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Why Doesn’t India Produce a Fast Bowler?

by Bored Guest

I’ve been cricket crazy for as long as I can remember. The earliest memory that I have is of the dull ache I felt as we slowly but surely committed Hara-kiri at Eden Gardens in WC ’96. In the last 13 years, the more Indian cricket has changed, the more it remains the same. True, we have improved in all departments and are contenders for the best team in the world. However, I couldn’t help suppressing a déjà-vu in the last two ODI’s. At Hyderabad, Sachin went solo as everyone else gave him his deserved limelight by doing as little as possible collectively circa ‘96.

At Guwahati we proved that we are still not beyond catching hold of our own jugular with a vengeance and asphyxiating ourselves, much to the delight of the bemused Australians. That got me thinking about what else hadn’t changed in the last 13 years… The answer: We didn’t have a fast bowler then, we don’t now. In fact, we’ve never had one.

When I say Fast Bowler, I mean a bowler capable of bowling a spell, if not an over at an average speed of 90+mph. The fact that Ashish Nehra bowled ONE delivery at 149.7kph in WC ’03 does not make him a fast bowler. A candidate for Ripley’s, yes, a fast bowler, no. No, Ishant Sharma, contrary to what he thinks, isn’t one either.

A tall, well built(see why Ishant doesn’t qualify? :-)!) pacer who can intimidate the batsman and force him into errors by using sheer pace and bounce has never made his way into the blues. The fact is, EVERY top cricket playing nation on the planet has had at least one fast bowler. Every one of them. Most of them have one in their current roster. Pak, SA & Aus are pretty obvious. NZ with a population of 4.5 million has discovered a Shane Bond. WI have had a number of them from Jermaine Lawson to Fidel Edwards. Their second string XI had a Roach, for god’s sake! Eng have Harmison, Flintoff and even Broad! Sri Lanka have Fernando and Malinga among the prominent ones. In comparison, India’s attack of Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar are rated as LMF, RMF and RM by cricinfo (RM!! Would you believe it! The same as Ganguly!) An aussie attack of Lee, Johnson and Siddle were rated as RF, LF and RFM. Herein lies the difference. Why are we the only nation without a single fast bowler? Many theories have been given, all of which can be discredited with minimal effort.

We are too nice: The most ridiculous hypothesis, given by none other than the batting great Geoffrey Boycott. He actually said that most Indians were nice and lacked the aggression to be fast bowlers, due to their Hindu upbringing and innate hospitality. Anyone who knows a little about the casteist, sexist, puritanical Indian knows that he is not a nice person. If people have been nice to you Mr. Boycott, it is because you are an affluent Caucasian. No offence intended. It is an innate, irksome subservience that makes them nice and not the fact that they are Hindus.

We don’t have supportive pitches: I don’t think the pitches are any different in Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh. If anything, we have comparatively better pitches.

We don’t eat meat: I think it is sufficient to say that a lot of us do eat meat these days. At the very least, a sufficient number eat meat to produce a minimum of one fast bowler. This quibble is refined to include only red meat. To be more particular, beef. This is used to conveniently differentiate India from its neighbours. I must admit that beef consumption is on the lower side in India. However, people forget that Indians have many minority communities who do consume beef. We have 100 million Muslims, 20 million Christians and 5 million Zoroastrians and East Indians. Have any of these communities produced a first rate fast bowler?

We have genetic and physical shortcomings: This seems unlikely as not all fast bowlers have superior physiques. Aamer, for example, looks every bit a 17 year old kid except for when he hurls the cherry at 150kph. And even if a majority of Indians are genetically crippled, that still leaves a huge number of people taking into account our 1 billion+ population.

What else can it be? Flawed selection which gives stress to line and length? Not really, as we had a fast bowling competition in India for amateurs which was won by an effort of 135kph! What else? The truth is, I don’t know. I didn’t in 1996, I don’t today….

I rest my case.

By Rohit Pillai


Gaurav Sethi said...

Welcome on bored Rohit.

I'm interested in the time that an Indian quick (say even high 80s if not 90 plus)makes the team (like a Munaf, Ishant, Zaks) and then in no time loses pace.

Before you know it these guys are bowling high 70s to low 80s.

How much and how badly do they want to play for India - that the first thing that goes outta the window is pace? And are underestimating the Venki effect?

Aside: Anyone know what happened to Vivek Razdan after he took a few wickets vs Pak?

John said...

Search the munsifs, friend.

If India does produce one, it will be from outside Mumbai, Karnataka and Delhi (and now UP also, I guess). Think we have coaches stuck in old habits in these parts of the world.

John said...

Remember Amar Singh (?) and the "crack of doom"?

Rohit said...

@ NK...
I used to think of that as a purely Indian phenomenon as well. But you see bowlers having to cut on pace after suffering from some injury or other. I think in India we go overboard trying to avoid injuries and alter run-ups and technique in anticipation. This leads to a drop in pace and eventually potency. A much better way, logically seems to strengthen the body instead. Jimmy Anderson is an excellent example of an 'Indian' type nippy swing bowler. He burst on the scenes in WC '03, consequently lost pace, form and his place due to back injuries. Now he's come back to his best after a break. There was an interview in which he said that when first selected, his body just wasn't strong enough for the rigours of international cricket. Now after a year out, he's looking even better than before. If dropping Ishant for a year and putting him on a regimen will make him the terror he was, I'm all for it.

