Chennai: Not as remarkable as Yuvraj Singh’s, but Lakshmipathy Balaji has his own comeback story to tell.
Just when he was swinging into action, internationally, in 2005, a major stress fracture broke his heart and he was ruled out of cricket for the next three seasons. But taking a crucial back surgery in his stride and putting in all those baked-in-the-sun hours in domestic cricket, he is back, at the age of 30, and is also looking fit as a fiddle.
Speaking at a media conference on Monday, the pacer did not forget to give due credit to the Indian Premier League (IPL), which served as an elevator in his endeavour to climb the high heights of international cricket once again.
“I’ve worked on my bowling a lot in past few years… And I have to say that the IPL has given me an excellent platform to breach the gap between domestic cricket and the intensity of the game internationally."
“As most of the matches are played under lights, it helped me to be in touch with the international match-playing conditions… You don’t get to play under lights in the domestic tournaments… Plus, playing against players from all over the world. So, IPL has really helped,” Balaji said.
But he is not ready to classify the opportunity to play the World T20 in Sri Lanka as a standout event in his life. “I can’t say that it is going to be the biggest event in my life… To me every match is equally important. It is always an honour to represent your country…"
“There’s a lot of pride involved in it. On my part, the only thing that I can do is give my best… My hundred per cent. I don’t see it as a burden of expectations,” he explained.
After being selected in 2009 for the home Test series against New Zealand, the man had to spend three long years in oblivion. But that does not mean that he let his focus dip during this period. “I’ve been working on my strengths… Trying to enhance whatever positives I’ve got…"
“Actually, playing cricket for the state side in the domestic circuit gave me the time to understand my game… It has been three extremely competitive years of cricket. And yes, it has helped,” the speedster said.
His words, actually, justify the smiling face that he sports, come rain or shine. “No matter what happens, everyday I wake up with enough motivation and that helps me push myself further,” is Balaji’s philosophy.
Sounding pretty confident about the dressing room mood in the lead-up to the World T20, he said: “We have been having a really good time… It’s a very warm bond that we share… We had a good preparatory camp in Bangalore and now have three more games (Tuesday’s match plus two warm-up ties in Sri Lanka) to tune ourselves… We are practising hard and will take it match by match in Sri Lanka.”
Given India’s present bowling line-up, which isn’t exactly like Mahendra Singh Dhoni having a super advanced gun when in enemy land, the captain can trust the smiling assassin to bring smiles to millions of faces.