'Be positive, back yourself, and hope for the best'
Sri Lanka has been blooding young and emerging talent steadily in the last year and heading that list is Farveez Maharoof, who showed a strong head and fighting spirit in the first match of the Indian Oil Cup against India. Maharoof, a fast-bowling allrounder, is being groomed as one of the players who will take Sri Lankan cricket forward in the next decade. In an exclusive interview with Cricinfo he shares his experience in international cricket and the lessons he has learnt.
You studied at Wesley College, which is more famous for having produced rugby stars. So how come you shifted to cricket?
Like any youngster I was interested in multiple sports like rugby, soccer and cricket. I liked playing touch rugby and was a goalkeeper in soccer untill I broke my arm when I was 12 years old. As for cricket I started playing when I was nine and it was my dream to be a good cricketer.
And did you always aspire to be a fast bowler?
First I was a wicketkeeper-batsman. While playing an Under-13 game five of our regular players were suffering from flu and my coach, Russel Harmer, told me to take off my keeping pads and do some bowling. He had observed me bowling well during the nets and so thought that I could try my hand this time in a regular game. So I took the ball and finished with 6 for 20 with the last three wickets being a hat-trick. From then on I just concentrated on bowling.
Impressed by your bowling skills and your confidence the selectors appointed you as the captain of the Under-19 team in the 2004 Youth World Cup. That should've been a good stepping stone.
Yes, and it was not easy. But I had captained my school and the Sri Lankan age-group sides so I was aware of the challenges of leading the side. Leading those sides helped me realise exactly what I had to do and I think I managed it pretty well in the World Cup. After that I was selected for the national team and I made my debut against Zimbabwe in 2003-04.
So what is the most importance difference when you play international cricket for your country?
International cricket is all about handling pressure. I realised that graduating from U-19 level, to the A team, and through to the national side you have to be able to hold your nerve, be positive and, whatever you do, back yourself and hope for the best.
But surely dealing with pressure on the international stage is more difficult?
It is all about mental toughness. Yes, handling pressure for a newcomer is very difficult - even I was tense and nervous. But with experience you gradually improve on your standards, mental toughness, and just continue doing that every day.
Turning now to your bowling, you are more of a medium pacer rather than a tearaway fast bowler. Does the lack of pace bother you?
I have spoken to a few fast bowlers and they have told me that while bowling on Sri Lankan pitches you don't have to bowl fast as the surface is slow. What you need to do is get the basics of line and length right, because if you concentrate on pace you may get wickets but then you can also give away runs which are crucial in the one-day games.
Your coach Tom Moody said he was impressed by your maturity. That assessment should make you confident?
Tom and I get along very well. I told him I just wanted to be consistent in every department of the game and he understood me correctly. He is a thorough professional, works hard, is positive and caring. That is good for a youngster like me.
One sign of your maturity was on display when you gave able support to Sanath Jayasuriya when he was injured in the crucial first game of the Indian Oil Series.
It did a lot for my confidence. I just held my nerve, was tough in my mind and just concentrated on supporting Sanath. In such moments I didn't mess my head up thinking too much and just relaxed and things worked out.
How about your batting? You've been mentioned as an allrounder. Does that put more pressure?
Not pressure but, Tom [Moody] has been working with me in the nets on my technique and steadily it is helping me. I am more of a hard hitter than a technician and I would happy if I can continue to learn like I did in Dambulla in Sanath's company.
Do you think during your off season playing on the English circuit would be beneficial?
Definitely, in fact I had my first stint in England playing for Stanmore Cricket Club in Middlesex, where Angus Fraser [the former England fast bowler] also plays along with his brother Alastair. That was in 2003 when I was 19, and that experience helped me a lot.
Coming to Tests, you have just played five games but it was not as impressive as your one-day figures. Do you intend to change anything when you play your next Test?
I don't know what to change much from what I have been doing. I just want to work on the basics and then frustrate the batsman. You can't always rely on place and bowl all over the place to get wickets. Instead I would like to hit the deck and pitch it right. Another thing I want to do is work on the batsman's mind but that of course comes with experience.
Sri Lanka are scheduled to tour India near the end of 2005. How do you plan to approach that tour?
Firstly, I can't take my position in the squad for granted. But if I get selected I know it will be hard work because Indian pitches are very flat. Fast bowling in the subcontinent is about variation so I will be focussing on that.
Nagraj Gollapudi is sub-editor of Wisden Asia Cricket