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Tobacconist Raja sniffs out winning formula

Netherlands off-spinner Adeel Raja does not fancy any mystery delivery and has a business-like approach to cricket, which is hardly surprising for a full-time tobacconist who occasionally doubles up as a restaurateur.

cricket Updated: Feb 26, 2011 13:29 IST

Netherlands off-spinner Adeel Raja does not fancy any mystery delivery and has a business-like approach to cricket, which is hardly surprising for a full-time tobacconist who occasionally doubles up as a restaurateur.

As a highly impressionable teen, Lahore-born Raja briefly imitated Pakistani off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and bowled random Doosras -- the ball that spins the other way -- before realising the futility of his effort and returned to his original action.

"One-day cricket is not about pace or spin. It's simple, you bowl tight line and length and don't give any width to the batters," he said in an interview as he tried to speak above the deafening noise of flights taking off and landing at New Delhi's domestic airport.

"I can bowl Doosra but it is difficult with the new ball. I have done it a few times in the World Cup. In the last World Cup, I tried two and one, a full toss, was hit for a six. I did not try it again," he said, the businessman in him dismissing the loss-making option.

"At one stage, I moulded my action on Saqlain but it did not work out and I was back to my old action. I was 15-16 then and I continued for two years, trying too many Doosras.

"There are hardly any offies (off-spinners) in Pakistan, all are banned because all want to bowl Doosra and chuck a lot."

He, however, believes it is possible to bowl a Doosra without actually chucking.

"It is possible, (Indian spinner) Harbhajan (Singh) has been doing this for a while. I think he has done it a lot of times and he has done it well," he said.

The idea, he said, was to rely on one's natural ability.

"It's nice if you have a mystery delivery but I don't think it's very important. If you look at (England spinner) Graeme Swann, he is a basic spinner and still the number one spinner in the world," he said.

"He has shown the world that the normal variations of an offie... with looping of ball, bit of flight, arm ball... You don't need the Doosra (to succeed).

"I think it's your natural talent, like (Muttiah) Muralitharan, Saqlain...it's your natural ability to bowl Doosra. If you can't, then you should use your natural variety. Every bowler has his own strength, so you should work on your own strength. Rest would take care of itself."

Own boss
Since then, Raja has been earning his bread and butter by sticking to the trusted line-and-length formula, apart from overseeing the tobacco shop and the restaurant he has in Amsterdam.

"I work full-time, run my own business and make time for cricket," he said.

"I have two tobacco shops and a restaurant in Amsterdam. I'm my own boss, can leave whenever I want. My father generally looks after the restaurant but I often help him."

The 30-year-old cricketer claimed he can sniff quality tobacco just like a chink in any batsman's technique.
"I have been there doing it for 15 years now," he said, with a coy smile.

Focussing on the World Cup, the spinner said that he cannot wait to bowl to the Indian opening pair who are his favourite players.

"(Virender) Sehwag and Sachin (Tendulkar) are two dashing openers. I love seeing them batting. I don't want them to get out, especially Sehwag, but hopefully they would have a bad day against us," he added with a mischievous grin.

Netherlands face India on March 9.