Pakistan cricket has always been blessed with match-winning fast bowlers. Bowlers like Fazal Mahmood, Sarfraz Nawaz, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhter have given numerous victories and sweet memories to Pakistan cricket.
It was unfortunate, and a big blow for Pakistan, when in 2010 Mohammed Amir and Mohammed Asif were banned for five years after being found guilty of spot fixing. For a while it was thought that Pakistan’s fast bowling department would become considerably weak but luckily the gap left by their absence was soon filled by Umer Gul, Junaid Khan and Mohammed Irfan. These bowlers are the backbone of Pakistan’s pace attack in all formats of the game. There have been some others, too, like Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, Aizaz Cheema, Ehsan Adil and the recently-tested Bilawal Bhatti as well as Anwer Ali but they have yet to make their mark as match-winners in the true sense of the term.
Due to playing too much cricket the year round, fast bowlers, these days, have to deal with a lot of physical stress. Selectors tend to overuse match-winning fast bowlers, which has resulted in fatigue and serious injury to them. Umer Gul and Mohammed Irfan are examples of this.
In order to overcome the problem, the selectors need to have a backup of equally good and talented fast bowlers who can be tried alongside top-performing bowlers as part of a rotation policy so that none of them is overworked and replacements if needed are also readily available.
There have been some efforts to hunt fast bowling talent throughout the country. Most notable of these being the short-duration camps held under the supervision of Pakistan’s former ace bowler Wasim Akram last year. But just one or two such efforts won’t be enough and should be followed through with more consistent efforts to find and develop new talent.
Here I would like to mention some very talented new fast bowlers of our country who have been performing consistently on the national circuit. One such bowler is the 23-year-old, six feet and five inches tall, left-arm Sadaf Hussain from Rawalpindi. He plays for the Khan Research Laboratories team and started his first class career in 2010. He has since then always been among the top performing fast bowlers on the local scene.
There are more such young well-performing fast bowlers in local cricket, who are doing rather well in either first class or List A. Mohammed Ali of PTV, Imran Khan and Usman Khan of ZTBL, Attaullah and Ziaul Haq of NBP and Ikramullah of Abbottabad and Azhar Attari of Wapda, are all performing well. The selectors also need to retry Mohammed Talha and Mohammed Khalil as both have been hardly given enough chances despite performing well locally.
There are also some very promising and upcoming fast bowlers at the junior and Under-19 level. Here I would like to specially point out Salman Saeed of PIA, Abid Hasan of Rawalpindi and Irfanullah of ZTBL who have been among the top wicket-takers in local U-19 tournaments in the past two seasons.
So there is no shortage of upcoming and good fast bowlers in Pakistan. The Pakistan Cricket Board management needs to plan and develop a proper infrastructure for coaching fast bowlers such as coaching academies run under the supervision of past superstars. The selection process should also provide fair chances to deserving bowlers. The board management also needs to arrange more series for the Pakistan A team to play against A teams of other countries to provide the newcomers with international exposure that goes a long way in building their confidence.