Even the PM’s a fast bowler: Pakistan cricket’s need for speed 

This file photo taken on February 7, 2020 shows Pakistan's Azhar Ali (2nd L) celebrating with teammates Naseem Shah (L) and Shaheen Shah Afridi (3rd L) after the dismissal of Bangladesh's Mohammad Mithun (unseen) during the first day of the first cricket Test match between Pakistan and Bangladesh at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi. (AFP)
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Updated 04 August 2020

Even the PM’s a fast bowler: Pakistan cricket’s need for speed 

  • Pakistan have eight quicks in their 20-man squad for the three-Test series against England 
  • The production line is so consistent that when one player goes, another is ready to take over 

KARACHI: To understand the culture of fast bowling in Pakistan, look no further than Imran Khan — once a feared quick, and now the country’s prime minister.
Not all of Pakistan’s pacemen will fly so high, but Khan’s rise underlines a tradition where speed is king, and blistering pace is essential for any team.
As if to reinforce the point, Pakistan have eight quicks in their 20-man squad for the three-Test series against England, starting on Wednesday, ready to unleash their trademark pace and swing.
They carry the baton passed by predecessors such as Khan, left-arm great Wasim Akram and his destructive partner Waqar Younis, the unassuming Aaqib Javed, and Shoaib Akhtar, the feared “Rawalpindi Express” who is considered the fastest bowler in history.
The current generation includes the precocious Naseem Shah, still only 17, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz, and the accurate Mohammad Abbas.
The production line is so consistent that when one player goes, another is ready to take over — as seen in 2010 when Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, banned for spot-fixing, were replaced by Junaid Khan, Riaz, Mohammad Irfan, Ehsan Adil and Rahat Ali.
Even Amir’s decision to retire from Tests at just 27 did not slow Pakistan, as Shaheen became the spearhead and Naseem announced himself with a stunning Test hat-trick.
But the steady emergence of quicks — left-armers, right-armers, even one who is ambidextrous — raises an obvious question: how does Pakistan keep doing it?
Former fast bowler Sarfarz Nawaz, regarded as the pioneer of reverse swing in 1970s, said the factors included Muslim Pakistan’s meaty diet — unlike mainly vegetarian India, once known for its spinners.
“We are a nation obsessed with fast bowling,” Nawaz told AFP. “We eat meat which strengthens the body, we love wickets clattering and the batsman shivering so it’s natural that we produce fast bowlers.”


Nawaz passed on his reverse-swing skills to Khan under whose tutelage Wasim and Waqar became “The Two Ws,” a menacing partnership in the 1980s and 1990s.
Wasim said he followed Khan’s legacy, and that pace bowling matches the Pakistani mentality.
“I think it’s the culture (to become a fast bowler), especially this generation of Waqar and I and then Akhtar, we all had a role model in Khan,” he said.
“Generally, when we talk about cricket it’s mostly about the fast bowlers, they get batsmen caught napping. We are aggressive people in nature and that’s what helps.”
Wasim often holds camps to train emerging fast bowlers, swelling Pakistan’s ranks.
“When I came I always wanted to be a fast bowler and then a crop of fast bowlers came, and now we have Naseem, Shaheen, Mohammad Hasnain and Musa Khan who bowl at 140-150 kph (87-93 mph),” he said.
However, perhaps the most decisive factor is Pakistan’s legion of tape-ball players, who play in parking lots and disused patches of land using tennis balls wrapped in electrical tape to make them heavier, putting the onus on pace rather than spin.
Lahore Qalandars, a Pakistan Super League franchise which has been at the forefront of nurturing fast bowlers in recent years, received more than 350,000 applicants for their talent-hunt program — nearly half of them tape-ball players, including the ambidextrous pace marvel Yasir Jan.
“We give them platform in our development program and send them to Australia to hone their talent,” said head coach Aaqib Javed.
According to Wasim, fast bowling is so deeply ingrained that Pakistan’s stocks will never run out.
“Many natural resources will dry up, but not Pakistan bowling’s reservoirs,” he said. “Our fast bowling future is secure as they follow footsteps and run-ups.” 


Luis Suarez suspected of cheating on Italian exam

Updated 22 September 2020

Luis Suarez suspected of cheating on Italian exam

  • The Italian exam was a first step required in order to receive a passport ahead of a possible transfer to Juventus
  • Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo said a proposed deal for Suarez was unlikely to go ahead because of delays in the Uruguayan’s bid to get an Italian passport

ROME: Barcelona forward Luis Suarez is suspected of cheating to pass his Italian language test with the help of his teachers, the Perugia prosecutor’s department in charge of the investigation said on Tuesday.
The Italian exam was a first step required in order to receive a passport ahead of a possible transfer to Juventus.
“The investigation showed that the subjects discussed during the exam were agreed beforehand with the candidate and that the grade was awarded to him even before the test,” the prosecutor’s department said in a statement.
Local prosecutor Raffaele Cantone, a former head of Italy’s National Anti-Corruption Authority, had been carrying out an investigation since February into University for Foreigners officials over various irregularities. Suspicions over Suarez were aroused by an overheard conversation.
“But what do you think, that we’re going to fail him? Today I have the last lesson (with Suarez) and I have to prepare it because he barely speaks a word” of Italian, Stefania Spina, one of the people targeted by the investigation, is claimed to have said according to prosecution documents cited by Italian media.
Asked by a colleague what level Suarez “should pass” in Italian, Spina reportedly replied: “He should not, he must, he will pass, because with a salary of 10 million (euros) per season, you can’t make him fail” his exam, “even if he doesn’t know how to conjugate verbs and speak in the infinitive.”
Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo said last week a proposed deal for Suarez was unlikely to go ahead because of delays in the Uruguayan’s bid to get an Italian passport.
The Italian champions cannot recruit Suarez otherwise because they have already reached their quota for non-EU players.