In early July, after the player-draft for the fourth edition of the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) had concluded, former India cricketer Hemang Badani, coach of Chepauk Super Gillies, asked a few reporters gathered at the venue to keep an eye on his side’s fast bowler G. Periyaswamy.
The fast-bowler with a slingy action, resembling Lasith Malinga, was Super Gillies’ first pick in the draft. The team kept a tight lid on the 25-year-old from Salem, protecting him from the media glare. The strategy paid off.
In the final, Periyaswamy picked up his first five-wicket haul of the TNPL season and was instrumental in Gillies’ title win — its second in four years. He took two wickets at the top of the order before returning to clean up the tail, finishing on top of the bowling chart with 21 wickets an average of 10.47 and an economy rate of 6.7.
“The target we had for him was: just blast the stumps. A clear-cut role for him was to keep it tight at the start of the innings and give him a couple of overs at the death,” said Badani.
“I did not believe it when I got selected. When I was told about it, it took me 30 minutes to realise it was true,” said Periyaswamy about his TNPL experience after the final.
The 25-year-old hails from Chinnappampatti, near Salem, and comes from a humble background with his family in the powerloom business. Periyaswamy’s success in cricket is quite remarkable, considering that he has had vision issues in his right eye since birth.
Speaking to the official broadcaster Star Sports , Periyaswamy spoke about how the eye problem meant he did not have a lot of friends growing up, forcing him to drop out of school after class seven. Since then, cricket has been his life. His journey began with the tennis ball before he graduated to the red cherry at the Under-19 district-level in 2012.
After that, he had been in and out of the game due to his family’s economic situation, health issues and also the frustration at being overlooked for selection. He decided to go back to his family business when T. Natarajan, the State left-arm pacer, who hails from the same town, played a key role in reigniting Periyaswamy’s ambitions. Natarajan had faced a similar predicament before the 2016 TNPL transformed his career and life, as he went on to bag a lucrative IPL contract.
Speaking to Sportstar , Natarajan said, “For people like us coming from small towns, once we are not selected, we lose hope since we don’t have the right exposure. I knew Periyaswamy from the time we played local tournaments. So when he wanted to quit, Jayaprakash (who has been a mentor to both) and I, along with a few others, visited his home and convinced him and his family that there is a future for him in the sport if he persists with it.”
Former Tamil Nadu captain Prasanna, who helped the pacer seal a deal with second division club UFCC (T. Nagar) in the TNCA league, said, “One good thing about him is the fact that he was accurate with the tennis ball and that helped him transfer the skill to a leather ball though the difference between the two is huge. He was very good in the limited matches he played last year and was able to maintain the intensity on the field over 50 overs.”
‘Naturally gifted athlete’
Prasanna also noted that unlike quite a few fast bowlers who are not very agile on the field, Periyaswamy is good at covering ground and has a strong arm. “I am sure all the IPL scouts would have looked at him and he is definitely going to be attending trials. He is also a naturally gifted athlete,” said Prasanna.
The 25-year-old clocked in the mid-130s (km/hr) in the TNPL, but Natarajan feels he can go faster. “He has not done any strength-conditioning, having never stepped into a gym. Once we get into the right training methods, we can improve his power and he can bowl even quicker.”
The Salem Slinger is, no doubt, all set to make waves.
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