Mayank, Pathirana show there’s no substitute for pace | Cricket - Hindustan Times

Mayank, Pathirana show there’s no substitute for pace

Apr 01, 2024 10:02 PM IST

The weekend action was a reminder of the adrenaline-pumping thrill that a genuine quick can evoke.

“Pace is pace yaar”.

Mayank Yadav has bowled the fastest delivery of the season thus far - 155.8 kph.(AP) PREMIUM
Mayank Yadav has bowled the fastest delivery of the season thus far - 155.8 kph.(AP)

This was the name of a popular Youtube channel devoted to Pakistan cricket featuring fans who grew up in the era of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar.

It is also an expression that succinctly sums up the emotion of watching a fast bowler doing what his job title spells out: bowl fast.

Over the past couple of days, Mayank Yadav and Matheesha Pathirana have done exactly that, generating serious heat with the white Kookaburra and in the process compelling us to track the speed gun with keen eyes after every delivery.

On Saturday, Yadav, a 21-year-old rookie on IPL debut, caught immediate attention by bowling thunderbolts that evidently rushed Punjab Kings’ batters. Nine of Yadav’s 24 deliveries were clocked over 150kph; the fastest was a barely believable 155.8kph, a ball so rapid that it evaded Shikhar Dhawan’s outside edge and thudded into wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock’s gloves well before the opener could bring his bat down for contact.

Yadav also got three wickets to change the course of a game — Punjab were 88/0 in nine overs chasing 200 — that was evenly balanced at the time of his introduction into the attack. Like all bowlers with the gift of raw pace, Yadav, a tearaway from the streets of Punjabi Bagh in West Delhi, was liberal with his use of the short ball, claiming all his wickets — Jonny Bairstow, Prabhsimran Singh and Jitesh Sharma — with that disconcerting length and making the most of the new rule in IPL that allows two bouncers per over.

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On Sunday, it was the turn of Pathirana, also 21, to enthrall with his fiery pace. The Sri Lankan, with a slinging right arm having modelled himself on Lasith Malinga, had already made a breakthrough in IPL 2023 with 19 wickets in 12 matches for eventual champions Chennai Super Kings. This season, he’s breaching the 150 kph mark consistently. Akin to the curly-haired maverick who produced unplayable yorkers in his pomp, Pathirana produced two deliveries in the blockhole in the same over against Delhi Capitals, clocked 150.4kph and 149kph respectively, that made Mitchell Marsh and Tristan Stubbs look like mere bystanders as the ball clattered the stumps.

It’s uncommon for two memorable spells of fast bowling to be delivered on consecutive days in the IPL, but the weekend action was a reminder of the adrenaline-pumping thrill that a genuine quick can evoke. Even in a format that sees batters — increasingly equipped to play 360 degrees — pull off all sorts of jaw-dropping shots all around the field.

So tailor-made is T20 for batting that quick bowlers can be demotivated into thinking, “the faster they bowl, the faster the ball will race off the bat to the boundary.”

Which is why pace bowlers are often compelled to resort to off-cutters, leg-cutters and back-of-the-hand slower balls to check the run flow. There’s ample skill and hard work that goes into these variations, as there’s in a batter unfurling sweeps, scoops and ramps, but there’s nothing quite as captivating to the naked eye as a bowler charging in at full tilt and letting the ball go as fast as he can.

By producing these spells, Yadav and Pathirana essentially showed that there’s no substitute for sheer pace. Yes, there will be days when they are carted around and top edges sail beyond the boundary. When they get it right, however, they are X-factors who can hurt, literally and metaphorically, batting line-ups.

Yadav particularly has set tongues wagging with his impressive entry into the big league. Simply because he’s Indian and can bowl 150kph-plus — a combination that has been hard to find in previous decades. But there’s a need to monitor his progress to ensure he kicks on and builds on his obvious potential.

In Umran Malik, there’s an example of a young pacer who hasn’t kicked on as expected after clocking 157kph in 2022 — the fastest delivery by an Indian in IPL till date. While Malik has gone on to play ODIs and T20Is for India, he’s had limited success. The biggest problem seems to be his tendency to spray the ball around, resulting in fewer opportunities even for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL.

As Yadav showed with his short balls and Pathirana with his yorkers over the weekend though, they will be a handful as long as they get their radar right. After all, pace is pace yaar.

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    Vivek Krishnan is a sports journalist who enjoys covering cricket and football among other disciplines. He wanted to be a cricketer himself but has gladly settled for watching and writing on different sports.

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