The frame of the sunglasses that Ramesh Powar wears on the field is red. He wishes the ball in his hand is of that colour too. Powar, back in the national squad for the Bangladesh tour after being dropped for the World Cup, has played for India in 18 ODIs, which is a white ball country. But he is yet to play a Test, where war is waged with a red orb.
The 29-year-old Powar is in the Test as well as one-day squad for the assignment against India’s World Cup tormentors — Bangladesh. He is hoping that this time, he makes his Test debut, though with Anil Kumble around, it may be difficult.
“I was in the Test squad in Pakistan (2004) as well as in the West Indies (2006), but I didn’t get into the eleven,” Powar told the Hindustan Times.
“I hope I do it this time. It’s a big deal to play in Tests. Tests being the longer form of cricket, you have more opportunity to showcase your skill.”
From an off-spinner’s perspective, how different are Tests from ODIs?
“In a lot of ways,” the stocky Mumbai man said. “There are no fielding restrictions in Tests. The wide ball rule is not as strict as well. So you can change the line, bring in variation. And there is no dearth of time.”
His hurt at being excluded from the World Cup team is still alive, like heat in the ashes of a previous night’s fire.
“I could have made a difference, I would’ve done something,” he said in response to a question on India’s performance. “It was disappointing to be dropped. The Cup takes place once in four years. It’s a tournament I grew up watching, dreaming that one day the team celebrating after the final would be my team.”
But that’s gone. It is what lies ahead that is important. And that is Bangladesh. As a bowler, Powar is a blend of tradition and iconoclasm. He wears those glasses, red as a lipstick stain on a straying husband’s collar, but is old-fashioned in the way he flights the ball. That, and turn, are his assets, he says.
“I’m practicing at Shivaji Park Gymkhana,” Powar said. “Flight and spin are my strengths and the only thing that you need to adjust when you tour is length. But I’m careful about not practicing too much. I bowl 50-60 balls every couple of days. I have played so much of Ranji Trophy and other domestic events that I am in rhythm. I don’t want to tamper with it. Instead, I’m spending more time on fitness.”
Ah, fitness! The aspect of Powar’s game that has brought him criticism and, according to some, cost him the spot on the World Cup team. “People judge my fitness on the basis of my frame,” he says with an air of resignation. “So I am trying to get into shape. Also, it’s important to be a good fielder in modern cricket and I want to improve that part of my game.”
A batsman of respectable ability — he served at No.3 for Mumbai in the Ranji One-dayers, has an ODI fifty and four first-class hundreds — Powar is feeling good with the willow too. “I’m backing myself that I’ll bat,” he said.
He’s done some homework on the Bangladeshis, who shook the World Cup with wins over India and South Africa.
“I have watched two or three of their games. They are a side you cannot underestimate or overestimate,” Powar said. “I saw their three left-arm spinners (Abdur Razzak, Mohamad Rafique and Saqibul Hasan) and batsmen like Tamim Iqbal and Mohammed Ashraful. But again, I didn’t overdo it. I believe in improving myself rather than spending too much energy reading others.”
There’s another thing he believes in — the sunglasses. “Red is my favourite colour and the pair is lucky for me,” Powar said. “I will certainly wear them in Bangladesh.”