Mumbai, June 15: At first glance there doesn't seem anything intimidating about Munaf Patel. His slender build belies the fact that he is a premier seamer, a strike bowler. And what augments this innocuous persona is his lackadaisical body language.
Munaf's run-up to the popping crease, as he saunters in to bowl, could go down as one of the most lazy ever seen. Then comes the unexaggerated delivery stride and suddenly lethargy transforms to power as he completes his wind-mill bowling action and sends down another searing ball.
But while raw pace has ceased to distinguish Munaf for the crop of Indian seamers, the control and discipline with which he bowls has become his apparent forte. It is precisely this feature that makes him comparable to Australian pace great Glenn McGrath.
'Pigeon' was not so much known for his blistering pace as his ability to get the ball in areas most uncomfortable for the batsman to play at. Over his career, McGrath perfected his trade to such an extent that he knew how to draw the best batsmen tentatively on the front foot and thus induce them into a fatal drive.
Both Munaf and McGrath made their international debuts at the age of 23, bursting on the scene with minimal First Class cricket experience. But unlike McGrath, who was naturally gifted with the prowess and guile that made him an outstanding bowler, Munaf conscientiously worked on his skill.
After catching the eye of former Indian selector Kiran More, he was packed off to Chennai to hone his ability under the tutelage of Aussie pace maestro Dennis Lillee. He even went to Australia for a bio-mechanical evaluation on his action to improve its efficiency. From there, Sachin Tendulkar brokered his admission into Mumbai's Ranji squad... and the rest is history.
But one aspect where McGrath scores over Munaf is that the Aussie remained fit through most of his illustrious career, recording just one injury which occurred during his side's Ashes tour of England in 2005. Munaf on the other hand has been beleaguered with physical discomfort. Not possessing an overly robust physique, he has been susceptible to groin and hamstring injuries which have deprived him of appearances on a few occasions. As a result, his career projectile in Tests leaves much to be desired.
He is yet to return to effecting the power and grace that he demonstrated so unabashedly against England during his magnificent Test debut at Mohali in March 2006, where he took 7/97. One will have to wait and see if the Indian selection panel will give him another shot in the longer version of the game when picking the squad for the upcoming Test series in the Caribbean. He has the potential of becoming a McGrath-like-figure, now he just needs to tap it...