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Sight Screen

Monday, January 09, 2006

The slower ball

For some time now, been mystified at the enormous amount of newsprint being dedicated to Shoaib Akthar's mystery slower ball -- which again I find mention of here, in Dileep Premchandran's latest.
When Pakistan were in India last year, he was the prodigal son, the renegade that no one in the team management wanted to touch with a bargepole. Since then, chastened by criticism at home and from the top brass at Worcestershire where he played part of the county season, Shoaib has bowled as well as he has ever done, combining scorching pace with terrific control, while also mystifying England with a slower ball that is quite simply a work of art.

This weekend, among other things, managed to pick up DVD copies of the five ODIs India played in Pakistan in 2004 -- and spent some time doing the visual equivalent of speed reading, namely fast-forwarding to the bits I wanted to check out.
Here's the thing -- in pretty much all the games, Akthar repeatedly bowled a slower ball where the pace dipped quite dramatically (on occasion, Shabbir bowled them too, and I spotted a couple from Sami; Rana Naved knocked over Sehwag, when the opener was going berserk in the first ODI, with a very well disguised slower, fuller ball).
Outside of the Sehwag dismissal -- to which he contributed by backing away in predetermined fashion, having already made up his mind to hit whatever came his way over cover -- I didn't however spot any of the Indian batsmen having any particular problem with this delivery; in fact, on quite a few occasions they not only picked the ball early, but played authoritative strokes off them.
Which brings up what is puzzling me -- is this talk all about some new kind of slower ball? Different disguise? Different delivery style? What? Or is it just that the Brits didn't budget for such change-down in pace, and got foxed? Anyone out there who watched the Pak-England series have any insight into this?


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