In Search of a Fast Bowler

Cricket is a game of multiple facets. Despite being a team game, it is also played at a personal level. It gives you an opportunity to witness one-on-one duels, where we – as viewers – try to live our fantasy as bat meets the ball. It’s about batsmen vs bowlers.

There is no sight more entertaining in cricket than a fast bowler in action. Hustling in, panting, trying to hit the deck hard, and trying to land the ball on seam, in seemingly ‘perfect’ place to beat the batsman; or trying to take an edge off the bat; or trying to rattle the stumps; or hit a batsman in a place where he can’t negotiate the ball.

Every team yearns for a fast bowler, who would put fear of god in the opposition batsmen. It becomes more important for teams like Nepal, the ICC Associate countries, who are prone to having part-time players – filled with utility cricketers, who do everything in bit-and-parts. Lack of specialization means that we are not used to having players who can be labeled as ‘tearaway’ fast bowlers.

Coach Pubudu Dassanayake arrived in Nepal just over a year ago. After being in-charge for a few matches, he had told this scribe, “We need a real fast bowler in our side.” His logic was: associate countries don’t have practice of facing deliveries which measure up to 140 kmph. As a result, a fast bowler of this caliber unsettles the opposition batsmen, keeping them guessing all the time, pushing them to back foot. This is how you draw the first blood in the duel.

Former Sri Lankan fast bowler Rumesh Ratnayake doing what he knows best. Bowling at Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground. Photo: Self

In such a situation, the bowling camp organized by Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) now should be a welcome decision. A bowling camp conducted by former Sri Lanka fast bowler Rumesh Ratnayake (now ACC Development Officer) can never be bad for Nepali collection of bowlers (in this situation, the congregation of 16-18 bowlers across Nepal – some from national team and some from age-group teams).

On 11th September, 2001 (more known for terrorist attack on US), when yours truly met Ratnayake for the first time, he was with Nepali U-19 cricket team. In a session that was translated by Binod Das (captain of the side), for the benefit of those who did not understand English, Ratnayake was explaining the nuances of fast bowling to Nepali Colts. You could see that he was at ease explaining the techniques of bowling fast – the grip, the use of shoulders, the bending of the back – as he was seen during his playing days. You could sense that it was what Nepali cricket needed: learning from the real practitioners of cricket – at the highest level. A few years later, you would have felt that the event could have been the starting point for bowling camps.

But, it’s never late to start a good thing. Now that the fast bowling camp is organized – for a session lasting 4 days – it should be welcomed. However, the challenges and opportunities are many, depending on which side you are. Holding bowling or batting camps is about setting the process right, in a hope that the results would also be right. It is about trying to set the proper fundamentals.

As Rumesh himself says, “We should not expect miracles overnight. It is rather about trying to understand the bowlers’ natural talent, and trying to give him the technique best suitable for him. After doing that, you are likely to get the best outcome.”

Rumesh Ratnayake explaining the art of fast bowling to Nepali players. Photo: Self

This sounds perfect, but there’s a catch. The bowling camps are not something that last forever. After camps, the development of cricketers is a job of coaches. And for that you need coaches, who also understand modern coaching, about how to get the best out of young cricketers. This is where CAN should focus now – of developing coaches to develop cricketers. Unless that happens, search for a tearaway fast bowler would not mean much.

PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 3rd November, 2012

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