On a cool, wintry evening at Krishnagiri in Wayanad, former Sri Lanka left-arm pacer Nuwan Zoysa was talking about how the side he coached, Goa, fared against Kerala on Day Two of a Ranji Trophy match. He said he was impressed with the young debutant who took the new ball for Kerala.
He was referring to Basil Thampi, who had taken four wickets in his maiden First-Class innings. That was two years ago. Basil went on to play 10 more Ranji Trophy matches for Kerala, but he could not improve his bowling figures from his debut match. To be fair to him, he has often had to play on wickets that offered nothing for pace bowling.
There was, however, something he kept on doing: bowling quick. But, he was not aware how quick he was, until he played at the South Zone T20 tournament, which concluded a week ago. He bowled consistently at a speed in excess of 140 kilometres per hour (kph). And at that speed, he gave little away to the batsmen.
He may have taken only eight wickets from five matches, but it was an eye-catching performance. And he could not have timed it any better, for some of those games he played were beamed live on television.
“It was only because of the telecast I could know what my speed was, and I was surprised,” Basil told Sportstar over phone from Mumbai, where he would be playing for South Zone in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Inter-Zone T20 tournament, beginning on Sunday. “I have been bowling at this speed all along. I don’t want to compromise on my pace.”
That is what Glenn McGrath, the Australian pace legend also advised him to do at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai. “Working with McGrath and M. Senthilnathan has made me a better bowler,” he said. “I have also gained a lot working with the new Kerala coach Tinu Yohannan. His faith in me helped me perform better at the T20 tournament in Chennai.”
That performance could also well be the coming of age for the 23-year-old from Perumbavoor. For someone who wanted to play just one match for Kerala in a junior match – because that would make fetch him more money in tennis-ball cricket – he has come a long way.
“Those days, I was not serious about cricket, but people like Prasad of Perumbavoor Cricket Club and C.M. Deepak of Swantons helped me grow as a bowler,” he said. “I also owe former Indian wicketkeeper Chandrakant Pandit, who, as director of cricket at the Kerala Cricket Association, included me in the Kerala Under-25 squad. That proved a big break for me.”