For close to a decade, Javagal Srinath spearheaded the Indian fast bowling unit. Ever since his retirement, there has been a gaping hole left in India’s fast bowling coffers which is yet to be filled. Srinath was aggressive and reserved and was a dedicated team man. His in-swingers were lethal and so were his bouncers. He was a responsible and extremely effective bowler and commanded respect from around the cricketing world in his playing days.
The stalwart of Indian cricket celebrated his birthday last month. Throughout his career, Srinath rescued India multiple times with his incisive bowling. Here is looking at five of Javagal Srinath’s best bowling performances.
6-21 vs South Africa in Ahmadabad, 1996 (Test): This was one of those magical spells that would be remembered for a lifetime. The South Africans have always been tough opponents and when they toured India in 1996, the hosts faced a daunting task. In the first Test at Ahmadabad, India hadn’t performed well and South Africa needed just 170 to wrap up the match. Srinath, though, had other ideas. In what will always be remembered as one of the most stunning displays of fast bowling in India, Srinath first rocked the South African top-order, then came back to trample their middle-order and tail-enders to return with figures of 6-21; his best then. Courtesy Srinath’s amazing spell, South Africa were bowled out for just 105; handing India a memorable victory.
8-86 vs Pakistan in Kolkata, 1999 (Test): Though India lost this controversial Test match (the first of the Asian Test Championship), it will also be remembered by the amazing bowling performance by Javagal Srinath. Pakistan was trying to set India a formidable target in their second innings, but Srinath was in their way. Apart from Saeed Anwar, who scored a magnificent hundred, the others succumbed to Srinath’s guile and mastery over swing, and accounted for 8 Pakistani batsmen. Incidentally, Srinath had also taken 5 wickets in the first innings of this Test, where he had reduced Pakistan to 26-6. But some inept batting by the Indians led to them losing the match by 46 runs. Srinath’s figures of 8-86 in the second innings remained his best ever performance.
4-35 vs Sri Lanka in Johannesburg, 2003 (ODI): In this crucial World Cup match in South Africa, India batted excellently and put on a target of 293 runs on the board for Sri Lanka. Before the Lankans could even begin to construct their chase, Srinath struck havoc among them. He took out openers Marvan Attapatu and Sanath Jayasuriya in the very beginning, thereby breaking the backbone of Sri Lanka. His line and length, along with the constant in-swing, was simply astounding that day. Srinath took two more wickets and it was his sustained and relentless pressure that made Sri Lanka choke. They were bundled out for 109 runs in the end; thus giving India a comprehensive victory.
3-37 vs Pakistan in Toronto, 1998 (ODI): Very few will perhaps remember this game; the first match from the ‘Sahara Friendship Cup’ played in Toronto. However, it was a very good game for India which they won comfortably by six wickets because of Srinath’s fiery spell. Batting first, Pakistan tried to make a decent score on a good wicket. But Srinath was at his imperious best that day and troubled the batsmen consistently. After numerous edge and misses, Srinath got three crucial wickets; that of Shahid Afridi, Ijaz Ahmed and Saleem Malik. With the help Sourav Ganguly, Srinath restricted Pakistan to just 189; a total that India chased down with relative ease.
6-45 vs New Zealand in Mohali, 1999 (Test): Though this Test match – the first of the two-match Test series- was drawn, it will be remembered for numerous reasons for the cricket and the other controversies around it. Batting first on a decent wicket, India were shot out for just 86 runs on the first day itself. To avoid humiliation, India needed to restrict the hosts at all costs. It was Srinath, once again, who did the work for his team. The Kiwis had no answer to his swing and seam; which was immaculate. Srinath completely uprooted the middle-order of New Zealand and then wiped up the tail to come up with superb figures of 6-45 on a good batting track. India then batten excellently in their second foray and the match eventually ended in a draw. Nevertheless, this was undoubtedly one of the best spells of bowling by Srinath; given the match and pitch condition.
The Indian cricket team is yet to find a bowler in the class of Javagal Srinath. He was a giant of Indian cricket through the 90s and will forever be missed. Here is hoping that the bowlers of today learn from this gentleman cricketer and human being and follow on his steps. That in itself would be the greatest tribute to the great man.