Time to perform for my team: Praveen Kumar

MI medium pacer pours his heart out after comeback game

Mumbai 11 May 2014
It has been two years since Praveen Kumar last bowled a delivery in international cricket. Since then, he has been marred by injuries and has missed out on crucial domestic fixtures, which has not helped his comeback. He received a jolt when he was overlooked during this year’s IPL Player Auction. However, a window of opportunity was all that Praveen Kumar needed. And as luck would have it, he was roped in by the Mumbai Indians to replace the injured Zaheer Khan.

On Saturday night, during his first game for MI, Kumar showcased some fine swing bowling, bagging two wickets in his quota of four overs. And his second over to Dwayne Smith was a visual treat, as he left one of Chennai Super Kings’ prime batsmen in a tizzy. Smith had just faced one of the best overs of the match that would have left any batsman clueless. Clearly, the swing is back and so is the man, who is keen to prove a point.

In this chat with, we get up close and personal with Praveen Kumar who speaks about what motivates him and his return to the big stage in an MI jersey. 

Here are excerpts from his interview:

Back in action and back amongst the wickets – a good start to your IPL 2014 campaign.

First of all, I am just elated to be back in the IPL. It is a good feeling to come back at this level and showcase my skills. It is nice to show that I am completely fit and that I still have it in me to perform with the ball.

Injuries have left you out of the big stage for quite sometime. Were you nervous in a game that was a comeback of sorts?

I have been training hard and working out in phases. I trained a month back and went a bit easy on my body. It was my first match tonight and it did feel weird to play after a long time. That weird feeling faded off as I met the other players and went out to bowl in an electric atmosphere here at Wankhede Stadium. There was never a point tonight when I was nervous, and I am not usually nervous by nature. I absolutely enjoyed my bowling tonight.

Was there anything in particular that you wanted to focus on when you opened the bowling tonight?

Inswing comes natural to me and I can bowl it at any given point of time. My only focus was to swing the ball at the right line and length. I am happy that everything is falling into place slowly, and it never felt like I was playing after being out of action for a long time.

You spoke about being out of action. How disappointed were you when you were not picked during the IPL Player Auction?

Obviously, I was very disappointed when I was not picked in the Auction. It was a shocking moment for me. I was dejected for the first week-and-a-half, but started calming down as the days passed by. There came a point at that time when I actually stopped getting out of my house, thinking what people would talk about me and feared if they would ask me different kinds of questions. But slowly, I started getting out and all the negativity faded off. I was gutted that I hadn’t got a chance to play on a platform where I have been playing for so long.

What was the most motivating factor at that time?

My family kept me motivated. That was when I spent most of my time with my family, and they have backed me a lot during these hard times.

How did you prepare yourself after you hit a low in your career?

I played the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and a few corporate matches. My only motive was to get as much match practice as I can under my belt. I wanted to put in all my efforts and keep myself in sync with the game. I knew my shoulder, which had troubled me in the past, would only get better the more I bowl.

And then, you got a call from MI. Did you transform into a teenager who jumped with joy after hearing the news?

(Smiles) I was extremely happy when I got a call from Mumbai Indians to represent them in the IPL. I couldn’t sleep that night, and all of a sudden, I became a lot more positive. I have been playing international cricket for close to seven years now, and it was a great moment for me when I realised that I will be back in action.

Your second over to Dwayne Smith was a visual treat. Were you keeping a watch on him before joining MI?

I was watching the IPL matches at home. I was watching how Dwayne Smith was going about his batting and kept a tab on his weaknesses. I noticed that he was playing the inswinger well in all those matches and had difficulties playing the outswinger. It was strange that tonight he was playing the outswinger better and had problems playing the inswinger. I made him play a lot of inswingers tonight, and it worked for me.

How would you rate this performance?

I feel I could have bowled a lot better and conceded fewer runs. Now, it is back to the drawing board, and I will work on the things that I believe I should work on. Hopefully, I can take more wickets and give away fewer runs in the matches to come.

Are you completely fit now?

I have always had injuries creeping into me all of a sudden. All my injuries – be it my shoulder, my elbow or my broken rib – have never been a problem that has persisted for a long time. They all came all of a sudden and happened by accident. Injuries are a part and parcel of being a bowler, and one needs to find ways to counter it and be fit at all times. Now, I am fit and raring to go.

It is still your initial period with MI. But how has it been so far?

I am thankful of the Mumbai Indians for supporting me and getting me back in the IPL fold. The players and the support staff are nice and generous. Now, it is time to go and perform for my team.
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