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Significant strides

Sridharan Sriram's quest for excellence continues with lots of runs and moments of inspiration


A CRICKETER'S career is so often dotted by moments of agony and ecstasy, with brightness and shade locked in a furious interplay. There are times when the cut runs deep, the wounds do not heal, and those shafts of light just do not break through the layers of darkness.

Sridharan Sriram has been battered and bruised, seen the highs and the lows, but has also learnt to fight and survive. And he draws his inspiration from a rather unexpected quarter.

When self-doubt creeps in, all Sriram does is close his eyes, and listen to music wafting through the air in his Chennai residence as his father, S.D. Sridharan, a renowned Carnatic violinist, practises his craft.Even as Sriram lets the strains of the melodious music soak in, the scars of the past vanish, and his mind and body, now in harmony, are ready for another fling on the field of play.

"I trust myself, back my ability," he says and these are words backed by performances with Sriram running up scores of 92, 50 and 105 not out, for India `A', at the expense of the England `A' attack in the recently concluded one-day series.

Indeed, the small built 27-year-old left-hander from Tamil Nadu has made some significant strides this season, a phase which has been full of surprises, such as a message in his voice mail from a very special man after his match-winning 70 against India `B' in the early season Challenger Series final in Bangalore.

It read: "Hi! Sriram, this is Sunil Gavaskar here. I was enthralled by your innings today. Keep putting the runs on the board, the day is not far off when you will play for India again."

"He's a legend and I was over the moon," remembers Sriram, his face breaking into a wide grin, his eyes lighting up.

Good things come in packages and Sriram recalls another spirit-lifting incident after the same game, when Sachin Tendulkar, originally picked for the Man of the Final award, declared that Sriram deserved the prize more. It was precisely during that knock, a rollicking 70 off 55 deliveries for India `A' at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, that Sriram, more adept at the longer version of the game as his record (6509 in 83 matches at 58.11) suggests, realised that if he paced his innings better, he could contribute weightily in limited overs cricket too.

"It's basically the self belief. If you can rotate the strike, and stay there, the boundaries are bound to come," he says.

With his supple wrists, Sriram, who turns out for Globe Trotters in Chennai's first division league, is adept at working the ball on to the leg-side all day, picking up the ones and the twos. He can cut, pull and sweep with aplomb, and, has, in recent days, added a stinging cover-drive to his repertoire; given his compact ways at the crease, he can handle both pace and spin comfortably.

Sriram, also a useful left-arm spinner and a fine fielder, adds that the shift to No. 3 from the opening slot, brought about by the Tamil Nadu team management's desire to field the left-right combination of Sadagopan Ramesh and S. Suresh, suits him fine. "I am comfortable where I am. It allows me to stay in control."

He concedes that when provided a break in the Indian ODI side in 2000, he was not ready or prepared for the role, and his shot selection did come under scrutiny - "I am better equipped for the challenge now."

Sriram is also much tougher mentally, reflected in the fact that he suffered a broken finger in the beginning of the India `A' tour of England last summer, and still managed to score heavily in the latter stages of the campaign.

In his journey, he is guided by an inner voice. "It keeps telling me that I will make it back." Sridharan Sriram's quest continues with lots of runs, loads of music and moments of true inspiration.

S. DINAKAR

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