‘My major strength is decent pace’

K. PICHUMANI

The large-hearted fast bowler is happy to talk about his big leap prior to delivery and Allan Donald, among other things in this exclusive chat with Arun Venugopal.

Ashoke Dinda, initially, thinks we are playing a prank when we speak to him over phone for an interview. Two minutes into the conversation, he still has his doubts and smiles: “Mujhe ab bhi shak ho raha hai” (I still have my doubts). In due course, we discover that his Bengal team-mate Iresh Saxena was the prankster who had called him a couple of hours ago, claiming to be a reporter.

In recent times, the man from Naichanpur, West Bengal, has had quite a few reasons to flaunt his unaffected, infectious grin. From destroying South Zone with a seven-wicket haul in the Duleep Trophy semifinal to winning the title itself, Dinda has moved merrily from one feel-good zone to another. As if to top-up the celebrations, news of his selection to the India ‘A’ team to play against England arrives.

But Dinda’s biggest regret is not being in Kolkata for the Pujo festivities (he was in Chennai with the East Zone side for the Duleep Trophy final). “It’s simply huge back home. I really miss being there,” says the Mohun Bagan fan.

The large-hearted fast bowler — with 10 ODIs and five T20Is under his belt — is, however, happy to talk to Sportstar, among other things, about his big leap prior to delivery, Allan Donald, and why size doesn’t matter.

The excerpts:

Question: Allan Donald said your jump prior to delivery stride reminded him of his own action. He has also rated you very highly…

Answer: Donald (bowling coach of Pune Warriors India) saw me bowl in the IPL this year and knew I gave my 100 per cent every time. He liked the way I worked. He was happy with my energy levels too.

Does the exaggerated jump take a toll on your body?

It’s natural. I have been bowling this way since I was young and it hasn’t affected me. No one has tried to change the way I bowl.

You are 28 going on 29. Has the thought of giving up one format to preserve yourself ever crossed the mind?

There is one thing I keep reminding myself: you can play in all the three formats if you are good enough to play and keep working hard. So I have never thought about giving up any format.

Isn’t it frustrating to be in and out of the Indian team?

I don’t think about that. It’s not about being in the Indian team or not. As long as I am match fit, I will continue to play. If you do well, you get an opportunity (to play for India). From personal experience, I can tell you that whenever I have done well in the domestic arena, I have been picked for India.

Playing for a not-so-high-profile State side such as Bengal, did you fear that you wouldn’t get the kind of recognition cricketers from bigger teams receive?

I have never felt that way. Bengal has very good team ethos. It doesn’t matter, in the Bengal team, whether you are a senior or a junior player. All of us enjoy one another’s success.

Whose inputs have been crucial to your evolution as a fast bowler?

Zaheer (Khan) bhai has helped me a lot, teaching me how to make plans for different batsmen. Now, I bowl a lot from both over and round the stumps. Sourav Ganguly and my personal coach Atal Dev Burman have been supportive too.

Tell us about your heroes.

It’s difficult to name anyone in particular. I liked watching (Glenn) McGrath, Brett Lee and (Javagal) Srinath. Although I didn’t try to copy anyone, I looked to learn from all of them as each bowler had his own speciality.

The tools of your trade…

Right now, I bowl wicket-to-wicket, targeting the same areas consistently. In ODIs and T20s, I make use of the bouncer and the slower ball. They are good variations to have. My major strength is decent pace — I can bowl in the 140s — coupled with swing.

Do you think you overuse the short delivery?

It is my natural, wicket-taking delivery. But I have been trying to improve my death-bowling. I spend a lot of time in the nets working on my yorkers.

Childhood memories…

I used to play a lot of tennis ball cricket and football in my village. I never got to play with the cricket ball for a long time. In 1999, when I came to Kolkata for a vacation, I bowled with the deuce ball for the first time. I really liked the feeling. I have always bowled fast.

On not being the typical ‘tall and strong’ paceman…

I have never thought about it. I believe in one thing: size doesn’t matter (laughs).

Goals…

I don’t set goals. I take it match-by-match. I need to keep performing well, that’s it.