Balaji: 'The new guys have done a reasonably good job'

In a chat with Sportstar, Lakshmipathy Balaji spoke about the work underway to develop a strong pace attack. Citing the 1980’s West Indies pace attack as an example which did not allow batsmen to relax, he said it is important the fast bowlers work as a unit and not as individuals.

Former India paceman Lakshmipathy Balaji who is now the bowling coach of the team has long been the workhorse for the pace bowling unit.   -  R. Ravindran

After the first five games, one of the biggest positives for Tamil Nadu has been the performance of its pacers. K. Vignesh, T. Natarajan and Aswin Crist alone have accounted for 49 of the 76 wickets the bowlers have taken.While the fact they have played in venues that have suited the pace bowlers can’t be discounted, it is also for the first time in recent history the State side has had a solid pace bowling unit.

Former India paceman L. Balaji who is now the bowling coach of the team has long been the workhorse for the pace bowling unit. In a chat with Sportstar, the 35-year old spoke about the work underway to develop a strong pace attack.

Speaking about the new crop of pacers, Balaji said, “When you are travelling, pacers come into play big time. Domestic cricket in India is a winter sport and we play mostly in what are the coldest months of the year. If at all there is help for the bowlers, it is for the pacers.”

“The new guys have done a reasonably good job. One good aspect is this is a maturing unit not an ageing unit, with an average age of 22-23 years. With this you can build a unit instead of individuals.” The former TN skipper highlighted the role of working as unit to succeed at this level. “It is important to have a bunch of individuals with a similar set of mindset to go against the big sides.”

“If you aspire to beat the big sides in the country, you need to have solid resources and not depend on one individual. We now have developed three but they have just played few games and not a complete package yet. They need to bowl a lot and learn a lot to get their body adapted to match systems.”

Citing the 1980’s West Indies pace attack as an example which did not allow batsmen to relax, Balaji said it is important the fast bowlers work as a unit and not as individuals. “Fast bowling is not about individuals. There is a lot that goes into breaking a partnership. You have to respect your partner and hunt as a pack.”

One of the reasons for TN’s lack of success in winning the premier domestic title has been the lack of a potent bowling attack and Balaji felt it can have a demoralising effect on the team.

“We hardly produced a quality fast bowler in the last 20 years. We did not have a good support system when a bowler is injured. Once your main bowler is out, the morale of the team goes down because your attack is not built in a bigger space.

“What we are aspiring to do is, to have more guys with a similar way of outcome. It is a tough department and at one point, someone or the other is going to have a niggle or an injury. At such times, the team should not be left struggling and it is important to have a bigger pool of resources.”

The neutral venues concept has to an extent has helped TN pacers, but it comes with a set of challenges in terms of managing workload with continuous travel and Balaji credits the support system with the presence of renowned trainer Ramji Srinivasan.

“We have a very good system to take care of the players off the field mentally and physically. Ramji has done a terrific job focusing on things like nutrition and making sure they are in the best frame of mind going into it.” But the biggest challenge for the young crop will come in the upcoming three games where the assistance from the pitch might not be there like it has experienced so far and Balaji wants his wards to take the challenge hand on

“We have played in favourable conditions so far but going forwards, it is going to be a challenge and the players need to look forward too. If you want to be a different bowling unit, this is where you show it.”