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November 9, 1999


The Rediff Cricket Interview/ Vijay Bharadwaj

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'My priority is to establish myself as a specialist batsman in the side'

The first impression is the last impression believes Vijay Bharadwaj.

Man of the series in his maiden one-day tournament in Nairobi, followed by a duck in his first Test innings against New Zealand at Mohali, Bharadwaj has tasted both success and failure in pretty quick time. "Success and failure," says the 24-year-old whose birthday falls on India's Independence day, "are a part of the game. There will be more failures compared to successes."

09bhar1a.jpg - 3317 Bytes India's latest batting sensation didn't feel anything when he was dismissed for a duck in his first Test innings in Mohali. It took him two days to realise that he got a zero. At the same time he knew well enough that it would be tough for him to keep his place in the team. His roommate, the ever-cool Sadagoppan Ramesh, told him to get used to failures and stay unaffected by media comments.

Now as he gets ready to travel Down Under, Bharadwaj hopes to prove his credentials as a successful Test player. In an exclusive chat with Faisal Shariff, the lad speaks about his short, but successful, journey into international cricket and Karnataka's supremacy on the domestic scene.

Your one-day debut has been a dream. Were you expecting to do so well?

I knew that I would do well, but was not expecting to get the man of the series award. One-day has been pretty good, but that's just because I have been doing well and have been picking up odd wickets. In Nairobi the wickets assist spinners and somehow I got ten wickets and that's it. I should score some more runs because scoring runs for me is more important than getting wickets.

Do you consider yourself an all-rounder in the team or a specialist batsman who can bowl at times, like Saurav Ganguly does?

I would always like to believe that I am an all-rounder who can bowl, but is a specialist batsman. My first priority is batting and I have a long way to go and have a lot to learn. I am a batsman who can bowl if required to. My priority is to establish myself as a specialist batsman in the side.

In Nairobi, when you were picked as the man of the series, your post-match speech was so blunt, yet frank...

09bhar2a.jpg - 3702 Bytes I did not realise that; it was instant and spontaneous. I really felt bad, because I could have won the game for my side. We had a chance when we were batting and all went the other way. Maybe, 20 more runs would have been better. That is why I felt so bad. Winning against South Africa would have been a tremendous achievement.

How was it graduating from Ranji level to the international scene, facing the likes of Donald and Pollock?

The India A tour helped me a lot to prepare for the big league, even though I did not do too well. That gave me the confidence but I was never afraid of playing fast bowling. Also, when I played against the West Indies A side I got a rough time from Reon King. I just couldn't figure out what went wrong. I was never scared of facing fast bowling but I was just unable to get him away. That is when I realised that I was some distance away from the big league.

So what were you honestly dreaming of making it to: the one-day team or the Test side?

Everyone thought that I was a player for the longer version. And suddenly I was in the one-day squad. Everybody thought that I was a one-day player. Now I need to prove everybody wrong and get some runs in the Test cricket. If I am successful in one-day games, it's natural that you will expect me to perform in one-day games as well. Because I believe that if you are good to perform in one-day games, the converse of that is true as well. You just need to be given some time. Maybe, I have to learn a lot, because I think that Test cricket is really tough.

What is so tough about Test cricket, according to you?

It's about playing for five days and you need to have patience all the time. You have to have tons of patience and the temperament to stick it out there when the going gets really tough.

So when did you start playing cricket?

I started playing cricket at a very young age. In the surroundings I lived cricket was the only sport which was played. All the other sports were neglected. I was in a school which did not have a school team. When I was in the seventh standard I played my first division league for city cricketers. I was captain of all the junior teams in Karnataka -- the under-19, under-21, under-23 and under-25.

From there I went for the Pentangular selections for the Ranji Trophy team. Got runs and got selected. Before I realised I was there in the team. I played only two games and didn't score much .The next year I was there I got runs. That year we won against Tamil Nadu in the final. That year I batted well and then for all the four years I got runs.

So who have been the major influences in your life so far?

