Slow, slower, slowest: The many variations of Venkatesh Prasad

One of the early exponents of slower deliveries, particularly the leg cutter, Venkatesh Prasad made it tough for the batsmen to pick him.

India were facing Australia at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai during the 1996 Wills World Cup. With Australia at 258 for 7 at the start of the last over and with four wickets still in hand, the Australian batsmen were swinging for the sea.

Running in with the ball in hand for India was Venkatesh Prasad. Prasad ran in with his typical laid back and slow approach to the wicket, which belied his tall frame. The batsman Ian Healy put all his might in trying to club a good length delivery from Prasad, only to realise that it was actually a leg cutter, after it went past his bat.

The non-striker Shane Lee tried to steal a run but wicket-keeper Nayan Mongia was vigilant enough to run him out.

Next up, Shane Warne came out to bat. The leggie tried to loft the ball over the infield on the off side but was fooled by another Venkatesh Prasad slower one, and was caught in the circle.

The third delivery was actually a surprise one – a quick yorker on middle stump – which Healy just about managed to dig out. The fourth ball of the over was again a slower delivery. Healy went for the heave-ho but could only reach as far as Anil Kumble’s hands at square leg.

On the next ball, tailender Damien Fleming, like his Australian teammates, tried to swing hard but to no avail. He, too, missed another of Venkatesh Prasad’s slower deliveries and was run-out by wicket-keeper Nayan Mongia.

Venkatesh Prasad had been on-point and contributed in each of the four wickets that fell in the last over. Australia could not manage even a single run to finish off the innings, all thanks to Venkatesh Prasad’s assortment of slower deliveries.

The seam bowler played 33 test matches and 161 one-day internationals for India for a five-year period between 1996 and 2001, before he retired in March, 2005 at 35.

Prasad is best remembered for rattling Aamer Sohail’s stumps in a World Cup quarter-final encounter between arch-rivals India and Pakistan in Bangalore, after the Pakistan batsman showed him the way to the boundary.

The second best of his memories comprises his judicious use of the slower delivery, especially the leg cutter and how he was successful in tricking the batsmen more often than not, as his 96 test and 196 ODI wickets confirm.

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