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Sports Former Andhra Ranji skipper Hanumara Ramprasad reminisces good old days when he spun magic as one of the fastest bowler in the South Zone

“Last ball…”The yell came from the sidelines indicating end of the session for the batsman at the nets at IGMC stadium. The command from the coach was as loud as his appeal during his heydays as a medium pacer for Andhra Ranji team in the seventies.

Meet Hanumara Ramprasad, the 63-year-old former Andhra Ranji skipper, who had set high standards in fast bowling in an era when spindominated cricket in India. The six-plus strapping cricketer gaveAndhra many a flying start in the Ranji fixtures in South India in the 70s and at one point in time he was considered the fastest bowler in the South Zone. “Cricket those days was played the hard way. We enjoyed the game more as there was no commercial element,” feels Ramprasad, popularly known as Ram in the cricketing circles.

The Vijayawada-born no-nonsense cricketer represented Andhra in eight seasons from 1971-72 to 1979-80 by taking 61 wickets and scoring 700-odd runs with 87 against Kerala at Kochi. However, the bestperformance came at Salem against S. Venkataraghavan-led Tamil Nadu in1974-1975 where he scalped 10 wickets in the nail-biting match helping Andhra win by one run. “I took four in the first and six in the second,” said the aging pacer with a glint in his eyes.

Ramprasad failed to make headway as emphasis was given on spin those days. “Fast bowlers were used to doing away with the shine of the ball to allow spinners to take over. Even tracks were spinner-friendly,” he recalls. He represented South Zone in Deodhar trophy against Parthasaradhy Sharma-led Central Zone. However, the big moment came when Ram was picked for the South Zone against the visiting Clive Lloyd-led West Indies team at Hyderabad in 1975 and later, in 1976 against late Tony Grieg–led England team at Bangalore in 1976. “I did not get a chance to play but I had the privilege of watching and interacting with world classplayers”.

Those days it was difficult for cricketers from Andhra and Kerala tomake it to the South Zone squad as the entire team was filled withplayers from Karnakata, Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad. Andhra and Kerala were considered as “punching bags” and they always used to occupy thebottom of the points table. Ramprasad rues that he was meted out a raw deal from the selectors as they always preferred Hyderabadi all-rounder P. Jyothi Prasad ahead of him. “Staying fit was paramount those days as most playingarenas were bereft of grass. “The grass used to be patchy and we wereexposed to hard surface. We used to play on the matting wickets. The facilities were less and sometimes we would travel in unreserved compartments to reach the venue”.

After his retirement, Ramprasad donned the roles of a Ranji coach,administrator and selector and was instrumental in introducing talentedplayers like former India international M.S.K. Prasad, India ‘A’player N. Madhukar, V. Vijayasaradhy, K.S.T Sai and Bharat Singh Naik in Andhra Ranji team. Currently he is an ACA coach for junior grade cricket with Krishna District Cricket Association.

J. R. Shridharan

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