Goal is to play for country: Balaji
Chennai, Sep 13: When Lakshmipathy Balaji was handed the ball by MS Dhoni in the second T20I against New Zealand, his home crowd erupted with chants of ‘Ba-la-ji, Ba-la-ji’ at the MA Chidambaram Stadium to welcome him back to international cricket after a three-year hiatus. The Tamil Nadu pacer, who led his team to the Ranji Trophy final last season, has been making a statement with impressive performances in the Indian Premier League while representing the Kolkata Knight Riders as well. With an unwavering faith and his tireless efforts, the 30-year-old has overcome challenges thrown at him by injuries in his career so far. Rewarded with a call-up to the India squad for the 2012 ICC World T20, the ‘Smiling Assassin’ is ready to face new challenges.
While speaking to bcci.tv Balaji shared his philosophy of living in the present, which helps him contribute to the team’s cause.
On the journey back to the national side
It’s been a process. I kept on playing and waking up every morning with the motivation of giving my 100 percent on the field whichever match I played irrespective of the levels of cricket that I played. The goal is to represent the country. As long as you take honour in your stride, that is the big thing for any cricketer and that’s what many people have done. I am not the first to do it. I am just following the footsteps of some of the cricketers who have set standards.
On bowling with Irfan Pathan who has also recently made a comeback
He has definitely been an influence. Some of the senior players like coming on hard in competition and they just keep moving forward, so that’s one of the motivating factors. Also Bhajji [Harbhajan Singh] and Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh], they have been an inspiration for us to follow. They are a little bit ahead of us and we are trying [to follow them]. Whatever the setbacks, they have handled it. We are just trying to do the same thing. If you ask, they will definitely keep wanting to play and that’s what makes them happy. It is great that Irfan and myself are coming back and playing together. He [Irfan] has been working really hard and he has been bowling really hard.
On whether leading Tamil Nadu has helped him grow as a cricketer
Definitely. In every aspect of the life and cricketing life there should be some growth and some kind of push where you should look to go to the next level. Captaincy really helped me because that was one of the biggest challenges for our state. We missed it [winning the Ranji Trophy] but still, I am proud that my boys gave their best. It is highest level of first-class cricket in India. It is one of the greatest influences, which I will take in my stride and keep moving forward.
On being a success in Twenty20s as was seen during the IPL and whether he does anything differently in the format
Nothing much, just keep your thoughts simple and not think too many things. It is four overs of different spells and in different conditions and different situations in Twenty20 cricket. So, for that you have to keep it very simple and understand and be aware of what is exactly happening around you that is in the opposition side or within your side. Awareness is very important in Twenty20, it helps in understanding the batsman’s gear and understanding the condition and understanding your own teammates’ movements. So, you should take the responsibility to set your own fields and you should involve yourself completely in the one and half hour of the game.
On the influence of Kolkata Knight Rider’s bowling coach Wasim Akram
He has been a good influence really for every bowler in our KKR team. He has been one the greatest bowler of all time, so interacting with him and working with him is good. We are still learning but couldn’t match his skills. But still, we are trying to imitate whatever he does in the nets and we see and try to grasp some of the things, which are phenomenal. So, it is great work with him
On whether previous experience of touring Sri Lanka will help during the ICC World T20
I feel it is new life. Every day is new life and every moment is a new moment, so you just have to take it in your stride and keep moving ahead and keep yourself relaxed and thoughtful and aware of what is exactly happening around you so that you can understand the present situation. That’s what I have been doing right now. I focus on the right now and what I have, and keep working on it.