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SportCricketTwirling Merv Hughes’ moustache was fun: Venkatapathy Raju

Twirling Merv Hughes’ moustache was fun: Venkatapathy Raju

Published: 25th Nov 2020 11:16 pm | Updated: 26th Nov 2020 11:29 am

Hyderabad: When the Virat Kohli-led Indian team troops out with 1992 retro coloured clothing for the three-match one-day series against Australia, it will bring nostalgic memories for SL Venkatapathy Raju because the left-arm spinner wore that similar colour-designed attire that was worn by the Mohammad Azharuddin-led squad for the 1992 World Cup.

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Venkatapathy Raju is with Merv Hughes

“It was the first World Cup with white balls, colour clothing and under lights. It was a totally new experience. It is a nice feeling that the present Indian team will be donning the similar colour clothing,’’ said the 51-year-old Hyderabad spinner.

Recalling that 1992 World Cup, which was hosted by Australia and New Zealand, Raju said it was a massive challenge for the team. “We had to play in two different conditions. We were in Australia for more than three months where we acclimatized to the warm conditions. But suddenly playing in the cold and blustery conditions in New Zealand was a different ball game,’’ added Raju.

Raju said he always liked touring Down Under ever since he first visited that country in 1985-86 with the Indian colts team. “I fell in love with Australia, particularly their aggressive mindset towards the game. They hate to lose. Even in practice games, they prepare lively wickets that would have good bounce.

The left arm spinner twice toured with the Colts team to Australia and the second time when the first ever World Youth Cup was held in 1988.

Raju’s next trip to Australia was with the senior team where he even played four Tests. “In 90s there were huge boundaries and the competition was tough. The wickets were true. It was challenging for bowlers to bowl different wickets in Australia. A spinner always enjoyed bowling at Sydney where there was spin. Melbourne had bounce and was quick. Perth was the fastest wicket while Adelaide and Brisbane had good bounce. The Australians respect the performers. When you play them you have to be aggressive and stand up to them. They love challenges and play aggressive cricket. I had a nice time with them and quite often twirled Merv Hughes’ big moustache.’’

Although Raju never got to play in Sydney, he enjoyed bowling in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. “Sydney helps spin but I never played a Test match as we played with four pace bowlers – Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhakar, Javagal Srinath and Banerjee in that series. I had figures of 3 for 11 in Adelaide in a match that we lost after a good chase, thanks to Azharuddin’s fine century.’’

Raju pointed out that the biggest problem then was the long boundaries in Australia. “It tested your stamina and endurance. There was the wind factor, called Fremantle Doctor, in Perth. It was difficult to control the flight and of course it depended on which end you were bowling. In Sydney I bowled with a nice cross breeze from behind and had even Mark Waugh stumped in one-day series.

“It was a challenge to bowl to someone like Mark Waugh and late Dean Jones, who always attacked the bowler. They had nimble footwork. I was fortunate to have them stumped in Sydney in the one-day series. They were beaten by the flight, turn and bounce. I cherish these two deliveries and perhaps the best of my career.’’

Raju also said one of the best bowling spells was against the partnership of David Boon and Tom Moody. “Boon was short and Moody was 6 ft and seven inches tall. Adjusting the line was very difficult as Moody had a long stride while Boon would cut short balls. I struggled to bowl to these two guys.’’

Talk of the best innings by an Indian batsman and then it was undoubtedly Sachin Tendulkar’s magnificent century at Perth. “On the fastest and bounciest track of the world, Sachin revelled with his technique and strokeplay. It was a genius at work which even had the Australians admiring the little master.’’

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