Even after snaring 700 plus wickets in all formats of the game, including 27 in six Test matches, Praveen Kumar continues to have the reputation of a hot-headed seamer. Known for his ability to swing the ball both ways on any pitch, Kumar has never bothered about what people think of him.
Kumar, 32, who quit the game in 2018, still gets emotional when he’s asked about his injury in the run-up to the 2011 World Cup. “Perhaps, destiny wanted it that way,” he says with moist eyes. On Wednesday, he spoke on various issues, including India’s chances in the World Cup. Excerpts:
How did you feel when you missed the 2011 World Cup?
It was a nightmare; it hurts me even today. Soon after being selected, I was down with dengue, which aggravated my elbow problem. I had gone to South Africa for a Twenety20 series with an elbow niggle and it got aggravated because of dengue. Quitting at a time when I had been included in the squad wasn’t easy. Sandeep Patil Sir and I discussed the issue as I wasn’t even able to bowl two deliveries properly. It was a big setback but I never lost confidence in my abilities and staged a comeback. Injuries are a genuine problem with pace bowlers the world over and one shouldn’t succumb to them. I am satisfied with my cricketing career, except the fact that I couldn’t play the World Cup.
How do you see the Indian bowling at the upcoming World Cup?
We are a well balanced side. Other than quality batsmen, we have a strong bowling line-up, the world’s top spinners, including chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav. Jasprit Bumrah has the ability to bowl at any stage of the game, whereas Mohd Shami has genuine pace. I don’t know that what’s wrong with Bhuvaneshwar, who has not been bowling well in recent days, but he needs to come good in English conditions.
What about batting?
Like I said, we have a strong batting line-up also, but I don’t know about Vijay Shanker. If I were a selector, I would prefer Ambati Raydu, who has the ability to handle the pressure at that position. Besides this, I would like to see Mahi Bhai (MS Dhoni) batting at No 4 and the team management should think about this. As long as Mahi Bhai is there, India’s run scoring would continue on a brisk pace. He (Dhoni) is the one of the greatest brains in world cricket.
Your take on your own combination with Dhoni during your playing days?
We always had a special bonding at the ground as Mahi Bhai was very sure about my bowling style. On flat wickets in India and in the shorter version of the game, rival batsmen used to come forward to nullify my swing, but I managed to fox them on a number of occasions as I used to signal Mahi Bhai about the slower ones by touching my T-shirt. I got great support from Mahi Bhai, who also taught me from behind the stumps.
Your behaviour was always a talking point in Indian cricket?
Now I have realised that my ‘outspoken’ attitude cost me dear. Today, I accept that my ‘style’ of talking and behaviour let me down. Otherwise, my career in the game could have touched new heights. I come from a land where most of the youths have the same style of talking, but it never meant to hurt anyone. I have been like that since my childhood and I still feel that nothing has changed for me even today.
Has life changed after quitting the game?
There has been a sea change in my life. Now, I see cricket with a different vision. I do remember the days when I used to bowl 100-200 deliveries in the nets under the scorching sun, but now it’s altogether a different ball game.
I don’t believe in watching the game on TV, but love spending time with kids at the nets. That’s why I could see only the IPL final. In fact, your real life starts when your stardom ends and that’s what I am enjoying these days.
What’s your aspiration now after completing the level 1 coaching course?
I wish to become the bowling coach of a domestic team, and preferably Uttar Pradesh as I wish to give back to my people for the betterment of our own state’s cricket. Still I am bowling at nets as I would again be playing at the Dubai T20 this year. Ankit Rajpoot has learnt many things from me and even today, I am offering assistance to fast bowlers of UP unofficially.
Does Bhuvaneshwar Kumar still seek your help to better his bowling?
Not now as he (Bhuvi) hardly gets time to stay in Meerut, but whenever he comes home we discuss pace bowling. Before the England tour in recent days, Bhuvi discussed my experience in England, and I told him about the different length about the deliveries in different formats of the game.
May 16, 2019 17:58 IST
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