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Sight Screen

Friday, December 30, 2005

India's quick bowlers

There has been, on the DG, on repeated occassions, debate on why there have been no genuinely fast bowlers coming out of India over the past couple of decades.
I had mailed Prem asking him for his opinion on this, and here is what he said --
Sometime in 1972, our school came up with a quintessential quick bowler. He was then in the 9th standard, and already six feet tall, very lithe, real quick (I know, he was my classmate, and the one I had to practice against).
That year, we played as I recall some 8 matches to win the inter-school cricket competition – for the 7th year running. What I remember most about that period is that at no time did our winning margin fall below the 150-run mark – and mostly, they were built on his efforts with the ball.
We used to open the batting together, too. In 1973, in one match early in the season, while running between wickets he pulled his groin muscle. It was, he said, a mild twinge, he didn’t though want to bowl and put more strain on it. So he decided – he was leading the side that year – to keep wickets.
He wasn’t the most classical of keepers, but he had this long reach – and in that game, snaffled a couple catches simply through reflexes and that reach. Our coach at the time was S Venkatraghavan – who, after the game, took him aside and talked to him of how there was no future in being a fast bowler; that if he turned his attention to keeping, he could conceivably represent India.
From that day on, he kept – and went on actually to play for India at the international level as a wicket keeper. That is the story of Bharat Reddy; it is also the story of how during the 70s and the 80s, your best friends tried to warn you AWAY from fast bowling, as being an essentially thankless job.
How would the country produce fast bowlers, given this? I think in fact that it has only been in the mid- or late-90s that seam bowlers have been accorded some glamour, some respect (a stray Kapil notwithstanding); and that in turn is reflected in the increasing number of youngsters taking to bowling quick.
It’s been just about 8, 10 years in total, and already we have more seam bowlers who can conceivably do international duty than we had in the previous two decades – so my take would be, the trend will keep up and as more players take to bowling fast at an earlier age, you will begin producing genuine quicks.
Genetics is a convenient answer, but somehow, a highly suspect one in my book. It’s a bit like, we are genetically incapable of top flight gymnastics – and yet a Mohini Bharadwaj can lead the US to a team title? She was born and raised here but her genes are all Indian; her parents were émigrés.
I honestly believe that training and opportunity is what we have lacked.


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