Among his victims on debut for Essex were Viv Richards and Ian Botham, stalwarts of Somerset county cricket.
Ian Pont blushes when requested to take a peep into the past when he made waves as a fast bowler on the English circuit. It is just memory now. But his passion for the game has continued.
He is one of the most sought after coaches for fast bowling. His latest stint was with Bangladesh until the 2011 World Cup.
Pont would never have imagined spending five days in Corbett, not sighting tigers, but honing fast bowlers at a camp organised by the Haryana Cricket Association (HCA).
“It was such a pleasant experience,” the 49-year-old Englishman confessed. A call from the HCA secretary, Anirudh Chaudhary, saw Pont take the first flight to Delhi and off he was to Corbett.
“The facilities were amazing. A cricket ground in the middle of mountains, with great nets, good length run-ups. And the discipline of the players is unique to India.
“In England, kids can get bored quickly because the pace of life is quite fast. I found the camp here very organised and well structured,” said Pont, who has guided Shoaib Akhtar and Dale Steyn at critical stages of their career.
But he lists the grooming of Catherine Dalton as his best advertisement. “She started at 80 kmph and is now bowling 128.”
Pont is convinced that India has the potential to unearth four of five bowlers who could bowl at 150 kmph consistently. He was impressed by the raw talent he saw at the camp.
“Some had good action, I worked on the technical aspects and tried to keep it simple. If only India had a fast bowling icon, Pont insisted, there would have been a surfeit of speedsters. “Your icons are mostly batsmen. It is different in Pakistan. There, most kids want to bowl fast.”
Pont drives home the point that there is a disparity when dealing with bowling and batting. As a coach, he observes, “batting is about technique where you won't let a kid bat wrongly. But you allow a young bowler to bowl as he wants as long as the line and length is fine. You don't want to change the bowling action but would quickly spot a batting technique error and insist on changing it quickly. That is the disparity I have seen as a coach. I don't think fast bowlers are born. Are doctors or engineers born?”
Known to work with fast bowlers, Pont believes the most important requisite for a fast bowler is the ‘size' of his heart.
“Controlling the cricket ball is so important. I can give Steyn's example. In the sub-continent, he realised swing was more important. So, he looked to swing and took ten wickets in a Test (at Nagpur in 2010). Fast bowling is not just about banging it into the keeper's gloves.
“There is an art to it and this World Cup saw some very smart fast bowling. We saw yorkers, slower ones, slow bouncers, bouncers, back of the hand stuff, wide of the stumps, there was great variation. That is fast bowling to me.”
For Pont, the ideal fast bowler is Brett Lee.
“He is a line and rhythm bowler, correct biomechanics positions, timing, consistency, can swing the ball late, always in the right bowling position between the white lines. To me, coaching skills are very important. If the youngster wants to study intensely, nothing can stop him from achieving his goals.”