Sri Lanka v West Indies, Mumbai October 14, 2006

'I just went out there and kept it simple' - Maharoof



'Fantastic. You can't ask for more' - Maharoof © AFP

When Carlton Baugh was trapped in front of the stumps by one of those typical Farveez Maharoof deliveries - a ball that just failed to come on a touch as the fingers had been dragged on it - Maharoof fell to the ground. It's not clear whether he was touching his forehead to the ground, as devout Muslims sometimes do, or whether he was kissing the turf, as devout cricketers often do, but any which way, the message was clear - thank you for this pitch, thank you for these wickets.

But it wasn't as though the pitch was madly up and down and batsmen were forced to take extreme measures to survive. Maharoof admitted as much in the post-match press conference. "It was a good pitch," he said, and why wouldn't he, after picking up career-best figures. "It didn't do a lot. It's just that we bowled well as a group. There were some bad shots as well, but overall we bowled well. I don't find any bad things about the wicket, it was a good track."

Maharoof was no doubt helped along by some bad West Indian shot selection, but he chose not to dwell on the manner in which the opposition played. "We don't know what their gameplan is. We had to bowl to our strengths and wait and see what happens. Luckily we bowled well and it paid off."

In the last game, life was not quite so easy for Maharoof. Zimbabwe took him for as many as 37 runs from four overs, at close to 10 runs per over. But Maharoof was sensible enough to learn from that game, and he explained how. "I just assessed my bowling with respect to the wicket. I thought in Ahmedabad I gave a bit too much width, and got driven through the off side," he said. "Here I set a goal for myself to bowl wicket to wicket. Mahela and Tom [Moody] spoke to me before the match and really backed me up. I just went out there and kept it simple."

Mahela Jayawardene, the Sri Lankan captain, was quick to praise Maharoof for the manner in which he turned things around. "He worked with Tom on his run-up, looked at videos of his bowling, worked hard and today bowled nice and straight," he said. "These guys know that it's their responsibility to improve themselves."

Ironically, it was always as a batsman, and now as a bowler, that Maharoof caught the eye as a young cricketer. That he had potential with the bat was unmistakable - he batted at No. 4 for Wesley College, and scored 1000 runs in a season twice in succession, including a highest of 243 - but would he turn out to be another of those bits and pieces cricketers that Sri Lanka tried and discarded?

It was not quite the search for the next Ian Botham, but there was a certainly a concerted effort to find a first-or second-change bowler who could bat a bit and shoulder Chaminda Vaas' burden. For a time Suresh Perera seemed to fit the bill, but with his action coming under increasing scrutiny, Sri Lanka had to look elsewhere, and they found Maharoof. And on the day - some people are already referring to it as a coming of age - he returned with 6 for 14, the best-ever figures in the Champions Trophy. "Fantastic. You can't ask for more," said Maharoof. "I'm just overjoyed with my performance. I didn't have a good time in the last match but my hard work paid off and I'm really happy for my team." Sterner tests await, and though he is yet to make that one big score with the bat, he has at least ticked off the bowling department.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo