Champions Trophy: The need for speed

Speedsters Shane Bond and Shoaib Akhtar may have been dogged with serious injuries but both are still boldly warning of no let-up in their fiery bowling.

“I am hoping to bowl at my fastest and get stronger as the tournament gets on,” said Bond, who recovered from a knee injury just in time for the Champions Trophy.

Akhtar says he is of the same mind for the main tournament, which gets under way on October 15 after the qualifying matches that started Saturday.

“Pace is not something that I will compromise on,” said Akhtar, who returned to action recently after an ankle injury.

The two 31-year-olds, along with Australia’s Brett Lee, form a trio of quick bowlers feared by batsmen, appreciated by teammates and loved by crowds the world over.

“My role in the team is that of the strike bowler. We have some medium-pace bowlers and I am not one of them. My job is to go out and bowl fast as long as I am playing international cricket,” said Bond.

“I realise that my career might not be very long and that I might play for just two or three years more, but that is fine with me.

“With experience, I have got smarter in the sense that I don’t bowl all my deliveries at the same pace but decide which ones to bowl at my fastest,” added Bond, who has taken 87 wickets in 45 one-dayers.

“I am planning to keep things simple, bowl consistently.
If the batsmen try to come after me, there is a better chance for me to pick up wickets,” said Bond.

Akhtar, whose pace and hometown combine to give him the moniker “The Rawalpindi Express”, said he had never thought of bowling slower.

“Believe me, it takes a lot of pain to be bowling at that speed, but I don’t bother about it and playing for Pakistan makes me forget all pain,” said Akhtar, who has 208 wickets from 133 one-day matches.

Both men bowl regularly at speeds close to 150kph but realise they will have to mix it up a lot against the world’s top batsmen.

“In Indian conditions you need to bowl the slower balls a lot more. You need to constantly change the speed to bother batsmen on such low and slow pitches,” said Bond.

Akhtar agreed.

“In one-dayers here you need to bowl the slower ones a lot more and also try to get your yorkers in. I have been bowling hard at the nets and am fully prepared for the challenges ahead,” he said.

Bond and Akhtar have had more than their share of injuries. The number of matches they have missed bear testimony to the fact.

The Kiwi’s 45 one-day internationals have come in a span close to five years while Akhtar’s 133 appearances have taken over eight years.

“I have had quite a few injuries but haven’t really smashed my body to pieces,” said Bond, from Christchurch.

Akhtar said injuries “were a part and parcel of the game and you can’t be worried about them”.

The robust Pakistani said he had spoken to Bond some days ago and told him to keep going.

“I told him to just stay fit and keep bowling as it would be good for international cricket,” said Akhtar.—Sapa-AFP

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