No! No influences. I learnt my game playing in the streets. I played the game, like I mentioned earlier, because that was the only game they played in my area. No one in my family, right upto great-grandfather didn't play cricket. My passion for the game has been the major influence in my life.

So, how did the name 'Pinga' come about?

Pinga is a cartoon character. It's the way I run with the glasses on. Jack (a close friend), who thought that I was like an ostrich, with a long neck and long legs, gave this name to me. And it's been there for 10 years. Looking at the television I also think that I am a cartoon.

Didn't cricket ever affect your studies?

Yes, of course, it did. But my family told me that if I do clear my exams I could continue with my cricket.

And that you did with style... you got a cent per cent in your maths paper in the tenth grade.

09bhar3a.jpg - 4609 Bytes I got a hundred in the tenth, my first pre-university and second pre-university. In the second I got 96. I missed out on one of the problems in the General Solutions papers and later we found out that the problem itself was wrong and they said that they would give us the four marks but they didn't give it.

I was interested in mathematics and took up B Com though I was not interested in studies. I somehow finished my B Com with a first class throughout. B.Com in Karnataka is tough; Arts and Science is easy, but B Com is tough.

I attended evening college at Vijaya College. In all three years of college, I only went for one day. And all the three years there was a tussle between my principal and me. He said that he would not give me the hall-ticket. My uncle was the vice-principal and he got me the hall ticket somehow. I was the only first class student. Every time I would go to check my result I would be the only one to pass with first class because all the others would get a third class. But that is because everyone in evening college wanted to just pass and were all working.

And your first class was not through the influence of your uncle?

No, I worked hard for it. Honestly!

If you were so good in your academics why didn't you choose to pursue it?

After finishing B Com you will never get a job in Bangalore; not even a clerical job. You have to get a further diploma or degree after that to get a job there. I joined the Canara bank when I was 18 years old. Since then I have been playing cricket.

Was there no objection from your parents? Did they never ask you to concentrate on your studies and make a career out of it?

09bhar4a.jpg - 4002 Bytes We were struggling actually. I have not come from a family where there was lots of money to spend. They thought that if I got a job at the age of 18 because of cricket maybe I will be able to support the family. That's why I joined and played cricket. I had no other option.

When I joined the bank, my sister and brother were studying and only my father was earning... and that too not much. He used to work for HLL in the design bureau. Now we are well to do and have no problems.

Does your brother also play cricket?

No, he doesn't. My brother is brilliant and he got a second rank in BE and finished his MS in London. That is the operational and statistical research. He got an ODI scholarship, which is like an invitation from the Queen of England. My sister has got a second rank in M Sc (Mathematics) and now she is in Kansas on a scholarship.

How has it been playing with the Karnataka team? How much did you learn from that?

In Karnataka cricket, you don't learn; you only enjoy, because you win all the time.

What are the reasons for the rise in Karnataka's fortunes in the domestic league? They have six players in the national side.

It's a cycle. Maybe, from now on, some other team will win. We have been winning and we have continued the good run. We don't have a younger side, but if six of them aren't there, we will be struggling. But now even without them we are winning. We hope we will continue the form for the next three years.

It's not got to do with the structure, the conditions or the system. The players really help each other out. The KSCA is really helpful and they do whatever we want them to. They provide us with all that we need. We don't fight amongst ourselves. It's like a family. I know it sounds like a very cliché statement to make, but it's like a second family for us.

Anand Yalvigi is originally from Bombay, but he seems to have found a home away from home with you guys.

That's a very good example of what I mean. We never felt that he was from Bombay. He also felt very homely. Whenever people come from Kerala, Bombay and Tamil Nadu they don't feel out of place. Nowhere in this country do they have an atmosphere like in Karnataka.

How much of a difference does it make playing with the star players in the team? Does it actually help you guys?

Certainly, it has helped us. Whenever they are home they teach us a lot and that really helps. Without them we would have not been here. They made us believe that we can win. Winning the Ranji trophy after 13 years is really something great. The last time that we won was in 1983, and after that we won in 1996. They are the ones that made the difference.


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