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December 21, 1999


India Down Under

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The Rediff Interview /Javagal Srinath

'I bowled badly in the World Cup'

Javagal Srinath needs no introduction -- when India toured South Africa last, it was Srinath, much to everyone's surprise, who drew as many autograph hunters as Sachin Tendulkar did. But then, they love quick bowling over there -- and Srinath is quick.

Javagal Srinath Srinath is also laid back, especially off field. It is a job getting him to be serious, when you are interviewing him -- he would much rather kick back and joke, jibe at Rahul Dravid who happened to be sharing his room at the time (this was in Bombay, on the eve of the team's departure for Australia).

He is also candid. Ask him why India did badly in the World Cup and pat comes the reply -- 'I bowled badly and that had a lot to do with it'.

Excerpts, from a conversation the speedster had with Faisal Shariff :

Given the kind of wickets we have here, what on earth made you take to fast bowling?

I used to bowl right from childhood, and I always loved bowling fast. When I started playing cricket, I didn't worry too much about the state of the wickets and things like that. We used to play on matting wickets, no matter where you bowled it was on matting wickets so you could bowl fast. I guess at that time I didn't know about the nature of the wickets -- maybe if I had, I might have become a middle order batsman or something, not a fast bowler.

When fast bowlers come back after an injury layoff, they learn new tricks, make adjustments to their bowling. How about you, what if any adjustments did you make after that shoulder injury?

It's not just injury -- you make adjustments all the time. Any bowler who wants to improve keeps making adjustments, I was making them before my injury, I am still making them. Basic things -- like focussing on the run up to cut out no balls, working on length and line, working on getting the yorker there, getting the ball to swing and seam... you are doing that kind of thing all the time...

Srinath Going back a bit in time, you had to wait a long time before you became a permanent member of the side -- was that demoralising?

Not really, it was actually a good learning period. You learn quite a bit, sitting outside but being part of the team. When I came into the national side, my cricket was still in a nascent stage if you ask me, I grew after I got into the side and while I was waiting for a permanent place. Also, a lot of the games we played then were on spinning tracks, the wickets were not really right for fast bowling, our spinners were doing a good job, so realistically, I knew I didn't have a chance to play.

In 1991 you went to Australia as a newcomer, what was that like? And now that you are back, what do you see your role as?

That's what I said, my cricket was very nascent then, during that trip, I didn't know about the intricacies of fast bowling, I didn't do anything much on that trip or during those early years. It's been eight years now and during that amount of time, whether you play all the games or not, you learn something. Now my role is to pass all that on to the young guys, the new fast bowlers.

After all this time, do you feel you have fulfilled your potential as a bowler?

No, I think I am still incomplete, I am not happy, really, with the way I have performed, I always feel I could have done better than what I did and I guess that feeling will remain forever.

And what of your batting? You have always been talked of as a potential all rounder -- have you, with the bat, done justice to that part of your potential? Or do you think you have faltered?

If I faltered, as you say, then there is no justice done, is there? I think I missed out, with the bat, on quite a few occasions, which is why I said I am an incomplete cricketer, to some extent, still. I always try to do my best, but then something happens and sometimes, it is beyond my control.

Srinath How about the World Cup, how would you rate your personal performance, were you happy with the way you bowled?

Not really, I think I was little bit tired. Now if in retrospect I can sum up what went wrong, I think with a better frame of mind I could have done better. I think I was mentally fatigued, I think that is the main reason I didn't do well in the World Cup.

What would you rate as your best bowling performance?

It's yet to come. I don't rate anything as the "best" so far, because though I have bowled well, I have been inconsistent. There are times I have done well, then lapsed, then again I was, for three years, struggling with injuries of various kinds which didn't help my performance.

There is this thing that Indian bowlers don't appear able to consistently reverse swing the ball, why is that?

We can do reverse swing, we do that, but not with the regularity and accuracy the Pakistanis manage -- they are wonderful reverse swing bowlers, we are still learning the art while they have perfected it. When they play, the whole team works on the ball, right from the start, to maintain the shine the way they want it, and that kind of teamwork is very important for you to get consistent reverse swing.

Karnataka has in recent times emerged as a cricket superpower in the domestic structure, what do you think are the reasons?

I think that is because of the role models. Rahul Dravid is a standing example for the Karnataka side, and he inspires others, you can see another Dravid emerging in Ronald Barrington, if he can live up to his potential. The same way, Anil (Kumble) got into the side, then I came along, that probably instilled confidence in the others, Prasad came along and then Rahul got a break. That kind of thing lifts a side, gives role models for the others, produces more and more players. It's a question of believing. We all play the same sort of cricket, there is not much of a difference. But when there is proximity with cricketers who have made it to the top, then the entire side is lifted, the performances improve all round, and more players begin to emerge.

Would that be why Bombay's fortunes, for instance, are dwindling?

Well obviously it is a cycle. Every side has good cricketers, has played good cricket at some point in time, they also have slumps. Right now, it is just this phase where Karnataka has produced some fabulous cricketers.

Does this have to do anything with the kind of coaching available in your state?

There are hardly any coaching institutes in Karnataka. I would still say our cricketing infrastructure could be better in Karnataka. I think the guys who play cricket follow their predecessors well, that is all, and luckily, right now, they have good batsmen and bowlers to look up to, learn from and emulate.

So if you could, what would you do to improve the infrastructure?

I think we need more turf wickets to play cricket on. Nowadays, we see more tournaments coming up, which is okay, but we need better wickets. If we have them, we will produce better cricketers -- both bowlers who can bowl on wickets like that, and batsmen with the skill to cope.

Why has India failed to produce fast bowlers with any consistency?

Never mind the why, we are not known for bowlers, especially fast bowlers. You have to live with it. That's the reality, and you can't shy away from that.

What would be the key for a fast bowler to succeed?

I think you should not be disappointed at any point of time. You should keep on playing, bowling fast, learning, getting wickets. I don't think anyone who deserves it will be denied a chance over a period of time. Cricket is the kind of game where you can get back at any point in time, you need to wait for your opportunity and seize on it when it comes.

Tell me five of your most favorite bowling performances?

Mine? There is none, not yet, that I want in the list.

And your worst?

The World Cup, without doubt.

Any particular match in the World Cup?

The South Africa game in particular, I think, was a very bad game for me. I can't put a finger on what went wrong, I bowled badly, that's it.

Who are the toughest batsmen to bowl to?

I don't think that way. I think when your are bowling badly every batsman is tough, when you are bowling well you fancy your chances against the best of them.

Dravid Rahul Dravid, who has played most of the best fast bowlers, says you are the toughest he has faced?

Yeah, he plays me in the nets. Being with him all these years, I as a bowler come to know what his thinking is like, how he plays, what his strengths and weaknesses are, so I would know how to bowl to him, and that is the only reason.

Over the years, how have you changed, as a person and as a cricketer?

I don't want to be the one to judge myself, I'd rather let others do that. Interviews

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