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It feels good to be part of a winning team: Balaji

By Our Sports Reporter

CHENNAI, APRIL 18. Lakshmipathi Balaji, the lean and mean speedster, who won many a heart for his enthusiasm and never-say-die attitude in the historic series against Pakistan, described his experiences across the border as "exhilarating."

"It feels good to be part of the Indian team and even better when the side is winning and you play your part in it," said the 22-year-old Tamil Nadu cricketer, who arrived from New Delhi on Sunday morning.

"My ambition since childhood is to get a five-wicket haul in Test cricket and I very nearly achieved it in the decisive third Test at Rawalpindi. It felt nice to get four wickets in the first innings and seven in the match to help India win," said the alumni of Vivekananda College, Chennai.

Speaking about his philosophy of cricket, the product of PS High School, Chennai, said: "My mother always advised me to believe in myself and my abilities. I have worked very hard over the last five years. I guess my efforts are paying dividends now. The next few months are vital. I'll resume training after a short break." Balaji's father Lakshmipathi, officials of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association and the State skipper S. Suresh were among those who received the new star at the airport.

Balaji said he felt comfortable bowling along with Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan. "Zaheer is extremely helpful. A motivator. He is always there to advise you when things go wrong. Irfan and I have bowled together for India `A' quite a few times. We understand each other very well."

Talking about his chat with master paceman Waqar Younis, Balaji said: "I asked him about the nuances of swing bowling and how to go about bowling to left-handers."

Balaji said skipper Sourav Ganguly and seniors like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have been very supportive and encouraging. "At no point was I short of confidence. It's one large family, really. You can always look up to them for advice."

How was he able to cope with the responsibility and expectations of being a main bowler? "It's about understanding your role in the team. Each player has his responsibility. You need to contribute when you are in the team. I like to give my best in every possible way."

Balaji described his dismissal of Inzamam-ul-Haq in the second innings of the final Test as the most memorable of his 12 scalps in the Test series. "Inzamam is a dangerous and devastating batsman. It's always nice when you claim the opposition's best batsman."

Which would be his most memorable moment of the series? "The huddle and the hugs after the Test series win. Its historical significance is yet to sink in."

Meanwhile, legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev, who was in the city to preside over the BSA Cycle Run, was all praise for the country's new pace duo — Balaji and Pathan. Speaking to the press, he said: "India's historic triumph over Pakistan was sensational. The young bowlers have a bright future ahead of them."

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