THERE is an air of excitement and a breath of fresh air every time a young fast bowler emerges on the scene. This largely stems from the fascination cricket fans have for these men of pace. Al
l over the cricket world, young, fast and wicket-taking pace bowlers attract a lot of interest and media frenzy.
Most of the top pace bowlers in the world were still in their youths when they emerged on to the scene to become great pace bowlers.
Glen McGrath, the number one bowler in the world at the moment, is one such player who has seen his career rise like a rocket since making his Australia debut. South Africa’s Shaun Pollock, Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan, Sri Lanka’s Chaminda Vaas, among others, are some of the bowlers who have perfected their skills over the years to pose a serious danger to opposition batsmen.
Generation after generation has seen great fast bowlers gracing cricket grounds for elite cricket nations in the world. Older cricket fans talk affectionately of bowlers like Dennis Lillee, Ian Botham and Michael Holding. In Zimbabwe names like Godfrey Lawrence from the Rhodesian era are also held in high esteem.
Appropriate nicknames like “Whispering Death” for Holding, “White Lightning” for former South African bowler Allan Donald and “Grievous Bodily Harmison” for England’s current paceman Stephen Harmison only make the art of fast bowling more glamorous.
We cannot forget the likes of Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, the retired, lethal West Indian duo, Zimbabwe’s own Eddo Brandes, Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram of Pakistan, among a long list of great pace bowlers.
In all these generations of pace bowlers, Zimbabwe has not been left far behind, with players like Brandes and Heath Streak leading the attack with the advent of Test cricket in 1992. Brandes and Streak are Zimbabwe’s most successful pace bowlers in recent years.
Brandes was famous for his hat-trick against England in 1996 when he claimed the scalps of Michael Atherton, Nick Knight and Nasser Hussain, arguably England’s best three batsmen at that time. Zimbabwe crushed England 3-0 in that famous ODI series eight years ago.
Streak, the former Zimbabwe captain, was the fourth best bowler in the world at the tender age of 21 in the 1994/95 season, the highest ever ranking by a Zimbabwean bowler.
The big question is whether Zimbabwe can still produce pace bowlers with potential to be mentioned among the world’s best. The answer should be in the positive, with several young bowlers waiting in the wings to prove their mettle.
Zimbabwe has had promising fast bowlers before who never realised their full potential. David Mutendera was unable to keep his place in the team, while the quicksilver Brighton Watambwa left for the United States a couple of seasons back after impressing in his first matches against India.
So which is Zimbabwe’s next generation of fast bowlers?
Tinashe Panyangara seems to be Zimbabwe’s answer for young sensations that have announced their arrival with a bang and gone on to become world-class material. His performance at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup tournament in Bangladesh, where he took a match-winning 6 for 31 against deposed champions Australia, was the beginning of a promising international career.
Panyangara sometimes strays on his line and length, which makes him concede plenty of runs, but the good thing about him is his clever variation and the will to learn. Panyangara also has great ability to work out as a batsman and noticeable capacity to grow into a really menacing fast bowler.
Twenty-five-year-old Douglas Hon-do, the most experienced player in the current Zimbabwe side, is a potential match-winner on his day, although not on the youth prodigy side.
Then there is also Christopher Mpofu, the newest paceman in the team. A young bowler with decent pace, Mpofu depends on his swing and variation. With a bit more experience, Mpofu can grow to become a key player for Zimbabwe.
Medium pace bowler Edward Rainsford was before the injury that saw him coming back home before the Bangladesh series arguably the best bowler in Zimbabwe. Another fine swing bowler, Rainsford has no more than medium pace on his deliveries, but his nagging accuracy makes him a class act.
On the fringes, Zimbabwe cricket also boasts pace bowling talent, with a number of young bowlers knocking on the selectors’ door. One bowler who comes to mind is Zimbabwe “A” member Campbell McMillan, the fastest bowler in the country at the moment.
If any bowler must be allowed to use pace as his main weapon, 21-year old McMillan is one such. Arguably regarded as quicker than Andy Blignaut, McMillan can improve on his line and length and become a fearsome bowler.
Also coming on well is Under-19 paceman Ian Nicholson, who is being
given a chance to improve in the “A” side. Another promising bowler of note is Allan Mwayenga. One of the very few left-arm bowlers in local first-class cricket, Mwayenga can constantly bowl fast and accurately. He comes from a cricket family.
His younger brother, Waddington, has a few ODI caps and was largely expected to have won a regular place in the side going by his early promise.
Otherwise the younger Mwayenga is still a good bowler with a good temperament. Blessed with an amazing line and length, Waddington can re-establish himself and become an important bowler for Zimbabwe.
Pace bowling talent is therefore on offer in Zimbabwe. It will all now depend on how the players are encouraged and further nurtured to become top-class bowlers.