September 27, 2013 3:45:28 pm
Curtly Ambrose turned 50 this past Saturday. Less than 48 hours later,the English selectors named their Ashes touring party with pacers Steven Finn (6’6″),Boyd Rankin (6’7″) and Chris Tremlett (6’7″) literally standing out. Ambrose (6’7″) might have raised a toast himself to Geoff Miller & Co for having hand-picked three beanstalk fast bowlers,whose bowling styles could be called right-arm ‘tall’.
England’s wise-men though won’t be the first set of selectors to be fascinated with giant pacers. There’s always been an obsession with the sight of a towering fastmen crushing batsmen with five-ounces of leather.
A number of colossuses have sprouted around the cricket world in recent years. Many of them have been fast-tracked into their respective national teams,based on their height advantage. If it was love at first sight for Aaqib Javed in relation to Mohammad Irfan (7’1″),Jason Holder (6’7″) was looked as a throwback to the era of the gigantic West Indian fast bowlers in the midst of the diminutive Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards. The emergence of these two,along with South Africans Marchant de Lange (6’7″) and Morne Morkel (6’6″) seems all the more accentuated in an era where James Anderson and Dale Steyn possess the fast bowling bragging rights. Closer home,you wonder whether Ishant Sharma (6’5″) would have gotten the extended run that he has if he was a few inches shorter.
Tall pacers in addition to providing an intimidating presence also provide an extra element on dead wickets owing to their ability to produce awkward bounce. But for all that,they tend to be prone to injury,Bruce Reid (6’8″) an example of the kind. But there also the exceptions,with the likes of Ambrose rarely appearing in the injured list.
But already,the Pakistanis have begun wrapping Irfan in cotton wool,dropping him from the Test squad against the Proteas in the Middle East. Finn and Tremlett have forever had the English physios on speed dial. Rankin’s truncated pan-European career too has been riddled with injuries and he is yet to be exposed to the unforgiving world of Test cricket. For now anyway,batsmen around the world are in store for a tall order.
(Bharat is a principal correspondent based in Mumbai)
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