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.

1 comment:

ER Ramachandran said...

An Athletic body is a gift, particularly for fast bowlers, I would like to add. Compared to batsmen and slow bowlers, fast bowlers will easily get tired if they are bowling in hot and humid conditions. Their fitness becomes paramount for the fortunes of a team. A team can win only if their bowlers take 20 wickets and for that they have to happen bowlers have to produce that extra effort in varying conditions.

Keith Miller, Imran Khan, Alan Davidson are some examples of fine all-rounders.

As others have told you at various stages of your career you were blessed with a good physique that helped you to take up fast bowling. Your own dedication, hard work took you far in the game of cricket. Your run-up to wicket with an easy action helped you to bowl fast throughout without wasting your energy. Since you had chosen a professional career other than cricket you did not have much time to pursue cricket;otherwise you would have represented the State as well as perhaps country also.

Apart from playing competitive club-level cricket you have coached many youngsters at various levels. With your experience you should seriously consider coaching as a second career after retirement from service. Thanks a lot for your effort in producing and sharing a fine blog...