Pacemen of repute

IT must have been a scary moment for Imran Farhat. The ball hissed like a cobra, climbed off a length, and almost cut the left-handed opener into half.

S. DINAKAR

Jason Gillespie... a lethal strike bowler. -- Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

IT must have been a scary moment for Imran Farhat. The ball hissed like a cobra, climbed off a length, and almost cut the left-handed opener into half.

Jason Gillespie wiped the sweat off his brow, glared at the batsman, and then smiled. For him, it was business as usual.

The summit clash of the Videocon tri-series at Amstelveen was staged on a rather treacherous surface, and Gillespie unleashed the most threatening ball of the match.

Not that the 29-year-old New South Welshman requires the pitch to assist him. But then, if there is some juice in the surface, he can be trusted to make the most of the conditions.

Much of Gillespie's career has been a tale of triumph and he has had to fight the enemy within — injury.

Indeed, his has been a journey that has been rocked by fitness concerns, but the Aussie has displayed the resolve and the character to bounce back, when pushed against the wall.

"Injuries can be frustrating, but you got to find your way," he says. Lean and lethal, hungry and hostile, he certainly is; the roadblocks — he has injured his feet, hamstring, groin, side, back and shoulder — only making him stronger.

Striking a fearsome new ball combination with the unwavering Glenn McGrath, he is an integral part of much-vaunted Aussie pace attack, that has been a huge factor in the nation's progress as a world beating force.

Gillespie has scalped 206 batsmen in 54 Tests in eight seasons of international cricket — injuries forced him to miss several matches — often in McGrath's shadow. Now greater recognition finally appears to be embracing him.

A rare honour

Michael Kasprowicz... making up for lost time. — DARREN ENGLAND/GETTY IMAGES-

He was named, both, in the Test and the ODI World XI's selected by the International Cricket Council during its annual awards ceremony in London on September 7 and it was a rare honour for Gillespie.

He has gone about his task with so much pride and passion — Gillespie has aboriginal roots — and the manner in which he drew courage from a band of Australian supporters seated above the pavilion during the immortal Chennai Test of 2001, where, despite the hot, humid, energy sapping conditions, he willed himself to bowl with fire and heart on the final day, will forever stay in mind.

Australia lost the Test and the series in a humdinger, but Gillespie walked back with head high. That Steve Waugh's men could not conquer the Final Frontier then, would fuel the Aussies on its much-awaited tour of India beginning in October.

"It will be challenging. The conditions will not be easy for the pace bowlers and India has such a strong batting line-up. We set ourselves goals and targets and winning in India is surely one of them," he says.

The Kolkata Test, where Gillespie, McGrath, Kasprowicz and Shane Warne, went wicket-less on the fourth day, with a resurgent India, after V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid joined forces, turned the Test and the series on its head, is not a match he would like to remember.

Would this be payback time for the Aussies? Gillespie would answer in the affirmative.

The Aussie pacemen hunt in a pack and the fact that one from the quartet of Gillespie, McGrath, Lee and Kasprowicz is bound to miss out on a place in the eleven should stoke the combative instinct in them.

Gillespie believes that the competition is healthy in nature. He says the attack often looks up to McGrath, the most experienced among the four, for inspiration, and adds Kasprowicz has also played plenty of cricket over the years to contribute positively.

Praise does flow from the genial Gillespie for fellow paceman. He counts the fast and furious Lee among the most talented bowlers in world cricket if fully fit.

Gillespie himself is an exceptional paceman, who can bowl quick if he wants to, has the habit of hitting the seam time and again, and gain appreciable seam movement either way.

He understands the nuances of his craft, can leave the batsman flummoxed with the short-pitched ball — yorker routine, and bring about variations in speed. Perhaps, he does not control the extent of movement as well as McGrath does; Gillespie has sent down torrid spells, had the batsmen in considerable trouble, but ended up without adequate rewards.

Now operating with a shortened run-up, Gillespie, who is rather open-chested while releasing the ball, could put his skill and experience to considerable use on what might prove a demanding campaign for the Aussies.

Kasprowicz has the ability

THE big and strong Michael Kasprowicz has travelled miles down the road, and, among his favourite stops will be the one at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore where he ambushed India in the third Test of the 1997-98 series with an incisive spell of five for 28.

Yes, Kasprowicz, given his ability to achieve moment in the air, has tasted success in India, although he too suffered under the broad blades of Laxman and Dravid in Kolkata three years later.

"I would not like to remember that match (the Kolkata Test of 2001), but the 1998 tour was more enjoyable," he says. Kasprowicz points out that his stint with Glamorgan — the pitches at Cardiff often play slow and low — would enable him adapt better to the wickets in India, which are bound to be lacking in pace.

Now 32, he is a senior professional, who understands adhering to the basics always helps — "When you have the ball in hand, you need to put it in the right spot."

He certainly has not been spraying the ball around this season, making a strong comeback into the Australian side during the tour of Sri Lanka, operating with both consistency and pace.

For someone with a front-on action, he possesses a rather deceptive away going delivery and can bring the odd ball in.

His Test record — 67 wickets in 22 matches at 33.46 — is not one to be scoffed at; in a competitive scenario he has had to fight every inch for his success, surmounting a career-threatening shoulder injury in the process.

It was in recognition of his lion-hearted ways that the Aussie selectors gave him the nod, ahead of the younger Brad Williams & Co., and Kasprovicz responded with an impressive burst of seven for 39 at Darwin, that left the Sri Lankans in a daze. In the ODIs too, he has not given much away.

Like Gillespie, Kasprowicz is of the opinion that the competition for the pace bowling slots would only prove beneficial to the side. These are days when there is more rhythm and flow to his bowling, his run-up and action blending better.

Kasprowicz is making up for lost time, while Gillespie seeks greater glory. The days ahead, under the Indian sun, are bound to be interesting.