Abrar Kazi: Back after an ordeal

Left-arm spinner Abrar Kazi last played for Karnataka in February 2015 after being reported for a suspect bowling action. After missing an entire season, Kazi is back with a remodelled bowling action. The return, however, wasn't very easy.

ABRAR KAZI RANJI TROPHY

After a 15-month break, Abrar Kazi is back in the Karnataka side with his spirit high and bowling action renewed.   -  K. Murali Kumar

In January last year, Abrar Kazi eased his way to a maiden first-class hundred, against Uttar Pradesh at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here. This should have given the Karnataka southpaw cause for celebration, but it was anything but a joyous occasion.

The fixture turned out to be Kazi’s last in State colours. In the previous match, against Baroda, the legality of his left-arm orthodox spin was questioned by the match referee. The Uttar Pradesh outing only confirmed this suspicion, and Kazi was instructed to visit the bio-mechanical facility at Sri Ramachandra Sports Medicine Centre (Chennai), one of the three International Cricket Council (ICC) accredited centres for testing bowling actions.

After extensive analysis, the experts at the facility delivered a blow. “I bowled around 30 balls, but I was told that one of them had a straightening of 16 degrees (over the permissible limit). I was banned from bowling for three months. I have played for the State team right from my under-13 days, and I was always told that I had a clean action. I was stunned, disturbed,” Kazi says.

The 27-year-old then visited the centre after the ban, but the scenario worsened. “I was told that I had a bend of 20 degrees. Now the suspension was extended by another six months. I was really scared, because a third strike could mean the end,” Kazi says.

The immediate task at hand was to remodel his action. “It is not just about the extension. I had to change everything - my run-up, delivery stride, action etc. The only way is to bowl continuously for months so that it becomes part of your muscle memory,” he says.

Fortunately for Kazi, help was at hand. “I must thank my coach Irfan Sait. We tried out a new action almost every day until we decided to settle on the one that I use now. Sait sent my bowling videos to English bio-mechanics expert Paul Hurrion for advice,” he says.

A confident Kazi visited Chennai again. This time, he was not to be disappointed as his action passed muster. “I was absolutely relieved. During this phase, I did have some negative thoughts, but the support I received from my family, Somashekar Shiraguppi, Rajesh Kamath, (KIOC staff) Khaleel and Mani helped me stay calm,” he says.

In April this year, Kazi was cleared to return to competitive cricket. Turning up for Swastic Union CC (1) in the KSCA first division league, the spinner racked up the wickets, and scored some vital runs.

On Friday, Kazi was included in the Karnataka team for the first two Ranji matches -- a moment of personal triumph. “I am over the moon. The last 18 months have put me through the test, and it has made me a better cricketer and stronger human being,” he says.