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Balaji oozing confidence

Ahmedabad: Gujarat has always brought luck to Lakshmipathy Balaji. It was in Vadodara last year that he made his one-day debut against the West Indies and Wednesday will see his Test career get off the blocks at nearby Motera.

While the ODI match is something he wishes to forget (he ended with figures of 44 from four overs), he is determined to make the first Test of the series versus New Zealand a memorable one. “Getting a Test cap is a dream come true. I’m confident of putting up a good show,” Balaji told The Telegraph on Tuesday afternoon.

Did he expect the call so soon' “No,” the 22-year-old confessed. “But at the same time I was also in the reckoning after (Jawagal) Srinath and (Ashish) Nehra were unavailable. Now that I’m set to play, I’m very much prepared for the challenge.”

A superb Ranji Trophy performance (he had five five-wicket hauls in seven matches) and an equally impressive showing in the Irani and Challenger trophies brought him in the limelight. The Tamil Nadu allrounder is grateful to Frank Tyson for his success.

Tyson had worked with Balaji prior to the national conditioning camp in Bangalore last month. Along with the inswinger, which comes naturally to him, the legendary fast bowler worked on Balaji’s outswinger. “It added more variation,” he admits.

In fact, it’s been Balaji’s habit of picking wickets at regular intervals that has tilted the scales in his favour. Though he is Chennai-based, Balaji has had little training at the MRF Pace Foundation.

“I’ve been there on a few occasions to basically work on the physical aspect,” he said.

Having started his career in 1998 at Prahlad Coaching Centre under coach N.T. Balaji, he made his first class debut in 2001 versus Goa. There’s been no looking back thereafter.

The A tours to the West Indies and England also benefited him immensely. “I’ve learnt a lot from these tours. It was a great experience bowling in different conditions. It was also a challenge testing my abilities against international players,” he explained.

Balaji has modelled himself on Glenn McGrath and Srinath. “I admire McGrath for his consistency and his impeccable line and length. Srinath is a fast bowler’s model.

“To sustain at this level for 14 years in Indian conditions is awesome. He has great ability. Kapil Dev had also done the same thing.”

What does he consider his strong points' “Mental strength and confidence to deliver,” he remarked without the slightest hesitation.

He will need them in abundance to carry on the good work at the highest level.

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