Praveen: the new star of Indian cricket
India unearthed a new star in Praveen Kumar in the Commonwealth Bank One-Day series.
The unassuming young man from Meerut - a town better known for sports goods equipment - bowled India to victory with a stunning performance of 4 for 46 that earned him, for the second time, the Man of the Match of the award in the second finals against Australia. It helped India achieve a 2-0 win to grab the CB Series title.
The 21-year-old Praveen, coming from a family of wrestlers, refused to get into an akhara or wrestling pit, and instead used his muscles to fling the new ball down the cricket pitch.
The family wanted him to wrestle on the mat. But Praveen wanted to wrestle down batsmen. He had to ward off home pressure and grapple with the difficulties of life to find his goal in cricket.
Cricket would be the last sport anybody in his family would have wanted him to take up. Praveen was different. He found his solace in flaunting his muscles on a cricket field -- and a fast bowler was born.
Not a furious fast bowler who would browbeat the batsmen with sheer pace, but one who would pose searching questions with his probing line and length to add to his potent swing.
On Tuesday, Praveen skimmed through the Australian top-order with his amazing swing bowling in the second match of the best-of-three finals.
With great support from his inspiring skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Praveen blossomed in the series to emerge as India's strike bowler.
If it was lanky Ishant Sharma, who tore through the famed Australian batting order throughout the summer Down Under, Kumar's heroics with the swinging ball helped India create history.
Praveen is yet another fascinating story of a small town boy from an ordinary family making it with grit and determination.
Praveen's man-of-the match award in the crucial match against Sri Lanka in Hobart Feb 26 where he took 4 for 31 earned him instant stardom.
Then with Dhoni keeping faith in him, he picked up for 2 for 49 in the first final against Australia.
He proved that neither of those performances were a flash in the pan when his skidding deliveries had the Australians rattled in the second final Tuesday. His four wickets in the second final brought his tally to 10 in the tournament.
Praveen's triple strike early on gave India a leg up.
He gave India a rousing start when he saw off the dangerous Adam Gilchrist off the third ball of the innings. Gilchrist edged one back to Dhoni.
In the very next over Praveen got rid of Ricky Ponting, who was caught by Yuvraj Singh at mid-on. That had Australia struggling at two for eight.
Michael Clarke tried to steady the innings with Hayden, but Praveen soon broke through his defence. Australia tottered at 32 for three.
However, it was not always so smooth and fruitful an experience in his debut ODI.
Praveen started his international career in the fifth and final match of the ODI series against Pakistan in November 2007. With India having won the series, the ODI was a dead rubber. Praveen went wicketless giving away 50 runs in 10 overs. Pakistan put up 306 and won the match by 31 runs.
Praveen is useful with the bat too. His impressive record in domestic cricket screamed for attention.
Beginning his career in the Uttar Pradesh Under-19 team alongside R.P. Singh, Piyush Chawla and Suresh Raina, he slowly graduated to first-class level and made a stunning start on his Ranji Trophy debut, picking up nine wickets against Haryana.
Praveen was also a key performer in Uttar Pradesh's maiden Ranji title in 2005, his first season. He claimed 41 wickets and scored 368 runs. His 90 wickets in two first-class seasons earned him a call-up to the India A squad touring Kenya in 2007.
Praveen excelled with both the bat and ball in a triangular one-day tournament involving India A, Sri Lanka A and Kenya, winning the man-of-the-series award.
He continued his fine run in the Challenger Trophy, when he received his maiden call-up to the national squad for the first two ODIs against Pakistan.
In 25 first class matches - before the second CB final against Australia - Praveen has claimed 126 wickets at an average of 21.50. He also has 945 runs to his credit with five 50s under his belt.
Another good Ranji Trophy series earned him a spot in India's 16-man squad for the CB Series in Australia. And the rest is history.