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By Bharath Ramaraj
When India take on their arch rivals Pakistan in Asia Cup 2014, they would be up against a familiar face who has constantly played against them over the years in seamer, Umar Gul. The right-arm seamer, built like an edifice and known for bowling toe crushing yorkers at slithery speed and generating disconcerting bounce on his day is a vital cog in the Pakistan attack. With 121 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) under his belt, Pakistan would look up to him to steer the ship to safety when they find themselves in tatters. With the ever-reliable Gul by his side, Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain of Pakistan, needn’t have to depend on a prayer before every ball is bowled.
Unfortunately, the seamer has found himself more under the surgeon’s table than on a cricket field in recent months. It has been a tough road for the pacer to convalesce from a serious knee injury, but he has come through the fine lines of pain and depression and is now fully fit. He had to even travel all the way to Australia for a surgery. As soon as he was declared fit, Pakistan selectors without blinking an eye lid picked him in the squad. It was surely Gul’s experience that helped him to get a recall. However, it won’t be easy for Gul to pen his mark in tomorrow’s game, as you need match fitness to find back your lost rhythm.
In the last game he played against Afghanistan, Gul bowled well in patches, but to bowl to Indian batsmen on feather-beds is a different story altogether. Interestingly, unlike his pace colleague and one of the brightest lights of Pakistan, Junaid Khan, Gul has struggled to keep Indian batsmen in check, over the years. He has taken 18 wickets at a rather costly average of 43.83.
Gul though, would reminisce fond memories of the last time he played against India. In 2012-13, Pakistan flagged down India in their own backyard to win the ODI series 2-1. Gul played his part by bowling incisively at Kolkata and scalping two wickets. On the other hand, he would like to forget Virat Kohli’s buccaneering innings against Pakistan in 2012 edition of Asia Cup that saw India march their way towards victory.
Gul has all the weapons to erase his poor record in tomorrow’s match. He can go for the coup de main by slipping in the yorker and if needed, hit back of a length and angle it into the right-handed batsman. In ODIs, those who angle it into the right-hander tend to do better than pacers who shape it away from a right-handed batsman. With him having that yorker up his sleeve, Gul can run through arch-rabbit tail-enders with ease.
It has to be said that to bowl searing yorkers, one needs to generate a decent burst of pace and should have the horsepower of a turbo-charged engine to gallop into the crease. A true pacer when he runs into the crease may feel like galloping on a railway track. It takes a lot of practice and hard work in the nets to bowl those deadly yorkers. It also has to be remembered that he is lively fast medium. When you aren’t someone who bowls at red-lightning speed, even losing a yard of pace can hurt.
So, after suffering from such a major injury can Gul continue to bowl at slithery speed? Can Gul erase his poor record against India and engineer a timeless composition by touching outer limits of well-defined boundaries? We can know the answer to everything when India take on Pakistan in the high octane clash at Fatullah on Sunday.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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