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Munaf gave up speed at the altar of control

By Aakash Chopra
Thursday, June 16, 2021

When Munaf Patel came here in 2006, he had some pace, now he is spinning the ball! The statement from legendary Andy Roberts is discouraging but not surprising. Munaf has lost some pace, but to say he's spinning the ball is sheer exaggeration. What concerns me though is a bigger question - what made the bowler, touted to be India's answer to Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar, give up his speed.

Things went into fast-forward mode for Munaf once the word about his pace spread. He soon made his first-class debut and was rubbing shoulders with the best in the country.

But then, the inevitable happened. Munaf's body wasn't prepared for hard toil and hence gave in. He was sent back to domestic cricket to take bagful of wickets and, more importantly, prove he was fit enough. He did it and earned his Test cap in 2006 against England in Mohali.

He lived up to the reputation of being India's fastest bowler and continued in the same vein for sometime before something mysteriously took away his pace.

Change of plans

The rigors of playing on docile wickets made him rethink and reassess his future plans. He could have continued to bowl fast if he wanted to, but it wasn't about pace anymore but about playing for India for a longer duration. It was around this time that he started sacrificing pace for control.

When the team management could have assigned him the role of bowling fast and being aggressive, he was left to his own devices. If only someone could have told him to persist with his skill and not succumb to pressures, Munaf would've still been a fast bowler.

Slow but steady

Instead of working overtime to bowl at high speeds, Munaf spent more time getting the line and length right. Since he doesn't swing the ball much, he worked on cutters to go along with immaculate line and length. By the time he crawled his way back into the Indian team, he had transformed into a line and length bowler.

Would you blame him for sacrificing his knack of bowling quick to secure his position in the Indian side? You'd be unfair if you did so. Fast bowling is a gruelling job in slow Indian conditions.

How do you keep yourself motivated when the ball bounces twice before reaching the wicket-keeper?

These conditions may have taken away pace from our medium-pacers but definitely made them smarter. But if we want the likes of Ishant and Umesh Yadav (people who can still clock 140+) to not go the Munaf way, we must do enough to foster these assets.

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