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Srinath: Aged like wine

Javagal Srinath has been around for one and a half decades yet he wasn?t noticed much. Like the Everest he was there, but no one took him seriously.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2003 14:24 IST

Javagal Srinath has been around for one and a half decades yet he wasn’t noticed much. Like the Everest he was there, but no one took him seriously.

He was there because he had to be there. There was no one else who could be there instead of him. He took wickets, he bowled well, he won some matches, he gave the team something to boast about, he could ball bouncers...

Yet he was never a superstar. He was treated more like an essential appendage. Even the corporate-wallahs who are the arbitrators of superstardom, they who confer or deny the million bucks to the players, they too ignored him.

Srinath was not found fit enough for any such role. He was not fit enough to endorse any product, even something that provided stamina and endurance. Products in the market believed in bluster. Srinath believed in performing, silently.

But Srinath soldiered on. He was often bitter, there were setbacks in his personal life, sometimes the pain showed on his face when he was dispatched to the boundary. Often his head would drop down as he walked back to the start of the run-up.

In despair he retired many time, even he cannot keep count. When India went to England last year he was playing club cricket there to ease himself into retirement. To the credit of Sourav Ganguly he lured him back. He was a reluctant returnee.

But what a World Cup Srinath has been having. When it all ends he will be up there in a tournament which was expected to belong to the Akrams, the Waqars and the Donalds. They all perished. Yet this artillery man from Bangalore is still there firing away for his team asking no favours, giving out none.

Finally on the eve of his retirement Srinath has come of age as one of the worlds greatest seam bowlers. He has two youngsters with him who he has inspired to great heights. Everything looks perfect. And tailor made for Srinath.

In the Super Six match where he led the demolition act against Sri Lanka (9-1-35-4) Srinath was unplayable. He sent back Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de silva, three among the best of top order batsmen today, all with deliveries that were measured and programmed.

He has often been humble about his achievements. About bowling in South Africa he said that all he concentrated on was doing the line and length stuff.

It was he who softened up the batsmen, but often, others went away with the wickets. Against England it was he who should have got seven wickets. Nehra got it all. But he never complained.

Srinath’s repertoire was not considered wide enough to take him to the top. When Zaheer Khan burst on the scene with inswinging yorkers that dipped under the bats of the big hitters, it was seen as an announcement of Srinath’s deficiencies. But this amiable, vegetarian turned chicken eater stuck on, an ambassador car among the Hyundais and the Hondas and survived the distance.

When he starts his run up now, he is the picture of the assured performer. There is no fear how many runs the Indian opening attack will go for. Instead with Srinath and Zaheer and Nehra to follow, the Indian pace attack looks lethal now, though not in the Shoaib Akthar sense of the term, but in the sound of falling timbre and the perfect catch to point — like he got Jayasuriya on Monday.

Srinath has cut back on his pace and places the ball in the difficult corridor now. He gets the ball to swing late, and the pitches in South Africa have helped him no doubt.

He lasted out four World Cups. Batsmen get more credit that is due to them, bowlers slog away without any reward in ODIs especially. But Srinath never complained.

Finally on the verge of retirement, he is giving us a great swansong. It is a performance all the world of cricket loves. Javagal Srinath deserves every bit of it and even this man-of-the-match he got after a long time.

First Published: Mar 11, 2003 12:41 IST