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It's advantage Tinu at the Mecca of cricket

Back from the Caribbean Islands, Tinu Yohannan was in Kochi on a brief stopover before the challenging England tour. STAN RAYAN meets Tinu, who speaks about the pains and gains of his first tour.

TIPS FOR GREATNESS: Former Asian long jump champion T C Yohannan gives advice to his son Tinu Yohannan.

YOU THOUGHT he'd be rusty. That he'd rumble about like a rickety jalopy. But even after a month of watching cricket from the sidelines came Tinu Yohannan's performance like a sparkling new Jaguar.

Kerala cricket's new superstar toasted a superb one-day debut in the West Indies recently, his first major away tour. He came up with a sensational match-winning, three-wicket strike at Bridgetown. An intoxicating start indeed.

And despite getting bruised badly in the next game, the fast bowler has even found some gains from his `Port of Pain'. He has emerged stronger from the experience. He is now ready for the long tour of England, which begins next week.

The West Indies series offered him lessons in patience. For more than a month, some of the more memorable things he did in the Caribbean Islands were the long walks on the beach with teammates and chatting up some of the greats of the game, including Viv Richards.

It must have been very, very frustrating to stay away from all the action. "Sure, it was. You prepare before each Test and then realise you wouldn't be playing,'' said Tinu during a two-day touchdown in Kochi before leaving for Chennai and England.

``Dinesh Mongia and I put in a lot of practice during that period but it was very hard to do that. During such moments, your mind could easily go out of cricket. But coach John Wright was very encouraging, he said my turn would come soon,'' said the 23-year-old.

``Zaheer Khan was a good friend during the tour. He was very helpful, we used to share views often, and he gives you a lot of confidence. He is a good motivator. Talking to him is always good. And normally, all the youngsters stay together have a nice chat. Laxman is a very jolly type, cracks a lot of jokes,'' said Tinu, virtually offering us a peep of the glamour world.

But despite the long wait, Tinu was ready for the one-dayers when they came. "Sure, I was a little nervous for I didn't know what the one-dayers held for me. But since I knew I'd be in the team, I was mentally prepared for Bridgetown,'' said the tall, broad-shouldered Tinu.

Tinu did not try out any fancy stuff; he just stuck to the basics and played a waiting game. His fears vanished when he got his first one-day wicket, that of Hinds. His confidence grew and he finished with the best figures by an Indian paceman at Bridgetown, beating Kapil Dev's record. And since Dinesh Mongia also hogged the limelight in that match, Tinu's joy must have been doubly sweet.

But three days later, came the agony at Port of Spain. Tinu was hit all over. Even whacked for 25 runs in one over. "I panicked. I didn't know what to do. I lost my run-up, I felt I didn't mark it properly,'' said Tinu, the pain still fresh on his face.

He remembers his dad, long jump great T.C.Yohannan's advice during that painful night. "It's just one over. Concentrate on the next game,'' the former Asian champion had said. Simple words, but highly comforting. Tinu must also have found solace from the Bible's `Book of Proverbs', which he reads regularly.

Still, on the positive side, Port of Spain could be a good pain to bear. Coming back to earth now and then could do a player a world of good and if it is with a thud, the better. Tinu also felt so.

``It was a good lesson to learn. Am taking it as an experience. It will surely be useful,'' said the humble youngster.

If Tinu had become a bit complacent after Bridgetown, Port of Spain had woken him from the slumber. That's a good thing for the youngster has an 86-day tour of England coming up.

``I was eager to play the last one-dayer in the West Indies, to make amends for the fourth match, but I did not get the chance. Now I'm eagerly looking forward to England,'' said Tinu. And without wasting much time in Kochi, he was off to Chennai, to fine-tune his act at the MRF Pace Academy.

Tinu has now tasted both Tests and one-dayers, two very different worlds. Is the pressure more in the limited-over version?

No, says Tinu. "The pressure is more in Tests for you will have to go for wickets. In one-dayers, you concentrate on containing the batsman,'' he said.

London, Lord's and the Mecca of cricket could all be new places for Tinu. But he has had big success against two of England's prolific batsmen in the current team, opener Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher. Tinu had dismissed both the left-handers twice in his debut Test match at Mohali last December.

In fact, the paceman is at his best bowling to left-handers. "I enjoy bowling to left-handers because the angle which I bowl often puts them in a spot. My inswingers leave the left-hander, so they'll be in trouble,'' he said.

Trescothick (161), Butcher (94) and another leftie, Graham Thorpe (123) was in fine nick as England pulled off an innings victory over Sri Lanka in the Birmingham Test early this month.

After playing a crucial role in India's historic limited-over series victory in the West Indies, Tinu enjoys a psychological edge against England's mainstay.

Well, he must be licking his lips.

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