Tony Becca: Where are the good, young fast bowlers?
From the early days of West Indies cricket, from George Francis, Learie Constantine, Herman Griffith and Manny Martindale through to Roy Gilchrist, Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith, to the days of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Coin Croft and Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Sylvester Clarke, Patrick Patterson, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, West Indies cricket was known for its fast bowlers, especially in the days before its greatness.
It is true that in those days the West Indies had a batsman like George Headley, later on others like Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott, and also for a brief period, bowlers the quality of Sonny Ramadhin and Alfred Valentine, renowned as the "spin twins" and those "two little pals of mine".
It was, however, fast bowling, "pace like fire", "Whispering Death", simply screaming bumpers, deadly yorkers, scary short-pitched deliveries, or a mixture of everything fast for which the West Indies were famous right around the world.
It is not surprising that despite the presence of some of the world's best batsmen, first, Conrad Hunte, Garry Sobers and Rohan Kanhai, and the world's leading spin bowler, Lance Gibbs, and second, Roy Fredericks, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Lawrence Rowe, Alvin Kallicharran and Clive Lloyd, in one team or the other, the West Indies were rulers of the world when they boasted the world's best fast attack in Hall, Griffith and Sobers, and then Roberts, Holding, Croft and Garner.
GREAT BOWLING LINE-UP
In those days, it was not so much that if the batsmen don't get you, the bowlers would; but more that if Hall and Griffith didn't get you, Sobers would; or if Roberts and Holding didn't get you, Croft and Garner would.
I remember a man named Lester King who came from the bushes in St Mary to play in his first Test in the fifth Test against India at Sabina Park in 1962. He took five wickets for 45 runs off 19 overs in the first innings and two for 18 off 13 overs in the second, and because of the presence of Hall, Griffith and Sobers, never played again until he made his second and last appearance in the fifth Test against England in 1968.
On that occasion, he bowled 38.2 overs and took two for 79 in the first innings, and got none for 11 off nine in the second innings.
Today, the West Indies have one good, fit fast bowler, or fast medium bowler. He is on the other side of 30 and the question is, where have all the fast bowlers gone? Especially the young and promising ones?
After producing some of the world's fastest and most dangerous bowlers, and after being the envy of the world, the West Indies are short, very short of fast bowlers, and especially of good fast bowlers.
And the drought has been really embarrassing.
Years ago, the West Indies, along with Australia and speed merchants like E.A. MacDonald and Joe Gregory, Harold Larwood, Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller, Ian Meckiff, Graham McKenzie, Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson, Geoff Lawson, Craig McDermott, Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath; England with Maurice Tate, Alec Bedser, Fred Trueman, Brian Statham and Frank Tyson, John Snow, Bob Willis, Geoff Arnold, Mike Hendrick and Devon Malcolm; and South Africa with the likes of Peter Pollock, Neil Adcock, Peter Heine and Geoff Griffin produced some brilliant fast bowlers.
At that time, every other Test team was noticeably short on pace.
In those days, New Zealand produced a good one in Richard Hadlee, and the likes of Murray Webb, Bob Cunis, Ewan Chatfield and Chris Martin before they got to Shane Bond, Pakistan had Fazal Mahmood, and others like Khan Mohammed and Mahmood Hussain before they came up with one like Sikander Bakht, another like Sarfraz Nawaz, another like Imran Khan, and others like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis; and India, the team of spinners, had apart from Kapil Dev and Zaheer Khan, medium-pacers such as Ramakant Desai, Rusi Surti, Abid Ali, Elnath Solkar, Kharson Ghavri, Balwinder Sandhu, Venkatesh Prasad, Ashish Nehra and Madan Lal.
And Sri Lanka also had a good one in Chaminda Vaas.
In those days, the West Indies, Australia, England and South Africa had the men of speed and all the others, including India, looked on with envy, most of them boasting a few medium-pacers and only one or two who made the heart skipped a beat, or two.
FALLEN WEST INDIES
Today, however, while Australia, with bowlers like Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Pat Cummins; England with James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Chris Jordan and Mark Wood; and South Africa with Shaun Pollock, Alan Donald, Makahaya Ntini, Andre Nel, Dale Stein, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott, keep rolling them out day after day, the West Indies have fallen behind, way behind.
And it is worse than that: the teams which at one time hardly had a fast bowler, a real fast bowler, are turning them out in droves today.
New Zealand with Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Matt Henry; Pakistan, first with Shoaib Akhtar and then with Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammed Irfan and Sohail Khan; Sri Lanka with Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Dhammika Prasad and Dusmantha Chameera; and even India, with fast men like S. Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Mohit Sharma and Mohammed Shami, are ignoring their spinners.
It is even worse than that. Even Bangladesh, who are now ranked ahead of the West Indies in one-day cricket, have one like Rubel Hossain; and Zimbabwe, who are still below the West Indies, boast three in Tinashe Panyangara, Tawanda Mupariwa and the all-rounder Solomon Mire.
If you really go the rounds, if you go to Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland and the United Arab Emrates you will see, not so much in Ireland, but in the other three, some good pacers, men like Shapoor Zadran, Hamid Hassan and Dawlat Zadran, Josh Davey, Mohammed Naveed and Kamran Shahzad.
Where are the new West Indies fast men? The speedsters who once terrorised batsmen around the world?
One or two is not good enough. Taylor alone, or a fit Kemar Roach alongside Taylor, is not good enough. The West Indies need to look for them and foster their development, just as is done elsewhere, especially in India where the Emirates Pace Foundation, with Lillee and McGrath, appears to be working wonders and producing men who bowl fast and furious.
It is important and it is urgent, very urgent, that West Indies find them.