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Young trio chases dreams

One is an aspiring psychologist, another says he?s fascinated by the works of Shakespeare; the third is trying to come to terms with all the media attention.

india Updated: Oct 02, 2003 10:07 IST

One is an aspiring psychologist, another says he’s fascinated by the works of Shakespeare; the third is just trying to come to terms with all the media attention this past month.

Meet S Sreeshanth, Rudra Pratap Singh and Munaf Patel. Fast friends, flatmates at the MRF Pace Foundation and arguably the most unusual set of pacemen to have turned out for an Indian team against an international side.

Of the young trio — RP is nearly 18 and the other two are 20 each — who are part of the India A squad against the New Zealanders, only Kerala’s Sreeshanth has even played at the Ranji level. Season One last year — 22 wickets in 7 matches.

Munaf will make his debut for Gujarat this season and RP, who’s played u-19 cricket for UP, says he’ll hopefully make his Ranji debut too this winter.

Given their vastly differing backgrounds, it’s intriguing to watch the tall trio together — and they’re always together. They were together at the Bangalore cricketing skills camp at the NCA last month — where they were among the nine speedsters specially called in to join the Challenger teams — and they’re quite inseparable here too.

“We get along fabulously,” says the bespectacled Sreeshanth, who began as a batsman and then took up leg-spin before finally moving to fast bowling “to be able to join the MRF Pace Foundation”. At 6 feet, he’s the shortest (Munaf is 6’3’’ and RP 6’1’).

A second year student of psychology, Sreeshanth’s your typical urban boy. He’s lived most of his life in Bangalore. He’s articulate, polished and seems to have life mapped out. His teammates say he’s a terrific dancer and like a surprisingly high number of today’s urban youngsters, he’s very much “into religion”. He’s made the trip to Sabarimala 11 times. His hotel room has pictures of various Hindu gods but he says he’s fascinated by all religions.

“Most of my friends are Muslim. I regularly go to a mosque when in Bangalore, which I was allowed into only after great persuasion, and to the Holy Tuesday church in Cochin.”

Munaf, a devout Muslim from Ikhar, about 35kms from Bharuch, has learnt to converse in Hindi just recently. “Now I’m told I’m losing my Gujarati,” he smiles. He finds his peace when he does his namaaz five times a day. Life has otherwise, been pretty manic lately, with the hullabaloo over his now famous pace. “The media publicity was nice at first but since then it’s been very confusing and somewhat scary. I know that the same people who’ve built me up will finish me if I fail to take wickets,” says Munaf seriously.

But he’s coming to terms with his newfound fame. Though the cut of his face makes him appear older than his 20 years, there’s a glimpse of someone much younger when he laughs suddenly. “When I go back to my village now, I can’t stay at home. Every few minutes, someone comes and takes me off to his house, I’m constantly on the move.”

The son of a farmer — father Musa grows cotton, wheat and a host of other things — Munaf has three younger sisters too. He says he managed to get through his 10th at the Mariamben Memorial High School in Ikhar, then came to Baroda about a year-and-a-half ago, where he was inducted into Kiran More’s Academy. “I’ve no time for any more studying now,” he says. “Cricket keeps me busy.”

Cricket also keeps RP Singh busy. The teenager, originally from Rae Bareilly but now in his last year at Sports College, Lucknow, will soon be moving to Kanpur’s Green Park hostel to work on his game. The left-arm paceman, who came in for high praise from Sourav Ganguly, says that along with line and length, he’d like to work on the mental aspect of bowling. “That’s what Lillee sir told me, as did John Wright and Kapil Dev,” he says excitedly.

An ardent fan of Julius Caesar (he discovered it as part of his course, found the English version too difficult and began reading the translated works of Shakespeare), RP came into focus at the u-21 inter-academy matches at the NCA in June-July, where he grabbed 16 wickets in five games.

All three say there’s no pressure on them here, that it’s a surprising call-up. They’re excited and can barely keep still. Most important though, all are very talented. Indian pace bowling is on the upswing.

First Published: Oct 02, 2003 00:41 IST