Varun Aaron: ‘I would like to be a match-winner for India’

"I have had to deal with injuries quite a bit, though I am glad that I have been relatively injury-free for a while," says Varun Aaron in this exclusive chat.

Varun Aaron... speed is priority.   -  RANJITH PERALAM

Varun Aaron in action during the Ranji Trophy match.   -  RANJITH PERALAM

The little boy loved to hear his father talk about fast bowlers and their heroics. Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall were his father’s heroes. He would bowl to the five-year-old in the backyard of their Kolkata home, once he returned from his office.

Years later, Varun Aaron discovered he would rather have a ball in his hands, than a bat. He also discovered he could bowl quick, really quick.

Before long, he became India’s fastest bowler. He remains one of the very few genuine fast bowlers produced by India. For a country which produces masters in batting and spin bowling with amazing regularity, men like Javagal Srinath, Umesh Yadav and Aaron are exceptions. For all the outstanding work the MRF Pace Foundation has done, you would still struggle to find an Indian bowler who could consistently clock 145 km per hour (kmph). Aaron himself is a product of MRF.

In an interview to Sportstar at the northern Kerala town of Perinthalmanna, where he captained Jharkhand to a memorable victory in the Ranji Trophy recently, Aaron spoke about the role the MRF played in his life, the doubt that was created in the television crew’s minds about the efficiency of the speed gun while he was bowling in a domestic match and the joys and the struggles of being a fast bowler.

Question: How do you look back at the Indian team’s successful tour of Sri Lanka?

Answer: It was great to win the Test series in Lanka. This is going to be a long season for us and it was nice to begin on a winning note.

How is the experience of playing under Virat Kohli?

Virat is a great captain. He is very aggressive as a captain, just as he is as a batsman. I feel he is very much a bowlers’ captain. I also enjoyed playing under M. S. Dhoni, who has been brilliant for all these years. We, in fact, have a very good team management now, with Ravi Shastri as coach; he too is extremely positive, always. Our bowling coach Bharat Arun has been of immense help as well. I have known him for seven years now, right from my under-19 days. He is a great guy and all the bowlers share an excellent rapport with him.

Are you happy with the way you bowled in Lanka?

I feel I could have done better. Now I know where I went wrong and have worked on those small things. I am bowling much better now.

We could see it here in this match against Kerala. You took five wickets in the first innings and helped Jharkhand win…

Yes, I am very happy with the way I have bowled in this match and against Bangladesh ‘A’ in Bengaluru. I was looking forward to this game, which I wanted my team to win; we had lost both our first matches in quick time.

You have also done a good job as captain, making the right bowling changes and getting the fielding positions right…

I am enjoying the captaincy. I am proud about this Jharkhand team, which, I believe, has many talented players.

You hardly gave anything away and bowled very tidily, yet you were quick…

Yes, that’s what I want to do as a fast bowler. I don’t want to sacrifice my pace for accuracy.

That is something many Indian pace bowlers have done in the past; they cut down the pace to get more control or swing…

I know. But I have always wanted to bowl fast; even my injuries did not tempt me to reduce my pace. Ever since I heard my father telling me tales of fast bowlers breaking batsmen’s helmets, I was fascinated by fast bowling. Nothing gives me more joy than bowling quick and getting batsmen out, especially by clean bowling them.

Like you did in your India debut, against England in the Mumbai ODI in 2011; all the three wickets you got were by clean bowling the batsmen. How did it feel then?

To play for India in an ODI and then make the Test debut, at the same venue just a month later, was an amazing experience. I will never forget what I went through when I sat on that team bus for the first time. There were legends all round me: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, M. S. Dhoni, Virender Sehwag…

Sehwag has just retired from international cricket…

He was an amazing cricketer. He was a match-winner. As long he was at the wicket, India was in the match; he was that kind of a batsman. I am happy that I could be his Delhi Daredevils team-mate in the IPL for two seasons.

Talking of the shorter formats, you are not exactly the first choice for India these days…

I want to play for India in all the formats, not just Tests. That is my goal.

When you were omitted from India’s World Cup squad, Australian fast bowling legend Glenn McGrath had said that he was surprised and that you should have been selected…

I would have loved to play in the World Cup. When I came to know of those comments from McGrath, I felt nice. Such words are very encouraging for me as a bowler.

The greatest influence on you as a bowler has been another Aussie legend, Dennis Lillee…

Yes, Lillee and Roberts were my idols. And I worked under Lillee at the MRF. I am grateful to the education in fast bowling I received from the MRF academy. I would not be here if I had not been picked for training at the MRF. The academy has been doing a great service for Indian cricket.

We have always had some great talents at the MRF. Bowlers like Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, R. P. Singh, Ishant Sharma and Sidharth Trivedi were there when I was there, though some of them were my seniors. It was my stint at the MRF that gave me the chance to dream of playing for India.

Before you were picked for India, you had bowled a delivery at a speed 153 kmph in the 2010-11 Vijay Hazare Trophy and had made people sit up and take notice. Were you surprised when you found that you were that quick?

I had been bowling as quick even before, but I wasn’t clocked. I wasn’t surprised, but the television production guys were. They had thought that there was something wrong with the speed gun when my bowling showed up a speed of 149 kmph; then I bowled at 153.

You are India’s fastest bowler. Does that mean a lot to you?

I am glad that I am blessed with the talent to be a fast bowler. Fast bowling is not easy; I have had to deal with injuries quite a bit, though I am glad that I have been relatively injury-free for a while. And yes, it is nice to be India’s fastest bowler, but I would like to be a match-winner for India.

With Umesh, Mohammed Shami and you, India can now field its fastest attack ever…

Yes, it is nice to know that India has a good pace attack now. I believe Umesh and I could form a new ball attack that could serve Indian cricket for many years. Both of us enjoy bowling together and we are great friends off the field too. It would be great sharing the new ball with Umesh on the wickets in Australia, England and South Africa.

How do you look forward to the Test series against South Africa?

The South African series is an important one for us. I hope the Tests would be exciting.

South Africa has one of the most formidable batting line-ups in world cricket at the moment…

I see it as an opportunity. Doing well against strong teams could do wonders to your confidence. I have never played against South Africa, so I am looking forward to that experience.

South Africa’s bowling attack would be spearheaded by Dale Steyn. Is he among the bowlers you admire in international cricket?

Yes, very much. My other favourite bowler is James Anderson, who, I consider, is an artist among bowlers.

What are your hobbies?

Music, especially the rock variety, and cooking.

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