Dheere Dheere Haulle Haulle

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Continuing my series [Baba Deewana] on people who inspired me (a spin-off on the chapter in my book “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” on inspirational movies of the 90s) , I present to you yet another of my gurus.

Bhagwan ke liye tujhe chod doon to main kya khayoon—Prasad?

-Shakti Kapoor (Insaniyat Ki Dushman)

Cricket provided role models and life lessons for people who were at their formative stages in the 90s. Vinod Kambli taught us that without self-control, one can keep on flunking Class 11 even when you are the second best boy in class, Azharuddin taught us why you should not spend so much time on the phone talking to friends and Inzamam showed us how you should never ever be provoked even when people called you a potato.

But the man who influenced me most was, without doubt, Venkatesh Prasad.

For starters, he convinced me never to go by appearances.

Now normally a person who Ravi Shastri would use the sobriquet “strong strapping lad” to describe and whose job description included the three words “Right arm fast” would be expected to bowl fast. Most of the time.

Not Prasad.

His shock ball was the slow-leg cutter till very soon it became his stock ball, with the shock ball now being the slower leg-cutter. A few years down the line that became his stock ball and yes you guess it his shock ball was now the even slower leg-cutter.

As a matter of fact, according to legend, once it seems the non-striker, Arjuna Ranatunga, had detected the leg-spin grip when Prasad was about to deliver the ball. Aware that the batsman facing up, Chaminda Vaas, was not skilled enough to read the finger position, Ranatunga walked to the other end(at Ranatungian pace), whispered in his ear “Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas, this guy has bowled a leg-cutter”, Vaas  said “Thanks for telling me. Not a surprise though. After all what else could it be !” , then told Ranatunga two jokes about overweight, potbellied people which angered Ranatunga who then walked back to the popping crease, just in time for the ball to reach the batsman.

Someone once told me that Samuel Beckett, himself a very good cricketer, wrote En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot), a play about people waiting for something that never arrives, after batting against Prasad (a homage line being “Come on, Gogo, return the ball, can’t you, once in a way?”), but I find that tough to believe.

Besides inspiring me to pace my life properly, Prasad also showed me the power of giving. Match after match, he would keep on giving to the batsmen till they got tired of hitting him round the park and gave up their wickets in sheer embarrassment. And yet the smile on his face would never vanish.

The true generational significance of Prasad, which is why I am such a fan, is because he exorcised India of the demons of defeat. Yes I am referring to the six off last ball at Sharjah that broke us totally—-so much so that teams never believed they could look at Pakistan in the eye. In 1996, on a magical night in one of the crucial games of the decade, the kind that comes rarely in history, when Aamir Sohail raised his bat to taunt India, Prasad, normally the angel of peace and giving, snapped in a way that made me stand up, my throat choked with emotion.  In real life, we may react to 26/11 by surrendering and licking boot in Sharm-el-Sheikh but at least on the cricket pitch, we will give as good as we get.  It was Venkatesh Prasad who sent that message with the uprooted stump and the earful that, to use a phrase from Gladiator, “echoed in eternity” and taught us once again that we can defeat Pakistan. At least on the field.

While many do remember that act of Prasad, what many forget is Prasad’s encore performance in the next World Cup in 1999. Against the same opposition. Akram had taunted India’s strength by calling it a practice match.  With the shadow of Kargil, the man who raised his arm was Venkatesh Prasad destroying the Pakistani batting line-up, then one of the strongest in the world, in another lethal display of “rising to the occasion” concluding the match, tellingly, with the wicket of Wasim Akram. Pakistan was advancing to the semis and we were almost out. But the magic of Prasad was that despite this, he made Pakistan feel defeated and us swell like champions.

It would not be unfair to say that Pakistan brought out the best in Prasad, including once taking five wickets for zero runs in a Test match in 1999. Of course Pakistan never forgave him for his repeated demolitions of their batting line-up with the Jang-iya group even carrying an article during IPL 1.0 saying that Prasad as a coach of Royal Challengers apologized for leaving out Misbah-ul-Haq. But we know better.

The 90s were a tumultous time— marked by increasing commercialization of the game, match fixing, collusion between opposing teams and other similar malfeasance. Now of course the game has changed a lot, match-fixing, money power, influence-peddling and politicking are a thing of the past and people like Sreesanth have emerged the role-models of today.

And yet the main man remains, a beacon of light to people like us, a living lesson that while slow and steady may not  hit the target always, it sure does make the ride worth taking.

