Opinion

The joys and wonders of fast bowling

In this article, I will be talking about what I miss most about cricket. Feel free to express your opinion on what you miss most about cricket in the comment section below.

As society stops for the coronavirus pandemic, we have realised that we ache for the things we usually take for granted. When I thought to myself, what I realised is that the thing I missed most about everyday life is cricket and as I ventured even deeper into that question, I posed the question to myself: “What do I miss most about cricket?”.

 Is it the intelligent craftiness of spinners as they meticulously weave a web of doubt and fear in the ill-fated batsman’s mind? Or is it the batsman’s nonchalant elegance as he audaciously brandishes the sword of justice, cutting and pulling, with the dominance of a Roman emperor, at any given chance? I gave it a second of thought, but the inevitable answer reined invincible; pace bowling.

Ever since my early years, I have always marvelled at the mere supersonic speed created by these maestros of their field but as I have grown older, I have come to acknowledge the sensory virtues of pace bowling.

 The feeling of the smooth, claret red, leather laden ball at the fingertips of the towering bowler, as he stands tall and imposing at the top of his mark, waiting to deliver the arc of destruction towards the powerless batsman. The unparalleled satisfaction of the sight of the batsman swaying from a snorter of a bouncer like a palm tree blowing in the wind. The smell of blood when you see a batsman hunched in stance and teeth chattering in fear.  However, these de facto sensory values of pace bowling are only a small stroke of paint on the magnificent portrait of fast bowling.

I am not the only one who has been enraptured by the spell of fast bowling as over the decades many people, not too dissimilar to myself, have been treated to some truly extraordinary exponents of the games finest art.

To give an instance, the 1930s, the almost demonic Harold Larwood ripping through the backbone of the Australian batting line up (quite literally) and was the only man capable of sending the Don back down to earth, the 1950s, the era of typhoon Tyson’s torment as he engulfed batsmen in a relentless barrage of brutal bowling, the 1970s, the legendary duo of Lillee and Thompson was the first example of how orthodoxy and unorthodoxy can work together as one to complete the no1 Aussie goal; to terrorise pom batsmen.

 In the 1970\80s, was the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse as they were the men who broke the British\Australian speed domination and as they reigned rule for the longest it was inevitable they would have more than their fair share of broken bones.

 And finally, the 2000s, which was the decade that the speed gun was created and was also the decade that hosted the race for 100mph as Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar pushed the boundaries of sporting biomechanics as they gunned for the speed throne. The modern era has yet had a true heir to the throne, but the race is well on truly on.

Some readers must be assuming that pace is a one-dimensional art consisting of only bouncers and broken bones when that is nowhere near the truth as the beauty of fast bowling is that it can be delivered by anyone: big, small, lithe, wiry, slingy, orthodox and unorthodox, fast bowling caters for all.

The combination of pace and build is a lethal concoction of swing, bounce, skid, skill and accuracy. Let’s have a look at some modern examples of how fast bowling is an art for all. Take Jofra Archer for an instance, his loose-limbed jog and soothingly fluid action hypnotises the batsman before hunting him down with the accuracy of an expert marksman.

Jofra archer hunting down his hapless prey

Mitchell Starc, his southpaw nature gives a slice of variety but his stump demolishing yorkers are his real forte. Another modern exponent of fast bowling at its finest is Kagiso Rabada who runs in like a cheetah eyeing its next prey and when he triumphs in the hunt with a reverse swinging Jaffa, he vents his satisfaction with an ear-piercing roar.

 All these men are wonderful examples of fast bowling’s immense diversity and they all have the potential to ascend to the throne of the fast bowling kingdom provided they understand that the beauty of fast bowling is not always the broken bones and the shivering batsmen, as the spirit of fast bowling is what comes from within…

“Got em!” declared the commentator with aplomb “The batsman has been cleaned up with some effortless pace from the bowler!”. I always hear the phrase “effortless pace” and wince. I know it is intended to be a compliment, but it is a disservice to the number of hard yards honing the perfect technique and the amount of “effort” that is required to bowl fast.

Fast bowling is not just turning your arm over as fast as you can; it is a series of sequences so arduous the likelihood is that without a sufficient technique, you could be crippled for life.

If you don’t believe me, here are the facts: when a pace bowler delivers a ball, approximately 8 times the bowler’s body weight is put on the pitiful front foot and this is combined with running in at least 20 yards and your mind thumping under the mental burden of the pressure of international cricket and not to mention, standing in the field for 8 hours fielding in what could potentially be subcontinent conditions when the sun is at its highest peak.

In short, cricket is tough and fast bowling embodies that. On days there is nothing in the pitch for the big quicks, there is something endearing about a fast bowler slamming the ball into the deck with relentless character and determination and giving it all he has got for his country. In my opinion, the real fast bowler is the one that delivers when the team is under the pump and the opposition are piling up the runs and not the bowler that is only capable of plodding the ball on a good length on a green top and claims a glorified five–for.

However much I love the searing bouncers and the trembling batsmen, the big heart of a fast bowler is why pace bowling is for me.

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