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Uphill climb begins

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Praveen Kumar, the forgotten medium pacer of Indian cricket,is fit and raring to go again

BACK IN BUSINESSPraveen KumarPHOTO: G.P.SAMPATH KUMAR
BACK IN BUSINESSPraveen KumarPHOTO: G.P.SAMPATH KUMAR

There is nothing to suggest he has driven down from Meerut to a non-descript cricket field in West Delhi. Praveen Kumar is fresh, raring to go, as he relaxes on a mound of grass, awaiting his batting turn. Bowler yes but he fancies his batting no less. The Uttar Pradesh cricketer, now a forgotten man but not entirely lost to Indian cricket, is plotting his comeback to the international circuit. These are difficult times for him but not depressing or crushing.

The grind of local and domestic cricket is ever appealing. “This is where I started. The heat and dust, the truth that you have to remain grounded, remind me of my struggle. I am prepared as you can see. I am grabbing every opportunity to play a match. Believe me, this is tougher because everyone is keen to do well against you,” Praveen reflects on his efforts. The heat is searing but a breeze blows across the Bharat Nagar ground to allow the players some respite.

There has hardly been a moment to relax for Praveen. A shoulder and then an elbow injury incapacitated his cricket appearances to an extent that he was not picked by any franchise in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). It hurt Praveen. “I wondered if I was so bad. But I guess my injuries influenced them more than my hard work to remain fit and comeback. I know where I stand. It makes me more determined,” he states as a matter of fact.

Praveen’s last first-class match was in November 2012 and India appearance in the 2012 Asia Cup against Pakistan at Dhaka. “There are some fond, some painful memories.” How is it to be forgotten by fans and colleagues? “People worship the rising sun. I do feel bad. People I spent more time with than family don’t even call now. That’s life and I accept it. Why worry of things not in your control. I do my physical workouts, come and play in Delhi and spend quality time with family. Comeback is not far,” his face lights up for the first time.

Six Tests and 68 ODIs do not actually justify his prowess. Neither do the 104 international wickets. When others huff and puff, bowl fast and short, Praveen, 27, literally ambles and produces subtle swing and seam, leaving the batsmen baffled. They find it daunting to pick him.

He is said to be arrogant and short tempered. Any defence? “I am not short tempered. I am not insolent. Spend time with me and discover the real Praveen. Few know my real personality. You get to hear things that just don’t portray me correctly. No one coached me. No one guided me. I saw matches on TV and learnt the game on my own. Unfortunately, I am surrounded with negativity around me, people who want to pull me down. I can feel it and I am fighting them.”

What then is the real Praveen? “You can call me happy-go-lucky; as simple as you; a normal person as you. I am not a demon. Being introvert doesn’t mean ill-tempered. I know critics will be there but I don’t allow them to thrive by slamming me. It is a tough world and I am motivated enough to make one comeback. I am confident.”

Praveen is finding his rhythm, his skills in place. “I know when I am bowling well. I am as of now getting to land the ball where I intend to.” Watch him compete in the summer circuit of Delhi’s cricket. He rightly takes pride that his best came at Lord’s, a five for 106 haul against England in July 2011. He is a much-respected bowler looking for a window to again stake his claims in the big league that he once revelled in.

I know when I am bowling well. I am as of now getting to land the ball where I intend to

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