Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Athletic Body is a Gift

My father, grandfather and great grandfather, all had admirable sporting abilities. [Click to read my separate blogpost].  Those who have 'sports in the blood' and gifted with 'natural ability/talent' start with an advantage.  Playing cricket HAS BEEN a common factor all along my entire life from as long back as my memory can take.  Simultaneously, I have also set foot sporadically on the tennis court and took part in the 100m sprint and long jump competitions only once or twice. The lion's share has been cricket.

My bowling and action have been praised all through.  Initially, I was not trying to analyse the praises because my bowling run-up and action had come naturally to me.  In my 'peak years', my pace, they say, was pretty sharp.  It was coming from a 'smooth, easy, slightly front-on, quick arm action'.  But they were noticing 'something' that stood out from the others. I look back now after having opened the bowling throughout the 38 years [starting at age 20] of my cricket [serious league games and other tournaments] trying to search 'that something'. No physical sport is without its share of injuries, but have not bothered me much, barring only minor ones.  How and why?

Capt. P.Alasingachar, a disciplined gentleman, my father's childhood classmate and former captain of our club The Mysore Gymkhana, had high praise for my bowling/action with these words: "Your bowling action is one of the best in the country!"   The word 'country', I thought appeared like overestimation, but he was not the 'people pleaser' type.  He had a good knowledge of the game and was renown for his straightforwardness.  Such an observation coming from him could not be pushed aside easily. His knowledge about the dynamics of the human body in sport came from his stint at the prestigious National Institute of Sports and long experience as Sports Director from a renown institution where he retired.  As my cricket career continued, I was learning about the stuff in Capt. Char's observation when veterans, opponents and team mates were also in praise.  What was so special in the action they saw? 

Capt. Char [seated].  Picture taken at the inauguration of the new pavilion at Gangotri Glades, 2013. Age, a heart condition and dementia had affected him.

Picture taken in 2003. Capt. Char extreme left. 
Others: S.Vijayprakash, M.Ananthaswami Rau and me. 

Capt. Char [then 18-19] is standing 3rd from left [cap] first row.  My grandfather [46] is seated 5th from right.

In 1983 our employer's team was sent for a coaching camp in Pune.  P.G.'Nana' Joshi  who was an India wicket-keeper [12 Tests] in the 1950s was our coach.  He had great admiration and praise for my talent.  Asked for his suggestion, he replied 'Your bowling and action just perfect, just keep doing what you are doing'.  After our second camp in 1986, 'Nana' Joshi wrote a letter reaffirming his view with more valuable tips.  In my 'peak years', my pace they say, was pretty sharp.

What do I do when some lanky stranger, walks up to me in some gathering and asks directly "Do you play any sport?"  My jaw dropped!  I said "Yes, cricket, what made  you ask?" I was astonished when he answered "I was able to guess from your gait... I also played cricket in Ballari."   He had spotted 'that something' even when I was not bowling! 

My friend and tennis ball team mate Krishna liked to see my flip-flops.  He used to wonder how they wore out evenly rather than making a depression only at the heel.  Long later I could relate this fact to the 'even distribution of weight' on my size 10 feet, medium frame, 5'10" tall. I was weighing 56 kgs. when Krishna was seeing my flip-flops often.  Now my weight has hovered steady between 69-71 kgs for 12-15 years, a very gradual rise with age.  This may be another pointer to how well the body gets balanced to walk, run or jump 'with smooth fluidity'.  

Flip-flops are my all-life favourite. This pair is fairly worn and relegated for garden use.

I recall with great fondness that it was actually my father who was the earliest to spot that 'natural gift' way back when I was 13-14-15.  He had remarked with these words: "You have a good athletic body." [ನಿಂದು ಒಳ್ಳೆ ಅತ್ಲೆಟಿಕ್ ಬಾಡಿ ಕಣೊ.]  He used to watch us play tennis ball cricket and various street games in front of our house. He had noticed 'that something' in me.  He was a talented footballer himself in his younger days.  Jovially, he showed his slightly crooked nose as proof.  Blows from the football had made it so.  Capt. Char vouched my father's talent when I used to meet him years after my father died in 1981.  My father, despite his poor eyesight [his all-life defect], managed to play table tennis, billiards and carrom with some skill.  He sometimes pillioned me on his bicycle to watch him play too. 

