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For cricket to stay beautiful, the art of bowling fast has to continue: Wes Hall

Legendary pacer feels people may not be keen to bowl fast if rules don’t change in age of T20 cricket
BARBADOS: The Eden Gardens in Kolkata has seen many great Test matches over the years. But one game that the old-timers never forget to mention in conversations over afternoon tea is the 1958-59 Test against West Indies, where Rohan Kanhai got a double hundred, Garry Sobers a century, and then Wes Hall and Roy Gilchrist ripped India apart.
Among many legends about that game, one that stands out is about Hall and his run-up which the oldies describe as the longest they had seen in more than half a century. “He used to run in from the High Court,” some would say in jest, referring to the far end of the ground and Hall’s never-ending run-up.
Hall is 86 now, but when he is reminded of India, the old man gets emotional. “I enjoyed playing in India, there is so much to the country. I was still a young boy when I had gone to India,” Hall went back in time as he met the current Indian players and journalists on Tuesday afternoon.
It didn’t take him too long to go into the run-up story and Hall remembered how he couldn’t run properly when he first went to England.

“I took a year off and worked on my legs. I used to run on the beach here in Barbados, 10-12 miles at the same rate. Unless you have your balance going, you can’t bowl well, it’s like a horse in a race. If you don’t train it to know when to pull away it can’t do it on the day, so that’s how I trained. Slow and steady and then sprint, slow and steady and then sprint… On that India tour, it really helped me, I got a lot of wickets,” Hall, who played 48 Tests in a span of 16 years taking 192 wickets, said.
A lot has changed since the time the legend played his cricket. The game has gone through a metamorphosis and today’s version of T20 is far removed from the sport in whites that created the myth around West Indies. But Hall accepts it. “It’s fine, if WG Grace saw us play, he would also have been wondering; it’s the same with us when we see today’s cricket. My only grouse is when batsmen are allowed to bat 20 overs, why should bowlers be stipulated to only four,” Hall asks.
But the great man, who took nine wickets in the first tied Test match between West Indies and Australia at the Gabba in 1960, feels the art of pace bowling will never die despite the difficulties that it has to face in this day and age of T20 cricket.
“If the rules don’t change, people may not be very keen to bowl fast. But god forbid, for cricket to be beautiful, the art of bowling fast has to continue forever and ever,” Hall says.
Talking of the ideal fast bowler and one who could invoke fear in the minds of the opposition, Halls talks about his fellow Barbadian Joel Garner “and that boy from Antigua” Curtly Ambrose.
“I like a paceman who is six feet tall –like our Big Bird Joel Garner and Ambrose. These fellows could get that bounce and batsmen could not get runs because they had to evade. If West Indies can again have 8 -10 fast bowlers it will be great…You know when I was playing there used to be 25 and it was so difficult to get into the team,” Hall recollected, looking to be in the mood to carry on.
But the sun was getting hotter by the minute and with Virat Kohli waiting to have a word with him, the conversation had to be cut short. And as Hall slowly walked away after meeting Kohli, down the Garry Sobers pavilion, you couldn’t help that feeling: “If only I had seen him bowl”.

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