Bowling Bullets With Wahab Riaz

Pakistan’s left-arm enforcer Wahab Riaz is one of the fastest bowlers in the world. He gives us the lowdown on how he cranks up the pace, and when he chooses to really let loose.


What are the strong points of the batsman? What kind of batsman is he? Is he a front-foot player? Does he prefer it on the back foot? Does he fear the short ball or does he want it? You have to watch them really closely. And when you’re not bowling, watch them from your fielding position, for signs of what they’re like.


It’s a lot about how the ball is coming out from your hand. If it’s coming out nicely, you’ve got a lot of control. But if all you’re thinking about is just bowling fast, then your lengths and lines won’t be right and you will be hit. With rhythm, it just comes into you as a fast bowler, it comes into you and you feel it. You will see fast bowlers bowling their first spell really well, and then in their second and third spells they will look very normal, and then suddenly in their fourth spell something happens and they start to take wickets. It’s something that just comes into your body, and then: it’s the right time to go…


You have to be one step ahead. At times you get it really wrong, at other times it works for you. That’s all part of bowling. I will bowl outswinger, outswinger, outswinger, and we both know I will have to bowl the inswinger soon. So he’s thinking: “It’s gonna come, he’s gonna bowl it.” You have to beat his thoughts. You have to keep him guessing, so he’s always saying to himself, ‘What will be coming next?’ You have to let him test himself.


If you tell a fielder to go back to the square-leg boundary, it creates doubt in the batsman. He’s now thinking, ‘Is he gonna bowl short, or is he shitting me?!’ I might bowl a short ball straight away, because he often won’t be expecting it so soon. Or I might just bowl an over of full balls, even with a fielder on the boundary. You have to play with the mind of the batsman. You have to beat his mind.


If you can bowl at 145kph, your average ball should be at 140kph. If you can bowl at 130kph, your average should be 125kph. You leave that little bit extra in reserve for when you really want to go hard.


The short ball is a lethal weapon for any fast bowler. At times you see the batsman is really playing well and coming forward at you, and suddenly they have got a short ball. And because they are playing so good and in such good control, they never hesitate to play the pull or the hook. That’s when you get excited as a bowler. I mix up the pace of my short balls, they are not always express fast, and so at times they pull too early, or they get beaten by pace.


When things aren’t working, don’t try too much. No cutters, or outswingers or slower balls. Just keep one line going, and after a few overs in a straight line, your mechanics start to work again. When I’m not feeling good, I just bowl basics. As a bowler in Test matches, you need to bowl maiden overs. Test cricket used to be a slow game but nowadays it’s much faster, so you have to try and keep the batsman quiet. If things are not going your way, keep your basics going.


I utilise the crease at times. I’m left-handed so most of the balls I bowl go away across the right-hand batsman. But if I want to bowl an inswinger I come in close to the stumps to try and bring it back into his pads. If it’s reversing I will go around the wicket and aim for the stumps, and try to get the outswinger going against the angle. That is not easy to do but it’s really hard to play when it comes out right.

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