The presence of eight fast bowlers among the top 10 leading wicket-takers at this year’s World Cup has led to talk about a ‘fast bowling revolution’.
That is probably an exaggeration. It’s not as if fast bowlers disappeared after Mitchell Starc was named ‘Player of the Tournament’ at the 2015 event.
In the build-up to this year’s event were forecasts for dry weather and thus flat pitches, where bat would dominate ball and because of the drier conditions and pitches, spinners would play a bigger role – especially wrist-spinners.
It hasn’t quite happened that way.
In fact much to the host nation’s irritation, the pitches have had more assistance for bowlers across the board. Jonny Bairstow in his mini tantrum last week said as much.
“None of the pitches throughout the whole tournament have been as true as they have been previously – whether that Pakistan series (which preceded the World Cup) or last summer,” Bairstow said.
“Whether that’s dictated by the weather, the ICC or whatever you want to put that down to – I have no idea.
“But the scores have not been as high as they have been over the last two years in England. Look at the ODI results over the last two years.
“The pitches that we’ve been playing on the last two years are surely the pitches we would be playing on in a World Cup. So, I don’t know why they’ve changed.
“That wasn’t a typical Oval wicket we played South Africa on in the opening game. It wasn’t a typical Trent Bridge wicket we played Pakistan on.
“It wasn’t a typical Lord’s wicket that we played the other day.”
At Lord’s, Starc and the previously unheralded Jason Behrendorff shared nine English wickets.
Starc’s continued success in the 50-over format has been central to Australia’s run to the semi-finals. He clearly saves his best for the World Cup, and has compiled a staggering record in the quadrennial showpiece.
This year has seen the emergence of some new fast-bowling talent. Oshane Thomas of the West Indies, Lockie Ferguson of New Zealand, Jofra Archer of England and Shaheen Shah Afridi of Pakistan are among the ‘quicks’ who garnered attention at this World Cup.
The Test Championship – which will start with a series between New Zealand and Sri Lanka in July – will focus the spotlight more on those fast bowlers.
Are they one-hit wonders? Can they be as effective in conditions less suited to their strengths?
Jofra Archer and Mark Wook took three wickets apiece for England, with star performer Joe Root chipping in with two. From West Indies, only Shannon Gabriel was among the wickets.
But that’s not all. There’s performing across all three formats and potential offers from domestic T20 leagues which will pull their focus in different directions.
Just how impactful will this new group of fast bowlers be in that environment?
The era of Dale Steyn and James Anderson is at an end, and given the way the international calendar is to be set up, it’s unlikely we’ll see fast bowlers match their wicket-taking prowess over the next decade.
Kagiso Rabada provides an intriguing gauge for all of them. He’s performed well below the standard at the World Cup that many had anticipated.
All manner of reasons have been sought, but the feeling that he’s been over-bowled cannot be ignored.
Last week, Faf du Plessis talked about wanting to withdraw Rabada from this year’s Indian Premier League, where he earns in the region of R10 million.
There is no doubt that the player who performed so stunningly for the Delhi Capitals – claiming 25 wickets in 12 matches – was not on show in England.
And therein lays a key factor for all boards and national teams.
Just how much do you allow a young fast bowler to participate in T20 leagues, while balancing it against the demands of the international fixture list and in particular this new Test Championship competition?