Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Venkatesh Prasad is born - making the most of military medium pace
August 5, 1969 - The image of Venkatesh Prasad showing Aamer Sohail the way to the pavilion after rearranging his stumps in the 1996 World Cup clash between India and Pakistan is still fresh in the minds of many cricket lovers.
The provocation was that Sohail had gestured Prasad to fetch the ball after he cracked a crisp boundary off the right-arm medium pacer. This was one of the few occasions when Prasad belied his calm and composed demeanor on the cricket field.
A through gentleman like his Karnataka mates Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath, Prasad debuted for India in 1994. After going wicketless in his first 3 ODIs, his first memorable performance came against West Indies in Mumbai, where he bagged three wickets while giving away 36 runs.
His test debut, two years later, was way more memorable as in the conditions of England which suited his bowling perfectly, Prasad returned with figures of 6/121 and 7/130 in his first two matches.
His first and only 10-wicket haul in Test cricket came against South Africa in December 1996 on an absolute green top at Kingsmead. His opposite number Allan Donald terrorized the Indian batting line-up with figures of 9/54, dismissing the visitors for 100 and 66 in the two innings. Prasad was almost unplayable on the surface as he returned with figures of 5/60 and 5/93 in the two innings.
Prasad became the first bowler to take a 10-fer on South African soil since Johnny Wardle’s 12/89 in 1956-57.
For the majority of his career, Prasad played as the new-ball bowling partner of his Karnataka statemate Javagal Srinath and his best performances came alongside him. In the 21 matches that Prasad played with Srinath, he picked up 68 wickets at an average of 31.74.
When Srinath began to be in and out of the side due to recurring injuries, Prasad made a decent pair with Zaheer Khan and was happy to play second fiddle to him despite being the more experienced.
However, when he played as the lead bowler, due to his lack of pace, he found it difficult to be penetrative on pitches that did not offer him much help. This is why in the eight games that he played without the company of either Javagal Srinath or Zaheer Khan, Prasad managed only 17 wickets at an average of 46.59.
It's ironical that despite his understandable constraint to be effective on the placid wickets of India, one of his best performances in test cricket came at Chepauk in a match against Pakistan. Prasad recorded figures of 6/33 inducing a Pakistan collapse from 275/4 to 276 all out. In fact, he picked up 5 wickets in a single spell without giving away even a single run.
What he lacked in pace, Prasad tried to make up for it with his assortment of slower deliveries, which foxed the batsmen more often than not.
With the rise of bowlers like Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra, Venkatesh Prasad was overlooked from Team India despite averaging 21.70 with 69 wickets in his last three seasons in domestic cricket.
Shortly after his retirement at 35, Prasad took to coaching and oversaw the Indian Under-19 side to the World Cup final in 2005-2006. He was also appointed the bowling coach of Team India and has served as the bowling coach of Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab in the IPL.
Prasad has also served as the chairman of India's junior selection committee and was among the five shortlisted members for the post of India's senior selection committee recently.
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