Fast bowling is the trademark of Pakistan cricket. There have been so many great ones over the years and I am confident that the future will be bright again, with a number of bowlers able to register 150 clicks on the speed gun.
We are fortunate to have some really talented young fast bowlers but unfortunately that we don’t have so many experienced ones to lead them out in the middle. It will take some time before we are back on the right track.
Every country has a little dip at times in terms of player development and you have to go through those periods before someone emerges to become a great of the game.
Because of Covid, the preparation for the tour of England was not ideal. For three months or so, these guys were stuck indoors and not really able to train. The weather was also a frustration at various points on the tour but the young bowlers have made excellent progress and we’re happy with their performances.
You can see that they have the talent, now they just need to play more cricket, particularly first-class cricket. We have to identify those bowlers who are best suited to Test cricket and willing to play the longer version of the game.
We have seen already that Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi are wonderful bowlers. Mohammad Musa, who was part of the squad in England, is another, and there are a couple in the under-19s also. Of course, Mohammad Abbas is very seasoned and experienced. We will keep trying to give them the opportunities.
I want Test cricket to be a real focus for these guys and that means also placing an emphasis on four-day cricket. If you want to succeed in Test cricket it’s important to play more first-class cricket to get your body used to bowling long spells. The upcoming domestic season in Pakistan, with our new six-team structure, will be important for the development of our pace bowlers. But I would also like to see them playing around the world, whether in Australia or on the English county circuit.
I know from personal experience how much you can learn from playing in England, getting used to different weather and ground conditions, the pitches, and life off the field also. Both Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Abbas have been really successful for English counties and it has benefitted their careers so much as well.
If you look at the careers of Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, England’s two senior bowlers who are now legends of the game, they started out as talented bowlers for sure but they were in and out of the team. It took them time to find their feet and establish themselves in that environment.
One of the challenges that both teams faced in the recent Test series was the ban on the use of saliva to shine the ball. I don’t think it was actually a major issue given the weather. The pitches themselves were very dry but there was always moisture in the air and the outfields were lush so keeping the ball in good condition was not a problem. In other parts of the world, it is always more challenging to keep the ball in good condition.
Also, the Dukes ball that is used in England stays harder for longer than most other balls, which made the saliva issue less of a problem. I have been a big advocate of the Dukes ball for many years but I feel that only one brand of ball should be used around the world for Test cricket. It doesn’t matter which brand but the ICC should make that decision. It’s hard for bowlers to adjust to using different types of ball when they play around the world.
It is not just the skills of fast bowling that our young guys need to work on. Fitness is also crucial for them. As a squad, our fitness has been improving all the time but I think we are still a touch behind many other teams in the world. Fast bowlers in Test cricket have to be super fit to survive those long spells when the team needs you, even at the times you may not want to.
Fast bowling is hard work and it cannot be learned overnight. We all need to be patient with these guys. They have the hunger, attitude and desire and I have got full confidence that they are the future of Pakistan cricket if they carry on the hard work. Continue getting fitter and the skills will blossom.