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VV Kumar

Meet VV Kumar Face to Face as part of CricInfo's video/audio interview series.

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"The very idea of playing for the country existed when I took the ball for my school way back in 46 or 48 because I was very sure of my ability."

[ Complete profile of VV Kumar ]

On what inspired him to become a wrist spin bowler

There are two types of spin, one is the wrist spun leg break or off break and the other may be called a finger spun leg break or off break. I had no inspiration. I used to practise in my school days with a tennis ball and golf ball. Basically the idea of becoming a wrist spin bowler never struck me. I used to roll my fingers, twist my fingers, do all sorts of gimmicks with them and developed as a wrist spin bowler. [Audio]

On when he first believed he had the ability to play for India

The very idea of playing for the country existed when I took the ball for my school way back in 46 or 48 because I was very sure of my ability. It may sound a little outlandish but I felt that I was a material, if properly groomed, would certainly play for the country. I don't know how I got the message. If you ask my circle of friends and relatives, they would have seen a VV Kumar on the streets or the backyard or even the hall of the house, practising with a golf ball, trying to probe what exactly could be the deviation in the spin bowling art. [Audio]

On his early benefactor, the late Lala Amarnath

The entire credit should go to the late Lala Amarnath. When we were practising in Delhi in the late fifties for a Ranji Trophy match, Lalaji was present. He wondered who this stripling practising his leg breaks was and my skipper CD Gopinath introduced me. Lala wanted to see me at close quarters and chose me for the Indian Starlets tour to Pakistan led by him in 1959/60. He was of such tremendous assistance and not only did I learn the intricacies of spin bowling from him but also how to be an attacking leg spinner. [Audio]

On being selected to the Test side

We had a lot of competition then. Subhash Gupte was at his peak and there was another versatile leg spinner in Chandu Borde. We also had Dhanwade, a cricketer who died prematurely. I still remember Lalaji telling me on the Starlets tour in Pakistan that if I took five wickets in a particular match, I could rest assured I would play against Pakistan when they came to India. And as things would go, I did take five wickets including top class players like Alimuddin, Ijaz Butt... and Lala made up his mind that I should be given a chance. I played for Board President's XI against Pakistan in Bangalore in 1960/61 and took six wickets. Automatically I was called up for the Madras Test but my hamstring was sore after bowling about 50 overs in Bangalore, so I remained in the reserves and finally made my debut in Delhi. [Audio]

On his dream start in Test cricket in Delhi

The dream start, as you say, is still fresh in my memory. I was bowling according to a plan drawn up by Polly Umrigar (who was captaining in the absence of the injured Nari Contractor). His motto was to attack Imtiaz Ahmed who was a very attacking batsman and liked to go for the bowling. Polly told me to push the ball a little quicker to him but flight the ball one or two times to draw him into a stroke. In my first over, five balls were pushed leg breaks which Imtiaz had no difficulty in playing back according to merit. The last was a really deceptive googly which was very slow in the air, it made him commit himself to a forward stroke, then he saw the ball pitching well ahead of the bat and could not check his stroke. After pitching, the ball flew like a serpent and hit the middle stump. I felt very elated and immediately went to Polly and said it was all because of his strategy. But Polly said it was because of my capability that I got him. [Audio]

On the disappointment of not winning that Test

In the first innings I got five wickets and in second innings, also we had the Pakistanis down by having them struggling at 170/6. Mushtaq Mohammed, the youngest Test cricketer in the world, was batting. I was operating at the far end of the Kotla and bowled a very conventional leg break which hit the rough and spun across Mushtaq's bat. It went straight to Polly who dropped it. That I felt later was the turning point of the unfortunately drawn match. Later Mahmood Hussain was batting. He was taking a lot of risks and getting away with it. With about 40-45 minutes to go, I was brought on from the pavilion end with Manjrekar at short midwicket. One ball I pitched on the leg stump thinking that he might go for a heave. He played it straight to Manjrekar. Dropped. It didn't mean that I did well only in the first innings. I did well in the second innings too but had those catches been taken perhaps we could have romped home. [Audio]

On the 'injury' that led to his downfall

I played the Bombay Test against England in 1961/62 after a long gap of 4-5 months since I had a wrist injury which had just got cured. I told the selectors that I was fit but there was always a possibility something may go wrong during the Test. They said it didn't matter if wasn't 200 % fit but if I was 100-150 % fit it was ok. At the time Vijay Hazare was the chairman of selectors and he wished me all the best saying I was the person who would deliver the goods. In a tall scoring match, I was in the field for 8-10 hours and developed a boil on my right toe. I took permission, went inside and asked the physio if he could give me a piece of ice. As soon as the match was over, I was called by the captain Nari Contractor and our zone selector MJ Gopalan. Contractor said, "Mr. Selector, have you asked VV why he has not confided he was carrying an injury"? In all fairness I should say that if there had been an iota of support from our selector, I could have played for the rest of the series but that didn't come. [Audio]

On the premature end to his Test career

I didn't bowl badly in the Bombay Test. It was a big scoring match and once I saw the wicket was not assisting me, I thought there was no use in giving away runs and focused on keeping one end tight. Perhaps the extent of the 'injury' which the selectors imagined made them ponder about choosing me. After that I was successful against almost all the touring sides like West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, England... taking not 8-10 wickets but 3-4 at least. Despite the fact that I took 30-35 wickets in domestic cricket, they never considered me. That was the period when Chandra, Pras and Bedi came into the reckoning, so we had a plethora of genuine spinners and the selection process became a little difficult. They had to choose the best and probably that is how I lost out in the race. [Audio]

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