[Picture courtesy the Hindu]

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55 thoughts on “Dheere Dheere Haulle Haulle

  1. Venkatesh Prasad and Kumble were the bait-and-switch. 😀 a pace bowler who bowled leg spin and a leg spinner who bowled zipping yorkers… Think Face/Off 😛 and imagine Venkatesh Prasad saying (slowly and in a measured tone) “I AM …. CASTOR TROY!” 😛

  2. one thing distinct about him is his celebrattion, lifted right arms rubbing the ear… Lol

    Nice piece again

  3. “Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas”—-
    This brought back some ‘YAADEIN’, I had memorized this as a kid(after a PUNJAB KESARI story mentioned this with the FACT that its 52 letters in English(as much as you can write the A-B-C twice).. and till date, Whenever I want to just respond to someone with trash, I use this… 🙂

    PS: I never counted the letters.. Punjab Kesari was in Hindi..and I never raid this in English(before today)..

  4. “Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas”—-
    This brought back some ‘YAADEIN’, I had memorized this as a kid(after a PUNJAB KESARI story mentioned this with the FACT that its 52 letters in English(as much as you can write the A-B-C twice).. and till date, Whenever I want to just respond to someone with trash, I use this…

    PS: I never counted the letters.. Punjab Kesari was in Hindi..and I never raid this in English(before today)..

  5. We should forgive lll his shortcomings, mistakes etc just for the one moment of glory he brought to our life by destroying Aamir Sohails stumps

  6. It is the best one day international I have witnessed. Thanks for bringing the memories back……….

  7. this pc was shared by shekhar suman in his ever-famous movers-n-shakers…

    “during the post match press conference Shoaib Akhtar said- main isse bhi tez gend fenk sakta hoon… prasad replied back saying- main isse bhi dheemi gend fenk sakta hoon”

  8. Prasad was still the better bowler between srinath and him. Srinath had raw pace but very little substance between his ears. Prasad usually capitalized on srinath’s (relatively) express pace and got wickets. If only srinath had put a little bit more thinking into his game. Can’t imagine a frontline bowler for a national side taking almost 10 years to develop a slower ball(Now, that came naturally to prasad :-))

  9. yah “Aamir Sohail” wicket did bring back lots of happy memories.It was such a proud moment for the whole country.Before that delivery sitting infront of TV we could just hoped if some “Dharti Putra” could come and save us the agony of getting thrashed again and again.And then came the magic ball which changed everything forever.Thnxs for making us remember the moment.As far as ur role models are concerned what to say…”All are so random yet so demented”

  10. The Vaas-Ranatunga para cracked me up! 😀 If ever there was a better example of the phrase “gentle giant”.

  11. You just cannot do this! I am trying to work!

    Couldnt stop laughing at the “Insaniyat Ke Dushman” bit.

    Joginder Sharma could have been the next Prasad, but alas!

  12. As much as Pakisatn hated him, I thought Sri lanks loved him, especially Sanath. But then, his economy rate of 4.67 runs per over isnt bad at all, in any context.

  13. Nice article. I also remember the ball which he bowled against zimbabwe, don’t remember whether it was to Guy Whittal, S. Carlisle or someone else. The batsman actually jumped out of his crease, got into position and waited and waited for the ball to finally reach him. In the end he was cracking up so much in laughter that he could just place the 90kmph delivery for a single and did well in reaching the other end with ROFL midway :). But as mentioned, he is known for that one wicket of A.Sohail and i remember watching that match as a young kid in the stadium

  14. You are ignoring the benefits of these slow leg cutters. Rumour has it that Prasad, after delivering the ball, used to go and sledge the batsman. The batsman, still waiting for the ball to be delivered, is further distraught by this sledging, and throws away his wicket.

  15. Is this is an Indian thing? McEnroe famously said about Ramesh Krishnan “the bugger served so slow that I went off to sleep waiting for the ball to come.” The current Indian pacers are all Venkys, their fastest deliveries seem to be at 130 kph. I saw only Dinda touching 140 kph in IPL 3.0.

  16. Very true… that match was unforgettable.
    By the way I happened to watch “Waiting for Godot”(play) in Bangalore featuring stalwarts like Naseeruddin-Shah in it.
    I must admit, I did not understand a thing… 🙂 No clue what was happening…

  17. he also performed reasonably well in the 1996-1997 twin test series against SA.
    It really was a Karnataka dominated team during that period. Rahul Dravid scoring 148 at Wanderers , Shrinath hitting peoples heads with his bouncers and then apologising . Kumble (sporting a moustache back then) bowling quicker than Prasad. And who can forget Sunil Joshi.

