At any level of cricket, nothing matches the allure of bowling at pace. At the top end of international cricket, it is understood what real pace is.
TV – and batsmen – helps by measuring the speed of almost every ball bowled and by slowing it down in replay.
At the lower levels, away from TV, the allure of pace is heightened because it is intrinsically unquantifiable. We cannot know how fast a bowler is other than how he appears live and how others speak of him.
In many ways, pace bowling at the lower levels of the game is a time warp.
It takes us back to the early days of Jeff Thomson and of the blistering West Indies pace attacks in the 1970s, or even further back to men such as Harold Larwood or Frank Tyson. Their fierceness was not measured in kilometres per hour, but by word of mouth and imagination.
Applying the less-sophisticated measuring sticks to UAE quick Kamran Shazad results in suggestions that he could be the fastest thing going at the lower level of international cricket.
It cannot be said for certain, especially with some of the bowlers Ireland and Afghanistan have, but the idea is to take his abilities on face value.
Aaqib Javed, the UAE coach, thinks Shazad might be one of the quickest at the level. UAE all-rounder Amjad Ali said he believes only a couple of the Afghan fast men are comparable.
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Shazad tends to skid the ball through in the way subcontinent bowlers and those not so tall do.
He does not look like he could cause physical harm, but it is clear he can frazzle a batsman’s thinking. “In 2005, there was a pace competition in Lahore, organised by the Pakistan board,” Shazad said.
“I topped that by bowling around 142-143 kilometres per hour. At the time, if you topped that you would get a chance to be with the Pakistan side but I got nothing from there. So I moved to the UAE.”
Nearly a decade later, he claims to bowl around 140kph regularly, though opportunities to verify that are rare. Soon enough, in front of millions of eyes on TV at the World Twenty20, the speed guns will tell us the truth.
What is verifiable is the impact the UAE coach has had on him. He was drifting around the club circuit before Aaqib picked him up and turned him into a proper fast bowler, and not just a street-savvy one.
“He has really cared for us, like a friend, and we’ve really enjoyed that,” Shazad said. “I used to just bowl bouncers before, but he’s worked so hard on me and taught me slower balls, angle changes, slower bouncers and many other things.”
He weighed 86 kilograms after a groin injury and credits Aaqib and the team physio, Chitrala Sudhakar, for really working hard with him. “I am back and playing because of them.”
Days before the UAE side flew to Bangladesh, Shazad still could not believe that he was being given the opportunity to play on the main international stage.
“I had never thought I would. But when I came here and saw the UAE team, I used to think, ‘When will I be picked for the side?’ I’m so happy to be able to play for the UAE.
“We are going to Bangladesh and we want to show other sides that we are also something.”
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