'I like teasing batsmen'
Why are there so few top bowlers in international cricket. Is it because there are too many top-class batsmen and every youngster wants to become one?
The way I see it, its mainly because a bowler takes time to improve. You just can't become world class in a match or two. To get into the groove you need at least two or three years. Then there is the fitness side of things: unlike most batsmen, a bowler would have had many injuries in comparison. The physical strain on the body takes a huge toll and that's probably why most bowlers end up leaving early. Only the fit ones stick around.
What are the advantages that come to you being 5'8" with a low centre of gravity? And what are the disadvantages?
Well, I like the fact that batsman find it hard to pick-up my action at once. Plus, it is easier to get reverse swing with a low action. When the ball gets older, from the 15-over mark, I can come back into the attack and get the old ball to swing. That's a real advantage. The only disadvantage I see would be the lack of bounce I get in comparison to other bowlers.
Do you like taking on the batsman?
Yes, I do. When the ball is in my hand I know that it only takes one good delivery to send him packing. I like teasing the batsman. It's interesting to keep them guessing.
A batsman you enjoyed bowling to in the World Cup?
I certainly enjoyed bowling to Ross Taylor in the semi-final. I would have bowled maybe around five overs to him, but not once did he hit the ball in the middle. There was a lot of swing and plenty of playing and missing. It was great fun.
What type of batsman is the most difficult to bowl to?
A defensive batsman - it's always harder to bowl at a defensive player because you must force the error.
The four wickets in four balls against South Africa in the World Cup: What was your strategy when Mahela Jayawardene gave you the ball? And after which wicket did you feel you could do something special?
Well, when Mahela [Jayawardene] gave me the ball he said "we're going to lose the match unless you produce something very special - just give it everything". I did exactly that. After getting my third wicket is when I thought we had a good chance because [Jacques] Kallis was out and the newcomers were not batsmen. But, unfortunately, we lost the game. It came as a wake-up call in a way, I guess, because I realised that day that with a little bit of willpower and self-belief you can do amazing things on the cricket field.
What is your most effective trick to catch a batsman off-guard?
I would say my most effective trick is the fact that with any new batsman I go on the attack immediately. You have a better chance of getting your man at the start of his innings and I go straight for the kill.
You kiss the ball each time you go back to your mark - it seems a ritual. What do you say to yourself?
Everything I am today is because of a simple cricket ball and I respect it very much. It's just an act of respect.
Strangely, you don't sledge batsman. Why?
I never was one in favor of sledging. A bowler's job is to get wickets and it's to get it through his talent and not use unsportsmanlike conduct. International cricket is the biggest league and when you represent your country and act like that on the field it reflects badly on yourself, the team and the country. Besides: what's the big achievement anyway? I like doing my thing the way its supposed to be done.
Fast bowling advice that you will never forget.
Two things. One is Mr. Jerome Jayarathne, who spotted me at the NCC nets when I was still in school in 2001. I was selected to bowl at the Sri Lanka team for a practice session and the coach then was Dav Whatmore. I bowled only four balls and I hit Upul Chandana several times, they stopped me and then Mr.Jayarathne came to me and said: "You did the right thing - if you can frighten a batsman in the net then do it. If you want to make it to the mainstream then make an impression like this". Next would be Mr. Champaka Ramanayake, a former fast bowling great himself. We played for the same club (Galle Cricket Club) at the time and he always said: "You will be in any side for as long as you take wickets. The day the wickets stop is the day you will be dropped". Those words have stuck to me like glue ever since that day.
Nagraj Gollapudi is Assistant Editor of Cricinfo Magazine