Repaying the faith
With so much cricket played these days it is often difficult to keep track of who is who and what they are doing. In a new weekly feature Cricinfo will take a look at one player who is making the news, whether at the highest level or an aspiring talent, and tell you what they are all about. This week, it's the turn of India's left-arm fast bowler Rudra Pratap Singh
Rudra Pratap Singh is the new kid on India's fast-bowling block - literally. At 20 years and 51 days, the left-handed Rudra Pratap is the youngest member of a four-man pace brigade touring Pakistan for three Tests and five one-day internationals.
A product of the Hostel and College systems in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Rudra Pratap made his way from his hometown of Rae Bareilly to college in Lucknow. From there, he went to the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai and into the UP Under-19 side before being called up to the Indian Under-19 team. He was one of the brightest prospects to emerge from the squad at the U-19 World Cup in Dhaka in February 2004, taking eight wickets at 24.75 apiece.
Following a good domestic season back home - he took 34 wickets in six Ranji Trophy matches, joint-highest for the season, and helped UP win the league phase of the Ranji one-day tournament - Rudra Pratap found his name being discussed as someone to watch for. To hone his skills, he was sent on a six-week stint to Australia's renowned Centre of Excellence at Brisbane, as part of the annual Border-Gavaskar scholarship. Returning to India, his continued success on the domestic scene earned him a call-up to the national side, and he was handed his first international cap against Zimbabwe at Harare in September 2005. Opening the bowling, Rudra Pratap took the wickets of Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza in just his second over, earning the praise of Sourav Ganguly, his captain, and Greg Chappell, India's coach.
Retained for a seven-match one-day series at home against Sri Lanka, he impressed with his ability to swing the ball on a hard Rajkot wicket and dismantle Sri Lanka for a modest 196. And almost three decades after Kapil Dev, India's greatest fast bowler, made his Test debut at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad, Rudra Pratap emulated his idol by doing the same, emerging with even better figures than Kapil had done - and the Man-of-the-match award to boot.
October 2003 Plays a match for India A against the touring New Zealanders at Rajkot
November 2003 Makes his Under-19 debut against Sri Lanka A at Rajkot, taking 3 for 54 to help dismiss the tourists for 235
Following this performance, he makes his Ranji Trophy debut against Mumbai at Lucknow, picking up 2 for 85 in a drawn match
November 2004 Picks up his first five-wicket haul (5 for 96) against Tamil Nadu at Lucknow.
A week later, he betters that with 5 for 35 and a match haul of 10 wickets against Assam at Kanpur
September 2005 - ODI debut against Zimbabwe at Harare
November 2005 In just his third one-day match, get his first Man-of- the-match award after his 4 for 35 restricts Sri Lanka to a modest 196 at Rajkot
January 2006 Makes his Test debut against Pakistan in Faisalabad taking 4 for 89 - the first bowling performance of note on either side in two Tests - in Pakistan's first innings on a graveyard for bowlers. Strikes telling blows in quick succession by accounting for Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf late in the second session. The match meanders to a draw, but Rudra Pratap impresses in his first shot at the five-day format by picking up the Man-of-the-match award
A prodigious swinger of the ball on the domestic circuit, his ability to move the ball away from the batsman saw him emerge as India's most productive bowler in the Faisalabad Test. Eleven wickets at 22.81 from eight one-day matches add to his credible baptism to the international stage.
In just his fifth first-class match for UP, Rudra Pratap took 5 for 58 and 5 for 33 to dismantle Assam at Kanpur in a fine display of left-arm fast bowling. Four batsmen were bowled and four caught either behind the wicket of in the slips cordon as Rudra Pratap showed just how much swing he was capable of extracting from the pitch. This performance, and his success in the Under-19 campaign, brought his name into the limelight as a dangerous swinger of the cricket ball.
What he says No.1 - On his first encounter with the sport
"I still remember the first time I saw a cricket match at the local Rae Bareilly stadium. The players in whites, the batsmen, the bowlers -- the whole atmosphere was electrifying. I was thrilled. After watching that match, there was no doubt left in my mind that I wanted to be a cricketer."
What he says No.2 - On making his Test debut at the same venue as Kapil Dev
"My parents and coaches wanted to know why I hadn't informed them yesterday that I'd be playing... Mujhe explain karna para ki [I had to expain to them] that I myself only got to know this morning. Actually, I'd begun preparing mentally once the captain announced the XI at the team dinner last night... I was, of course, hoping I would make the XI... Then, on reaching the ground, it was said I may open if we bowled first... That really set the adrenaline flowing, pumped me up..."
What they say - Virender Sehwag on India's latest discovery
"Rudra Pratap is a very talented bowler, and his specialty is that he can bring the ball into the right-handers and swing it both ways."
What you may not know
Finding the scope for cricket in Rae Bareilly difficult - there was no coaching facility and hardly any matches played - Rudra Pratap made the move to Lucknow where he found a productive and very successful sports hostel with coaching and training facilities. Living with 250 other students, Rudra Pratap found the life regimented, what with early morning exercises, practices and classes. Though by no means a bad student, he made the choice to focus on the game he loved.
Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo