically analyze this problem and find a right solution for it.

India might have won many matches with its swing bowling medium pacers, but going forward, the team needs to have a set of fast bowlers who can bowl consistently at 140 kmph and above. Line and length may be the key for getting wickets but pace adds extra venom to the attack.

An Indian fighter jet which was a dream in 1983, the same year in which India won the World Cup has been made a reality by DRDO and TEJAS has been inducted to IAF a few days back but an Indian fast bowler still remains a distant dream.

  1. goutham says:

    Interesting post. It’s difficult to explain why, but I really cannot think of an answer beyond the reasons that are obvious: environment, physical and genetic ability.

    Rarely do finger spinners come out of Australia for the true surfaces there offers little for them and hence the inclination towards wrist-spin there. Finger spinners of the yore were very successful in uncovered pitches there and hardly anyone of note has appeared since Swan asides.

    May be it is also mental aspect that impedes progress of these young bowlers that come-in as quicks. Probably we might have to be satisfied with our quicks in the 140s. The moment some young quick bowls in the 140s, we expect them to grow stronger and quicker which rarely happens. In the process, we have lost on some of our better bowlers – Irfan newly as an example.

    Good bowlers are one thing, quick bowlers are another as you point out. All said and done, can’t believe we never produce out-and-out quicks.

  2. Chandra says:

    This is, and will remain, THE million dollar question for years to come. My understanding of this problem is a touch different, and I’m not too sure many will agree.

    Every now and then you see an exciting bowling talent, with a lot of pace, enter the setup only to be, under my guesses, adviced to reduce his pace and focus on accuracy in order to hope for a sustained injury-free career. The coaches quote Glenn McGrath, but seriously, give me a break! How many coaches stress on practising to hit a spot, so miniscule in size within the 22 yard strip, consistently over long periods of time to have ANY hope of the young talent replicating a McGrath in the long run. Therefore, the pace is lost, the accuracy isn’t implied upon with time. That is how most vanish in thin air.

  3. Prasad Moyarath says:

    I fully agree with you Chandra. I also doubt the same and that is why I wrote that BCCI has to find the reason for this. I strongly feel that our former players turned coaches are hampering the emergence of fast bowlers.I remember an incident which Kapil Dev had said about his college days. When he asked for extra roti telling that he was a fast bowler, he was denied and told that there was no fast bowler in India.Now with more money in cricket, youngsters will obviously try to avoid injury. Unless the selectors take a tough stand on pace by encouraging bowlers with real pace, Indian team will never have a fast bowler.

  4. mohit says:

    In fact we have been able to get the fast bowlers, but the issue is that they dont survive more than two seasons.
    One reason for this could be no fitness awareness in the early stages. We see very few people concentrating on excercise and fitness when they are young for example age of 10-15. Only after you get into the main scene we are exposed to gyms and …. I think this is very late.

  5. abhijit says:

    Mr Prasad moyrath salil ankola a vivek razdan orashant vaidya raju kulkarni atul wassan were qucik bowlers kapil dev kept manoj prabhakar slow medium Pacer because they were competitors for kapil Dev as Kapil Dev lost most of his place in 90s bowling at theaverage spreed of 125 kph those bowlers were quick speed of 136 kph to 150 155 kph manoj prabhakar hardly bowled 120-123 kph selection committee bcci should have been given more exposure to those pace bowlers instead of depending on Kapil Dev and manoj prabhakar no doubt Kapil had good pace and swing till 1986 130 kph to 136 137 kph but he became slow during injuries kapil took pain killer injections and surjuries and played for India so as nowdays bcci kept faith given ample opportunities to zaheer Khan ajit agarkar Irfan pathan munaf patel shami ahmed ishant sharma umesh yadav bhuvaneshvar kumar jasprit bumrah so if bcci would have shone faith in those pace bowlers scenario would have been different and india would have won matches in india and abroad

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