“Batting may be cricket’s heartbeat, but fast bowling is its pulse”
Location: Citifield Stadium, New York City
Occasion: Sachin’s Blasters versus Warne’s Warriors
A man turns, his hair flowing, eyes looking tired, tired as if they have been seeing the world since eternity, as if they can’t take it anymore, yet he turns himself around and runs. He runs towards the wickets with a ball in his hand; a ball that will soon be unfurled towards the other end at rocket speed; a ball that would put fear in the eyes of the batsman. It is no more a game of ball and bat; it is a game of a predator and prey. And he keeps running, dragging his tired looking body along, supporting those tired looking eyes, looking for the ‘extra’ within himself, making sure he gives it his all. It is just then that he reaches the crease, and unfurls the ball. The batsman at the other end, one of the best ever, can only hop away, letting the ball pass. A bullet hurled, a fury unleashed, a fear imbibed and a cricket fan gasped. And then Shoaib Akhtar looked at the batsman, smiled and turned back to go to his mark. Run in hard, fire a bullet, smile, and repeat!
Bowling fast, extremely fast, is a mad guys’s work. Ball after ball, minute after minute, it pushes the protagonist. Every delivery has courage written over it. All over it! And on the lighter side sometimes it can be funky as well. Just ask Mitchell Johnson.
On 8 November 1976, one of the world’s fastest bowlers was born. One of the most athletic, he continuously put his body on the line for his art to prevail and magic to happen. Brett Lee was not just fast, he was furious. Brett Lee was no ordinary bowler. He was a work of art himself. His run up was not for the light hearted and he put fear in the minds of the opposition. Ask Stephen Fleming, he might still be shit scared to face him. In one go, Brett Lee made the game of more than bat and ball. Cricket became a game of survival. In this process he produced heroes on both sides; the winner took it all, the loser just sore limbs.
You see bowling fast, extremely fast, is not just a mad guy’s work. It is an addiction that takes over everyone. Not just the protagonist, not just the potential predator but nations as well. Ask the Pakistanis who can’t imagine their team to be complete without seeing a couple of fast bowlers in there. Ask the Australians of retro times, how they cheered for blood. Ask the West Indies who still remember their prime fast bowlers. Malcolm Holding was the silent death, Andy Roberts the angry young man.
There can never be a higher ‘high’ than fast bowling. It is a pure form of aesthetics, of a human being’s potential fully harnessed and put forward. In ways more than one it separates men from boys. In more ways than one it is real life captured inside the context of cricket. It is about getting bullied and then about either conquering the fears or getting conquered.
But Bowling fast is more than this. At a deeper level, it is all about ‘jazba’, the impassioned spirit that exalts men, the x-factor that we keep looking for inside ourselves. Ask a warrior what drives him and ask a fast bowler what drives him, the answer might as well be the same. Fighting a war and bowling fast provide both the protagonist about what might be there one last chance at redemption. A hit on the opponent might be missed, an ankle might get twisted and an ability to be the lethal best might be lost. One missed hit, one mis-happening and the glory might never be received again. And it in this knowledge of transiency, of the non-zero probability of losing it all in a single go, that our protagonists lose their fears and discover their jazba. And probably there lies a lesson for us all. Lose the fear, discover the jazba and achieve greatness.
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