Mumbai: They say bad guys are more talented than usual ones. One would be inclined to think more that way if he/she has tracked the career of former Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Asif, the man who has topped the news charts for all the wrong reasons.
Having surprised the world with immaculate control over swing, this Sheikhupura seamer chose a wrong path and the promising career was thwarted not once, but several times. From dope taint to spot-fixing, he was convicted for all and also spent his days in British jail post 2011. But he hasn’t even lost an iota of respect from his contemporaries solely for the ‘art’ that he knew. Former England captain Kevin Pietersen and few others have rated him the ‘most difficult’ bowler they faced.
Good news for him is his back to the groove. After having a stint in Norway club cricket during his ban, he has resumed his first class cricket only a few months ago. Already, signs of making a comeback for the 34-year-old ‘bad boy’ of the world cricket, who has 106 Test scalps from 23 outings, started looking brighter. In a free-wheeling telephonic interview from his Karachi home with SportsCrunch, the speedster opened up on fast bowling, reverse swing and more…
Have you overcome the rough patch in your career and life?
Yes I have started overcoming that and looking forward to come back to where I belong. Those days were really nightmarish for me. It still gives me shivers to think of those days… I even had to walk into jail. But, Insha Allah, that period is over for me and I am really eager to play top quality cricket for the next three-four years that is still left in me.
How is it going now?
Insha Allah I am already on path. I have been playing domestic cricket with good success…25 wickets in five matches. I expect to join the Pakistan national squad sooner than later.
According to you, who are the top pacers in the world currently?
Not many. Mitchell Starc has been bowling really well and troubled Pakistan big time in the recently concluded series. Next I think, South African Vernon Philander is really good with the new ball. He has swing on both sides with tight control. There are few others here and there.
Which Indian/Pakistani bowlers you think are at par with the best?
(Mohammed) Aamir has been bowling well recently, but unfortunately few catches were dropped off his bowling in the recent series. Otherwise, he is on top of his skills. India don’t have top quality pacers, but among them Mohammed Shami is the best. I would rather say, the best bowler for India is (Ravichandran) Ashwin. He has been phenomenal.
Why are not many promising fast bowlers coming into fray?
Now if you see, every team has one-two bowlers unlike past when every side used to have 3-4 good bowlers and the competition was fierce. If you think of Australia, they had quality bowlers like Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, and then came Mitchell Johnson, but now cricket has become too fast. South Africa, Australia, Pakistan have one bowler each to cause havoc, which wasn’t a case even in our time. Now, you have quantity, but no quality.
Why is so?
The main reason is Twenty20, which has started baseball cricket. People like watching 200runs scored in 20 overs with bowlers given not an inch. To me, the more you play Test cricket, the more you find quality fast bowlers. The shortest version is destroying the art.
With little or no reverse swing in modern cricket like earlier, what is your mantra to master the art?
It’s about taking good care of the ball from the word go. Modern day fast bowlers rely on speed. Though speed matters to some extent, the best way is to swing and deceive the batsmen. See, a ball needs to be tampered to give good effect to reverse swing, but a bowler cannot use hand to do that as it used to be done 15-20 years ago.
For the swing to take place you need to keep one side shiny and the other half rough. Then only one can give good effect to reverse swing. Nowadays, bowlers don’t concentrate on that and as a result the vicious reverse swing doesn’t happen. In one-dayers, two balls are used and one needs to take extra care of the ball, but that is missing among present-day youngsters.
Can you elaborate a bit…
It depends on its landing. A bowler has to keep the shine of one side intact and has to hit that part consistently on the pitch… the ball gradually changes its shape to be ready for the reverse swing if you have that control. However, it should be kept in mind that the ball doesn’t get hit on the deck from all sides. You need that precision.
How hopeful are you about India-Pakistan bilateral series?
People of both countries want cricket ties among India and Pakistan, but this is not possible because of political reasons. India-Pakistan game still draws the highest crowd in any part of the world.
What’s your take on Indian pace sensation Mohammed Shami?
He is a top quality bowler and currently the best among the Indians. But he has to learn to keep the shine of the ball intact. He generates good pace (140kmph)…the only thing he needs is to maintain the ball. Maturity will bring out the best in him.