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Took a break from cricket for the sake of engineering, returned to Team India after 5 years of playing 2 tests, created a stir

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale  - Senior Editor
9 Min Read

New Delhi. The game of cricket in India has taken a professional form today. At present, there are many cricketers in the country who studied only till Intermediate or even less and then gave up education for the sake of cricket. Competition has increased so much that today if a player is asked to choose between cricket and studies, his priority will be sports. But would you believe that in the past, there has been a cricketer who took a break after playing two Tests for the Indian team to pursue an engineering degree. After a break of five years, he completed his engineering degree and then not only returned to the Indian team but also remained the leading bowler of the country for many years.

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Here we are talking about spinner Erapalli Prasanna, who was a key member of the 'spin quartet' that was synonymous with success in Indian cricket in the 1960-70s. This was the era of cricket when four spinners of India – Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrashekhar, Erapalli Prasanna and S Venkataraghavan ruled the opposition batsmen. These four spinners were the heroes of many great victories of Team India.

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Made test debut against England in 1962

Erapalli Anantrao Srinivas Prasanna was born on 22 May 1940 in Bangalore (now Bengaluru), Karnataka. Prasanna, who bowled off spin with his right hand, was also good in studies. While playing cricket along with studies, he soon gained fame as an excellent spinner. Prasanna made his Ranji debut for Mysore against Hyderabad in 1961. He took three wickets in his debut match itself. After this his performance continued to improve. Prasanna made his Test debut in January 1962 against England in Chennai (then Madras). However, he could take only one wicket in the match. However, despite this 'weak' performance, he was also selected in the Indian team that toured the West Indies in 1962. Son's selection in the Indian team is a special occasion for the family but Prasanna's father was not completely happy with it.

He was afraid that due to being busy in cricket, Prasanna would not be able to study engineering. He was also confused about allowing Prasanna to go to West Indies. At such a time, M Chinnaswamy, the then Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), somehow convinced Prasanna's father. The father gave permission on the condition that after returning from West Indies the son would obtain an engineering degree, which Erapalli happily accepted.

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Took a break after returning from Indies tour, completed engineering degree
In this five-Test series against West Indies, Prasanna got a chance to play only in the second Test in Kingston in which he took three wickets for 122 runs. India had to face a crushing defeat of 5-0 in this test series. When Prasanna returned after completing this tour in April 1962, the situation had changed for him. His father had passed away, hence, keeping the promise made to him, Prasanna took a big decision of taking a break from cricket and studied engineering. After obtaining an engineering degree, he started his 'second innings' in Test cricket after 5 years in January 1967. In his international career that lasted till 1978, Prasanna played 49 Tests and took 189 wickets at an average of 30.38. His best bowling performance of 8 wickets for 140 runs in an innings and 11 wickets for 140 runs was his best bowling performance in the match, which he did in the Wellington Test against New Zealand in 1976.

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Ranked among the best off-spinners but played only 49 tests

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Prasanna is counted among the best off-spinners of the country. However, in a career that lasted more than a decade, he could play only 49 tests. The reason for this was that he took a break to pursue an engineering degree after his Test debut in 1962 and Venkataraghavan was given preference over him as an off-spinner. In the Indian team of his era, the selection of Bishan Singh Bedi and B Chandrashekhar as spinners was certain, while as off-spinners there was a 'competition' between Venkataraghavan and Prasanna in which many times 'Venkat' would win. However, many cricket critics considered Prasanna to be a better spinner than Venkat. These four stalwarts of the spin quartet played very few matches together.

Prasanna had said in an interview, 'The prime period for a cricketer is when he is 27 to 28 years old. I was 22 years old when my father died. If I had played for India in those five years, I don't know how many more wickets I would have taken. As captain, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi made the best use of Prasanna's potential. This off-spinner took 116 out of his 189 wickets under the captaincy of Pataudi. Pataudi, popularly known as 'Tiger', had once praised Prasanna and said, 'If Pras (Prasanna's nickname) is with you, you can expect wickets anywhere in the country.'

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Used to get wickets by 'tricking' the batsmen
Prasanna was adept at taking wickets by entangling the opposition batsmen in the web of his flight. He had amazing control over the flight of the ball. He used to provoke the batsman to play shots by throwing flighted balls. When the 'victim' was caught, he would suddenly change the length of the ball and get the batsmen stumped or caught out. He was unmatched in throwing arm ball. Former Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi was also impressed by Prasanna's bowling. Bedi and Prasanna were good friends and their way of celebrating after taking wickets was also unique. Former Australian captain Ian Chappell had praised Prasanna and said that Prasanna was the best among all the spinners he faced in his career.

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Completed 100 wickets in 20 tests, later Ashwin broke the record
Prasanna had taken only four wickets in the first two Test matches but when he returned after five years in 1967, he took a heap of wickets. By completing 100 wickets in just 20 Test matches, he became the fastest Indian to score a 'century' of wickets in Tests. Many years later, another off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (18 Tests) made this record in his name. Prasanna's biggest quality was that he was successful in taking wickets even on pitches that were less conducive to spin bowling. His bowling record even on foreign grounds is excellent.

tag: Cricket, Indian Cricket Team, team india, test cricket

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