Hemang Badani was a bubbly young man despite his less than memorable Test debut against Zimbabwe in the second Test at Harare. Having established himself in the shorter version of the game, the Tamil Nadu southpaw was keen on proving himself in the longer version too. "I was not really surprised when I got picked to play a Test. When the tour began I was not sure where I would get an opening, but something told me that I would get my chance in Zimbabwe," said Badani speaking to CricInfo about his experiences in Zimbabwe.
As it happened, his first knock came in rather curious circumstances. Accustomed to batting in the middle order, Badani found himself in a completely new role opening the innings in place of injured statemate Sadagoppan Ramesh. "I've never opened the batting at any stage in my life. Not for my school, my state or even my club team," said Badani, adding quickly, "the first ever time I opened in my life was on my Test debut!"
The fact that he opened the batting has been dissected and analysed ad nauseam by experts but the youngster is sensible enough not to get dragged into a discussion on the matter. "It's a matter within the team and I don't think I should discuss it," he says, explaining himself and avoiding the standard 'no comment' approach.
While being overshadowed by the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Badani did not do too badly for himself on tour. Being part of more than one fruitful partnership with Tendulkar, Badani made a half century and a crucial 27. "I know I did not really get the big scores in Zimbabwe. But at this stage I would not want to make an issue of it. I feel I could have done much better but then again some of those runs came at crucial times and were quite important," explains Badani looking back at the tour.
Many experts have attributed India's loss in the final against West Indies to a bit of complacency creeping in. If indeed that is true, it is something Badani is not guilty of. "Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe are a more than decent side. Playing them at home is very different from playing them in the subcontinent. They are a more disciplined team than a lot of others. If you take a look at their bowlers you'll see what I'm saying. Unlike a Glenn McGrath or a Brett Lee, they're not going to bowl a great ball and rip you out. Rather, they stick to the basics, plug away and let you make the mistake," explains Badani.
Even given that, Badani concedes that India drew a Test series that they really should have won. "As a team we all felt we could have won. We were in the right frame of mind, in good condition and really should have gone the whole distance," begins Badani on a positive note. "But it was really one hour of bad cricket that cost us the match at Harare. In about one hour on the morning of the fourth day we lost six quick wickets. I know that things like that happen in cricket, but if you want to be one of the top teams in the world you have to be able to turn something like that around. It's important to be able to prolong things as much as possible in a situation like that in a Test match," says Badani. Having come in at number seven and remained not out on 16, perhaps Badani does have a right to rue the fact that there was no one to give him company at the wicket.
On the morning of the final of the Coca-Cola tri-series Badani suffered one of those freak injuries that a player simply cannot anticipate. "It was an especially cold day, the coldest we had experienced on tour. I was doing one of the routine fielding drills when it happened. The ground was a bit wet and slippery. Despite the fact that I was wearing spikes I slipped when going for a catch. At that moment, when I did almost a complete split, I realised that I had strained my groin, but there was nothing I could do about it," recounts Badani.
However, the good news is that Badani has recovered completely and is fit and raring to go for the forthcoming Coca-Cola Cup in Sri Lanka. "I've been going to practice for the last couple of days and have recovered completely. As you can expect, I'm really looking forward to the Sri Lanka tour. The wickets are very similar to the ones we have at home and the weather is pretty much the same too. There's no reason why I shouldn't do well," said a grinning Badani. Well, having progressed slowly but steadily thus far in his career, it's only a matter of time before Badani gets stuck in and makes a really big score. With Tendulkar missing the first part of the Sri Lanka tour with injury, the Indian team could do with one of the others coming good.