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N.C. Aiyappa: loves to blitz — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

N.C. Aiyappa: loves to blitz — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash  

N.C. Aiyappa has bagged 19 wickets in Ranji matches so far. And it's just the beginning, promises the lad from Kodagu

HE LOVES to blitz across 22 yards. And it showed when N.C. Aiyappa emerged the fastest bowler in the Bangalore leg of the Scorpio Speedster Contest held at the KSCA (B) ground here last week. Aiyappa clocked 131 k.m.p.h.

However, he reiterates that he can do better. "I can bowl around 135 and above, but you should understand that within those three deliveries they give you, it is tough to get into that rhythm of bowling fast. Besides, I am bowling at the stumps and not at any batsman and since it is not a match situation, you don't feel all charged up. But I am happy with what I did and I am glad that we have contests like these," says the Karnataka Ranji team speedster.

The 23-year old Kodava lad has indeed moved up the rungs in style. Not bad for a bowler who, until he was 18, used to bowl with a tennis ball and loved to be a goal-keeper in school football matches. "At school, I played all sports. But in my pre-university days, I started taking cricket seriously and did well in the under-19 circuit," Aiyappa says.

He donned the State colours in the under-19 pentangular tournament in 1998. "The same season, I played in the under-22 and under-25 tournaments and did well. I got recognition through my six wickets against Tamil Nadu in the under-22 match," he recalls. His consistency secured him a berth in the MRF Pace Academy in 1999-2000 and Aiyappa's pace gained some polish and poise. "I think all fast bowlers should have a stint at the MRF Academy. It helped me improve my action, in preventing back injuries and in increasing my fitness levels," he says.

The six-footer was drafted into the Ranji probables' list and the much-awaited debut happened against Tamil Nadu at the RSI Ground in 2001. It was a big match that gifted a grimace to Karnataka as Tamil Nadu, riding on Hemang Badani's willow, won a low scoring game. But Aiyappa's effort was noticed. The lanky seamer bagged four wickets. But more than the number of victims, it was his effort level that drew praise from a hardened cricketer like Robin Singh. "I was informed of my debut five minutes before the match. It was a surprise and a shock but in the end I did well," says Aiyappa.

Last season, though, proved moderate as the State team management's emphasis on batsmen left Aiyappa cooling his heels in the dressing room. He did get a match in the Ranji Plate Division final and is now looking ahead at the forthcoming season. "We have qualified for the Elite Division and we need to perform well. The first match against Tamil Nadu is crucial. My long term aim is to do well for my State and play for the country," he says.

The Sultans of Speed — Lee and Akhtar — are Aiyappa's role models. "I love Brett Lee's action and Shoaib Akhtar's aggression. I enjoy bowling fast, though I am also learning the importance of swing," he says. The fast bowler, busy adding an edge to his pace and guile to his swing, hustles batsmen and often lures the edge with a well directed out-swinger. He also has a decent slower delivery and is adept at reverse swing — an art he learnt from Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad.

Aiyappa avers that his 19 Ranji wickets are a mere appetiser and that his bag of wickets is bound to bulge. That is good news for Karnataka.

K.C. VIJAYA KUMAR

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