Canberra,December 2011. With less than a week to go for the Boxing Day Test,a strange rumour floated around the Manuka Oval,where India were playing two warm-up matches before the Test series. Ankle trouble had restricted Ishant Sharma to only six overs in the first match. No one knew exactly how serious the injury was. At that point,news trickled in that one very influential man had suggested that a very unlikely name would fly to Australia if Ishant was deemed unfit.
Ashok Dinda will fly to Australia as a cover to Ishant in next 24 hours. My sources have confirmed this, said Sourav Ganguly. Dinda is Indias best pace bowler right now and should have been on that plane to Australia in first place with rest of the squad.
As it happened,Gangulys extraordinary claims about his Bengal teammate were to go untested. Ishant was okay,and Dinda would play no part in either the Tests or the ODI tri-series. Instead of Australia,Dindas next stop was the Moti Bagh stadium in Vadodara.
When such a big player makes such a big comment,it puts you in a slightly tricky situation, says Dinda,recalling the days following Gangulys statement. You have to live up to those expectations,or people will stop taking you seriously. I made sure I maintained my focus,and went and took five wickets in both innings against Baroda.
This was to be one of a number of high points in Dindas domestic season,which he ended as the Ranji Trophys second-highest wicket-taker. Following that,he was a major factor in East Zones maiden Duleep Trophy triumph,and swelled his first class tally to 59 wickets for the season.
Very soon,he was back in Indias ODI side after nearly two years.
Those two years had been a troubled time for Dinda,when his domestic form had fallen away to such an extent that 2009-10 and 2010-11 had brought him a cumulative total of 28 first class wickets at an average of 45.93 hardly the sort of figures that would justify anyone,least of all Ganguly,calling him Indias best pace bowler.
The glory days of the two previous seasons in which he had taken 54 first class wickets at 22.02,made a name for himself with his economical displays for Kolkata in the inaugural IPL season and made an accomplished India A debut in a series of two four-day matches against New Zealand A seemed like a long time ago.
Dinda knew he had a lot of work to do. I made a few changes,and worked very hard. I started bowling a little bit fuller,and more wicket-to-wicket. I tried to get all three aspects working at the same time direction,pace and swing, he says. For two months before the Ranji season began,I bowled every day at a single wicket,just spot bowling. After the team would finish practice,I would bowl alone for an hour every day.
When the season began,he began enjoying the effort of bowling long spells. Last season,I bowled 375 overs in I think 15 innings, he says,missing the mark by just 1.1 overs. My body is used to bowling a lot. I feel in good rhythm,and I want that to continue through the season.
That,for now,means the IPL,where Dinda is back playing under Ganguly for Pune Warriors,after one unhappy season at Delhi Daredevils,where his economy rate ballooned from 7.02 in the first three seasons with Kolkata Knight Riders to 8.94. I had a good time at Delhi,and learned a lot from (Delhi bowling coach) Eric Simons,but I guess I was just going through a bad patch last year, Dinda says. Hopefully,that is well behind me now.
That seems to be the case,from the evidence of Punes first two matches,where he has swung the new ball away,bowled reverse-swinging yorkers with a 19-over-old ball,and zipped the ball through at a good pace. The reunion with Ganguly also seems to be going well. Ive played a lot under him,and he knows a lot about my bowling, Dinda says. And just looking at his fields,I know what he expects from me.
Another relationship Dinda is enjoying at Pune is with bowling coach Allan Donald. I watched him a lot growing up,whenever there was an India-South Africa match,bowling with the zinc cream on his face, Dinda says. He has seen me only for 11 days so far,but weve already spoken quite a lot. The thing about him is that whenever I have the ball in my hand in the nets,he keeps saying what energy or superb bowling. When such a big player says things like that,it feels great,and that gives me even more energy and confidence.