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mohammad zahid, muhammad zahid, shoaib akhtar, junaid khan, wasim akram, waqar younis, imran khan, pakistani fast bowlers, pakistan fast bowlers, fast bowling
The lack of role models in Pakistan cricket, particularly for the upcoming fast bowlers, is a concern but not a valid excuse. -Photo by AFP

In his column for, former Pakistan fast bowler, Mohammad Zahid examines the one question that is on the minds of numerous Pakistani fans: where have the fast men gone?

Pakistan is a proud cricketing nation and over the years our pride has been the number of high quality fast bowlers we have been able to produce. The list is a long one, a famous one and one full of names that just flow from the lips of cricket lovers around the world. When I say fast bowlers, I don’t mean your medium fast bowlers or your dibbly dobbly medium pacers, what I am talking about are your out and out 90mph plus bowlers whose strength is raw pace. Our cricketing reputation is one that is based upon producing the best fast bowlers in the world and that reputation is in trouble.

It pains me to admit this but over the course of the years, our fast bowling resources have gone from being our strength, to now being our weakness. I watched the World T20 with interest and watched our fast bowlers struggle match after match, resulting in the captain only entrusting the fast bowlers with a couple of overs per match. However, it’s not just about the twenty over format that my concerns are based upon. In all formats of cricket our fast bowling resources have almost completely dried up and it concerns me to see the same mediocre bowlers being given chance after chance for Pakistan, instead of fresh and young blood being introduced.

I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the likes of Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Raza Hasan, as all three in my mind are excellent bowlers and have wonderful variety, but Pakistan’s over reliance on spin is becoming a huge concern.

I don’t for a moment believe that there are no young fast bowlers in Pakistan, that is simply not possible. Why they aren’t making their way to international cricket is the question to ponder upon? What is happening to these fast bowlers once they start playing U19 and junior cricket and why are so few of them performing to their optimum ability and making it to first class cricket and then onto international cricket? Why are so many of these boys disappearing down this “black hole”?

Fast bowling in Pakistan needs a revival, it needs a kick start, there needs to be a rethink and a reassessment of coaching methods and also the issue of the scouting network needs to be re-examined. I am certain that fast bowlers are not coming through the ranks in the numbers that they should be coming through and how they used to in the past. In my days when I was playing first class cricket, every team had at least a couple of tearaway fast bowlers, nowadays you will be lucky to find a couple in the whole of the first class system. Where is this talent disappearing and why is not being picked up by the regional selectors? There has to be a proper scouting network set up by the PCB to identify young talent from schools and ensure that talent is then nurtured through to U19 and onwards. At the moment far too many quick bowlers are missing the boat and not being identified by the scouts and coaches around Pakistan.

I don’t trust this “talent hunt” system that the PCB is throwing all its energy into. There were talents hunts in the past too and very rarely did any one come through it. What they should be doing is sending their scouts and coaches all over Pakistan to watch school cricket, and identifying the talent at a young age and then ensuring that talent is monitored regularly, coached properly and made part of the PCB database. Too often young cricketers are just being lost to a system which is outdated and based on luck and also based upon ex players stumbling across exceptional cricketers by chance.

Pace is an asset as a bowler, if you have pace you can learn the technical aspects later as when you start playing U19 and first class cricket. Most of our great fast bowlers were raw when they started, but they had pace. I don’t understand where the young fast bowlers in Pakistan are being sent today and why they are not appearing in first class matches.

The dearth of quick bowlers needs to be addressed by the Pakistani think tank. We cannot rely on medium pacers, especially in Tests and we also cannot keep persisting with bowlers like Mohammad Sami who are quick but have absolutely no control. It’s actually embarrassing that as a cricketing nation we did not have one single reliable out and out fast bowler recently in Sri Lanka.

Looking ahead, I’ve seen a couple of young fast bowlers who I believe have the potential to serve Pakistan well. The one I feel is ready for international cricket is Rahat Ali. Rahat needs some opportunities and I think it was disgraceful the way he was excluded after just one international match where he only bowled four overs. There is another left-arm pace bowler who I was very impressed with at the U19 World Cup and that is Zia-ul-Haq. I think he should be ready to play for Pakistan sooner rather than later. Both of these bowlers have pace and with some slight adjustments and hard work they could be exactly what Pakistan is lacking at the moment.

I think the selectors made a huge mistake by picking Sami for the World T20 and keeping him on the bench for the entire tournament. What was the point of taking Sami along? He has been handed countless chances for Pakistan and has failed to impress or improve. If the selectors wanted to take someone to carry the drinks and experience a high profile tournament, then Zia-ul-Haq or Rahat Ali could have been better options.

