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'Shoaib's slower one is more dangerous'

Akhtar has started bowling his slower ball again, which has made a significant difference, says his one-time coach Sabi Azhar.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2006 16:52 IST

Pakistani pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar has started bowling his slower ball again, which has made a significant difference to his success rate of late, says his one-time coach Sabi Azhar.

"Even as a 17-year-old raw bowler when he played for the Rawalpindi colts team, Shoaib had a well-disguised slower ball. When I met him five months ago, I asked him what has happened to it. Then he started bowing it again during the England series," said Azhar at the Pindi stadium on Wednesday.

Shoaib, nicknamed 'Rawalpindi Express', played a big role in the three-Test series victory over England by grabbing 17 wickets.

Azhar said no coach could claim credit for producing bowlers with raw pace like Shoaib possesses. "Genuine fast bowlers are born and no coach could claim credit for finding him, similar to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis ," he said.

Azhar, a first-class cricketer himself with 159 games under his belt, said that he had been impressed with the speed possessed by the Pakistan pace bowler when he saw him bowl with a cork ball.

"I told him to switch to the hard ball. It was around 1993. And he was an immediate success and guided the Rawalpindi under 19 team to the national junior championship title. He took 10 wickets against Karachi in the final," the former all-rounder said.

The coach does not believe in tampering with a fast bowler's action. "Line and length and swinging of the ball can be improved, but a bowler should be left alone with the action he's comfortable with, otherwise the pace will drop," he said.

The speedster's one-time coach feels that Shoaib's action has remained constant barring some minor changes brought upon by Australian biomechanics expert Darryl Foster who worked on the bowler's action after the pace bowler was reported for suspect action by the umpires.

Azhar said Shoaib is a big asset to the Pakistan team even when he's not among the thick of wickets as he puts the batsmen under constant pressure with his pace so that they take chances against the bowlers at the other end and get out, but at the same time he should be played in select matches only.

"He can destroy any batsman in the world with his pace. They are under constant pressure when facing Shoaib and try taking chances at the other end and fall. But he should be played in select matches, especially in one-dayers," Azhar said.

Azhar is now coaching a left arm pace bowler called Najaf Shah who plays for the Gul Cricket Club here along with all-rounder Yasir Arafat, who is in the Pakistan one-day squad facing India.

He has high hopes on both these 21-year-olds, but feels that a talent like Shoaib comes only once in a long while.

Asked about the Indian pace attack, Azhar felt they relied more on swing than pace and the team needed one or two genuinely fast bowlers to finish off an innings which they were unable to do against Pakistan after reducing the latter to 39 for six in the third and deciding Test at Karachi.

"You need one or two genuinely fast men who would have finished off the innings. Even Shoaib, who loves batting, made a lot of runs at that stage," he recalled.

First Published: Feb 10, 2006 16:52 IST