Kapil Dev was interviewed soon after he surprassed Sir Richard Hadlee's record of 431 wickets.  Asked how he had remained generally injury-free, for so long, he emphatically told "I thank my parents for giving me this beautiful body...".  He mentioned 'hard training' next.  He was another 'natural' who was made of 'good fibre' [quality of muscles and bones] as it is known!  Skills apart, it boils down to the physical make-up of the sportsman to perform efficiently without frequent injuries. Is it not true?

I have remained in 'playing condition' nearly throughout, maintaining only with simple fitness regimens and practice.  From more than six hundred league games and other tournaments, hundreds of net sessions and a lot of tennis ball cricket prior to that, I must have bowled several thousands of balls plus serving many aces and double faults in tennis.  

Faulty angles, movements or techniques usually manifest themselves through injuries.  If and when an injury becomes recurrent despite ticking all boxes including proper training and fitness aspects, then it could be the 'manufacturing shortcoming' what Kapil Dev meant.  

Persistent injuries and niggles can shorten one's playing career.  To maintain a reasonable level of 'match fitness' [not to forget deserving a place in the team] for decades is tough work, so much so if one is a fast bowler.  Batsman Madhav Apte played until he was 70.  He played 55 seasons in Bombay's Kanga League!  First captain of Indian team Col.C.K.Nayudu played first class cricket till he was 72.  There are a few more.  How?

Sprinting also fascinated me.  In the Athletic Meet in 1987 representing my employer and in spite of poor training prior to the Meet I was content to finish 4th in the 100m heats losing to the eventual gold medallist. I might have timed about 12 seconds.  I also finished 4th in the long jump leaping about 16 feet [National record is 25' plus].   In January 2016, I tried to time my '100 metre dash' in a 'solo race'.  15 seconds!  Too long!  Regular sprinters in the 55-60 veteran category [world record] have timed it at around 12 seconds!  There are even world records for the Centenarians! Why and how they accomplish such feats?

Answers to all the above is that such people are all made of 'good quality, long lasting, efficiently functioning, strong fibre', as good as one can find. Another thing. Such people also get over their minor niggles quicker than others!  They are all in the gifted category having 'that something'! Ponder!


This is a 9-minute video of me bowling in a league match.  I wanted to see how it looked. The bowling was certainly way sharper 20-30 years before!  What you see here is an old, slow, me!

A short trial video at the nets in 2009.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Man of the Match!

Swamy's house was very dear to me.  I felt it was like ours!  Such was the ambiance and since he was one of my favourite persons, whenever I went to Bangalore, I would never miss paying a visit to him I even chose to stay with him during my short cricket tours to Bangalore.  It was a great advantage also to me if [sometimes] our match was at the National College Ground which was actually a stone's throw away!  I knew it was a bit of a trouble for his ageing wife Seethamma [daughter of renown litterateur and English-Kannada Professor, S.V.Ranganna] to cook extra food when I stayed.  But a deep affection was magnetic. Swamy was the son of my grandfather's grandfather's sister's grandson! [click for a long story]  Never mind the confusion!  He was a wonderful person.  

In 1994, I was instrumental in turning the match around and winning it for our team. It was at the Central College Ground, my only game at that historic ground.  A strong Swastic Union Cricket Club needed just 6 runs in 2 overs. They appeared to sail through with 5 wickets in hand.  It was a 30-over tournament.  I had a poor first spell.  Now I was bowling the 29th over.  I have never fallen short of self-belief and my captain has always turned to me in crises to 'deliver the goods'.  I sometimes get a hunch that I get good rhythm in the run-up. I got, that evening.

