Malolan Rangarajan’s performance with ball and bat in the recent Duleep Trophy did not go unnoticed. And this being a big year for Tamil Nadu cricket, all eyes will be on him, especially as he is to fill R. Ashwin’s shoes
Malolan Rangarajan grew up listening to tales of Erapalli Prasanna’s exploits as an off-spinning genius from his grandfather.
Yet, it was not bowling that captured his imagination. Malolan’s inspiration was the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. He even had the logo used by the maestro on his willow.
It was a visit to the cricket facility at the AG’s Office in Chennai, where N. P. Balaji coached aspirants that transformed his cricketing journey. Here, the wise Balaji saw a future for Malolan, just 11 then, as an off-spinner.
Thus began a journey of immense possibilities. Malolan, now 24, is steadily climbing the rungs as an off-spinner with fair batting ability.
His five-for and a half-century in the recent Duleep Trophy contest against West Zone at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium has put this promising cricketer from Tamil Nadu in the spotlight. Among his scalps was that of the experienced Wasim Jaffer.
Talk about the dismissal and Malolan’s face lights up. “It was a set-up. I was bowling with a comparatively new ball. If I hit the seam, the ball would turn in. And if the shiny side landed on the surface, the ball would go through straight.”
Malolan pushed the cover back. “I consciously took time to move the fielder so that the batsman watched it. I wanted Jaffer to drive or push the ball to covers for a single or two. If he played that shot, then if the ball turned in, I could get him bowled. And if the ball straightened, I could find the outside edge. The ball straightened, Jaffer went for the drive, and was caught at slip. The plan worked.”
Sorts out bowling technique
He has worked on his bowling. Till the last season, he had issues with his back-foot landing. His body alignment suffered and his back-leg was more than a tad bent when he delivered; in other words, this six-footer was not making full use of his height.
The off-spinner believes he has sorted out the problem. “I was coming side-on, but while landing, my legs were semi side-on. Now I plant my back foot parallel to the crease. I then transfer my weight to the front foot. This enables me to impart more revolutions on the ball and bowl with a taller action.”
Malolan also appears to be bowling a bit quicker through the air this season. “I had to impart revolutions on the ball and realised I could do so even if I was faster through the air. I am not pushing the ball, but spinning it. I depend a lot on flight too and understand that the variations in trajectory are causing more problems to the batsmen.”
He does not send down the controversial doosra but possesses a useful top-spinner.
Fitness trainer Basu has impacted Malolan’s career positively. The youngster has lost 20 kg in two years. Basu also put Malolan under Prasanna Agoram, now South Africa’s performance analyst. “It changed the way I looked at cricket,” admits Malolan.
His grandfather, R. Sundaravaradan, senior advocate in the Supreme Court, has been a source of immense strength to Malolan. Father R. S. Rangarajan, IA & RS, mother Manjula, IRAS, and sister Sarani too have encouraged him to excel in the cricketing arena.
“My father said to me, `I did not have a dream when I was 15. You have one, so you should pursue your dream.’ My parents are highly educated but gave me a lot of time for cricket,” says Malolan.
Having finished his B.Com from Vivekananda College and currently doing his MBA at the SRM University, Malolan hasn’t done poorly in studies either. Cricket, however, is his priority.
For Malolan, 2011 was the breakthrough year — he made his Ranji Trophy debut against Madhya Pradesh at Chepauk. He found a more permanent place in 2012-13, figuring in five matches and scalping seven in a match-winning performance against Maharashtra in Chennai.
Malolan has been in top form in the TNCA first division league for Vijay CC this season, claiming 37 wickets in nine matches. He represented Young Stars earlier.
This is a big year for Tamil Nadu cricket and the focus to quite an extent will be on Malolan. With R. Ashwin expected to miss most part of the domestic season because of international commitments, he will have to shoulder a considerable load.
“As an off-spinning all-rounder, who has done so well for India, I look up to Ashwin. It will be hard to fill his shoes but I will give it my best shot,” says Malolan.
Malolan has the intelligence to maximise his talent.