Asia Cup 2011-12 March 1, 2012

'Deceptive' Dinda rewarded for persistence

With 59 first-class wickets this season, Ashok Dinda has grown by leaps and bounds. A recall to the Asia Cup could be his second coming

"You look like a table-tennis player but you bowl so fast," a reporter told Ashok Dinda during the Duleep Trophy final in Indore in February.

Dinda only smiled in return. Over the years, the Bengal fast bowler has become used to such expressions of surprise as people wonder how, with cricket ball in hand, he gets so much out of his slightly-built frame.

What is obvious when you watch Dinda bowl is the extreme effort that he puts in. Starting from the exaggerated leap in delivery stride, which makes him look more a long-jumper than a fast bowler. You inwardly cringe, thinking about the pounding his knees must be taking as he lands on the bowling crease. Not that Dinda shows the slightest sign of discomfort. He just smiles, at the batsman's discomfort, after beating them with his skiddy short-of-a-length deliveries.

That effort brought Dinda 37 wickets, the second-highest in the 2011-12 Ranji Trophy. All those wickets were for Bengal, easily one of the low-profile domestic sides in the Elite league. That darling of Indian fans, Irfan Pathan, made the national squad to Australia for the ODI tri-series.

Being ignored for a tour on which the bouncy pitches would have suited his hit-the-deck style of bowling must have hurt. Dinda responded by taking 22 wickets in three games to take East Zone to their maiden Duleep Trophy title and lifting his tally to a staggering 59 for the first-class season.

This time the overdue national call-up arrived - helped by injuries to Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav - with a place in the ODI squad for the Asia Cup in Bangladesh. The last of Dinda's five ODIs for India was also in the Asia Cup, in June 2010.

How has he changed as a bowler between the two editions of the tournament?

"There is more control. I am reading batsmen better now. My line and length have improved," Dinda told ESPNcricinfo. "My confidence levels are very high. The support system around me is very strong. Friends, family, my coaches, all of whom have been very supportive."

Dinda looks to bowl fuller now than the consistently shortish length he used to earlier. It is still not driving length, though, and that makes him difficult to play with the bounce he generates from his leaping action.

The characteristic leap made Dinda instantly recognisable during the first edition of the Indian Premier League in 2008, when he played for Kolkata Knight Riders under Sourav Ganguly, who recently called him the best fast bowler in the country at the moment.

Dinda has backed up such claims with an outstanding season, in which he was required to shoulder a lot of responsibility, both for Bengal and East Zone. "I was the main bowler and had to perform if we were to take 20 wickets," Dinda said. "I have bowled a lot of overs this season."

He bowled 25 overs in Central Zone's second innings in the Duleep final. He charged in for his 150th delivery with the same energy as his first. The East Zone fielders did not make his job any easier, dropping numerous chances. Unlike his bowling partners, though, Dinda did not let out his frustration with cries of anguish. In fact, it did not seem that he was frustrated. He would just smile broadly, first at the culpable fielder, then at the batsman, and turn around to go back to his bowling mark. There would be the same, whole-hearted effort in the next delivery. How does he keep himself going with that pint-sized body?

"I have always maintained that size does not matter," Dinda said. "It is the effort that counts. You have to ensure that you get good sleep, around seven-eight hours. You also need good gym sessions, for each muscle has to be tuned well."

If Dinda can put in the same effort and more in the Asia Cup, India has everything to gain.

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo