World Cup 2019: It's all about the speed!

The scorching pace generated by Jofra Archer at The Oval against South Africa was an early indication that pace was going to work at this World Cup as much as seam, swing and spin.

Jofra Archer shone with the ball in England's win against South Africa in the World Cup opener.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Is speed the new weapon in one-day cricket? The West Indies bowlers, in the World Cup match against Pakistan at Nottingham, recreated the aura of the glorious past when the likes of Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding, Sylvester Clarke would put the fear of physical hurt in the mind of some of the established batsmen.

The scorching pace generated by Jofra Archer at The Oval against South Africa was an early indication that pace was going to work at this World Cup as much as seam, swing and spin. Marshall, Jeff Thomson, Dennis Lillee were bowlers who believed in just blowing the batsmen away with their aggression. The new crop of international fast bowlers think the same.

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Speed, actually, was never out of vogue. Says former international Ian Pont, now head coach at the Ultimate Pace Foundation, “I don’t think speed ever went away. It goes in cycles unless you are coaching it, which very few of us have got to grips with yet. The fact remains, if you have real pace it is unsettling a batsman. No one likes to be peppered by rapid, short-pitched bouncers or searing yorkers. The game is far better with pace in it.”

Kagiso Rabada.   -  REUTERS

 

Known for his technical excellence, Pont picked Archer and South African ace Kagiso Rabada for special mention. “I think Archer’s action is simple and repeatable, plus he goes through the key 4 Tent Peg positions, aligned correctly. This means he has far less chance of injury due to his action that the vast majority of fast bowlers in the world. It helps him generate great pace in an effective & efficient way.”

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On Rabada, he noted, “He has to be right up there. He bowls 145 clicks plus, can nip the ball about and has mastered a yorker. A very dangerous customer to face. Next would be Jasprit Bumrah. He has had a staggering rise in his bowling stock by being a very smart bowler. Hard to hit at the end of an innings, he can also generate close to 150kph speeds with an awkward style of action that gives him an advantage. His control and ability to mix his speeds with a great slower ball makes him a handful.”

He pointed out Australia's Mitchell Starc as a key bowler. “Although he has not played much cricket recently, his left arm rockets and in-swing to a right hand batsman makes him deadly. He also has a great yorker and a wise head. I would also suggest keeping an eye out for Pat Cummins, Oshane Thomas and Trent Boult. And of course, the man we will all talking about over the next 12 months, Jofra Archer.”

Would swing work more than seam in England? Pont asserted, “Speed can always work, if it is genuinely fast and bowled in the right areas. The pitches in the UK are hard and will have some good carry to them, meaning the fast men will enjoy it. Equally, the ball can disappear into the crowd if the ball is bowled poorly. The swing is negated a little with the white cricket ball that doesn’t swing as much as the red version or for as long. Whether we see much reverse swing depends on how dry the surfaces and outfields get during the summer. Lateral movement on these surfaces is more likely than swing, but good carry from bounce is what most fast bowlers prefer.”

Ian Pont is now the head coach at the Ultimate Pace Foundation.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

 

When asked if the batsmen were well-equipped to deal with fast bowlers in today's cricket, Pont, a much-sought after coach, stressed, “When I played a bowler could bowl 6 bouncers an over. Today, it is only one. There were far more quicks about then trying to get into you with short-pitched bowling and it was how the West Indies dominated for so long having a battery of quicks. With a batsman more interested in power hitting and the dinky shots for 4 and 6, it can be a bit of a shock to get a 150 kph ball at the helmet.

"My personal view is batsmen find it less comfortable facing pace when it is aggressive and challenging. Modern cricket is teaching batsmen to treat bowlers like human bowling machines to be smashed to the boundary, but a good old-fashioned bit of 'chin music’ is always a thrill as well. It has to be quick though, well directed and appropriate with the right fields set. It’s always been like this, but no one ever told the fast bowler!”