Wright's fatherly advice helped me: Balaji

Published: Monday, April 19, 2004, 23:08 [IST]
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Chennai : New bowling sensation Laxmipathy Balaji, who appeared to have cemented his place in the team with his splendid effort in India's first away series win against Pakistan, does not want to just bask in his glory and is conscious of the need to maintain fitness and hard work to sustain the momentum.

The 22-year-old Tamil Nadu star said the credits for his performance went to coach John Wright's "fatherly advice" and useful tips from senior colleagues and lastly his dedication.

Balaji emerged a successful strike bowler for India in the absence of injured key bowlers like Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar, taking six wickets in the ODIs and 12 in the three Tests in Pakistan.

In addition, he also came good with useful knocks on a couple of occasions in the One-dayers, including the memorable six of Shoaib Akhtar, which won him praise from none other than the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

Balaji, whose childhood dream was to play for the country, is well aware of the need for a fast bowler to maintain fitness.

He also wants to focus on improving his batting skills, apparently setting eyes on emulating the legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev.

"Hard work comes out of fitness and dedication borne out of my morning rituals like running, physical exercises. At this level only the fittest survive and I say this to myself when I retire to bed every night," Balaji said.

Stating that there was no substitute for hard work, he said he had been following the rigid schedule of physical training laid down by the team trainer.

Balaji, whose absence in the Tamil Nadu team was felt very much in their Ranji final against Mumbai last month, is very appreciative of Coach Wright's encouragement to him.

"Wright in particular motivated me often with his pep talks like 'you are too good a bowler. You are better than others'...etc. Apart from motivating me with such words, he also taught me to bowl differently to different batsmen," Balaji, a shy person hailing from a middle class family, said.

Besides, the frequent bowling tips from seniors like captain Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble helped him to remain focused.

"As for the Pakistan tour and the seniors' tips, I was gaining ground and confidence match by match. With confidence level improving, the rhythm and motivation also improved. These gave a boost to my performance every time I bowled," he said.

On his interaction with former Pakistani speedster Waqar Younis, Balaji said: "I spent just about two minutes with him. I sought suggestions on how to maintain a tight line and length while bowling to right-left combination of batsmen and also on strengthening my leg."

Dedicating his success to all his well-wishers, the lanky bowler, who was lucky to have won the berth in the Indian team for the Australian tour after Mumbai's Avishkar Salvi pulled out due to injury, said he was able to show maturity in bowling thanks only to the advise and tips from seniors.

For Balaji, being a member of both the ODI and Test squads that registered memorable series win is more than a dream come true as his childhood ambition was to play for the country.

"My mother used to tell me that India should defeat Pakistan. To be actually part of the series winning team has made me very happy," he said.

He also said the 15 days fitness camp in Bangalore, which was wholly devoted to physical training without cricket had helped him. "I always follow the same schedule to be always fit," he added.

Asked about his future plans, Balaji said after a fortnight's rest, he would resume the rigorous practice and physical exercises.

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