December 11, 2001

Javagal Srinath: a benevolent fast bowler

As a cricketer, he has done tremendous service to thecountry and still has a few years of cricket left in him

In the late 80's, there was an opinion in Karnataka that a certain Javagal Srinath was the batsman to watch. This was because of Srinath getting a good hundred in one of the inter-district matches. It did not take him too long to let everyone know that his future lay as a fast bowler. Everyone who saw him bowl at the Indian nets in 1990 before the tour of England was convinced that he was a speedster in the making.


As a cricketer, he has done tremendous service to the country and still has a few years of cricket left in him. At this stage of his career, he has a bigger responsibility - that of ensuring India has good pace bowlers in the future too. A trip down memory lane will remind him that he had to sit out on turners when playing at home and also that he hardly had guidance.
Srinath did not delay his entry into the big time as he did well in the 1990-91 domestic season; he was picked for the tour of Australia in 1991-92. Srinath was the back-up seamer for Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar on that tour and, though he did not get many wickets, he looked impressive, generating good pace. He has come a long way since then and has created a niche for himself in Indian cricket. The speedster was the butt of some light-hearted conversations when his naivete was evident in his early days of exposure to cricket but, being the good sport that he is, he took no offence and today tries to take the mickey out of others at every possible opportunity.

As a cricketer, he has done tremendous service to the country and still has a few years of cricket left in him. At this stage of his career, he has a bigger responsibility - that of ensuring India has good pace bowlers in the future too. A trip down memory lane will remind him that he had to sit out on turners when playing at home and also that he hardly had guidance. Srinath had to seek the help of Dennis Lillee frequently at the MRF Pace Foundation. There were times when he felt frustrated because he was not getting a game. That was understandable, since he was young and keen to play, having reached the top after a struggle; the struggle may have had to do more with flat pitches and humid conditions, but sitting out was still difficult.

Today, Srinath is highly experienced and aware of the difficulties of being a fast bowler in India. He has just returned to the side after recovering from an injury, and he will share the new ball with Tinu Yohannan, a product of the MRF Pace Foundation. This is where Srinath has to contribute a lot. In recent times, quite a few young seamers have been tried out, with Yohannan merely the latest to join the long list. Srinath would do the nation a great service if he takes the youngsters under his wing. Being a fast bowler in this country is not the easiest of jobs, and it is paramount that Srinath imparts all the knowledge that he has gained through his experience.

It is rather unfortunate that Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra have been discarded, but this is a big opportunity for young Yohannan. There has been a lot of effort put in by him and his tutors at the Foundation in the last four years. Now there is no better person than Srinath to guide him. Yohannan apart, other promising bowlers like Nehra and Khan should also look up to Srinath for guidance, as India is slated to tour England and the West Indies in the near future. As the quicker bowlers have a major role to play in these countries, this would be the perfect time for Srinath to play the Pied Piper's role. He is intelligent enough to realise that it is very easy for talented youngsters to lose their way for lack of guidance and has shown the inclination to help them with their game. But in order for Srinath to be the benefactor, it is important for the youngsters to be willing learners as well. As the saying goes, it takes two hands to clap.