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Pakistan’s ‘unknown’ pace bowlers provide a shining light despite massive odds

Pakistan’s wonderful run in One-day International cricket is being led by their current brand of ‘unknown’ pace bowlers and their success is even more brilliant considering a poor domestic infrastructure, lack of international cricket in the country and continued selection inconsistencies.

cricket Updated: Oct 28, 2017 15:16 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Tims, New Delhi
Pakistan cricket team,Hasan Ali,ICC Champions Trophy 2017
Hasan Ali has been the pick of the newer pack of pace bowlers from Pakistan.(AFP)

Pakistan cricket finally has something to smile about after years of disappointment. Sarfraz Ahmed’s side won the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 by defeating India in England to complete the set of ICC trophies. Recently, their winning streak continued when they whitewashed Sri Lanka 5-0. The success is driven by one factor.

The brigade of ‘unknown’, never-seen-before fast bowlers have led the charge. Hasan Ali has been the leader and has been backed up well by other lesser-known names in the absence of experienced pacers like Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz.

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Pakistan’s pace pipeline

In Pakistan’s case, since the time of Fazal Mahmood, right up to Sarfraz Nawaz, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed, Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul, Amir and Wahab, the pace bowling culture in the country has been brilliant.

Pace bowlers have played a part in Pakistan’s major successes. Akram and Aaqib during the 1992 World Cup triumph, Amir and Gul in the 2009 World T20 triumph. In 2017, it is no different.

Hasan Ali, a 23-year-old pacer, shot into the limelight with a great show for Peshawar Zalmi in Pakistan Super League. The right-arm pacer, who bowls cutters and variations at will, was the leading wicket-taker in the Champions Trophy 2017 and recently, he became the fastest Pakistan pacer to get to 50 ODI wickets.

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Supply line intact

In addition, back-up bowlers lacking experience are chipping in. In the fifth ODI against Sri Lanka, Usman Khan, a left-arm pacer who played for Karachi Kings in the PSL 2017, snapped up five wickets in 21 balls, the third quickest five-wicket haul in ODI history. In the recently concluded Twenty20 International against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi, Faheem Ashraf, a 23-year-old right-arm medium, etched his name in the history books by becoming the first Pakistan bowler to take a hat-trick in Twenty20 Internationals.

Along with Usman, Ruman Raees, another left-arm pacer and who played for Islamabad United provided valuable support in the Champions Trophy. The emergence of Usman and Raees continues the trend where unknown bowlers have contributed in the past. Ehsan Adil, Anwar Ali, Rahat Ali, Aizaz Cheema, Bilawal Bhatti and Sohail Khan are some of the names.

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Despite the odds

Pakistan’s production of pace bowlers comes despite the flaws in the cricket system. The four-day Quaid-e-Azam competition has been diluted by constant tinkering of the structure, giving the selectors no clear indicator to identify talent. Lack of international cricket since 2009 at home has been a major factor for players not getting exposure. The revolving door policies of the PCB are an additional impediment.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s pace bowling flourishes. The main reason is tape ball cricket, which encourages pace bowling from villages to cities. In addition to an established culture of fast bowling, Pakistan’s pacers, known and unknown will lead the charge despite the odds.