How quick are Nepali pace bowlers? – It is one of the most commonly discussed yet unanswered question in Nepalese cricket. It is not often that the Nepalese pacers get tested for pace as the conditions they generally play in does not have provision to measure ball speeds.
Previously speed guns were commonly used to measure ball speeds. These guns are similar to radar guns that track speed of moving objects. However, these guns are subject to various errors and their reliability has often been questioned in the past.
When Shoaib Akthar bowled the fastest recorded delivery in cricket at 161.3 km/h (100.23 mph), the measurement was carried out using a speed gun. Doubts were expressed by experts regarding the accuracy of the measurements. Furthermore, ICC decided not to recognize this ball as the fastest ever stating there was not enough uniformity in the various speed guns around the world for any one performance to be designated as officially fastest. Likewise, Pakistani pacer Mohammad Sami was clocked at 164 km/h (101.9 mph) and at 162.3 km/h (100.8 mph). However, both these speeds went unrecognized signaling the perceived inaccuracy, lack of uniformity and acceptability of these speed guns.
The renowned Hawkeye system then developed and improved a system to measure bowling speed using multiple cameras to track the balls speeds, trajectory etc. This has garnered acceptance among broadcasters across continents. Hawkeye has become an integral part of cricket as the system aids the Umpire Decision Review System and also adds value to the production quality of the match.
Most international matches use this system to measure ball speeds but hiring this system is not cheap as their specialized equipment cost a lot and also requires a sizeable workforce to install and operate. However, it is common for cricket fans to judge production quality of a cricket match based on whether Hawkeye system is used or not. Hawkeye offers various components such as ball tracking, bowling speed measurement, ultra-edge, spin rev counter etc. Some tournament organizers and broadcasters at times use few selected components of Hawkeye to offer acceptable production quality but also keep the budget at check.
The Nepalese cricket team play in conditions where neither speed guns nor Hawkeye is used, keeping the fans at mystery regarding their pace. The last time Nepali pacers were tested for speed was in the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 where they bowled in three league matches. During the tournament, I used available data to calculate average bowling speed of all Nepalese bowlers and also their quickest balls.
Average Speed of Nepali Bowlers during 2014 ICC World Twenty20
It was then noted that Sompal Kami was the only Nepali bowler to average above 130 km/h. Similarly, he bowled 140.8 km/h in a famous victory against Afghanistan which till date remains the fastest recorded ball bowled by a Nepali pacer. The official ICC website displayed it to be 140.8 Km/h. However, the broadcaster rounds off the bowling speeds due to space constraints and displayed 141 Km/h during its coverage of the match.
Fastest Delivery of each Nepali Bowlers during 2014 ICC World Twenty20
A lot has since changed then. Sompal has since been joined by the likes of Karan KC, Avinash Bohara in the pace department. However, most of the Nepalese cricket fans are still in the dark regarding who is the quicker of the three and at what pace they operate at.
Sompal at Global T20 Canada
After a wait of five long years, Sompal once again went up against the Hawkeye during the Global T20 Canada. It was quite a prolonged wait both figuratively and literally due to the 2 am match time. Representing the Winnipeg Hawks, Sompal faced Edmonton Royals in the group stage. Sompal came to bowl at the end of 9 overs to well set duo of former Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez and current Hong Kong captain Anshuman Rath. Mohammad Hafeez scored a six in the 2nd ball, scoring 8 runs from the first two balls of the over. Then onwards, the pressure was on Sompal to peg things back in his international franchise cricket debut. The pressure seemed to get the better of Sompal as he bowled three wides to prolong the punishing over that went for 15 runs.
Sompal returned for his second over with the Royals needing 43 runs from 30 balls for victory. With Anshuman Rath unbeaten on 65 runs (42 balls) now operating at full flow, and joined by Jimmy Neesham: fresh of winning over fans at the recently concluded ICC World Cup. The pressure was once again on Sompal’s shoulders. He started with a Jaffa to left-hander Neesham by squaring him up by pitching one back of a length outside leg stump and taking it viciously away to narrowly miss the top of off stump. The ball even forced a smile out of Neesham.
However, a professional of Neesham’s stature was not to be bogged down by a beauty and opened his arms to pull the next delivery for a 70 metre six over midwicket. Sompal did not recover after that and to make matters worse, Rath brought out the party trick shot to ramp him for a four over the wicketkeeper’s head. With Sompal running out of options, a suspect pace-off cutter was hit by Rath for an 89 metre straight six, one of the longest of the tournament. Sompal went for 18 runs in that over to finish with 0/33 from 2 overs.
Sompal was not picked for remaining games but came home with invaluable experience as his team went on to lift the trophy. He came on to field as a substitute fielder at crucial junctures in the knock outs. In a virtual semi-final, he caught a Shahid Afridi rocket at deep point boundary to dismiss him, which was one of the crucial moments of the match. Afridi was well set and had scored back to back sixes and was threatening to take the game away from the Hawks. That Sompal catch as well as another crucial fielding effort saved his side few runs and also gained praise from the commentators as Hawks won the match in the last ball of the match to enter the Final. In the Final, Sompal came on the field as a substitute for Mohammad Irfan during the last 3 overs as Andre Russell was going berserk and the Hawks required their best fielders in the field.
How quick was Sompal during the Global T20 Canda?
Including legitimate and illegitimate deliveries, Sompal bowled 15 balls in his single game at Global T20. The second over of Sompal’s spell was right after the completion of strategic time out. Perhaps due to an extended break, the operators did not broadcast the bowling speeds of his entire over. Hence, bowling only speed of only 9 deliveries were available.
Sompal Kami’s Fastest Delivery and Average Speed across Global T20 2019 and ICC World T20 2014
At first glance, Sompal’s fastest delivery as well as average speed was down during the Global T20 compared to World T20 2014 five years back. Sompal was 18 year old back then and has physically developed further at 23 years old. However, his fall in speed may be attributed to variety of reasons:
– The data was gathered from only one over, a small sample size. Had the speed data of his second over been available, it may have given further insights.
– Sompal is used to opening the bowling with a new ball and generating extravagant out swing. In Global T20, he bowled in the middle overs with an old ball.
– His early deliveries in both the overs went for runs. He never got the chance to settle at all and was under constant pressure so we could not see the best version of Sompal and his skills. Also, he did not bowl back to back overs in the match so did not have rhythm on his side.
– He played only one match. Playing multiple matches would have provided multiple data sets for better comparison.
– The ground conditions at Brampton usually favored batting, and at time the spinners but barely the pacers.
– Sompal traveled from Nepal to Malaysia and then to Singapore to play for the national side. Then, he jet set to Canada in a span of days. Constant travel in a short span of time is a match in itself in the current T20 landscape.
Either way the data is inadequate to get a meaningful conclusion. One can only hope Sompal Kami and other pacers get the chance to feature in various international franchise leagues, which would make it exciting to have their speeds checked. As Hawkeye system may be expensive, hope domestic T20 leagues of Nepal at least try using speed guns to measure bowling speed during broadcast which would make every delivery a must watch for the fans!
Find Sakush KC on Twitter