You do not become a great bowler overnight, you need exposure, you need to be part of a squad, you need to be involved, you need to learn and watch other good bowlers. If the selectors really had picked players on ability and form then Junaid Khan should have been selected for the World T20. To leave Junaid back in Pakistan for the World T20 was a travesty.

The lack of role models in Pakistan cricket particularly for the upcoming fast bowlers is a concern but not a valid excuse. For spinners you have Saeed Ajmal, for Test batsmen you have the likes of Misbah-ul-Haq, but there is no focal point, no role model for Pakistani bowlers at the moment like there were in the years gone by. That is not an excuse either as there are other great bowlers around the world like Dale Steyn who our boys can watch and learn from.

Pakistan’s new bowling coach Mohammad Akram has a huge task ahead of him, a very important task also. He needs to have some clear objectives and I certainly hope he gets his “hands dirty” and works with bowlers in domestic cricket, bowlers at U19 level and even younger. Akram has a lot of experience of playing cricket around the world and has been taught by some very good coaches. I hope he makes good use of that experience and passes it on particularly to the upcoming talent in Pakistan. Akram needs to be the catalyst for the revival of fast bowling in Pakistan, he needs to be the one who drives it forward with help from the PCB. He needs to be working with and developing bowlers at all levels and it needs to be a long term plan.

Moving onto the selectors, I feel in Pakistan there is a quota system in place at the moment. What I mean by  ‘quota system’ is that the selection committee picks players to keep all of the regions happy. You cannot be the best side in the world if your selectors are adopting this approach. If you want to be the best you have to select players on merit, not based on a cross section of the regions. If it means that there are no players from some regions, then so be it. If it means that some regions have more players than others, then so be it. Pick the best players, don’t pick players to keep influential individuals in Pakistani cricket happy.

