latest from the pace factory

Pakistan's tour of India will feature two lesser known fast bowlers. Bharat Sundaresan traces their careers.

Plumber turned pacer

Mohd Irfan

Age: 30, gaggu mandi, Punjab

Left-arm medium-fast

Has played 2 ODIs

He has always turned heads. In fact, Mohammad Irfan's close to 2.2 metre tall frame — the elevation of most ceilings in Mumbai flats —ensures that he doesn't have to put much effort to leave the beholder in shock and awe.

Aaqib Javed was left similarly flabbergasted when he encountered Irfan for the first time on a June afternoon back in 2008. The former Pakistan pacer turned bowling coach was about to call it a day following an arduous session at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore when he received a call from a local coach, begging him to stay back to observe a couple of young fast bowlers he had brought along. Though peeved, Javed relented.

While there was nothing eye-catching about one, the sight of Irfan made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Javed's astonishment only grew when he was informed that bowling left-arm pace was a pastime for the gentle giant and that his primary vocation was fixing leaky pipes in the tiny Punjab town of Gaggu Mandi.

Not one to be swayed by superficial illusions, Javed decided to test the two young fast bowlers striving to gain his mentorship, in the Academy nets. He insisted that the youngster with the more standard physical traits would have to clock over 140kph to stay back. Irfan, with his gargantuan girth, was told he could get away with just 135kph. While his colleague failed quite miserably, the pipe-fixer achieved his target comfortably and also displayed a couple of additional skills from his repertoire — disconcerting bounce and a sharp yorker.

... contd.

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