“My big wish was that my parents watch me playing on TV,” said Mohsin Khan at the post match presentation; the young new find for the Lucknow Super Giants had just taken a match winning 4 for 16 against the Delhi Capitals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022.
Mohsin might have sounded a bit like the child in the nursery rhyme who pleaded, “all I want for Christmas are my two front teeth.”
If not like a nursery rhyme, Mohsin Khan’s story is a bit of a fairy tale in itself. The boy from a modest family in Uttar Pradesh, Mohsin Khan played cricket as all young boys do and found himself propelled into big-time cricket in the IPL. This is now becoming an oft-repeated narrative of talented youth making their way into the large new maze of commercial cricket and, almost overnight having their lives and their fortunes turn upside down and from it, landing very comfortably into relative fame and fortune.
In the case of the 23 year-old left arm fast bowler Mohsin, he was awarded the Man of the Match prize after taking his four wickets and taking his side to victory. In his last three matches for his franchise, Mohsin has taken 1 for 27 against the Mumbai Indians, 3 for 24 vs Punjab and 4 for 16 against Delhi for a very impressive tally of 8 for 67 from 12 overs.
His captain, K.L. Rahul said that he found facing Mohsin in the nets an uncomfortable experience. “I faced him in the nets for the first time a month ago; I didn’t want to face him, seriously. He was sharp. He’s scary at times in the nets. It’s not just the pace, he has a brain too, a bit of skill and a great slower ball – which he knows when to use. He has bowled some really big overs for us,” he said.
The biggest sensation of the IPL 2022 season though has been Umran Malik, a young fast bowler from Jammu and Kashmir. Malik has bowled the fastest ball to date in the current IPL season clocking a rather swift 154 kmph for his effort. He plays in the IPL for the SunRisers Hyderabad. As I began writing this piece, I was told that he broke his own record by clocking a ball at a staggering 157 kmph .
To put this speed in perspective, Shoaib Akhtar and Brett Lee have bowled at peak speeds of around 157 to 158 kmph. In 1954-55, English pace bowler Frank ‘Typhoon’ Tyson traumatised Australian batsmen with speeds ranging in the upper 150s. England won that series and Aussie batsmen were left shell shocked from the experience. It must be remembered that technology for measuring bowling speed in those days was basic, even primitive by contemporary standards; it is possible that Tyson’s bowling speeds were approximate.
Based on his performance, there is even talk that Umran Malik might be fast tracked into the Indian Test and 50 over white ball cricket. Fast bowlers like Ian Bishop believe that he should continue to concentrate on his ability to generate pace, which is a unique gift not many bowlers have. Accuracy and control can be developed over time. Umran, in that respect is in capable hands, working with Dale Steyn, who now coaches the SRH franchise. The South African great can be seen jumping with joy every time his ward and protege get a wicket. Having Steyn in his corner is perhaps the best thing for Malik’s career.
Another fast bowling success story that comes from the Punjab Kings team is Arshdeep Singh from Guna, M.P. He is a left arm medium pacer who has great control and an ice cool temperament. His specialty is bowling yorkers and he’s yet to be hit for a six this IPL season. His control makes him an ideal candidate for bowling the last over of the innings when the batsmen try to heave the bowlers beyond the boundary line.
Mukesh Choudhary is a first class player from Maharashtra who volunteered to be a net bowler for CSK in the hope of getting noticed. Dhoni was impressed and Choudhary is now a regular new ball bowler for CSK. He too is a left arm quick, slower at 135-140 kmph but can move the ball and is very accurate.
This emergence of young fast bowlers through both the IPL and the India U-19 teams (Mavi, Nagarkoti, Tyagi) augurs well for Indian cricket. But as with all good deals, conditions apply!
Success in the 20-over game is one thing; a bowler gets to bowl just four overs and that too in more than one spell.
For a paceman to succeed in the 50-over white ball version and certainly for Test cricket, longer spells with less rest in between will be needed. A large heart plus supreme fitness is a requisite for these more challenging forms of the game. Kapil Dev would be an ideal role model for the young, new fast bowling aspirants. Kapil never missed a single game for India, except when he was not picked for reasons entirely other than cricket.
The new generation of batting stars will also benefit from facing domestic speedsters in local tournaments at all levels, leading up to the Ranji Trophy.
It is amusing to think back to the years 1962 and 63 when the BCCI had ‘imported’ four West Indies fast bowlers to play in our domestic Ranji and Duleep Trophy tournaments. Roy Gilchrist, Charlie Stayers, Lestor King and Chester Watson were invited to play for Bombay, Delhi, Bengal and Hyderabad to inject a bit of genuine pace into Indian cricket! It was hoped that Indian batsmen would practice against these pacemen and do better on the next tour to Australia. India had been ‘whitewashed’ by identical 5-0 margins by both England and the West Indies on their previous tours to those countries, with our batting often unable to withstand the fury of their bowling greats.
Facing genuine pace is not a problem for the current lot of Indian batsmen. Ironically, spin is their bugbear now. As they say, you can’t have it all!