Ball 1, no run.  Ball 2, clean bowled. Ball 3, new batsman, clean bowled.  Ball 4, no run. Ball 5, clean bowled. Ball 6, clean bowled!!  Suddenly they had only one wicket left and still 6 to get. I had shocked the opponents with four strikes that crashed through the defenses of hapless batsmen!  4 wickets in 6 balls [no hat-trick]. First ball next over from Guruprasad, they panicked and we won!  
A tornado had stuck a smooth sailing ship!  I can tell you, such spells are rare in all of cricket.  They just happen when least expected!

It was a dream spell for which I was awarded the 'Man of the Match'  [a Cricket Shirt was the prize].  I came to Swamy's house to stay for the next day's match at National College Ground.

The next morning, as we were sipping coffee in his verandah, he was reading the Kannada newspaper ಪ್ರಜಾವಾಣಿ.  He followed a bit of cricket.  Our match result had appeared in the sports page.  He turned to me with his happy face "ಪಂದ್ಯದ ಪುರುಷೋತ್ತಮ!" [Man of the Match] he exclaimed.  That was the opening sentence in the paper!  I was happy too, to see it, but it was unfortunate that the actual spell had not even been mentioned.  I asked for the clipping.  After I returned from the match that evening, he had written the date and kept the clipping ready.  Here it is:

We lost the second match and our team had no further part in the tournament.  But I will ever cherish with all the sweetness, that bowling spell and this paper clipping by my dear Swamy. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

My earliest batting video

This is not fun to watch like a Viv Richards or Chris Gayle innings, but this is the earliest batting video I have of me.  This was during our employer team's visit to Hyderabad for a tournament with sister organizations. Year was 2003 when digital cameras were yet to arrive, but video cameras were already a fancy and my team mate A.Srinivas was carrying his.  I knew he was taking some shots but did not know he was also shooting me in action.  So thanks to him, he later gave me a CD with these. 

Here it is on YouTube.  Read the description to the video also. 

Our team won the match eventually after I got out close to the target score after scoring 45 which was the highest. It was a rather scratchy innings because the ball kept moving around for many overs to cause trouble. I kept playing safe and stuck around with singles and twos while I hit the really loose ball.  Free stroke-making was difficult.  It was a slow and low pitch too. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Another Video of bowling in match

October 14, 2012, was the last match of the 2012 season.  We had just known that our team had secured second place in the IInd Div. and hence got promoted to the I Div., again.  This particular match was of academic interest as the opponent's fate was also decided.  

Since I posted the previous video which was taken about 40 days prior to this one, I had wanted to see how it feels with a straighter run up instead of the slightly angular one.  I had felt that by doing so, the arm would be perpendicular to the ground.  I wanted to achieve this. It had gone inside the perpendicular because the body bent at the torso with the angular run. I think I achieved it though not perfectly visible from the angle these few clips were taken [by 12th man Shashank].  

I had also now changed the camera setting to 30 frames/sec. I had forgotten to adjust it the previous times.  Hence they are grainy. This is better and less than two minutes in all.

Whenever the next set of matches begin, I'll have to start all over again, if I stop attending the practice net sessions for too long.  Next time, I'll remember:

~ to measure my run up correctly - count 15 steps from the stumps [stump is zero].  
~ to start run up with left foot on the mark.
~ to mark the run up straighter rather than the angled one.

Sometimes I do not know why I forget the order!  Now that I got them back, I found the rhythm and felt comfortable. I was landing the left foot just behind the crease which was just fine. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Me bowling in a match - video

It was a long standing dream to see myself in action, bowling in a real match situation.  I had got a few clips taken for study during practice sessions.  Last September, we were playing our sister team Young Cricketers in our 9th match of the 2012 season.  After I returned home that evening, I discovered in my book that it was my 100th match on that ground itself and the career wicket tally at 1290!  

