Game-changing fast bowlers put their stamp on World Cup

2011-03-02 00:00

WE’VE seen some impressive performances already in the ICC 2011 World Cup. The pressure is on as teams jostle for position, as they elbow out the minnows and focus on securing an all-important place in each group’s top four.

As expected, the low and slow wickets of India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have proved to be batsman- and spinner-friendly. What is surprising, though, is the way in which the really fast bowlers, with the ability to reverse swing, have put their stamp on the tournament early on. The super-quicks are already showing their worth on surfaces that traditionally don’t favour them.

It’s early days admittedly, but behind spinner Shahid Afridi at the top of the wicket table is a line-up of fast bowlers — Shaun Tait of Australia, Tim Bresnan from England, Kemar Roach from the West Indies and India’s Zaheer Khan.

Being a fast bowler on the sub-continent is a tough job. Normally the ball comes onto the bat faster and shot making is a lot easier for batsmen. It’s a different game altogether, however, when bowlers are firing in deliveries near the 150 km/h mark and adding reverse swing and slower balls to the mix.

In Pakistan’s vital win against Sri Lanka in Colombo, Shaoib Akhtar showed just what an asset he is (when fit) to Pakistan’s bowling arsenal. Even the extraordinary talent of Mahela Jayawardene was no match for Shaoib’s pace. Akhtar is an intimidating and threatening paceman who bowls with passion and has the ability to pick up wickets at crucial times.

England’s run chase on Sunday, which ended in a tie with India, was a reminder that one-day cricket can still keep us on the edge of our seats. It was an awesome advertisement for the 50-over game, watched by a massive television audience. It was fast bowler Zaheer Khan who changed the game for India when England looked like they were galloping away. His adeptness at controlling reverse swing, his clever selection of slower deliveries and in-swinging yorkers swayed the momentum back India’s way in the closing overs of the game.

South Africa has a new-look spin attack led by promising leg spinner Imran Tahir. As a unit they look the part, but have yet to be stretched or properly tested. With the Proteas up against the Netherlands tomorrow we will have to wait till Sunday’s crucial match at Chennai against England to see how the spinners and Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel measure up.

The pressure will escalate predictably as we move through the group stages to the quarter-finals. In the end it will be a couple of star players who will make their mark on the tournament. The batsmen and spinners are already making their presence felt, but let’s not ignore the fast bowlers.

Spinners may be the wicket-taking workhorses of this year’s World Cup but the fast bowlers may continue to be the game- changing show-ponies.

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