And then there was a Teesra


There is much joy to be found in Warne’s wizardry, Saqlain’s doosra and Swaan’s subtleties but for me personally, nothing comes close to watching a genuine fast bowler in action bowling with his tail up, not even a Mark Waugh on-drive. Shoaib Akhtar summed the visceral and almost surreal feeling quite succinctly when he said, “It gets your blood going, the adrenaline is pumping, you’re in a fight. To me that’s what cricket is all about.”
Maybe I am a traditionalist or maybe it’s the illustrious list of fast bowlers the country has produced but I have always envisaged our bowling line up to consist of 3-4 quickies supplemented with a twirler. However, the last couple of years have seen a complete role reversal with Pakistan operating, with much success mind you, with a three pronged spin attack. This is not to say that the fast bowling resources in the country have dried up; with Gul virtually guaranteed a spot barring injury, there are as many as 4-5 fast bowlers vying for the last available bowling spot and with all three spinners in the form of their lives, they have their work cut out if they are make it into the playing eleven. If the 90’s was the era of the two W’s, indications are that the 2010’s will belong to the two A’s.
Leading the pack of slow bowlers is the Faisalabad-born off-spinner, Saeed Ajmal. Ajmal’s debut at the ripe old age of 30 raised a few eyebrows but unlike others before him, he let his bowling do the talking. 2011 has so far seen Ajmal pick up 30 ODI wickets at 17.63 and consolidate his position as Pakistan’s number one test spinner courtesy 41 wickets in 6 tests. Admittedly the opposition haven’t been the toughest but you can only play what’s in front of you and those facing Ajmal have been left totally flummoxed and bamboozled by the subtle variations and the beautifully disguised doosra. While not quite reaching the giddy heights Saqlain acquired in the late 90’s, Ajmal, has carved a comfortable niche for himself, a niche that seems him sit at the top of the ICC ODI bowler rankings, ahead of his contemporaries Swaan and Vettori.
There are so many things that one can admire about Ajmal, besides his bowling; his character for one is in no doubt as Mazhar Majeed found out while rounding up cricketers to spot fix for him. He might seem a bit grumpy while he’s bowling but his sense of humour and confidence shine through while giving interviews (YouTube ‘Saeed Ajmal interviews’ and you will know what I mean). And then there is the resolve and fight and his sheer bloody mindedness to prove his detractors wrong. Lesser mortals may have succumbed after ‘that’ Hussey hurricane but Ajmal, like a true champion soldiered on and became a better bowler after that experience. Critics, including myself, were sceptical about his ability to perform in tests but he has started to prove us wrong on that front as well. Fans always warm to a player who tries his best and Pakistan is indeed lucky to have someone, in Ajmal, who leaves everything out on the field.
While Ajmal continues to have a stellar year, the fortunes of Shoaib Malik, continue to dwindle. An uninspiring comeback against the Zimbabweans has been followed by a lacklustre display against the Lankans resulting in the knives being drawn from many quarters. He has traditionally played spin very well but was all at sea against the mediocre Sri Lankan spinners which indicate that he does not have much confidence in his game at the moment. Luckily for Malik, he has the support of Misbah, who reckons that Malik is only one knock way from regaining his touch. Keeping the bigger picture in mind, it would not be a bad idea to drop Malik for now so he can go back to the domestic circuit and regain his form. Pakistan has some important tours coming up and someone of Maliks’ ilk is required in the middle order for Pakistan. An inform Malik is a valuable asset especially in the middle overs for he is adept at playing the waiting game and launching an all out assault if need be. Lastly Malik should take a cue from Hafeez and start bowling again; even with all his qualities, Malik is probably never going to be an all conquering batsman so doubling up as a spinner will only increase Malik’s usefulness to the team.


  1. please write an article on how to get rid of imran farhat. we would perhaps do better with taufiq umar in ODIs as well. if he can hold up one end in the old fashioned way, it would take pressure off the other batsmen. or else we could give nasir jamshed another chance but enough of imran farhat please!!!!!!!!!!

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