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Munaf's need for speed

The Gujarat speedster is training hard to shore up his speed but is not willing to sacrifice his line and length. Can Munaf clock 100mph?

india Updated: Aug 08, 2006 00:55 IST

Munaf Patel is working hard to achieve the elusive 100 miles per hour mark but is not willing to sacrifice his line and length in the process.

Still very much raw, the Gujarat paceman has been polishing his innate talent to shore up his speed in gruelling nets here after travelling all the way from Ikhar, his native village.

"I am giving finishing touches to my action for generating more speed," the 23-year-old cricketer told.

Ever since returning from the Caribbean, where he picked 14 wickets from four Tests, Munaf has been religiously coming to the city to hone his skills despite the fact that his village is pretty far from here.

He has been so much involved in the practice, that even his family and close friends have found it tough to trace him out.

"I am trying to generate speed in excess of 150 kmph keeping in mind the tournaments ahead," says the unassuming player.

However, he is not willing to sacrifice his line and length at the cost of bowling fast.

Even in the Caribbean, Munaf was seen trying to keep his length right more than merely working up express pace.

"Line and length are extremely important. Speed must not be achieved at the cost of bowling a wrong line," he said.

The fastest that Munaf has bowled so far is 144.9 kmph but observers of the game do not rule out the bowler breaking the 100 mph (160 kmph) barrier.

The tour of the West Indies has proved to be a turning point in Munaf's nascent career.

After making a sensational debut against England in Mohali early this year, Munaf had sort of retreated into a shell but only to show glimspes of his real talent against the attacking West Indies' batsmen.

He picked the prized wicket of Brian Lara thrice in the Test series, a pointer to his astute cricketing brain.

His appearance could be misleading -- given his unkempt stubble and unruly mop of hair, which was however trimmed to perfection in the Caribbean, but there is no doubt about his ability to think out the batsmen out in the middle.

It was perhaps this quality which was observed by Sachin Tendulkar who then talked him out into playing for Maharashtra instead of his home state Gujarat in Ranji competition.

Munaf is quick to express his happiness at the Mumbaikar's return to the squad after a long injury layoff.

"It will be a great help to have Tendulkar around," says the famously reticent cricketer.

Munaf would rather not think beyond as far as the World Cup as it is a dream he fears to dream.

"World Cup is very far. I am just focussing on the tri-series (in Sri Lanka) at the moment. I will try my level best to restrict the run-making and also take wickets. The wickets there should not be much of a problem unlike in West Indies."

One of Greg Chappell's finds, Munaf has strong belief in the Australian.

"I will do what Chappell wants me to do in the tri-series and other tournaments lying ahead," says Munaf, his voice palpable with unflinching commitment for his master.

Munaf was first noticed by Ismail Matadar who saw him bowl in a local tournament way back in 1999.

Quick to spot the talent in the quickie, it was Matadar who encouraged him to take the game seriously and work on his asset of raw speed.

Matadar, who runs a cricket academy, forsees great success coming Munaf's way in near future.

"He will become the next Shoaib Akhtar. He will soon be the fastest bowler the country has ever produced," Matadar told PTI.

Matadar is not alone in predicting and praying for success of this rustic talent.

Munaf's mother Saeeda has one desperate wish: "Insha allah (God willing) my son will play the World Cup for India."

It is a wish she shares with the whole of Ikhar, which wakes up from slumber every time its now famous son takes to the cricket field in India colours.