Javagal Srinath - The lone pace warrior of 1990s
So far, the story of the Pataudi Trophy 2018 for the Indians has been the refreshing performance of its speedsters. The sense of joy and pride in this performance can be felt while listening to former Indian players as well as the commentators. And the reason is that historically we have been a nation which has been found wanting in this department.
So, when we see one of our players beating the opposition batsmen by sheer pace; we do get excited. Indian coach Ravi Shastri rightly called the current pace attack as the best ever produced by the country.
And in the midst of this euphoria over Indian fast bowlers, it is worthwhile to recall a certain Javagal Srinath as he turns 49 today.
A genuine quick bowler
For a major portion of the 1990s, he was the lone flag bearer of the Indian pace unit. In an era when the Indian pacers had a suffix of medium to right-arm fast, Srinath once clocked 157 Kilometres per hour (98 mph) against Zimbabwe in 1997.
When he hit Ricky Ponting on his face with a bouncer during the 1999-2000 tour Down Under, young boys like me were very excited. So far, we had only seen our batsmen face the chin music from the opposition fast bowlers.
The fact that Srinath apologised to Ponting is a different matter and probably speaks volumes about the man. He came across as a person who would quietly go about doing his tasks. Yes, there was the occasional staring & screaming at his own fielders in the event of a misfield; but one would rarely see him sledging the opposition batsman.
Srinath’s performance was better in non-conducive wickets at home
His performance on Indian soil which is generally not considered conducive to fast bowling is commendable. Many would be surprised to know that in Tests he had a much better strike rate and average at home as compared to overseas.
He had a home average & strike-rate of 26.61 and 55.83 respectively as compared to his numbers of 33.76 (average) and 70.89 (strike-rate) away from home.
My Srinath memories
My first Srinath memory is from the 1996 World Cup Semi-finals when he had accounted for the dangerous Romesh Kaluwitharana & Sanath Jayasuriya in the first over. In the same year, he came up with a match-winning spell of 6-21 against the Proteas at Ahmedabad. Post this spell, many people started idolising him and started to imitate his bowling action.
Then came his epic 9th wicket partnership with Anil Kumble against Australia in the Titan Cup at Bangalore which led to a two wicket victory for the Indians. The memories of that match still gives me goosebumps and I remember fighting with my dad to keep the TV on, even after the fall of Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket. Srinath had been used as a pinch-hitter with good effect in that tournament.
His best Test match figures of 13-132 (which is also the best bowling figures in a losing cause in tests) came against arch-rivals Pakistan in the Asian Test Championship in 1999. In the first-innings, his devastating spell had at one point, the Pakistanis reeling at 26 runs for the loss of six wickets.
By the time he retired in 2003, the fast bowling scene in India had improved by leaps and bounds. The likes of Zaheer Khan & Ashish Nehra among others had emerged and Srinath was ready to pass on the baton to these youngsters.
And 15 years since his retirement, it won’t be wrong to say that the Indian fast bowling has come a long way. Today, if there is one person who would be happy to see four Indian fast bowlers troubling the Englishmen in their own backyard; then it would be Javagal Srinath himself.