I have taken a decision on not playing senior-level cricket any longer in any format. I have asked the TNCA to not pick me for the Tamil Nadu team this season: : Lakshmipathy Balaji (34), after being in the circuit for close to a decade and a half, has finally decided to ‘hang his boots’.
Speaking to ESPN Cricinfo, the lanky Tamil Nadu pacer said, “I have taken a decision on not playing senior-level cricket any longer in any format. I have asked the TNCA to not pick me for the Tamil Nadu team this season. I am still looking to continue playing the smaller leagues, but let”s see how it goes.”
Making his First Class debut in 2001/02, Balaji has featured in 106 games and has picked up 330 wickets at an average of 26.10 and 2.82 economy rate. His best bowling figure of 7/42 came in the semi final encounter against Delhi in 2002-03 season. His bowling performance helped his team win the encounter by 132 runs.
In his interaction further with ESPN Cricinfo, he said, “I think I have been part of some very interesting matches. I picked up a five-for in the second innings against a team that featured three, four Test players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Aakash Chopra. My spell of 6 for 24 against Bengal in 2008-09 was also very special.”
Balaji also had 16 ‘five-wicket’ hauls and 4 ‘ten wicket’ hauls in his First Class career.
In the List A segment, he has featured in 100 games, picking up 145 wickets at an average of 29.35 with 5/76 as his best performance.
Between October 2003 and March 2005, Balaji represented India in 8 Test matches. He had picked up 27 wickets at an average of 37.18 with a solitary ‘five-wicket’ haul.
His bowling prowess was at its best against Pakistan both in 2003-04 and 2004-05 series’. He bagged a total of 12 wickets in three-Test series in the 2003-04 Indian tour of Pakistan. He excelled in his performance by picking up 7/171 in the series decider at Rawalpindi, helping his team with the series 2-1. Balaji also became famous in Pakistan for his ‘megawatt’ smile, which was also commented upon by the then President of Pakistan when Team India had called on him.
Balaji’s best bowling performance (5/76) came in the first Test against Pakistan on their return tour to India in 2004-05, at Mohali.
Featuring in 30 ODIs, between 2002 and 2009, he had picked up 34 wickets at an average of 39.52 with 4/48 being his best performance.
Balaji was constantly affected by injury issues. A stress fracture ruled him out of cricket in 2005, and threatened to end his career. For three years he could hardly play any cricket. He had to undergo a back surgery before which he was not sure he would be able to bowl again.
He made his ‘comeback’ through a successful IPL 2008 stint with Chennai Super Kings with a 11-wicket haul that included a hat-trick. He also successfully led his team Tamil Nadu into the semi-final stage with his bowling performance, claiming 36 wickets at 17.50 a piece.
Balaji is likely to be appointed the Bowling Coach for the Tamil Nadu team for the upcoming 2016-17 season. In fact he donned the hat of bowling coach in 2015-16 season also.
In his interaction with ESPNCricinfo, the lanky speedster said, “To play alongside bigger brothers like Zaheer, Ashish, Harbhajan and Yuvi….they they have always been looking after me. Also playing with the six legends – Viru, Sourav, Anil bhai, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman – was a dream come true.”
“I am very indebted to my seniors from my state. I have learnt a lot from every cricketer I have played and interacted with. The TNCA has been very supportive, especially when I had a surgery, and N Srinivasan, especially, backed me. Of course, I am indebted to my family, my wife, my sisters, and my friends, without whom I wouldn”t have made this level from being a tennis-ball cricketer.”
“I have made the physio’s job and the doctor’s job very tough for a few years, so I would like to thank them for helping me come out of a career-threatening injury. I kept them busy for sometime, and in the end made good friends in a different field.”
In all earnest Balaji should be successful in ‘energising’ the Tamil Nadu bowlers, specially the speedsters, to do well in the upcoming season and carry the team to new heights.
With his success with the state team, he may also go on to coach the bowlers of the national team, sooner than later.