September 8, 2012

Visakhapatnam: Sep 7, 2012

Amid the hype surrounding Yuvraj Singh’s return after conquering cancer, pacer Laxmipathy Balaji would make a quiet comeback to the Indian cricket team, more than three-and-a-half years after his last international outing.

“It’s nice to be back. But at the same time, it’s not that I’m going to make my debut. Yes, I didn’t play for India for a long time but cricket always stayed with me,” Balaji said ahead of the first Twenty20 international against New Zealand here.

The Tamil Nadu-seamer was written off after a career-threatening knee injury.

But a successful stint with this year’s IPL victors Kolkata Knight Riders meant that Balaji was not done yet as he was drafted into the Twenty20 squad for two matches against New Zealand and the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka.

“Be it at first-class or club level, I play with my heart and soul. That’s my passion and the reason why I’ve been able to make a comeback. I really thank God for giving me the break,” Balaji, who will turn 31 this month, said.

“It’s an honour to represent the country. We hope to do our best and get back the Cup for India.”

Balaji said he benefited a lot after spending time with Knight Riders bowling coach Wasim Akram.

“Wasimbhai has been a big asset during the IPL. Everybody knows what he is capable of. Spending last two years with him really helped a lot,” he said.

“IPL gave me the platform — it’s similar to that of an international format. It actually helps when you do well in IPL,” he added.

Balaji, who took 10 wickets in eight games for KKR, said he is confident of a good comeback.

“I did play Buchi Babu recently. I have been training well. I’ve done a lot of hardwork on my fitness. I’m bowling regularly. Just looking forward to go out there and give my best,” Balaji said.

Playing in the World Cup is an honour and Balaji wants to make it count.

“It’s an honour to wear the India colours in the World Cup. It’s a big tournament and we have done well in the past there. It’s great to be part of the side. Hope to give my best and bring back the Cup for India.”

The return of Yuvraj Singh after battling a rare germ cell cancer will inspire the Indians, Balaji said.

“Everybody knows how tough it is to undergo the (chemotherapy) treatment. Not only health, there are so many things. But he has come back harder after a one-and-half-year battle with cancer.”

He is also looking forward to playing with star off-spinner Harbhajan Singh again.

“He is one of the greatest Indian spinners. It’s wonderful to see him back. It gives me an opportunity to play with him again.”

After the retirement of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, the young Indian players were doing well with Virat Kohli performing exceptionally well.

“Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were two of the greatest Indian batsmen in history. A big salute for the service they have given to the Indian cricket. They have inspired many youngsters, giving India so many wonderful moments. They played with so much of dignity.”

“It’s a process that will take some time. It’s not easy to refill the gap overnight. Definitely they will remain an inspiration. But Virat Kohli is doing a very fine job. He is exceptional. Hope he continues to do well for India,” he concluded. (PTI)

By: Tapan Mohanta

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