“I want to be a hero for my State in pressure situations,” he declares. The words are as forthright as the man himself.

Ganapathi Chandrasekar has walked the talk this season. The transformation in the pace-bowling all-rounder as he journeyed from the fringes to the centre-stage has been remarkable.

The 28-year-old cricketer has grown in belief. The feisty cricketer has been all heart and commitment when it matters. “Ganapathi now thinks he can make a real difference to the side. This is important,” says State coach W.V. Raman.

Tamil Nadu was a dominant force in Group ‘A' of the Ranji Trophy Super League, and Ganapathi put his hand up for the side in critical junctures.

His figures this season during the league phase are impressive. Ganapathi has 18 wickets in seven matches at 21.16. He has also notched up 502 runs at 83.66 with two centuries; only S. Badrinath has scored more runs than Ganapathi in the league for the State this season.

The statistics stand out, but do not tell the complete story. They do not quite reflect the fact that Ganapathi delivered under great duress.

Tamil Nadu had conceded the first innings lead to Himachal Pradesh at Dharamshala. Then, with little hope of forcing a win, the side set Himachal a target of 247 in a maximum of 60 overs.

Enter Ganapathi. He sliced through the Himachal top and middle-order with the new ball and then L. Balaji blew away the tail. The host were bundled out for just 155 in 47.4 overs.

“The mood in the dressing room was electric. There was great joy and relief. I was happy to have played a part. I love challenges,” says Ganapathi.

He relished the sniff of a combat with the willow as well. Tamil Nadu was reeling at 50 for five on day one against Mumbai in Mumbai. Ganapathi joined S. Badrinath in the middle and there was a dramatic change in the script.

Getting better

The sixth wicket pair added 329 runs as the rampaging Mumbai attack was pegged back and then milked. “The manner in which Ganapathi applied himself was creditable. Earlier he was getting 40s and 50s, now he is getting hundreds,” says Raman.

Tamil Nadu, eventually, secured the lead after young left-arm spinner Aushik Srinivas sent down a telling spell on the final day.

The hundred was a breakthrough innings for Ganapathi as an all-rounder. And, he is thinking big. “I do not want to be a bowler who can bat. I want to be a full fledged all-rounder. I realise it would take a tremendous effort from me. The century against Mumbai in a crisis situation was dream come true for me. Badrinath and I took it hour by hour, session by session. We did not rush things.”

He recalls captain Dinesh Karthik walking up to him before the first game of the season — against the Railways in Delhi — and telling him: “You have it in you to become a full-fledged all-rounder.” Ganapathi adds: “When your captain, an international cricketer, shows so much faith in you, it definitely helps.” Ganapathi justified Karthik's faith by guiding Tamil Nadu to the lead. Tamil Nadu, requiring 328, was 274 for six and 312 for eight on a pitch encouraging spin before the all-rounder's 32 put his State ahead after a thrilling race.

As the season progressed, Ganapathi earned promotion in the State line-up; he now surfaces regularly at No. 7. With the ball, he is bowling in better areas. In his early days, Ganpathi was sharper, but as he admits, his length was a tad shorter.

These days, he is operating with greater precision. “My idea is to get the batsman on to the front foot. If the ball moves even slightly from the off-stump, I have a chance.” Ganapathi mixes the away-going delivery with the one darting back into the right-hander.

He reveals Raman had worked on his run-up. “Earlier, I had an angular run-up. Now, I come in straighter, and have greater momentum. I am also using my non-bowling arm better.”

Ganapathi acknowledges the role of his parents and younger brother Shankar Subramanium – “They have stood by me through thick and thin.” And, he is thankful to his employer India Pistons for supporting him all along. The cricketer glimpses the future with optimism. “I am ready to kick on to the next level,” he says. As they say, confidence is everything.