Balaji determined to work on his shortfalls

Published: Friday, May 13, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Chennai:Having been clobbered all over the park in his opening spells during the recent one-day cricket series against Pakistan, Lakshmipathy Balaji is now determined to plug the loopholes so as to concede less runs in the first 15 overs which is the "key to a positive result of the match."

The Tamil Nadu seamer is utilising the welcome three-month break from international cricket to hone his skills in the shorter version of the game and make himself an allround bowler.

"I want to show consistency and take more wickets for India. We struggled in One-day games against Pakistan. I want to master my skills in the first 15 overs of a match and stop conceding runs," the 23-year-old Balaji told PTI in an interview.

The right-arm seamer is wiser by the experience, and a fast learner as well.

His impressive performance in the Tests against the arch-rivals Pakistan, on return from an eight month injury lay off, was followed by some rough sailing in the One-day series when he was at the receiving end of Shahid Afridi.

Balaji went for 51 runs in six overs at Kanpur where Afridi struck the world's second fastest ODI century of 102 in 42 balls.

"The first 15 overs are the key to a positive result in a match. So I am prepared to take this challenge and I want to implement all my plans in the coming series," he said.

His predicament is interesting because Balaji came on the scene, in 2002, with the image of an one-day specialist. Then Australia 2004 happened, and since the tour of Pakistan, his big toothy smile has become a permanent feature of the Indian team. In contrast, in the last three one-day tournaments excluding the tri-series in Holland -- the Asia Cup, the NatWest Challenge in England, and the series against Pakistan -- he has averaged above 57.00 with eight wickets in 10 matches.

In between, in his zeal to improve, the youngster tried too many things and lost his action. And the worst nightmares came in September last year when he returned home from England before the prestigious Champions Trophy with an abdominal injury.

Balaji's fightback from the career threatening injury is a story in itself. And he is thankful to MRF Pace Foundation for the support and guidance.

"It's the only such international foundation in the country and (Dennis) Lillee advised me as to how I should attack the crease, jump out and to bowl to line and length," Balaji said.

"That really helped me sort out deficiencies. Importantly he gave me few tips on improving upon my skills to a great extent. It is always necessary to seek the advices from a legend like Lillee."

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