Sujan Rao said...

Exactly John, amazing why Karnataka,Delhi and Mumbai are the only Fast bowling producing states?

The "PuliChar" effect never was a prob incase of our Srinath and Venki. That defies the beef theory ;)

Mahek said...

I don't think there is a set formula for bowling fast. You see bowlers like Allan Donald, Dale Steyn, Shane Bond, Brett Lee and you know they'll bowl fast. Then you have the Andrew Flintoffs and Peter Siddles who generate pace through their strong frame. Finally there are slingers like Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Tait and Lasith Malinga.

That said, if you want to do it consistently you need to have excellent mechanics so that you don't break down. I guess it means working in the gym on the right areas and not just develop bulging biceps and barrel chest. It also means working with a bowling coach who understands mechanics and not just what's needed to bowl in the right areas.

Rohit said...

@ Mahek...
That's just depressing're just reminding me of all the types of fast bowlers that we DON'T have!

Suhas said...

Fitness and physique are important attributes when it comes to fast bowling. Indians generally aren't raised in a culture of outdoor sport (one of the reasons the middle class took to cricket was it was the one game which the unfit could still survive), and as such, few end up developing the body frame needed to be an out-and-out quickie. I think it was much the same in Pakistan until Imran Khan came along, and suddenly every galli cricketer wanted to bowl fast. Maybe all we need is one Imran to come out of nowhere...

Suhas said...

And, regarding Boycott's view of Indians being "too nice", what he is probably referring to is that we just don't do intimidation, alpha-male style. Probably an upbringing thing. I mean, Srinath in his early years was quick enough to be in the RF category, but his on-field demeanor meant he didn't really end up having the batsmen scared.

pRAFs said...

I'm with mahek on this one.
Fast bowling can't be brought down to just physique, eating habits or genetics.
If venky is/was making the guys concentrate on the lines and lengths... he's telling them the wrong f*** lines to bowl.

I'm surprised a country like aus which roughly has the population of Mumbai has at least 1 bowler per state who can bowl 145 k + .

In a country of a billion people, we haven't found one.
may be we're looking in the wrong damn places.

I think most of us who have played cricket at any level, gully cricket included, will remember ONE neighbourhood demon, who'd always hit you in the thigh or nearby regions and you'd be purple for days.
I certainly remember at least two. god bless the ball guard makers or I'd be missing the family jewels.

Can we not have one of these guys come through?

where do the likes of aamer and co. surface from?

Rohit said...

We don't do intimidation...? We do a moronic drama queen version of it called 'sreesanth' Anyway, that is not the point. Do any of bond, lee or even gul do intimidation?....I mean Gul looks like the village bumpkin and Lee is friendlier than guys on your own team. I think the aggression thing is overrated. You may have your Siddles, but the Steyns are usually better.
And no, Srinath and Donald belonged to the same era and the Donald was WAY quicker....people just think Srinath's quick because he bowled in tandem with prasad and that's an unfair advantage!I can see someone going 'Oh look! The ball didn't bounce again before reaching the keeper! Srinath's so quick!'
I don't think the culture thing is quite the answer either. All of us suck bigtime at the olympics we're the same kind of rubbish...but the rest of the indian subcontinent produces better bowlers for some reason...

pRAFs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pRAFs said...

btw, Ishant bowled one at around 150 kph, in THAT aus tour. Then got pompous and said he wants to cross 100 mph.
barely touching 140 these days

K said...

I think the Services should contribute towards producing the next fast bowler. This is the only institution that can produce that surface to surface missile system.

But Services cricket has problems of its own. They have to first serve a one-year ban.

Just to add three more points:

1. Ashish Nehra has been bowling in the 140-145 km bracket regularly in recent matches.

2. These genuine quickies anyway keep breaking down every now and then.

3. Interestingly even Guyana & Trinidad & Tobago (two Carribean nations with the biggest Indian-origin populations) also produce more spinners and fewer fast bowlers in comparison to say Jamiaca, Barbados and Antigua.

Unknown said...

By the time the fast bowling fairy got to India, all the magic in her wand had run out. That's the real reason.

Nathan said...

Well, to float an idea, there's also the question of role model.

In Australia, if a youngster is looking at the team, figuring out who he wants to be like, he has current role models like Lee and Johnson, and historical antecedents like McGrath, McDermott or Lillee.

In India, what quick would a young [insert common Indian name here] look to for inspiration? Great swingers, great spinners, but where is the inspiration for going at lightning speed?

Well, thats just my humble pre-coffee absent thought for the morning...

I doubt it comes down to anything genetic, or anything to do with being 'too nice' (not implying anyone here isn't nice :) )

and Mahek's right, physique isn't everything, although height and physique are certainly assets.