Mumbai: Former India pacer Zaheer Khan has cited the availability of pace foundations, cricket academies and bowlers' exposure to them as reasons for the spurt in pacers across the country.
Zaheer, speaking at a function in Mumbai, said, "The reason for a lot of bowlers bowling quick at this stage is exposure, the awareness to various things required for a fast bowler to be ready for the big stage is available. You talk about National Cricket Academy (NCA), which started in 2000. It has been 18 years of that. It is playing a major role. The camps which (sic) keep on happening, teaching the Under-14 boys and Under-16 boys. It has a lot to contribute to that.
"If these things are available at early age, then you can make right calls in your career. Pace academy in Chennai has been doing good work. I went to pace foundation and when I left after six months of training, I had put on about 15 kilos of weight which was sheer muscle and that was through training. My speed also went two notches up. Prior to that I was advised that you need to stay away from gym as your bowling action can be affected, you arm won't come as high as possible. I think in today's day and age, that technology and guidance is available."
'Knuckle ball is a great asset in shorter formats'
Zaheer used the knuckle ball to a great use in the 2011 ODI World Cup in India and is among the ones who introduced this art. As the name implies, it is delivered by gripping the ball by knuckles and releasing it with the same arm speed. In IPL 2018, the 'knuckle-ball' is in almost every pacer's armoury across all teams. From Kings XI Punjab's Ankit Rajpoot to Sunrisers Hyderabad's Siddarth Kaul, all of them have used the delivery to great use.
Zaheer explained why this delivery has been a huge success. "One advantage with the knuckle ball is that you don't give much of a cue to the batsman. When you bowl a knuckle ball, the seam is always straight, facing the batsman. So it is hard for the batsman to pick it, in terms of speed variation because the seam is straight. I think that is why lot of bowlers have seen success with that. I have personally seen a lot of success with it. This is something which is a great asset as a bowler to have, especially in this format where batsman are looking to be more aggressive, looking to play big shots all the time and especially at the back end of the innings when you are looking to hit big sixes. That is why a lot of bowlers have opted use of knuckle ball," Zaheer, a veteran of 311 Test and 282 ODI wickets, told Firstpost.
'Stint in IPL will take young fast bowlers very long in their careers'
There have been many extra-ordinary performances with the ball by some Indian pacers in IPL 2018 thus far. On being asked which bowler might do well for India in the upcoming tour of England, Zaheer shied away from picking any name but said that the IPL experience would go long in the bowlers' careers. He said. "If you look at the combination the Indian team has been having, there is very healthy competition. Yes, in terms of talent and performances of these youngsters, they are going to go a long way in their careers. IPL has certainly been a platform where you are noticed."
In his 14-year international career, Zaheer found himself on the physio's table quite often. Call it the accumulated wisdom from frequent visits to the doctor or what you will, the former pace spearhead is of the view that the responsibility of managing workload and taking care of their bodies rests with bowlers alone. "Workload has to be managed is a fact. You have to be smart about it as well. I have always emphasised that match practice is the best practice. If you are in good rhythm and your workload is high, manage your workload. If you have to skip a few sessions because you bowled in the match and you don't feel the need, then that practice session is not going to help you. In consultation with your physios and trainers, you chalk out a formula which works for you."
"I have never endorsed staying away from matches just because the workload was high. There was a stage when I was playing all formats of the game. I would manage the workload in the nets rather than missing a match," he added.
India are going on England for a long tour in July, playing the ODIs and T20Is before the Tests, and Zaheer believes it will help the team acclimatise to the conditions. He said, "One-and-a-half months is more than good enough time to get used to conditions in England. If you start with ODIs and T20Is, that would certainly give you enough time acclimatise to the conditions."