When Srinath made his test debut in 1991 Kapil Dev was almost at the end of his career. Watching Srinath in that tour of Australia was a great experiance as he was by far the fastest Indian bowler at that time. The major problem with Srinath was his stamina in the initial part of his career. He could bowl really quick but always looked tired after a short spell. Srinath was also lucky to have started his career when Kapil was still leading India’s pace attack.
Srinath had a good tour of Australia and was in the team which went on a historic tour to South Africa later. Srinath when he made his debut was different from other Indian bowlers of that time. He was a bowler who hit the deck pretty hard and extracted plenty of bounce using his height and a strong action to his advantage. After the tour of SA, he dissapeared for over a year and returned after Kapil had hung up his boots in the 1994/95 season when WI toured India.
In the initial part of his career Srinath was a one dimensional bowler who mostly bowled in dippers to the right handers which made him very effective against the left handers. Brian Lara always had problems facing Srinath. I guess Srinath was one of the reasons why Brian Lara has a pretty modest record against the Indians. Later in his career Srinath developed a good slower delivery and a leg cutter which made him a more all round bowler at the international level.
Srinath was a perfect team man. His career was shortened due to injuries to his shoulder. Srinath’s career ran parallely with Glenn Mcgrath and Allan Donald. The major disadvantage for Javagal was that he never had the back up which both Mcgrath and Donald enjoyed in their respective teams. Most of the time Srinath was the only pace bowler in the dust bowls of India during the early 90’s when India prepared doctored pitches to suit their spinners.
Srinath lacked any support from the other end till Prasad made his debut in 1996. Srinath could have played more test matches and got more wickets if only India had good pace bowlers to support his initial bursts. He was particulary overbowled during the mid nineties under the captaincy of Sachin Tendulkar. He picked up his shoulder problem after the tour of SA in 1996/97 as he along with Prasad were the only bowlers who looked like taking any wickets on that tour. Srinath manfully toiled hard bowling long spells in mid and late nineties while the rest of the Indian bowlers except for Prasad turned up with mediocre perfromances abroad.
Srinath never got his due as a player as the Indian media is all about the batsmen in the team. Srinath retired after the 2003 WC without much fanfare. Srinath is only pacemen after Kapil Dev to have picked up 200 test wickets for India and the only Indian fast bowler to pick up 300 one day wickets. He was always a team man and stood up to be counted whenever his captain needed him. Srinath was always my favorite Indian bowler. India now can boast of a formidable pace attack with great bench strength which was not the case in the 90’s.
Srinath’s name may not figure in many “All time X1’s” but still he was one of the best India has ever had. I salute Srinath for his great contribution to Indian cricket and for being a wonderful team man that he was. I also wish him all the best in his new role as the ICC Match Refree. I am sure that he would perform this new role with the same passion and commitment as his did for team India as a player.