What are the thoughts that come to your mind, when you hear the term 'Fast Bowler'? Do you see a bowler gushing at an express pace and fans swooning over those long following tresses, or do you witness stumps flying on the air and rattling down the ground? Or does your mind exhibits a menacing bouncer being hurled at the body of a batsman?
Well, the resemblance of a fast bowler is the compilation of all these traits for us.
During the '70s and '80s, the world was dominated by the four horsemen of West Indies cricket. They were known as 'The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse'. Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, and Colin Craft were nightmares for batsmen.
They became the torchbearer of pace bowling. The rivalry was carried by the amazing Australian legendary pace bowling machine Dennis Lille and Jef Thompson. Then the world witnessed something magnificent in the late '80s and early '90s.
The deadliest duo of the old ball consisted of the the 'Sultan of Swing' Wasim Akram and the 'Yorker King' Waqar Younis. One of the main reasons for which they were revered by the audience and feared by the batsmen was because of their deadly invention 'Reverse Swing'.
The enigmatic swing with the old ball flabbergasted the whole cricket world.
From that place, speed demons like Shoaib Akhter, Bret Lee, Shane Bond, Dale Steyn, James Anderson took the level of fast bowling into a new dimension.
The legacy is still flowing with modern-day speedsters like Mitchell Starc, Kagiso Rabada, Jofra Archer, Jaspreet Bumrah, Lockie Ferguson, and many more.
Bangladesh is a country that has not been blessed with world-class fast bowlers. Some great prospects came but they failed to perform in a consistent manner. Some gave us short term achievements but without the legend Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, no pace bowler has been able to stay for a significant amount of time.
Some of them are lost. Some of them are still struggling to secure a spot in the national team. There's a saying that 'Fastbowlers are not made, they are born naturally'. I don't completely agree with the statement because though natural pace and speed can be a rare gift, with intense hard work and perseverance along with having proper guides and directions, bowlers can be successful in the long run.
In this article, some suggestions will be put forward to assist us in developing a branch of successful pace bowlers capable of dominating the world for many years to come.
Pace bowling hunting programmes
In 2007, BCB hosted a programme to pick the top talents from all part of the country named 'Grameenphone Pacer Hunt '.
Bowlers like Rubel Hossain and many more could show their talent and skill on the world stage by participating in this programme.
There was another pacer hunt programme that occurred in 2016, from which bowlers like Ebadot Hossain could make their entry to the world stage after performing in the domestic circuit. These initiatives should be taken by BCB every year to pick talents from different parts of the country.
By participating in these programmes, selectors can evaluate the talents from every corner of the country.
The entry fee of these competitions should be set very low so that we can reach the mass audience thoroughly. The school cricket tournaments should be hosted more frequently.
And the best pacers from the school cricket should get an internship from the BCB. In India, MRF Pace Foundation has contributed brilliantly to pick the best talents from the country. They picked pacers from all regions of India and nurtured them properly. The National Cricket Academy of India has played a crucial role in this regard by giving proper directions.
Our pace bowlers always struggled in the overseas conditions and they contain a very poor average in the longer version.
Shahadat Hossain is the bowler who took most Test wickets (28) from Bangladesh overseas. But if you look at his average and poor economy rate, then it will give you a precise idea about how our pacers are failing consistently to make a mark in longer formats.
The last time a Bangladeshi seamer (Rabiul Islam) took a 5 wicket haul in a Test was against Zimbabwe back in 2013. The top talents and high-performance unit should be given plenty of scopes to have tours in overseas conditions.
The BCB can host conditioning camps for pace bowlers abroad.
The U-19 and A-team tours should be hosted outside Bangladesh and the sub-continent. BCB can also allow pacers to participate in local tournaments which are hosted overseas.
The conditioning camp will strengthen the fast bowler's confidence to perform and show their merit when they are performing away from home conditions. The ability to perform under different conditions will be developed if they are given an adequate amount of chance to be able to read the conditions better.
Effective and efficient think-tanks can intensify the hunger for pace bowlers to perform on the world stage.
BCB can invite famous pacers and pace bowling coaches all over the world to work with the young prospects.
Visionary thinking and proper direction along with motivation can lead to success here as well. The BCB can host 3-week camps or workshops occasionally, keeping legendary fast bowlers as the mentor. If the young talented prospects can get proper direction and guidance from their mentors, they can give their heart out for the game.
Random campaigns by BCB, introduced Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Syed Rasel, and many more bowlers in the world stage.
Sound domestic core and guidance
The local cricket teams don't play more than two pacers in 90% of the matches. Sometimes, they don't even play more than one pacer as the significant amount of wickets in our country are spin-friendly.
As a result, the seamers in the squad don't get the proper chance to portray their merit in the domestic circuit. Lack of matches and having to constantly perform in the sluggish slow spin-friendly turning wickets don't motivate them much.
If they are given more chances to perform in the greenish fast tracks, they will be able to hone their skills to the best of their ability. Also, pace bowlers lose their ability to bowl in longer spells due to the lack of regular matches.
Consequently, they become more prone to injury when they are required to bowl long spells.
Hosting more Test series
Kagiso Rabada, Mustafizur Rahman, and Jasprit Bumrah made their debut in world cricket almost during the same time.
Mustafizur Rahman seemed the most talented prospect as his performance in shorter formats was highly appreciated. But the opportunity to play more matches in different conditions have benefitted Jasprit Bumrah and Kagiso Rabada a lot and now they are way ahead of Mustafizur Rahman.
The lethal two masters of modern-day swing bowling, have been able to show more variations in their bowling in any cricket pitch whereas our Mustafizur Rahman is still struggling to display his merit to the full potential in overseas conditions because of his limitations and lack of proper guidance.
We still have no pacer in Test cricket who has taken 100 wickets. This is a piece of severely frustrating information for the cricket lovers of the country.
The BCB should focus on creating a unit of 10-12 pacers, and training them with the target of making them capable of performing well overseas. It may take some time for the results to show but after a period of time, we will be blessed with brilliant pace bowlers in all formats of the game.