‘Pace bowling rarely had it better in India’

Abey Kuruvilla: 'It is good to see so many quality pace bowlers in most teams in the Ranji Trophy this year. Yes, there were so many fine pace bowlers then (1990s), but I think there is so much talent around today too.'

Kuruvilla also lauded grounds that have seamer-friendly pitches and singled out Lahli, Mohali and Mysuru for providing assistance to pace bowlers.   -  p. k. ajith kumar

From a vantage point, not far from the wicket at the Wayanad Cricket Stadium, Abey Kuruvilla watched with great interest Rajasthan’s seam attack troubling Delhi’s vaunted batting-line up in the Ranji Trophy match.

“It is good to see so many quality pace bowlers in most teams in the Ranji Trophy this year,” Abey told Sportstar. “Just look at this Rajasthan team; besides the three seamers bowling here – Pankaj Singh, Aniket Choudhary and Tanveer-ul-Haq – they have bunched talented men like Nathu Singh and Khaleel Ahmed.”

Abey, who played in 10 Tests and 25 one-dayers, had burst on the scene at a time when there was an assembly line of pace bowlers in the country. The 1990’s had seen the emergence of pace bowlers like Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Salil Ankola, Vivek Razdan, Subroto Banerjee, Atul Wasson, David Johnson, Prashant Vaidya and Asish Winston Zaidi.

“Yes, there were so many fine pace bowlers then, but I think there is so much talent around today too,” Abey said. “Now we have also quite a few grounds where there is something for pace bowlers, like Lahli, Mohali and Mysuru. The wicket here too is helpful for pace bowlers.”

He said he was impressed with the huge advancement Kerala, a State where he was born in though he had made his name by playing in Mumbai, has made in building the infrastructure for the game. “I think it is commendable that the State has invested so much on grounds and academies,” he said. “I had conducted a camp for Kerala’s pace bowlers sometime back.”

He said there was a lot of talent in pace bowling in Kerala. “I had enjoyed training the Kerala bowlers in that camp,” he said. “Bowlers like Sandeep Warrier and Basil Thampi, who are playing for Kerala in the Ranji Trophy, are quite good.”

About the current bunch of India’s quick bowlers, he said the country rarely had it better. “Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Varun Aaron, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur and Dhaval Kulkarni are all fine bowlers,” he said. “We may have so many choices, but I don’t believe in the policy of rotating your pace bowlers. You have to play your best.”

Looking back at his own career, he said he had no regrets that he could not play for India for long. “Representing the country is the ultimate honour and I am glad that I could do that,” he said. “We should not forget that even some supremely talented cricketers like Zaidi and Amol Muzumdar never had that privilege.”

Who was the bowler that he looked up to in his playing days?

“It was Wasim Akram,” he said. “He was the most complete fast bowler I have ever watched. He had pace, swing, variety, and everything a pace bowler needed.”