''It is not a career revival''

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

JAVAGAL SRINATH does not look at his recent success at home and overseas as a revival of his career. Enjoying every moment of his cricket in the company of youngsters, the veteran fast bowler has been among the wickets, giving the Indian attack a new dimension. In this interview to The Sportstar, he gives a candid view of how he looks at things.

Would you call it a revival of your career?

I really don't understand why you call it a revival because everybody is good enough. At the international level if you are not good you won't be picked every now and then. It's definitely not a revival. It was only a question of time before I could get more to bowl and get started to hit the right line and length. It does happen in cricket. I was injured a couple of times where I fractured my finger twice and I had to sit back until it got right. I missed lot of international cricket, bowling which was crucial at times. Obviously no cricketer for that matter can come back after months of break and hit the same line and length. You have to be match fit. That was the only thing that was lacking in me. If people jump guns fair enough. Everybody has his own opinion.

K. GOPINATHAN

What is it that you lacked in the last decade?

Still there are lot of things which I could do, I could learn. This is a never-ending process of learning. I think you get better day by day for sure. As long as you have the mind to play and as long as you keep playing, that is more important. The key thing about cricket is to be at the international level all the time. That means you are still bowling well. That's the key point. I mean you get dropped on occasions and you come back, that's where I think the confidence takes a beating. You start probably doing extra which is beyond your limitations and that's when you end up performing below par.

Which phase would you pick as important?

I think every moment in international cricket is important. Every moment is high intensity moment and I cannot really recall or pinpoint the important moments. Maybe there are moments when the intensity and involvement will be the same and you might perform or probably might not be able to deliver, but it shouldn't mean that would not be an important moment. Winning and losing is of course important. I mean winning is important but losing doesn't mean that the performance would not count at all. There are so many things and so many positive qualities that come out of losing. That would be the foundations for winning the next few games probably.

How do you look back at the last few overseas tours when you have bowled exceedingly well?

I have never done badly abroad or in India. My statistics would be equal on both grounds. I was always confident but I think I was lacking match practice which was because of injuries and stuff like that. You can be fit. You can probably spend lot of time in the gym and you can be fit otherwise, bowl very well in the 'nets'. Unless you play international games it is impossible to maintain fitness. I think any international cricketer when he gets back after a break, injury or otherwise, needs some time to get back his rhythm and fitness.

Do you think you have been able to match that one match-winning spell against South Africa at Ahmedabad five years ago?

Of course winning is important like I said and there are times you really run through a side. That spell helped the team win the Test so it was memorable. No doubt contribution is important, whatever extent you contribute. Maybe one or two, three, six wickets, as long as you contribute to the victory of the side. That is more important. If you really see my performance it is definitely below par to some extent. Not up to my expectations. I set myself high standards because it helps you avoid becoming complacent. I feel that's the right attitude to play cricket.

Why were you so critical during the Zimbabwe tour, taking the blame upon yourself for the defeat at Harare?

At the time of the Zimbabwe tour I had some problems. My personal life took a little bit of beating just before that series. I don't think I was in the right frame of mind. To do justice to my cricket I had to withdraw myself from the one-dayers and then come back and reorganise myself to gear up and set the right priorities in life. It was like starting all over again.

But then you had said earlier that you were not keen on playing the one-dayers. Why did you change your mind?

I did say that because when you play so much of cricket your efficiency comes down to some extent and then my performance was not all that great. So it crossed my mind that taking a break from international cricket would be a good thing. It is true that I did mention these things to Kapil (Dev) and nothing was concrete really. It just crossed my mind. I did not have to take any decision.

How do you feel in the company of so many youngsters around? Do you feel threatened?

It is not a question of being threatened at all. I think challenge would be the right word. It is challenging no doubt. You can always do well if you have three to four good fast bowlers in the side, taking turns to play. We should have the rotation system, especially for the fast bowlers. If you see the amount of cricket we play it would be humanly impossible for anybody to physically take the exertion of fast bowling. It is really tough. I always feel it would be great to have a few good fast bowlers performing at the international level consistently. That gives enough opportunity to everybody to play the game with optimum fitness and good mind and body.

It is being said that suddenly you have become a crafty bowler. Would you agree?

I have been doing it (slower one and yorkers) from the Australian series (1999-2000). It (the craft) is more pronounced now I think. Over a period of time you develop this art by playing more and more. But I have missed a few series. Play two and miss one. No time for me to really develop. Once you play regularly you tend to learn and improve. I missed lot of cricket in the past five years. I had this shoulder injury which kept me out for almost a year or so. Then I injured my ribs and I went out for six months. When you come back it all starts from scratch. I think the past one and half years have been tough but then the injuries have not hampered my bowling. That was a good thing really. The earlier breaks were a boon in hindsight. There was scope for me to experiment and latch on to the tricks and become more confident in using the newly-learnt stuff.

Why have we struggled to produce genuine fast bowlers? Not one genuine quickie?

The youngsters down the line should realise that the more they play the better they become. Playing more is basically bowling in the match. If you need to stay at the international level you need to be good. Be the best in the country. These are things which will make you learn. When you are at the top you need to bowl better everyday. People get used to you, so you need to change and experiment, vary your length, bring in more innovations in your bowling. If you are at the international level for three years then you obviously grow. The disappointing fact is that the fast bowlers have come and got dropped again and again. When you are dropped or injured the feeling is the same. You miss action. When you return to the team it is like starting from scratch. The confidence is missing and you are worried about your place in the team.

How to go about things then?

Make sure the young fast bowler is not dropped repeatedly. Make sure he maintains his fitness so that he is never injured. This thinking is very important.

How do you look at the current crop?

Nehra, Zaheer, Yohannan, Balaji are very good. Some are good in one-dayers and some are good in both versions. The only thing is that they need to play more. In India, only two fast bowlers get to play and the third is denied. The third bowler is very important in cricket. If one of the two breaksdown, the third bowler comes but being rusty he finds it difficult to get the right line and length, especially in the sub-continent. They should get equal opportunities and we should have four to five bowlers in the wings to take over. It makes those playing in the eleven remain focussed on their performance and we would have the replacements ready.

Would you like to say something about the state of pitches in India?

I don't think anything can be done to the pitches in India. That's the saddest part. Maybe the weather conditions are responsible for it. The soil could be another reason. It doesn't mean that the bowlers should lose hope. We have to work hard. Reverse swing is the art we need to learn. We need to play lot of domestic cricket to understand the intricacies of fast bowling.