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Javagal Srinath

by Saurabh Sharma May 30, 2020 • 06:18 AM

Arguably the nation's fastest-ever bowler, Javagal Srinath heralded a period of awakening for Indian pace bowling, after Kapil Dev's swing had fired popular imagination. And when he retired from International cricket of 11 years in 2003, Srinath was second only to Kapil in number of Test wickets by an Indian pace-man.

Srinath was born in Mysore, Karnataka. He hails from a village Javagal in Hassan district, Karnataka. He was attracted towards cricket right from an early age. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Instrumentation Technology from Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (SJCE), Mysore.

Although Srinath was a batsman in his youth, it was in a club match that he caught the eye of former Indian Test batsman Gundappa Viswanath, then a selector for the state team. In 1989-90, Srinath made his first-class debut for Karnataka against Hyderabad, taking a hat trick in the first innings. He followed this with wickets off successive balls in the second innings. Srinath finished the season with 25 wickets from six matches, and took another 20 the following season. The second season involved a display of reverse swing against Maharashtra at the Nehru Stadium in Pune, taking 7/93 to dismiss the home team for 311 in response to a Karnataka’s total of 638 on a good batting track.

Srinath made his One Day International debut in the Wills Trophy at Sharjah in 1991. He is also India's most prolific wicket-taker at World Cups with 44 wickets from 34 matches. He remains India's highest wicket taker in ODI matches as a fast bowler and only Indian pacer to surprass 300 wicket tally in ODI matches. Only other Indian bowler to achieve this feat is Anil Kumble who is a spinner.

Srinath then was selected to the Indian cricket team for the 1991-92 tour of Australia. Making his Test debut against Australia at Brisbane, he took 3/59 while playing as the third pace bowler. He finished the tour with ten wickets at 55.30. He was given an opportunity to take the new ball against South Africa in Cape Town, where he took an economical 4/33 in 27 overs. Srinath ended the tour with 12 wickets at 26.08.

 However, due to wickets in India being conducive to spin, he subsequently spent seven consecutive home Tests watching from the side-lines as India only fielded two pacemen. It was not until three years after his international debut, in late 1994 and with the retirement of Kapil Dev, that Srinath played his first home Test, against the West Indies. He took five wickets and scored 60 in the second innings to be named Man of the Match as India won by 96 runs. His increased opportunities also coincided with an improvement in his batting, scoring two half-centuries in the series.

Srinath took over 500 first class wickets. Playing for Karnataka he took 96 at 24.06. In 1995, he joined Gloucestershire, and took 87 wickets in his one and only season with them including taking 9–76 against Glamorgan. He has also played English county cricket with Leicestershire and Durham.

On his day, Srinath was outstanding. With a strong shoulder action, he hit the pitch with force, and bowled mainly in-cutters and in-swingers, though in the right conditions he could move it the other way. As much as the slips, Srinath brought into play the man at short leg. On the dustbowls of India, he learned to harness the power of the old ball off the seam rather than in the air.

Srinath was a genuinely fast bowler and in the period between 1995 and March 1997 Srinath's pace was at times frightening. He was right up there with the fastest men in the game. Srinath became the main bowler in 1995, after the retirement of Kapil Dev, but due to injuries he played only 3 test matches and 12 ODI for the Indian team. With Srinath's spell of 3/24 New Zealand were all out for 145 in the 1st innings and India won the test match by 8 wickets. In the ODI’s he had taken 17 wickets, and received his second ODI man of the match at Mumbai against New Zealand.

In the 1996–97 series in South Africa, Srinath's speeds were timed at 150 km/h with one particular delivery measured at 156 km/h. His 6/21 against them broke the South African backbone. He was used as a pinch hitter in the Titan Cup by then captain Sachin Tendulkar which paid off as Srinath scored a fifty which helped India win the Titan Cup.

For many years, Srinath was India's only regular pace bowler, and the workload is often believed to be the partial cause of injuries, which forced him to undergo an operation on his right shoulder in 1997.

Among his best friends was former teammate Anil Kumble. Srinath and Kumble got married on the same day. When Kumble was looking to take his tenth wicket in the India-Pakistan test in 1999, Srinath, who was bowling from the other end, tried to bowl way outside the off stump to avoid taking the final wicket in order for Kumble to get to the record. Anil Kumble always gives full credit to him for his perfect 10 against Pakistan as Srinath bowled consecutive wide balls in test match to avoid taking wicket.

The year 1999 proved to be a major year for the “Karnataka Express”, as he is fondly known. Srinath was selected for the 3rd time in the World Cup, and had a record of 11 Maidens in the world cup and his economy rate was among the lowest at 4.26. Srinath held the world's best bowling figures (13wickets for 132 runs) in a test match against Pakistan 8/86 &5/46. He had taken 44 test wickets and 34 ODI wickets in that year.

Srinath's test career ended in 2002, when he only played against the West Indies and Zimbabwe, taking 20 test wickets. He also took 20 ODI wickets with an excellent spell of 4/23 and against New Zealand he took 7 wickets for 87 runs. Also, due to the emergence of pace-bowlers like Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar during that period he got few chances to play.

Srinath wanted to retire even from ODI, but at the request of then Indian captain Sourav Ganguly he agreed to play until the 2003 World Cup, and gave consistent performances in the World Cup, which helped the team reach the final. Srinath played his last international match in the World Cup in 2003 against Australia. He took 16 wickets in the World Cup at an average of 23.06 and economy of 4.04. When Srinath retired from the international cricket he was at the 8th place in ICC Player Rankings bowlers with rating 701 points.

Javagal Srinath is the only Indian fast bowler who played four world cups for India and is the leading wicket taker for India in World Cups with 44 wickets in 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2003 world cups. Srinath had a more successful career against South Africa than any other Indian player and took more than 60 test wickets with an average of 24.48 against South Africa. 

After retirement, Srinath served as a commentator for the India-England Test series in 2006. In April 2006, he was selected as matches referee by the International Cricket Council and served during the 2007 World Cup and continues in that position till now.

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