June 22, 2001

Badani's rightful place is in the middle order

Hemang Badani, the stylish left-hander from Tamil Nadu has come a long way since he started off as a medium pacer in the under-12 competitions a decade ago. During his teens, one would have been hard pressed to call him a batsman since he hardly contributed with the bat. There was a stage at the junior level where he suffered from an identity crisis in the sense that he belonged to no particular category. It was not until he came into the under-19 level did he discover his potential as a batsman. Incidentally Anil Kumble started as a medium pacer and Dravid began as a keeper but later on in their careers they have reached their pinnacle in different departments altogether.

Badani made a scintillating hundred for Rest of India under-19 and this earned him a slot in the India under-19 side. He scored two centuries against the South African under-19 team which was spearheaded by Hayward and Ntini. It was in this series that he displayed the rare ability of playing the faster bowlers with a lot of time to spare. Madan Lal the then junior coach was vociferous that Badani should be picked in the senior team. But still Badani had to prove himself at the senior level in order to convince the fraternity.

In my opinion the transformation from junior level to senior level is the most important phase in a cricketer's career. Quite often cricketers tend to lose their way and Badani also lost his way a bit. In his first two seasons in the Ranji Trophy, he hardly did anything of note and doubts started creeping into the minds of Badani and also his mentors. It was during this phase of his career that he started playing for the same club that I did and this gave me an opportunity to help him with his game. One of the significant mistakes he was committing then was that he did not watch the ball right from the time the ball was released and until he made contact. He watched the ball only either in flight or after it pitched. As a result, his judgement of line and length was faulty and this resulted in poor shot selection. His willingness to learn came to the fore and he rectified this flaw in a jiffy.

The biggest turning point in his career came when he got a big hundred against Mumbai in the semi-final in the 1999-2000 season. That knock alone was responsible for bringing him into the Indian team. If I was pleasantly surprised about one thing in the case of Badani, it was the maturity that he showed when he played in the one-dayers. It was really astonishing to see Badani change temperamentally for the better in a short span of time. Today he has made a mark for himself but he would do better if he stops walking into the line of the ball, which makes him play across the line off fuller length deliveries. This movement is more pronounced early on in his innings which makes him an ideal candidate to be trapped in front of the wicket. It will be relevant to mention here that his rightful place is in the middle order and one hopes the team management will stop considering him for the opener's job.