  18. Good one GB… btw, have bought your book as well.
    @Ameya – Srinath hitting people’s heads with bouncers was in the 1992-93 test series in SA. I think Meyrick Pringle, it was who got hit. By 1996-97, his pace had already dropped down to that of a medium pace bowler.

  19. You got it wrong with Prasad’s cricketing acumen. At the time when fast bowlers would use one slower ball in the over, comprising of 5 super fast yorkers and bouncers, our man Venkatesh did just the opposite – 5 painfully slow deliveries mixed with one surprisingly fast ball – that flummoxed the greatest left handers of the era like Kirsten and Anwar.
    It used to be a thing of 90s cricket folklore that Kumble competed with Prasad for the 3rd seamer’s place in the side. But you cant blame Prasad for his pace. I mean, after all how fast do you think a man wearing a wristwatch can bowl??
    Everything said and done.. 90s was a hilarious decade for Indian cricket….unmatched in humor and histonics. Can you imagine a mustachioed middle aged fast bowler opening our attack now? No, but we had a Prabhakar then… Can you imagine a vitamin deficient Raju bowling his slow non-turning left armers now? Can you imagine a clueless Debang Gandhi picked for the Australian tour? No… those miraces were only possible in 90s and so was the case with Prasad’s slow short-pitched yorkers.

  20. @jimmy zingchak….ROFL….true true very true…. I remember this one time when kumble broke some ones chin off with his zipper.Nayan mongia or kiren more..Don’t remember

    Very truly pointed out by Gb that Pakistan brought the best out of venky.

    I remember watching that match on DD1…gave me the goose bumps….Prasad the cow showing aggression ?

  21. The biggest problem was that he taught his best tricks to Ishant Sharma..

    Ishant had learnt his bowling from Sehwag… only two ways to see the batsman.. either the toe or the head.. Prasad made him bowl line and length and variations and what not..

  22. Excerpts from Sidin Vadukut’s blog on Prasad. Equally hilarious!!

    If Akthar is the “Rawalpindi Express” then for many years Venkatesh Prasad, a key part of the bowling attack, was affectionately called “The Slow Bangalore Passenger That Is Currently Broken Down At Palakkad Station. Passengers approach ticket counter for refund please.”

    He was a pioneer of the “Intimidation” school of fielding whereby you do not run for the ball but merely try to stop it by looking at it gravely.

  23. One of his earliest leg-cutter bunnies was Andrew Hudson. Poor guy would have no clue how to face Venky and skied the ball every now and then. And then came the tour of England and SA where he shone. Venky’s career was single-handedly finished off by Jayasuriya in SL and Sharjah. Only kumble survived those traumatic years! Venky was also the last wicket to fall in 99 WC game against Zim, one that could have changed the course of history!

    @GB

    Please add a note on Sidhu’s great fielding skills in one of your next 90s Indian cricket posts.

  24. Do you have a multi-volume “book of quotes” from indie classics of the 80’s and 90’s like “insaniyat ke dushman” ” paap ko jala ke raakh kar doonga” “waqt hamara hai” and such like? If so can I have a copy. I’ll pay top dollar. Even if it is just stuff scribbled on those “neelgagan” registers. I hope to use this stuff in feasibility reports, and thus do wonders for my career.

  25. Did you ever watch any football growing up? Were you one of those snobs that never ventured to Maidan to catch a Mohunbagan or East Bengal game? I expect a football related blog soon. Real bongs love football.

  26. GB loved this post! just that one exchange between Ranatunga & Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas made my day.

  27. Great post GB although I am surprised that you haven’t mentioned THAT dialogue from Krishna! 🙂 Some howlarious comments btw, especially the one by Abhimanyu…”…slow short-pitched yorkers.” LMAO

  28. Very funny post but conveyed its significance after all. I remember that match, I was one of the thousands in the stadium in Bangalore. That wicket no doubt changed the game but it changed the crowd to a bloodthirsty mob and I hope it helped our team win.

    Thanks for bringing back memories.

    BTW I am still trying to get your buy in the US. Which seller should I be contacting? Why don’t you sell it on eBay for the folks in the US?

  29. Please search ebay for the book. Some of the sellers were shipping to the US. Infibeam and Indiaplaza (links on left sidebar) ship to the US also.

  30. A furious Venkatesh Prasad showing Aamir Sohail the way to the Dressing Room after uprooting his stumps was such a defining moment in Indian Cricket. It has been permanently etched in the heart of every sports loving Indian.
    I also remember visiting a friend’s office within a few days of that match. Every PC in her office had the same wallpaper capturing that defining moment.

