• Friday, December 19, 2014

Freedom in the air

Streak eager for pacy pitches

Naimul Karim

With the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand expected to be a battle between pacers, Bangladesh's plight seems a bit worrisome.

Chief selector Faruque Ahmed's decision to include four specialist pacers for the West Indian series clearly shows that the team management, all of a sudden, wants its quick bowlers to be tested and tried before the mega event.

While the move was a much required one the current state of Bangladesh's pace stocks, however, paints a rather morbid picture.

Traditionally pacers have never managed to dominate Bangladesh's domestic circuit and it was an aspect that was highlighted again in the last first-class season.

Of the 227 wickets that were taken by bowlers in the Bangladesh Cricket League this year, pacers bagged just 52.

While the dominance of slow left-armers is not a new phenomenon, that the top five wicket-takers of this year's National Cricket League (NCL) -- the other major domestic first-class competition -- have all been slow left-armers should ring some alarm bells as far as Bangladesh's bowling culture is concerned.

The scenario led a number of senior domestic pacers to criticise the wickets. Mohammad Sharif, captain of NCL champions Dhaka Division, after winning the final, said that Bangladesh 'will never be able to create a good pacer' as long as they do not get good wickets to play on.   

Echoing the demands made by players this year, newly-appointed bowling coach Heath Streak has said that the country's first-class cricket is in need of more wickets that 'encourage pace and bounce'.

“First-class cricket, in my opinion, has to have a few more wickets that have a bit more pace and bounce to encourage some of the pacers a bit more. I think that the BCB (Bangladesh Cricket Board) have got a bit more control on these sort of wickets in first-class cricket as opposed to the Dhaka Premier League (the premier limited-overs club competition) that are privately funded,

“If you look back at all the records the quick bowlers don't get enough bowling. It's not that they don't want to bowl, it's just that the conditions don't support them,” Streak told The Daily Star. 

“For the quick bowlers there's not much encouragement. Yes they have to learn to bowl in flat conditions, but that's not how they should play in every game because they won't get much incentive to bowl. 

“And that's because the wickets aren't conducive, so we need to change that and get some wickets that have a bit more pace, especially at the venues that allow that. For example in Mirpur the groundsman can make a good bouncy wicket,” he added. 

While the former Zimbabwe captain admits that it's best for the Tigers to stick to their strength -- spin bowling -- he believes that there needs to be a fine balance between pace and spin for the betterment of the team.

Referring to India's batting collapse against Bangladesh in the last series on seaming tracks that were unfamiliar to both the hosts and the visitors, Streak emphasised the importance of adapting to conditions.

“It's not just for the bowlers but also the batters. There's a technique to play in conditions with the ball swinging and seaming, we also need our batters to get exposed to those conditions.”

While the Zimbabwean did list the issues, there was no hint of frustration in him. He was, on the contrary, hopeful of a steady change. “It's something that we have discussed with the board and we will continue to work on; these things don't change overnight, we just need to find a balance between spin and pace,” he said.

With the World Cup around the corner the current season would be the ideal time to bring about the change that Streak and several other players have long been yearning for. However, as the Zimbabwean himself put it, it would be impractical to hope for an overnight change.

Will the clubs agree to play in bouncy conditions in the Dhaka Premier League this October? Can a section of the venues be tailor-made to support the pacers this season? Probably not; but with the cricketing world going through a series of administrative changes this year, which includes a two-tier qualifying system for the 2019 World Cup, it may not be a long time before the BCB is compelled to enforce these changes.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Last modified: 10:46 pm Monday, August 04, 2014

TAGS: world cup National Cricket League Faruque Ahmed chief selector

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