One of the most terrifying sight for batsmen, and indeed fans, was Shoaib Akhtar running in from a mile to send down his fiery deliveries. The former Pakistan cricketer is one of the fastest bowlers the game has ever seen and was the first player to (officially) bowl at over 100mph.
Akhtar, known as the ‘Rawalpindi Express’, has often spoken about his love for fast bowling. The right-arm quick would tie weights on his feet while running and work exclusively on trying to increase his strength and pace.
In a conversation with Isa Guha and Aatif Nawaz on the BBC’s Doosra podcast, Akhtar spoke about a change he has witnessed in fast bowling over the years. A change that he isn’t too pleased about.
The 44-year-old said that a decade ago, pacers would consistently clock speeds of close to 155kph (96.3mph), but these days the bowlers tend to remain close to just 135kmh (83.9mph).
“We now only have a few real fast bowlers around the world. Back in the day, South Africa alone had six,” he said.
Akhtar, who picked a total of 444 wickets from 224 international matches, even blamed the changes in the laws of the game for the absence of raw pace in international cricket.
“The cricket laws don’t allow you to bowl fast now: two new balls, too much restriction, too much cricket, too many Twenty20 leagues, too much money, too many TV rights. Players are now getting smarter and more focused on money; they want to save their careers and legs and play for 10 years – whereas I would fight for that specific series only, I fought for the day.”
Akhtar also spoke against having just two bouncers allowed in an over. He said that this rule took away an important trick from the fast bowlers.
“The laws were more relaxed back then. When they banned us from bowling more than two bouncers I was gutted. I was like: ‘How do you trap the batsman? Where is the bodyline bowling?’ Please allow me to hit the guy and let him hit me back. This is what you want to see in international cricket. I’m sick of seeing this lame, prim and proper cricket,” he said.
Akhtar also spoke about a battle he once got into with former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff.
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