  31. this is funny, GB.
    however,
    “…In real life, we may react to 26/11 by surrendering and licking boot in Sharm-el-Sheikh but at least on the cricket pitch, we will give as good as we get. …”
    Your political commentary and polemic are getting less insightful and more shrill with each passing post.
    Could you stick to the areas of strength (cricket, bollywood, pop culture of 90’s) and leave political analysis to others in the future, or t least to more engaged and equanimous writers, please?
    You are widely read, and you have responsibility not to make complex political comments with such frivolity.
    Still, that apart, great post, and you’ve brought the united groan of an entire generation back, with indulgent-but-exasperated memories of Venky P.

  32. @ Nirvana Demon

    wrote to GB, “Your political commentary and polemic are getting less insightful and more shrill with each passing post. leave political analysis to others in the future, or at least to more engaged and equanimous writers, please?”

    Could you elaborate that with your thoughts on what you would consider equanimous and engaged. Am eager to hear your thoughts.

  33. Great post, GB

    I would hope for one post on Nikhil Chopra and his cricketing skills. Although cannot recollect any of his match winning innings, he seems to be real connoisseur of the game judging by his expert comments on different channels.

    U seem to recollect everything about the 90s. So, will expect one post on this great cricketing brain!

  34. Long time reader. Had to delurk – the Ranatunga walking across the pitch example is perfect to illustrate the speed (or lack thereof) of Venkatesh Prasad

    Funnily enough – I have a Hindi film dialogs quiz on my blog which features the (in)famous Shakti Kapoor line in your post today

  35. Great post. I remember that match like it was yesterday. In those 2 deliveries my heart went from feeling depressed to feeling like a heart attack was about to come on because I couldn’t believe what Prasad had done.

  36. He was a pioneer of the “Intimidation” school of fielding whereby you do not run for the ball but merely try to stop it by looking at it gravely.

    Awesome! – Cracked me up…bigtime

  37. Prasad was surely one of a kind, however the guy who influenced me the most was Manoj Prabhakar – living example of some who can “jis thali mein khaye, usi mein ched karay”
    And yes who can forget his great advertisement of status shoes, where he wears shoes around his neck – again showcasing how much a person can stoop low (both Physically and Morally) for money.

    You write great, and I really loved your book (I bought it from flipkart, and not a re-recycled copy from Mumbai VT – it has your signature on it too).

    Keep pouring

  38. your views on pakistan are naive. stop making these Shiv Sena variety statements.

    and all your fans don’t seem to notice…apart from one guy.

  39. Methinks the Sharm-El -Sheikh thingie was a calculated move to prevent war with pakis and to push them to a fate much worse…actually live in pakistan..

    [edited by GB] and nothing would please them more than india blowing them off the map and in the process losing half of India..

    Thats easy..its much harder to go thru a lahore or karachi summer with power cuts 12 hours a day…rising inflation, unemployment, crime and fanaticism. Not to mention seeing people blown to bits every other fortnight.

    The best revenge we can have against pakistan is to make them live there forever…..)

  40. Pingback: Hum Hain Raja Raj Karein | Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

  41. Hi, is there a better way to get your book in the uk book other than infibeam – the book is for 139 and they charge c.830 for shipment – thanks! arindam

  42. Prasad can be forgiven for his two spells against Pakistan in 1996 and 1999 world cup. He offered serenity to the blue billion with those spells.

    But generally speaking, the man never made good use of his height and physique & got over obsessed with his slow leg breaks… He was Sanath Jayasuriya’s favorite Indian bowler.

    He was one and the other half of the pace Merchant Javagal Srinath. Only very late in his career did he realize the importance of pitching the ball up to the batsmen. A commentator once wrote about Srinath’s bowling thus. He pitches short of length and nips the ball into the batsmen, at waist high.. this rules out bowled and LBW and only when he makes the ball move away can there be chance of an edge. Again Srinath dint use his pace and nip to great effect until late in his career.

    The best part about this duo was they being promoted up the order for ‘Pinch Hitting’ and Srinath invariably being run out after facing few balls or giving a skier which the Paki fieldsmen accepted gleefully.

    Thanks to John Wright and Dada, the frustrating matches of the 90s were put to rest and Team India started showing some resilience to pull snatch victory from the jaws of defeat…

  43. reminds me of one of the comments made on prasad..

    he has 2 variations in his bowling..one is the slow ball other is the very slow ball…

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