GeneralMark Wood, Farmville, and Pakistan Cricket

Mark Wood, Farmville, and Pakistan Cricket

What is up with Pakistan’s fast-bowling resources?

“I’ll still bowl fast,” muttered Mark Wood as he slowly came to from his general anesthesia after his umpteenth surgery in the past decade. He was then questioned about whether he was excited about the IPL. In 20 seconds, he had experienced something that perhaps no Pakistani fast bowler can relate to: confidence that everything will be fine after a career-threatening procedure and hopefulness of participating in the most lucrative tournament cricket has to offer. Cricket is not fair.

It is a source of amusement for many that for all their fast-bowling resources, Pakistan has not produced a 200-Test-wicket fast-bowler since Waqar Younis. It has leaned weight to the belief of some that Pakistan’s fast bowling resources are not as plentiful as suggested.

Do you remember those games that Facebook used to have? The reason you probably made a Facebook account in the first place? Farmville was quite popular. You would have a farm where you could plant your crops and upgrade them with coins. This would take time unless you got your hands on your mom’s credit card. There were crops that would pop up almost immediately and others that took entire days.

Think of Pakistan’s young fast bowlers as those crops; their T20 skills are ingrained into their brains from regularly playing in the gullies since childhood, and with T20s, if you are 90+ mph, half of your work is done. So, in T20s, Pakistan’s fast bowlers are like those almost-instant crops that pop up as soon as you plant them. But if you want the crop that will thrive in Tests, you need to pay more coins and wait a day or two.

Naturally, when we were kids, we went for the instant crops because we basically downloaded the game so that we could visit our friend’s (or people we wanted to be our friends) farm, and after they became bored of it, so did we. But perhaps Pakistan cricket should have an attention span greater than that of a 12-year-old. The odds are stacked against them, the coins are not as many as there should be, there is no access to mother’s credit card, and the expected time always seems to reset when a new government comes into power.

There is also the suggestion that not all crops are the same. There will be some suited to T20s and others more suited to Tests. That requires talent identification which, obviously, Pakistan cricket is decidedly terrible at. Poor talent identification leads to skewed perceptions. An example of that is Pakistan taking two fast bowlers to Australia for Tests in 2019, Naseem Shah and Musa Khan. One of the two was decidedly more ready for Test cricket than the other, but the aftermath of a disaster that a blind man could’ve sensed from a mile away saw Naseem being grouped with Musa as youngsters who were played too early.

Pakistan has three current fast bowlers who are nearing 100 Test wickets with an average of less than 25. There is another with 119 wickets. None of them played the series vs. England. Leave playing; none of them were in the squad. There are obviously mitigating reasons for all of them, but you have to ask Pakistan cricket how they managed to make lightning strike four times in a row in different places and at different velocities.

Tests, despite their age, are perhaps the least understood format, with many perceptions being Tethered Cats. One of these that Pakistan decided to challenge was that a Test attack could have inexperienced members, but those inexperienced members should not be the ONLY members. Pakistan cricket took this Chesterton’s Fence and cut through it, only to be killed by the bull on the other side.

For their next magic trick, Pakistan now decided that pace does not matter at all and played one fast bowler as a type of garnish the chef throws over his food to make it seem sophisticated.

Mark Wood has been ruled out due to injury twice in the past six months. Also, in the past six months, he has been his team’s best bowler on their way to the semifinals of a tournament they would go on to win and sealed a Test series win in a country they haven’t won against away from home in 17 years. True to his word, he still bowled fast.

Cricket is not fair. Pakistan are already carrying a 10 kg weight that others aren’t. Perhaps they should start running in the right direction.

The author

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