Gutsy Balaji returns in style for Tamil Nadu

Published: Jan 09, 2009, 07:26 IST | Sanjjeev K Samyal

The most remarkable success story of the current Ranji Trophy season is undoubtedly Lakshmipathy Balaji. He was always known to be a tough character and his willpower has come shining through.

TN pacer has risen like a phoenix from a major back surgery to become a standout performer in Ranji Trophy

Tamil Nadu's Lakshmipathy Balaji. PIC/SURESH KK

The most remarkable success story of the current Ranji Trophy season is undoubtedly Lakshmipathy Balaji. He was always known to be a tough character and his willpower has come shining through.

For someone to bowl 53 overs in an innings in his first season of comeback after a major back surgery for a serious injury, it's a massive achievement. Balaji did just that for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy semi-final against Uttar Pradesh in Nagpur.

That his heroic five-wicket haul was not enough for his team to win does not in any way diminish his feat.
For, more than his wickets, his story is an inspiration for sportsmen who are going through the pain of career-threatening injuries and don't know whether they will ever be able to step foot on the field again.

Given the seriousness of his back injury, (stress fracture) which kept him out of cricket from October 2006 till 2008, it was deemed as a miracle if he would bowl again.

Few expectations
"If he bowls 150 overs for Tamil Nadu next season, I will be extremely happy because he was a guy who was completely down and out. It will be like a guy who has risen the abyss; come up like a phoenix. I am not going to be extremely ambitious about it. I don't want Balaji to be over-ambitious too," his Tamil Nadu coach WV Raman, who guided his rehabilitation process, had told MiD DAY at the start of the season.

However, to his delight Balaji has exceeded all expectations. In seven games, he claimed 36 wickets at an average of 17.50 with four five-wicket hauls. "In terms of quality of bowling and taking into consideration the flat wickets, he has been head and shoulders above everyone," said Raman.

"I have come back the hard way. It was like climbing a ladder, step by step. I will take it as it comes and. I am definitely enjoying my bowling," the affable bowler, who won over the fans with his heroics against Pakistan during the 2003-04 tour, told MiDDAY yesterday.

Toughest period
Regarding his injury phase, he said: "It was the toughest period of my life and I don't want to even recollect it. I am really thrilled to be where I am now."

As to how does he compare himself from when he was at his peak before the injury, he said: "I am more mentally tough, more physically tough and more conditioned. I am looking forward to the big league."

Balaji has proved that if your will is strong, miracles can become a reality.

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