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Lack of cash crops cuts pace in English summer

cricket Updated: Jun 22, 2007 22:52 IST
Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Earlier this summer, I played a league game on Saturday and a Cup game on Sunday. They were against teams from different . divisions. The Cup games were open with one thing in common - both had Pakistani fast bowlers as overseas pros.

The paceman on view on Saturday was making his league debut. He belted our bowling to all parts of the ground and some into the orbit - and and bowled fast.

The professional I faced on Sunday was an England veteran. He bowled military medium but was effective with the movement he generated.

He used to be really quick but is now a shrewd line and length bowler. His batting developed with the loss of pace; he was a polished version of the younger pro.

I chatted with both, fascinated by the commonalities and the contrasts, and more particularly, by the psyche of a professional fast bowler in England. Almost invariably, as they become seasoned summer campaigners, they lose pace and improve their batting skills.

I thought I could explain it. Primarily, as a pro, you have to bowl longer spells and to sustain that pace is difficult. But by the same logic, matches are generally played once a week and if you're really quick, a reasonable captain will bowl you in short burst.

A paceman still ends up bowling 20 overs in a little over three hours - which is very taxing.

Then, the slowness of the tracks provides no encouragement for bowlers, the ball doesn't to carry to the keeper at the same pace.

But the bowlers who swing the ball more tend to get better results as the conditions favour them, the lack of pace allows them to bowl long spells and set up dismissals.

Moreover, bowling fast is tough and to maintain the same speed, you have to train like crazy and be disciplined (the pubs are out!).

And no one wants to take that trouble. And then I chatted with a bunch of crick- et's "jocks" and discovered that none of my assumptions was true! The real reason for this decrease in pace seems to be the lack of financial appreciation for efforts.

The guy who bowled his heart out on Saturday might end up taking 80 wickets in the season, adding about 400 runs by whacking the ball around. The paceman who bowled within himself might get only 65 wickets and around 650 runs, courtesy his improved batting.

Both will get similar deals for the next season. You would think that if a guy takes 80 wickets and puts his mind to batting, he should earn a lot more the next year.

This would be true in an ideal world but in England, there's a salary cap and if you've reached that, even an extraordinary performance will get you no further.

If a man is really lucky, he might end up with a bonus clause of £500 for the next season. This lack of money is a major deterrent for fast bowlers.

There's every possibility that the passionate kid from Saturday will end up being the shrewd operator from Sunday. And I don't blame him.

But this attitude is also the beginning of the end. Once you get into a mindset where you don't feel the need to challenge yourself, your days as a cricketer are numbered.