Let me tell a bit about the first game I had played on this ground and not counted in the 100.  It in 1974 when mostly we played tennis ball cricket on the streets.  Yet, word had spread about the possession of a pair of small leg guards [pads] with me.  So I was included in the playing eleven when a friendly match for "Gowrishankar team" against one "Paapulli team" was arranged.  It was my first ever cricket ball match. Never before I had any opportunity to play with the cricket ball though a cork ball was used despite its dangers in street cricket.  Unfortunately, that game was interrupted by rain in the afternoon.  The ground became soggy.  In spite of it, the match was continued.  I was sent in to bat at the end and I faced only a few balls.  I think I was given just one over when I bowled some off breaks because the leather ball was heavy compared to my usual skill with the tennis ball!  Some consolation for taking my leg guards to the match!  Papulli scored a century and his team won the match. 

My next match on that ground was for the college team in 1979 from where the ground-count of 100 started.  A start had been made in 1978 to my cricket career, which is recorded in my other blog post.

Most of the clips my friend captured that morning are in this.  It was after we won the toss and were fielding first. Bright sunny morning.  I have stringed together about 15-20 clips spanning over 4 minutes.  See.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My hat-trick and Dennis Lillee

[Click on picture for enlarged view]

Dennis Lillee at his peak was a joy to watch.  There was no way I could watch at that time.  All I had to be content with were to listen to radio commentary of Test Matches and then to buy Sportsweek magazine merely for its pictures that followed after the Matches. Cricket movies was really something that was unthinkable.  So, the magazine pictures filled my appetite for admiration and imitation of players.  

The above is a collage of two pictures.  The top one is from Sportsweek Annual from 1977.  At that time, I was only playing tennis ball cricket, mostly in our locality, street cricket as it could be called.  An opportunity to play real cricket, meaning with the cricket ball, arrived in 1978 which I have blogged - you can read 'bragged' also - in an earlier post. Dennis Lillee's achievements in the 1970s need not be told as it is so famous.  From what I had read, he was a fantastic bowler having a great fan following and a very popular character.  His success reflected it and also his fighting spirit.  I had seen a particular picture in that particular issue which I showed there.  It had so much impression on me.  It was such a thrilling picture, pullover on the shoulder, sweaty scalp and people applauding as he returns to the pavilion after a match winning spell against Pakistan! 

Now a bit of the second picture for comparison.  Twenty four years later, my moment came at Nagpur. I was returning to the pandal [no pavilion] after a good spell that was to be a match winning one.  Our manager, Mr.Rajendra, who was a local there, had a film camera.  He was the only one armed with it. It was still the pre-digital camera era or even the 'mobile phone era'.  The next day he had already got the pictures printed and when he showed us the few he had taken of our team, I was delighted to see that he had taken this one. Immediately, I recalled that Lillee picture because of its impression in my mind and also that I was also having a pullover on the shoulder here!  Looking at the picture, I felt 'Lillee-like', if not for my bowling, yet, my former team mate Srinivas has been callling me "Lillee" even before that and even now.  

It gave me some more pleasure now to have successfully found that particular issue of Sportsweek and compare it!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Found my old run-up again!

Long gaps and some little injuries somehow contributed to some changes in the 'feel of my own bowling'.  My arm was not coming up straight and there was some glitch.  The slight pain and slow arm speed were reasons from it.  I found it out in my previous video I got taken because of this, in May/June.  Suddenly in July, I discovered that I had something else was amiss. It was the measurement of the run up.  The long gap in playing had me forget the way I did it for 30 years!  All I did was redo the counting of my 15-pace measurement and it used to end with my left foot for the mark starting from left.  I had missed the starting point of the count!  When I got this back, automatically, my old run-up perfectly came back and I felt the original rhythm of the action!  Now  as before I was running faster to get it right.  Earlier, I was just ambling casually and getting it wrong!  I put alternate clips of June and July in this series. There is a noticeable difference.  But on first look, they look the same!  For the July clips, my team mate Yeshwanth helped me.