MUNAF PATEL, ANDY ROBERTS AND THE ART OF FAST BOWLING
When a legendary West Indian fast bowler says that a current Indian pacer is in fact a spinner who just claims to be a fast bowler, how does an Indian respond? The man at the centre of all this, Munaf Patel calmly replied, “I am not going to be affected by any such comments. The thing is that I have been taking wickets in this series. I was part of the Indian team that won the World Cup not long ago. I am bowling well and feeling good about my fitness. The West Indies are not doing well, let him say anything.” Here is the statement that sparked off the lengthy panel discussions on Prime Time News channels and occupied reels of newsprint all over India – “When he [Munaf] came to the West Indies in 2006, he was quick, but now, he is spinning the ball.”
Though Mr. Roberts is justified in his observation that Munaf has lost pace, he is by no means justified is his criticism of his bowling style. The main aim of any bowler is to take wickets, you could do that by either bowling at 15 kmph a la Brett Lee or by bowling consistently and maintaining you line and length a la Zaheer Khan. Munaf has been able to do the job of taking wickets quite well with 30 wickets in 16 games this year at average of about 23. He was a part of the World Cup winning squad and played his part in securing India’s victory being the third highest Indian wicket-taker. In fact Indian bowling Coach Eric Simmons hailed him as India’s unsung hero. He was also among the leading wicket-takers in this year’s IPL and more than once was the man of the match for Mumbai Indians.
With all this going for him, I personally don’t think he should be too bothered about his drop in pace, it’s something that has happened to most Indian bowlers from Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan to Ishant Sharma. As long as he is performing consistently and doing his basic job of taking wickets, pace and bounce don’t matter as much. The only aspect of his cricket that needs to be improved upon (and really importantly) is his fielding which is quite a big drawback. As for Mr. Roberts, respected as his opinion is, I think comparing a “medium-pacer” a spinner is like comparing himself to Muttiah Muralidharan.
Final words, a seamer should be judged by his wicket-taking ability rather than his speed because it’s the former that matters more.