Hard work and perseverance pays for Balaji

February 2nd, 2009 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 2 (IANS) The national cricket selectors are convinced that Lakshmipathy Balaji is ready to be bowling for India again after his carefully charted comeback from a back injury that kept him out of the national side for three years. Just when the Indian team was playing their second one-dayer against Sri Lanka in Colombo, Balaji was bowling flat out against North Zone playing for South in the Duleep Trophy at Rajkot. Came the news that Munaf Patel is returning home with a groin injury and the Tamil Nadu pacer was the obvious choice as replacement for his experience.

If the Indian Premier League (IPL) had helped any cricketer the most, it was Balaji who had around the time started taking his first steps on a comeback trail last summer. The four-over spells gave him the necessary encouragement and thereafter he was running in hard the entire domestic season. He was delighted to be back in the national squad.

“It feels great to be back in the India squad. I have worked hard the entire season for this day. Co-incidentally my last international match was also in Sri Lanka,” Balaji told IANS Monday.

He was the most popular Indian cricketer on the 2004 tour of Pakistan. As he ran in to bowl, spectators at every stadium went up in chorus “Ba-la-ji zara dheere chalo,” an adapted line from a hit Hindi film number. Balaji charmed everyone with his infectious smile, belying his fast gaining status as an aggressive strike bowler. He performed well, claiming 12 wickets in three Tests.

In the return series in 2005, Balaji turned out to be the top wicket-taker for India in the three-Test series with 14 wickets.

His career was on the upswing when he was struck by a stress fracture after only eight Tests and 29 one-dayers. The injured back almost crippled him and he missed out two seasons after a back surgery. The last three years had been tough, more so telling himself not to give up.

He quietly started working on his fitness, strengthening back muscles. He had to remodel his action and once he started bowling in the local league, he gained confidence. Then came the IPL and he was in the highly successful Chennai Super Kings.

“I am grateful to Chennai Super Kings. They believed in me and gave me the platform to prove myself again. I just kept on giving my best and everything fell in place for me,” he said.

The 27-year-old was nippy and had the distinction of performing the first IPL hat-trick against Kings XI Punjab. He finished with 11 wickets from nine games and that removed all doubts from everyone’s mind about his comeback.

“The last three years have been the toughest in my career. Now I am happy that the hard work I have put in all these years to comeback didn’t go waste. It was a tough journey, but when the going gets tough the tough get going.”

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