You know what is different about the Indian team in this World Cup? (Jasprit) Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami are such a terrific, deadly combination of fast bowlers for us. I think it is going to be very difficult for any team to score off these three. That makes this World Cup very exciting for us. Earlier we used to have only one great Kapil, then only Javagal Srinath, then only Zaheer. Now it’s three good bowlers at the same time! For a former right-arm medium pacer, this is extremely thrilling.
Bumrah and Shami have had exceptional seasons and are bowling like a dream. And that boy — Bhuvneshwar, the way he can swing the ball both ways is so supremely deceptive and majestic. At Nizam College, we used to say, ‘Kya saanp daala’ (bowling a slithering delivery like how a snake moves). Especially in swinging conditions in England, we can only sit and admire what magic he will work with those skills of his.
I bowled for my university team till my graduation at Nizam College in Hyderabad, but my cricket stint ended after representing the South Zone inter-university U-25s in the Vizzy Trophy. Once we were playing for Osmania University against Bangalore University, who had Venkatesh Prasad in their ranks. This makes me feel good recalling as a medium pacer, so I’m telling you — I ended up getting six wickets and that earned me selection in the South Zone university team.
The present generation is lucky to see this Indian team with three good pacers, but no one in India should forget the contribution of Kapil, Srinath and Zaheer. Bowling for years on end on docile, unresponsive wickets, they bent their backs and put in so much effort — bowling fast, bowling swing, yorkers and cutters. Now times have changed and everything’s very systematic. There are coaching centres and scientific know-how. When we played, fast bowlers had only ragtag support in these matters, it must not have been easy for earlier generations. Being a fast bowler in India was always tough work.
It takes effort — you require good sporting pitches, someone to guide you about how strong your body should be to withstand that rigour. It’s a tireless, thankless job. Even back then, everyone of us aspired to go to the MRF Pace Academy. In Hyderabad, at the start of the 2000s, we had a left-arm pacer called Akram Qadri who had a beautiful action – very smooth, he was a delight to watch. Unfortunately his career did not take off even with that talent, but that made us appreciate the likes of Kapil and Srinath so much. I hope Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah and Shami get the absolute best of everything in training and support and can become greats like Kapil and Srinath.
I hope this summer at the World Cup, our Indian pacers combine together to be the best bowling unit and nothing will make a “gentle medium pacer” from Hyderabad happier!
The closest anyone from my batch got to the Indian team was the dashing opening batsman Masood Ahmed, who played U19s for India. He’s a great friend for life and was my captain. The thing with cricket is, you make friends for life. The other friend was D Suresh, a brilliant junior cricketer from All Saints High School. He’s an IAS officer now in Haryana, but back then he was Mr. G — don’t ask why he’s called that — and in one season in the Subbaiah Pillai Trophy, he even overshadowed Azhar.
Suresh was such a cool captain, never got hassled or looked worried. He had immense confidence in his players and that was my idea of a perfect captain. It’s been years since I met G, but he is one of the happiest memories of my cricket life. He went on to become an IAS and I went off to study abroad, but that idea of a calm leader has always stayed in my mind. That’s why I admired Dhoni so much.
Dhoni has great temperament, and can completely concentrate on the game with a tunnel vision. He won us our second World Cup, but he’s been stellar in all formats, and his contribution is so immense and he’s such an asset, we’ll miss his capabilities when he’s gone from the game. I don’t know him personally or how he has built that temperament, but he has shown that being aggressive doesn’t only mean throwing emotion around. When he plays for India, it’s down to his game and game only, his performance speaks for him.
Not only does he bat extremely well, but also keeps brilliantly. The world has accepted his leadership is the all-time greatest. Many cricketers can be talented, but very few can read the game. He knows what to do before things start going haywire. That patience, every Indian can learn from. He also proved that one needn’t be only from Delhi or Mumbai or Tamil Nadu to play for India. And to be honest, once we entered the 2011 final, I knew we were winning despite Sri Lanka having two exceptional batsmen in Mahela (Jayawardene) and (Kumar) Sangakkara. We were a superior batting side — our batting line-up was “toph”, as they say in Osmania University. Everyone performed in that great team, and we won. In 2019 now, I want to see India winning again and I know they will, but this time I want our bowlers to come to the party.
Asaduddin Owaisi is the president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen.