The famous punch line “Pace is Pace Yaar” was born after Wahab’s passing and its loose English translation would mean that true pace is the real thing.
As we move into the main round of T20 World Cup at the business end of the Australian winter, pace will rule the roost; although on slightly slower tracks, fuller lengths will be equally important.
While spinners are expected to play a key role on the Australian tracks despite the wet weather, those with fearsome pace will provide an x-factor as there will still be plenty of bounce.
The PTI takes a look at five bowlers, who have the ability to make a difference for their respective teams.
With no Jasprit Bumrah in the Indian lineup, the ‘Men In Blue’ are missing a trick.
And despite Mohammed Shami’s brilliance in the warm-up game against Australia in Brisbane the other day, the bowling unit does not inspire much confidence.
Hence, there are no Indian bowlers in the list, though their ability is unquestionable and can surely bring out the best on their day.
Shaheen Shah Afridi (Pakistan)
He is the ‘crown prince’ of world cricket’s speed traders. He is coming back from a serious knee injury, but the way he got Afghanistan’s flashy opener Rahmanullah Gurbaaz leg showed he has picked up from where he left off before his injury.
There was literally no rust as the yorker landed squarely on the left toe of Gurbaz, who couldn’t even bring his bat down.
Irfan Pathan will always tell anyone who will listen, if a left-arm seamer gets the back in the right hand, it’s bad news for the batsman.
Shaheen completed the last World T20 match against India in his very first game. There will be pace and at that pace he will be able to swing the ball. India have three right-handers in the top three and all are world-class players. But even then, Shaheen will start the competition as the favorite to win the battle.
Lockie Ferguson (New Zealand)
He is one bowler who might have been born to play T20 cricket. He has it all – copious amounts of sustained aggression, extreme pace and enough variations to be effective on any surface. He has a quick low, full toss and one needs extreme explosiveness to get under that ball and tonk it over.
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Eight times out of 10 the batsman will not be able to get away as the extra pace does the trick. His yorker is mean and Ferguson also bowls a pretty deadly bouncer. In fact, he has variations in his short balls and if required, uses slow cutters to good effect. An economy rate of 6.84 in 21 T20Is is absolutely brilliant.
One of his strengths is adaptability and one saw this during Gujarat Titans’ IPL triumph in which he played a major role on flat decks across Indian centres.
Josh Hazlewood (Australia)
Josh Hazlewood is the unsung hero of this Australian cricket team. While Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc are bonafide stars in their own rights, Hazlewood’s discipline gives Aaron Finch’s side the edge that separates them from the pack. He may not be as fast as his contemporaries, but deceptively fast enough to cause trouble.
Hazlewood is also any batsman’s nightmare to hit the immaculate Test match length and probe batsmen on that stump channel with a touch of extra bounce and just enough lateral movement.
An economy rate of 7.62 in the 37 matches in the slam bang version is more than good enough, but more importantly 53 wickets with four four wickets is phenomenal.
Mark Wood (England)
Just one small piece of information is enough to send shivers down any batter’s spine. Less than a month ago, Mark Wood clocked 156 km/h (almost 97 miles per hour) on a calm deck at the National Stadium in Karachi.
When Mark Wood was bowling, there would be batsmen who would be lucky to survive without a broken leg.
If any other pacer in world cricket apart from Bumrah, can step out of the equation, it is Wood. His pace is terrifying, asking Haider Ali, who struggled awkwardly in that match to try to avoid a broken nose when a sharp bouncer came at him viciously.
If the downside of Wood’s pace is his high economy rate (above 8.37), the upside is his strike rate of taking wickets every 14 deliveries. While shooting down a ramp, his bowling may last for six, but Wood will always keep the third man in business.
For some other bowlers it might fall short, but in the case of Wood, there will always be a chance to catch the boundary ropes. For England captain Jos Buttler, he won’t mind conceding 35 to 38 runs in his quota of overs as long as Wood gets him two top-order wickets a game.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
By the time Rashid Khan finishes his career, he will break all the T20 bowling records either in franchise cricket in which he is one of the ‘MVPs’ or international cricket for Afghanistan. That he has played for 20 plus teams in the shortest formats (T20 and T10) shows how desperately teams want him.
The 118 wickets he has taken from 71 matches, at an economy rate of less than 6.5, is staggering. While many teams try to play him as an off-spinner and let his stock delivery come in, the wily Afghan has varied his pace a lot of late.
He consciously tries to be slower through the air at times and let the ball hang and then dive on occasions.
Rashid played for the new franchise Gujarat Titans this season and despite batsmen trying to bowl out his quota of overs, he still got 19 wickets.
At national level, the inexperience of his bowling unit sometimes takes its toll on Rashid, but he remains Afghanistan’s ‘One Man Army’ destined for greatness.