Vantage point

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Self-Image of Pakistan's Pace Bowling

This wasn't entirely unexpected. After crowing and crowing about preparing "greentops" and "pacy pitches", the Pakistanis at Lahore turned out a track so placid that school-kids could survive against a test attack on it.

Bob Woolmer is no dunce. As an outsider, he doesn't suffer from as many delusions of grandeur as the Pakistani experts. He knows that a decision to prepare a seamer-friendly track could end up backfiring if the Indian pace trio runs through the Pakistan line-up. He also knows that the ICC Test Rankings are determined on the basis of the most recent home and away series results against all sides. Since the last Indo-Pak series in Pakistan was won by India 2-1, it makes sense to play safe and go for a drawn series. A drawn series would earn points for Pakistan and lose them for India.

Shoaib Akhtar is fast, but he is not accurate, nagging, or miserly most of the times. He produces one or two torrid troubling spells per series, but even that spell is not always enough to run through line-ups. Rana Naved, despite being a much improved honest trier, is just that - a much improved honest trier. Then there's Sami. Sami's bowling average, despite being almost a permanent fixture in the team, is more than Ajit Agarkar, who's been in and out of the Indian team. Gather ardent supporters of the "Pick Agarkar for Tests" school of thought and you would struggle to populate a dinner table. Yet, in Pakistan, which should ideally adhere to higher standards of pace bowling, you don't see many people advocating Sami's exclusion.

I am sorry, but having grown up watching the products of the pace assembly line-up, it is just pathetically tragic to see the self-image of Pakistan bowling having dipped to an extent where Sami and Rana are considered very good bowlers.

Cross-posted at Different Strokes, the Cricinfo Blog. Go there if you want to post comments.