About 18 years ago, a tall, dark and handsome fast bowler with a stare that would make the best of batsmen feel that he is going to murder them the next ball blitzed Australia's top-order by taking 7 for 25 on a trampoline wicket at WACA. It seemed like the Australian batsmen consisting of players like Waugh twins, Boon, Taylor, Border and co. were lilliputs facing up-to a giant, who was hurling hand grenades at them. Fast forward to present time, another very tall fast bowler built like a bulldozer was killing Lankan batsmen of the calibre of Jayawerdena and co. like flies in the first innings at Rose Bowl. He also made fans like me a bit nostalgic and think about those great spells by the tall, dark and handsome man from the Caribbean.
You all must have guessed it by now that I was thinking about the great Antiguan fast bowler Ambrose and the other bowler is of course, the quiet and shy man from Southampton, Tremlett. The Lankan batsmen though won't agree as when Tremlett is playing cricket, he is perhaps the meanest and the most intimidating fast bowler going around at present. Now, for not even one minute I am comparing Tremlett to Amby, as Amby was in a class of his own, but it was a pleasure to watch a fast bowler intimidate the batsmen in an era made up of big bats and flat pitches.
Looking at the way Tremlett has been bowling since his return to test cricket in the Ashes, a casual cricket fan may think Oh! what is the big deal as he is built like a giant and has the natural attributes to bowl fast and frighten the batsmen. The fact though is, it isn't all about having the talent, as to succeed in any field, mental toughness and a bit of luck is a must. In his younger days, Tremlett seemed to be a cricketer, who didn't believe that he had the talent to bowl fast and suffered from ill-fated injuries. Michael Vaughan's comments about him not being mentally tough didn't help either, but thankfully, he has comeback stronger and a better bowler.
Turnaround in Tremlett's career
So, how could a bowler who was down in dumps transform himself from an injury prone, shy fast bowler to a fitter, stronger and a bowler, who frightens the batsmen to death with awkward bounce and a big stare? Around the same-time last year, Tremlett was released by Hampshire County and there were even whispers in County circles that his days as a cricketer in County cricket was numbered as no one would like to gamble on a player, who seemed to be made of glass. Surrey though, took the gamble and picked him in their squad for the 2010 season. The move by Tremlett to Surrey can be said as the turning point in his career, as it has helped him to become a better fast bowler. By bowling lots of overs on flat wickets at Oval, Tremlett has definitely got stronger and has learnt the art of bowling on flat wickets. In-fact, when he bowls, it looks like a bulldozer has been ordered to crush the opposition team's batsmen. Surrey's coach Chris Adams may have failed as a batsman in test cricket, but he is always renowned as a tough guy and the association with him at Surrey surely has helped Tremlett to become better.
Tremlett with experience has learnt that bowling in test cricket isn't just about bowling short and intimidating the batsmen. It looks great when a tall fast bowler bowls a bouncer and the batsman tries to duck under it, or sway away from the line, but to get wickets, the key is to use the short ball as a surprise weapon. It was evident when Tremlett first made his debut against India in 2007 that he got carried away with bowling short. Yes, Tremlett did get few wickets in that series by bowling short, but at Oval the experienced Indian batsmen decided that instead of playing at those short deliveries, it is better to leave it and as a result, Tremlett came a cropper in that test. Even during his comeback trail in the practice games before the Ashes, I again thought that Tremlett bowled a touch short. For instance, in the first innings at Hobart against Australia A, he bowled a touch short, but it was in the second innings, he finally showed his class on a wicket that had become considerably flatter by constantly hitting the good length spot, making the batsmen play and using the bouncer only as a surprise weapon. Since that game, he has hardly put a foot wrong. In-fact he has got better as one could see in the first innings at Rose Bowl, as after somewhat of an indifferent start, he pinged the batsmen in the crease with awkward bounce and forced the batsmen to edge it behind to the keeper. He also used the bouncer and the full delivery as a surprise weapon to keep the batsmen on tenterhooks.
Here is a bowler, belonging to the bygone era of tall fast bowlers, who kept coming hard at the batsmen and made cricket a joy to watch as back then it was an equal contest between bat and ball. So, in a nutshell Tremlett belongs to the rare species of tall fast bowlers whose very existence is cricket is threatened due to big bats, too much cricket and flat wickets. In near future, we may not find a single fast bowler, who would make the batsmen think twice about coming onto the front-foot, but at least at present, let us all enjoy the the tall fast bowler from Southampton built like a Coast Redwood tree of California frighten the batsmen to death with his bounce and a big stare. I just wish that Tremlett can play for a few more years without too many injury problems and continue to bowl like he has done at Perth, Cardiff and Rose Bowl.