Anatomy of a wicket-taking machine

2014-02-23 14:00

West Indies legend Michael Holding was no stranger to inflicting grievous bodily harm on batsmen.

He was part of a fast and highly skilled bowling quartet of the late 1970s and early 1980s that preyed

on a batsman’s inclination to survive rather than to score runs. Adding that kind of fear has to be part of a fast bowler’s armoury. Holding said: “A fast bowler without aggression is a medium pacer because the art itself is about aggression, whether people want to believe it or not.

“Once a batsman starts thinking about survival and getting hurt rather than scoring runs, that adds another dimension to the bowler. That also creates more problems for the batsmen.”

Holding, the spearhead of the West Indies pace attack in the early 1980s, said fast bowlers are born, not made. “You can’t make a fast bowler. Either you have it or you don’t?...?and when you do, it needs to be nurtured properly. You see a lot of people trying to bowl fast and no matter how hard they try, they just cannot do so,” said the man who was dubbed Whispering Death.

Makhaya Ntini, currently South Africa’s second-highest wicket taker with 390 wickets from 101 matches, agreed, albeit differently, saying some bowlers had the desire to bowl fast and with hard work were able to get the required pace to be recognised as genuinely quick bowlers.

Ntini said: “You can make a bowler who is quick, but not express, bowl very fast and I am one of those examples. You can’t say you were born to be a spinner. It is an art you learn as you grow into the game.”

The Mdingi Express agreed with Holding on the part that fast bowlers had to be aggressive to get into a batsman’s head and reduce their capacity to score runs. Ntini said sometimes this was the only way to curb a batsman’s run scoring, especially when they are new to the crease.

“Some bowlers are predictable in terms of how they bowl but some are difficult to read and they use various methods to scare batsmen.

“I used the crease efficiently so I could give the batsmen something to think about in terms of where the next bouncer is coming from.

“One thing that hinders South African bowlers is their struggle with conformity and being predictable,” said Ntini.

Fast Bowlers

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