Comments (38) Closed

Capt C M Khan Oct 16, 2012 02:38pm
Excellent analysis Zahid...keep on writing. A Spade must be called a Spade. Travesty yes for not taking along Junaid and Zia. Rahat I do not know but must be groomed. Your idea of School Level Scouts is good and should be on the payrole of PCB all over Pakistan. NO QuoATA for International matches Mr Iqbal Qasim and company or we will stop watching and supporting cricket.
Nizam Oct 17, 2012 04:16am
i believe that from the time of Inzamam ul haq, Fast bowlers are dissapering, Shoaib was axed, Mohamed Sami disappeared and so on. In the Pakistani cricket system the problem lies in the captain. if you have a speciliast batsman as a captain he brings batsmen. if it s bowler ( Imran & Wasim) bowlers come up and if it is a spinner (Mohamed Hafeez) spinners will come up. To change this the captains need notto be biased.
Midas Oct 17, 2012 01:07pm
Seriously? our fast bowlers resources depleted, our batsman fail and fielding sucks - so what is our strength?
Omar Oct 17, 2012 02:37pm
Exactly. Shoaib Mail should be axed, Kamran Akmal is a wild card.Unfortunately,the other keepers can't bat to save their lives. Unfortunately,for short formats we have to stick with Akmal,until we find a true wicketkeeper/batsman.Imran Farhat was another glaring example of sifarish.Shahid Afridi is just surviving on reputation.Imran nazir has been tried a plenty and it's time that we close the books on him as well.
Syed Oct 17, 2012 10:09am
Ahhh we have lost one more Wasim Akram .............LOL
Abdul Momin Oct 16, 2012 07:20pm
AM, USA I agree 99% with your analysis. There is just one thing else that needs to be taken into account. With the amount of cricket being played around the world, the career of a fast bowler is very short. Less than 3 decades ago, fast bowlers were the leading wicket takers in Test cricket. Most of the 300 wickets plus wicket takers in Test matches were fast or medium fast bowlers (Trueman, Willis, Lillee, Imran, Botham, Marshall Hadlee, Kapil Dev to name a few). Now the spinners have taken over. I cannot even imagine any fast bowler taking 700 plus wickets (Warne) or 800 wickets (Murlitharan). Once a fast bowler is injured in Pakistan (as you yourself can testify Zahid Sahib) he faces a very uncertain future. Not just in Pakistan but all over the world, fast bowlers are becoming scarce due to too much cricket being played. But on the whole I deeply appreciate your concern for the future of Pakistan's fast bowlers. Thank you very much for your excellent article.
concerned Oct 17, 2012 05:28am
its a realy sorry state of affairs with the fast bowling. we used t have the most versatile bowling attack once, with a great left arm fast, right arm deadly fast, a magician off spinner a world lcass leg spinner. that was perfect attack. we won some un believable matches through our bowling. the selectors must must must have to bring in 3 to 4 quick bowlers and not rely on under performers such as gul, sami and tanvir.
kumar Oct 18, 2012 07:10am
Thanks for the laugh.
Adil Oct 18, 2012 07:24am
Amir we want you back!!!
mh Oct 16, 2012 07:07pm
yeah, great article, and very true. i like the idea of using school cicket to find talent, it never actually occured to me. if only the PCB thought of great ideas like that. :(
Razzaq Oct 16, 2012 07:16pm
They have gone no where, one needs to be sincere in packing,trying and gooming these young talents.Fortunately,they are all here waiting for their turn.
pir milengey Oct 18, 2012 08:11am
Great article could not agree with you more, fast bowling in Pakistan needs a revival. Why don't we have Dennis Lillee type of clinic in Pakistan. Who is helping out our young bowlers with technique ? And what about giving young bowlers a chance - Zia-ul-Haq and others.
Sach Baat Oct 17, 2012 12:38pm
bye bye .........Pakistan bowling era........
Ahsan Ahmed Oct 17, 2012 06:00am
Fully agreed with Quata System comment. But then this quota system should be taken out at each and every level and all over the country. 2% quota for Sindh Urban for whole Pakistan means that only 2% are from the region that possesses atleat 50% of the eligible population. And even that 2% is taken by the kith and kin of big land lords from rural Sindh. THATS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS FOR PAKISTAN'S negative progress.
ahmed Oct 16, 2012 03:42pm
Good analysis and contrast this with our 2006 under 19 team which had good cricketers and great fast bowlers who destroyed batting from every country including India. However the fact of the matter is a lot of those Indians players are part of the first class and international cricket like rohit sharma and we didn't any of our bowlers move up from jamshid and anwer ali akhtar etc. when we have talent we don't know how to groom it.
Muhammad Omer Khan Oct 16, 2012 11:31pm
I was once a great fast bowler, but then I stopped playing cricket and now I'm lazy and fat. If only I could have made it to a U 19 side
aisa Oct 17, 2012 02:43am
I donot agree abt quota system. I think most players are from Punjab.If quota system was in place, that would not have been true.
Farhan Oct 17, 2012 02:51am
We all know how corrupt the PCB has become. Nepotism is the key to getting a place on the team. How else do you explain the selection of Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal?
Irfan CHAUDHRY Oct 17, 2012 12:09am
Absolutely fantastic article. Mind boggling thing is that how the suits have missed the conspicuous issue. I am sure any cricket fan would be quick to point out that the weakness of Pakistani squad is lack of genuine quicks. It is evident from Zahid's article tha raw talent is still there in abundance but the difference is our inability to nurture it in recent times. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the odds of winning in England, Australia and South Africa without good fast bowlers are extremely slim. Don't try telling that to the people sitting at the helm because the issue apparently is way too complicated beyond their comprehension.
Khawar Khyam Oct 16, 2012 09:27pm
Thank you very much for writing this article. I was also wondering where all the fast bowling talent from Pakistan is gone. we are seeing the same faces of fast bowler again and again. There is no fast bowler like Mohammad Aamir or that caliber in the playing eleven. Yes there should be few tear away fast bowler but how to produce them, that is a very big question. Firstly Pakistani nation is deprived of international cricket. Because none of the team is ready to visit Pakistan. Secondly the people who are running the cricket affairs find it easy to recycle the old faces again and again. Thirdly there is no strong personality in Pakistan cricket team who can take bold decision and persist with some fast bowler to develop them into world class player. Every one is running the affair as a stop gap measure. I hope your article will open the eyes of few concerned Pakistanis and we will be able to find few raw gems in our backyard.
