The man who derailed Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy duel here on Friday, learnt his skills in Chennai’s TNCA senior division league.
It would not be a comforting thought for the host that several outstation cricketers are making better use of the TNCA league than they themselves do.
Speaking to Sportstar after his match-winning six-for on final day, Andhra off-spinner Shoaib Md. Khan said, “I owe a big thanks to Nelson [his team in the league], to Srinivasa Raj sir, and the TNCA.’’
He added, “In fact, I learnt to bowl long spells and maintain my consistency only while operating in the TNCA first division league.”
Shoaib’s Chennai connection does not end there. R. Ashwin is his role model in off-spin. He studied 11th and 12th at St. Bede’s school, and then graduated from New College.
Asked about bowling in a high pressure situation in the Tamil Nadu second innings, Shoaib said, “I enjoy bowling in these situations. It brings out the best in me.”
He added, “I was taking it ball by ball. I was focussing on the next delivery and what I needed to do. I was not letting any pressure get to me.”
On having to shoulder a massive load - two of Andhra’s bowlers B. Ayappa and Lalith Mohan were injured as the game moved towards the climactic phase - Shoaib said, “It made me bowl with greater control. The pressure brings out the best in me.”
Shoaib said he employed three types of deliveries. “My off-spinner, the one that comes with the arm and the one that holds its line. They brought me a lot of success.”
He said, “I wanted to settle into a good rhythm and bowl in the right areas because there was help from the pitch. Towards the end, as Tamil Nadu got closer, I knew it was a matter of just one wicket.”
Among all his wickets, Shoaib relished dismissing B. Aparajith. “He can take the match away from you quickly. I bowled the perfect off-spinner’s delivery that went through the gate to castle him.”
Shoaib then spoke about inspirational skipper Hanuma Vihari. “He is the very reason I am playing cricket. He is an inspiring figure who fills the players with confidence.”
A free-stroking batter, Shoaib came up with an innings of 84 against Mumbai in the previous Ranji game. And his strokeful 28 here on the fourth day was a vital contribution. “I consider myself an all-rounder. And I practise a lot of batting in the nets,” he said.
No prizes for guessing the Man of the Match here in Coimbatore.