Pakistan Is Always In Sync With Rapid Beats Of The Past > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Pakistan getting back in sync with pacy beats of the past
Imagine being Imran Khan in this present Pakistani pace attack. You're 32 and making a comeback to the Test squad after nearly 3 years. But not many seem to care. It's nothing to do with you though. You just happen to be the most sober part of a pace attack that is just so much more exciting than you are. It doesn't mean you don't deserve your place. It's come on the back of years of hard toil in the unforgiving climes of Pakistan's domestic cricket scene. And your coach and captain both believe you're quicker and fitter than ever before.
Unfortunately for Imran though, he's sharing the space with a new pace sensation who's half his age, a strapping giant left-armer who even the British Royalty want to pose with, another teen pace dynamo who caught Rahul Dravid's attention last year and arguably the most skilful Test fast bowler Pakistan have produced in quite a while. And it of course doesn't help that the man guiding the lot is an all-time great in Waqar Younis.
So it's only natural that the focus was more on the likes of Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Muhammad Musa and Mohammad Abbas than him as the Pakistanis went through their routines on a hot afternoon in Brisbane. And it wasn't surprising that poor Imran was trying his hardest to be heard, literally, indulging in vociferous appeals and really loud and odd noises - which mostly sounded like harrumphs - every time he got an edge or beat the bat. Of course, it was much to the amusement of his colleagues, especially the younger ones who at times would pre-empt Imran's excitement and join their senior partner in a vocal expression of delight. He was so loud one time that an amused Misbah-ul-Haq would say, "the whole of Brisbane would have known you got an edge."
At one point as Imran cleared his throat after snaring an edge off Mohammad Rizwan's bat, the entire team broke into laughter. Even skipper Azhar Ali piped in claiming that the ball would have never carried to slip. And when Imran insisted, Ali mockingly inquired whether his new-ball bowler would want him to field at slip while being prone on the ground. At least, Waqar for one chose to be on Imran's side, even sticking his index finger up. Maybe he was just being nice.
There's a unique joy in watching a Pakistani pace attack in action, and not just when they're in the middle during a game. And especially now, considering we're on the cusp of what looks like the most exhilarating era of fast bowling to emerge from a country, which has historically had such a rich tradition of the art form, in over a decade. Even though it's coincided with a period where Pakistan reached the top of the Test rankings, the 2010s have witnessed a dry spell in their Test fast bowling ranks. You might have to think all the way back to the emergence of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir as a dream pairing to find the last time a Pakistani pace attack got the cricket world on their feet.
Ever since, except when Abbas has shown glimpses of his genius, Pakistan's standout bowlers of the last generation have been two spinners, Saeed Ajmal and Yasir Shah. For most parts, the fast bowling department has been manned by a smattering of seamers and pacers who've come and gone with intermittent or negligible success. Only five - Amir, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Rahat Ali and Junaid Khan - have even managed to play over 20 Tests each in this time.
No wonder then that the most ebullient individual during Pakistan's net session was Waqar, who's been in-charge as the head coach of the national team twice during this surprising draught of fast bowling quality in Pakistan. And you could see his smile growing wider as he stood at the back with a hat on observing the young tyros show off their wares.
Musa was the first of the lot to receive a Waqar crashcourse. The 18-year-old is the second coming of Mohammad Sami. He's of a similar height-maybe a tad shorter-and runs in with the same steam and energy as the former pacer. He's got a whippier release that allows him to generate more pace consistently though and he seems to have the ability to jag the ball around off a length and also produce a surprise bouncer that doesn't climb too high and therefore always has the batsman in the firing-line. Waqar got Musa to do the hardest yards under the blazing sun. But to Musa's credit, it was once he'd already bowled 50-odd deliveries that he came into his own, impressing the high-profile bowling coach further.
It's now that he began beating the middle-order batsmen in the nets with literally every delivery on both edges of the bat, when he wasn't getting them to duck and weave out of the way. A team source would later reveal that it was his burgeoning incisiveness in the latter part of his lengthy spell and the capacity to keep his intensity up throughout that impressed Waqar the most. The only real technical inputs that Waqar was seen providing was for the right-armer to maintain a good wrist position at the point of release, which he imbibed rather quickly. The rest of the time Waqar stood applauding and dishing out a number of "well done boy" acknowledgements.
While Musa kept charging in, Abbas kept plugging away alongside him getting the ball to hit spots on the pitch that make batsmen uneasy because their technique gets tested and often times exposed. Pakistan's premier Test pacer, now at the peak of his powers, didn't require too many words of advice from the coach. Not far away 16-year-old Naseem was putting himself through - armed with timer and a whistle - an arduous warm-up routine. They included elbow planks, reverse planks and a number of other stretches that he held on to long enough for you to feel his pain. Watching him get through each step, you could have easily mistaken him for preparing for a bout, not a spell of fast bowling. And he still had his stretch band around his thighs when he stood around with the rest of the pace attack for an impromptu lecture from Waqar on how to collectively strategize the downfall of a batting line-up.
It was then time for Naseem to pair up with Afridi. And it was left to Iftikhar Ahmed and poor Yasir Shah to deal with the dynamic pace duo - who will combine over the next five days at the Gabba and potentially for many years to come. Afridi, who's still coming off an illness, started bowling off a short run before charging in at full tilt. Naseem took a few deliveries to get warmed up, and you knew he was when a short of length delivery went whizzing past Iftikhar's left ear. This was the Shah from the Perth game and all those YouTube videos of him that've been circulating ever since he was discovered. He didn't bowl for too long but showed enough in the brief burst - which included a a number of outside-edges - why the narrative of the first Test in Brisbane has more or less been woven around his highly-anticipated debut. Waqar just looked on satisfied.
Afridi took longer to get into his stride, and the coach had to butt in a couple of times to speak about getting his length right. Misbah has already spoken of how crucial a role the towering left-armer will be expected to play with the new-ball, and some 20 balls into his spell, Afridi started getting it right, and Waqar seemed to agree as applause replaced advice.
So involved was Waqar with watching the potential successors to Pakistan's fast bowling reins - which he'd held so incredibly in his time - improve and impress that even the slightest interruption was greeted with disdain. "Tu baaton mein jyaada time waste karta hai (you waste more time talking)," he yelled out at Yasir Shah one time as the leggie indulged in a mock confrontation with Afridi. And earlier he didn't seem to take too kindly to the slip cordon letting a potential chance go by while Misbah and he provided catching practice, berating the group rather sternly. He wouldn't after all want his young tearaways to run in and create chances only for the slips to let them down.
Captain Azhar Ali would credit this sudden influx of fast bowling talent to luck. But others insist that it's come about due to a very focused quest around the country over the last 3-4 years to find the likes of Naseem and Musa.
It was amidst this burst of teenage talent excess that Imran had to make his mark. To his credit he did so too, and not only through his exuberant celebrations. He was impressive in the warm-up games and purely based on those performances should expect to play the Gabba Test, even if all eyes will be on whoever's bowling at the other end, unless of course he can make some real noise against the batsmen from the opposition camp. The rest of us, meanwhile, could well be in line for a feast of fast bowling not only over the next two weeks but hopefully the next decade. And Waqar won't be the only one left with a beaming smile.
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