Off-spinner B Ramprakash formed a potent spin pair with K N Ananthapadmanabhan in the 90s. The bespectacled Tamil Nadu all-rounder moved over to Kerala after being frustrated at not able to find a spot in the playing eleven despite being part of the state Ranji squad for three seasons.
Ramprakash made his first-class debut for Kerala in 1990-91 and played a key role in the team's resurgence. Kerala qualified for the Ranji Trophy knockouts for the first time in 1994-95 by beating Tamil Nadu at Palakkad. Ramprakash was the top wicket-taker for Kerala with 30 wickets before the team was stopped by Uttar Pradesh in the pre-quarterfinals.
A right arm off-break bowler and a right-handed middle order batsman, Ramprakash called it quits in 2001-02 after picking up 233 wickets and scoring 2,489 runs from 64 first-class games. The 54-year-old has also served as the Tamil Nadu senior selector and Kerala under-23 coach.
Onmanorama spoke to Ramprakash about his playing days, coaching role and spin bowling.
Excerpts from the interview:
What keeps you busy these days?
At present, I am taking care of my academy in Chennai. Also I am mentor/coach of TNCA second division league sides Parrys (Sports & RC) and TI Cycles.
How do you rate the present day domestic spinners?
Well, I am afraid the art of spin bowling is on the wane. Most of the young spinners are happy to restrict the batsmen and very few actually spin the ball. Most of them do not flight the ball or deceive the batsmen in the air. I guess it has got a lot to do with the advent of T20 cricket. The grounds are getting smaller and with the quality of present day bats, even miss-hits clear the boundaries.
Young Tamil Nadu spinner Washington Sundar had a memorable debut in the recent Brisbane Test...
True, Sundar did well at the Gabba. I rate him as a batting all-rounder. He's opened in the past and he belongs to those spinners who are always looking to contain the batsmen.
With a bit of luck both you and Ananthan could have played for India...
I picked up 41 wickets in the 1996-97 Ranji season. Also I did well in the Duleep Trophy that season. (Ramprakash claimed 12 wickets as South Zone finished runners-up). However, I was overlooked when the Indian team for the West Indies tour was picked. Later, rookie Hyderabad off-spinner Noel David was flown in as replacement (for the injured Javagal Srinath)!
As for Ananthan, it was sheer bad luck that he was competing with Anil Kumble for the leg-spinner's spot. Present day players have the advantage of live TV coverage and sadly that was not the case during our time. IPL is a huge platform for young players.
What was the high point of your career?
We became South Zone champions in 1996-97. I returned figures of 6/52 and 8/25 in our win over Karnataka (at Palakkad). Also I can't forget our maiden win over Tamil Nadu in the 1994-95 Ranji season. I was desperate to do well and prove a point.
Your memories of M Suresh Kumar who passed away last year...
Really sad that he's no more. Suresh was one of the most naturally gifted players. I felt he could have represented the country if he had worked harder. At the junior level, you can manage with natural talent, but one needs to work really hard to play international cricket.
Kerala cricket has come a long way as far as infrastructure is concerned...
Oh, yes. The facilities are top-class whether it be the grounds, condition of the outfield or indoor training grounds. A lot of money too is involved for the development of the sport.
You have seen the young Kerala players from close quarters during your stint as U-23 coach...
I was there for a couple of seasons. Salman Nizar is a good longer version player. The left-hander is talented and has the patience to succeed in first-class cricket. Young leggie S Midhun is another impressive player, especially in the shorter formats.