For us children of the eighties, nothing is humbling and funnier than Maddi-pa running full speed and delivering a military medium pie. Humbling because he got many vital wickets and never ever gave it away. He never dropped any catches and never threw his wicket away playing ungainly shots. Here was a man that valued every second he spent on the cricket field and gave it his all. His utmost was military medium pies. If God had given him natural speed, he would have devastated the world.
Praveen Kumar reminds me of Madan Lal. He is all heart and a lot of guile. But his methods are old-fashioned and simple. Grunt work, effort and more effort. His bowling reminds me of Javed Miandad. Perhaps because I’m constantly subjected to the phrase “street-smart” in his context. But watching the first two days of this match and his bowling in his debut series in the West Indies, I have felt a strange sense of anticipation on every ball he bowls. This from a military medium bowler that doesn’t even try to bowl any faster. Not since Kapil Dev, have I felt that way when an Indian bowler has bowled.
No good bowler from Srinath to Zaheer and Pathan to Ishant has generated that feeling since Kapil and Maninder Singh (for a brief time). Every wicket to fall almost felt that it was against the grain of play except in certain furious spells that each of these bowlers have bowled. Kumble was unplayable on spinning Indian tracks and we always knew India would wrap things up. There was no waiting with bated breath, it was a question of how long is it going to take to prise out these non-players of spin.
With Praveen Kumar though, it’s different. It feels that every ball he is going to bowl is a trick ball of some sort that’s going to deliver a wicket. If he gets whacked, it feels like the batsman was lucky to have received a dolly. Every wicket he gets feels like he’s earned it and not been given it. At times, he asks Dhoni to come up to the stumps. It’s clear he’s comfortable in his skin. What fast bowler of any stripe would feel good about the keeper standing up? Praveen is okay with it and in fact, it’s part of his arsenal of tricks.
Praveen Kumar makes military medium look good. Hope he keeps it up and plays for a long time. If anything, he is a symbol of many things that are right about Indian cricket right now. In this age, where fast bowling is the rage and India is fast trying to unearth the next typhoon, Praveen puts things in the right perspective. It’s not about bowling fast, it’s about getting 20 wickets. He is doing it in style.
Other unsolicited opinions on unsuspecting cricketers…