Wright motivated me: Balaji

Laxmipathy Balaji, who played a vital part in India's win against Pakistan, today credited coach John Wright for his superb performance across the border.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:04 IST
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Young Indian seam bowler Laxmipathy Balaji, who played a vital part in India's first away series win against Pakistan, today credited coach John Wright for his superb performance across the border. The 22-year-old Tamil Nadu star attributed his performance to Wright's "fatherly advise" and useful tips from senior colleagues. "Wright in particular motivated me often with his pep talks like 'you are too good a bowler. You are better than others'.... Apart from motivating me with such words, he also taught me to bowl differently to different batsmen," Balaji said. Key bowler The youngster emerged as a key strike bowler for India in the absence of injured Zaheer Khan, taking six wickets in the ODIs and 12 in the three Tests against Pakistan. He also came good with useful knocks on a couple of occasions in the one-dayers, including the memorable six of Shoaib Akhtar, which won him praise from none other than Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Balaji, whose childhood dream was to play for the country, is well aware of the need for a fast bowler to maintain fitness. Focus on batting He also wants to focus on improving his batting skills, apparently setting sights on emulating the legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev. "Hard work on fitness by running and physical exercises keeps me fit. At this level only the fittest survive and I say this to myself when I retire to bed every night," Balaji said. Stating that there was no substitute for hard work, he said he had been following the rigid schedule of physical training laid down by the team trainer. Balaji, whose absence in the Tamil Nadu team was felt very much in their Ranji final against Mumbai last month, was also very appreciative of his seniors. 'Seniors helped me' He said the frequent bowling tips from seniors like captain Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble helped him to remain focussed. "As for the Pakistan tour and the seniors' tips, I was gaining ground and confidence match by match. With confidence level improving, the rhythm and motivation also improved. These gave a boost to my performance everytime I bowled," he said. On his interaction with former Pakistani speedster Waqar Younis, Balaji said: "I spent just about two minutes with him. I sought suggestions on how to maintain a tight line and length while bowling to right-left combination of batsmen and also on strengthening my leg." Dedicating his success to all his well-wishers, Balaji, who was lucky to have won the berth in the Indian team for the Australian tour after Mumbai's Avishkar Salvi pulled out due to injury, said he was able to show maturity thanks to the advise and tips from seniors. Dream come true For Balaji, being a member of both the ODI and Test squads that registered memorable series win in Pakistan is more than a dream come true. "My mother used to tell me that India should defeat Pakistan. To be actually part of the series winning team has made be very happy," he said. He also said the 15-day fitness camp in Bangalore where the focus was on physical training and no cricket had helped him. "I always follow the same schedule to be always fit." Asked about his future plans, Balaji said after a fortnight's rest, he would resume the rigorous practice and physical exercises. (PTI)