September 27, 1981, Madras (now Chennai), Tamil Nadu
Also Known As
Right hand bat
Right arm medium fast
L Balaji does not know when to give up. It would have been easy to dismiss him as a one-dimensional bowler after his forgettable debut. He erased the memories of being caned for 44 runs off his first four overs, and of two fruitless home Tests against New Zealand, when he emerged one of India's leading fast bowlers in their historic tour of Pakistan in 2003-04. He was particularly lethal in a couple of sessions in the third Test in Rawalpindi, where he consistently swung the ball away, and snapped up a then career-best 4 for 63. In addition, his uninhibited batting and a megawatt smile endeared him to crowds in a manner even he found difficult to fathom.
That comeback fades in comparison to the one he made in 2008-09. A stress fracture ruled him out of cricket in 2005, and threatened to end his career. For three years he could hardly play any cricket. He had to undergo a back surgery before which he was not sure he would be able to bowl again. "If I were to go back," WV Raman, the Tamil Nadu coach who supported him throughout the hiatus said, "to what all happened when he was told he would have to go for a surgery, it would take me two days to rattle on." With a remodelled action and the same unwavering spirit, he started the long road back through the first season of the IPL in 2008. His 11 wickets for Chennai Super Kings included a hat-trick. A successful Ranji season followed, and his 36 wickets at 17.50 took Tamil Nadu through to the semi-final. Eventually the national recall came, when Munaf Patel sustained a groin injury during the five-ODI series in Sri Lanka in January 2009. He then made it back to the Test squad for the tour of New Zealand, but never got a game. He captained the Tamil Nadu Ranji side, and reminded the selectors yet again that he wasn't a finished article, by bowling economically for Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2012 IPL. He was rewarded with a call-up to the Twenty20 squad for the home series against New Zealand and the ICC World Twenty20.
Before the injury struck he bowled with a whippy, quick-arm action and had the ability to bowl quicker deliveries, yorkers or bouncers without a perceptible change in action. His open-chested action, combined with a tendency to bowl wide from the crease, lulled batsmen into believing that the ball would come in with the arm. As a result of this, when the ball swung away, or even straightened, he could be difficult to tackle. Not much of that has changed in his remodelled action. The perceptible change is in the way he starts his run-up, where he sort of tiptoes for the first few steps - almost as if unsure of the ground he is going to run on, before easing in.
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