arsalan Oct 18, 2012 09:55am
Great article i was just wondering the same about the pace bowling attack of Pakistan. I cannot think of a Fast bowler who has proved his mark on the international surface after Umar Gul. We have been relying on spin bowling for over the past year or so but coming up next is the tour of SOUTH AFRICA where for the first time i will not consider ajmals or the razas to be the great threat for the proteas. It has always been the fast bowling galore that has shined on the south african soil. PCB needs to step up and include some Genuine fast bowlers before the test series in SA, else it's going to be one miserable series for Pakistan in the lights of Kallis, Amla, & Co.
Dr Dang Oct 18, 2012 10:01am
Isnt that the case across most things in Pakistan.not just bowling in cricket , but life in general isnt getting better is it ?
Nadeem Oct 17, 2012 10:04am
The question should be "What has gone wrong with our batting?" :) This is because, all of our bowlers, spinners & fasters are performing well. It's the batting that is our weakness right now.
Farooque Oct 16, 2012 05:55pm
An excellent piece of your thought on fast bowling. But I should tell you not to bring you hopes up as the man in-charge of bowling at this time (Mohammad Akram) has a very shady past and I bet he got this position as a favor to some politician.
Karim Oct 16, 2012 06:35pm
A very perceptive artcile and well written. I agree that the system for selecting players should be on merit and merit alone but that is a concept alien to the PCB and which itself reflects the culture of nepotism or sifarish prevalent in Pakistan. Therefore, unless and until that changes, any players who come through will do so regardless of the 'system' in the same way that Wasim or Waqar did.
Fawad Khan Oct 17, 2012 07:21pm
Gone with the wind !!
Sanjay Oct 17, 2012 04:51pm
Ur fast bowler are fine they look worst by fielding with bowl first on push stork ball will travel fast pak player lazy in field and t20 cricket is playing in abundance where pace is used by batsman hanky sanky shot so every fast bowler of world struggling look at malinga and lee their economy is in 8
worldwatcher Oct 17, 2012 03:50pm
I am smelling downfall of fast bowlers era like "Squash" (era of Jhanghir khan and Jansher khan).... it's solely because selectors are not doing their job. They suppose to travel, establishing "bowling" camps (at least in big cities every month for few months). Instead of inviting club
Zahid Gix Oct 17, 2012 03:57pm
Well written. Till the 90s, departmental cricket in Pakistan at domestic level ensured financial security to cricketers and this encouraged potential players to come ahead and work hard to secure a place in the National Cricket Team. Although departmental cricket lacked the element of attracting audiences as a layman had no interest in supporting a bank's team, nobody can deny the fact that the element of financial security triggered many players to come forward and try their luck. Nowadays players and even their parents think twice before sending their kids to the field and pursue a full time cricket career as if he fails at any level and left over, his chances of leading a life with no financial worries would be bleak. In a country like Pakistan where majority survives on meagre reasources, financial security carries huge importance. But this is one of the many aspects that need to be addressed before fast bowling culture in Pakistan is revived and who on earth can challenge the recommendations of a bowler as great as M. Zahid. We still havent forgotten his raw pace and formidable commitment.
Hello1 Oct 17, 2012 03:50pm
Why only bowlers? Where are the likes of Hanif Mohammad, Majid Khan & Zaheer Abbas in the batting department? Like Hockey,and Squash we are a spent force in Cricket as well.
Asif Oct 17, 2012 03:05pm
I can summarize all this jabber in one word "CORRUPTION" that is what happen to Pakistan cricket, just what happened to this great country. That is why in Islam corruption reference as the CANCER OF THE SOCIETY unless and until we cure this disease we are not going to prosper in any department, I am just puzzled how majority of the people in pakistan cannot see the major problem.
Nabeel Oct 17, 2012 12:46pm
The writer was an amazing bowler who has this instinctive raw pace. Can't forget how he bowled out stumps on his test debut against Newzeland on the dead track or the way he bounce B.C Lara in Sydney. Never saw the master Lara being nervous.
SAK Oct 16, 2012 02:59pm
it is about time someone said that our so-called fast-bowling unit is not really a good fast-bowling unit. It is not even a fast-bowling unit anymore! We need true fast bowlers who are tearaway, 90mph+ fast bowlers, not the medium fast or occasionally fast bowlers that we have currently, and we so wrongly label them as fast bowlers; call them medium fast at best.
Raza Oct 17, 2012 12:16pm
Junaid Khan is a very good prospect and has pace. I was a mistake not to take him along for worldT20
Shoaib Oct 17, 2012 08:28am
Pakistan did produce Asif and Amir. the later one was a huge prospect but all heavens came falling after that infamous English summer. Pakistan need an administrator like great Imran and nothing else...........
bharat Oct 17, 2012 07:18am
Fast bowlers are also a dying breed because of too much cricket being played nowadays. i am sure the next great fast bowler will not last as long as they did in the 80s 90s .
Zafar Ahmed Oct 17, 2012 07:49am
We are not serious in grooming & nurturing youngsters. Batsmen & fast bowlers are not coming on the horizon... I mean world class and right now I can say only Saeed Ajmal is world class player in our team.
Yousuf Kadeer Oct 17, 2012 06:35am
The writer is a hopeful pakistani. To some extent, he has a point in this artile. Yet, for those exposed to the nuances of pakistan and its cricket and who have taken a deep look at how we embrace the philosophy of merit in all that we do in pakistan, the insights (or lack of it) of this writer, are mediocre. If there ever was a merit trend since that first test match against India, it is downward spirally quickly to the bottom. Ofcourse barring wild card entries and some rare glimpses. Pakistani cricket, like many other Pakistani achievements, have been miraclous. In hind sight, they just appear randomly and lo & behold we see the likes of little master, asian bradman, miandad, inzi, yohanna and strikers of world reputation. Lethal of all 'WAS'. We are to wait for miracles to happen. And good things happen to those who wait patiently, atleast in Pakistan especially cricket.