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Interview with MSK Prasad

M.S.K.Prasad is a Never-say-Die kind of person. He has played 17 ODIs and 6 Test Matches for India till date. This 29 year old wicket keeper batsman from Andhra is working hard towards making a comeback into the Indian team. So Dinesh Karthik or Parthiv Patel or anyone just watch out and be on your toes!’s B.V.Swagath and Ashwat Ramani had the pleasure of having this exclusive interview with M.S.K.Prasad (seen in the pic on the right side with his physio Ramesh) :

MSK Prasad

Coca-Cola Triangular Series May 14th 1998, India playing minnows Bangladesh at Mohali. India had a new face behind the stumps – A 23yr old from Andhra. Talk us through what happened that day with MSK Prasad.

Actually, that was the happiest day of my life. I had made it to the Indian team after coming from a small place like Guntur. Actually I was not even from Guntur. I was actually from a village, which is 15 kms away from Guntur, but I did all my education in Guntur, as my father worked in Guntur. So a boy coming from Guntur was a great moment, not only for me but also for all the people in Guntur and Andhra, because that was the 1st time that any one from Andhra played for the country. So it was a great pride for my Association as well. There was no limit for happiness from my side. I should agree, it was the best day in my life.

And talk us through, what happened on that exact day.

That day was electrifying for me. But, you know I somehow never felt any sought of pressure, because I had already been part of many ‘A’ tours. I had infact done 5 tours before that. So I never felt any sought of pressure, I just felt as if I was playing another game. Playing for the country, the happiness was definitely there but the pressure was not there.

Had it been different if the opposition on your debut had been say Australia or Pakistan rather than Bangladesh?

See basically, on your debut it doesn’t make much of a difference, no matter whichever team you are playing. But yes, Bangladesh were a bit relaxing. Playing teams like Australia or Pakistan on your debut would have been tough when compared to minnows Bangladesh.

Were you expecting a call to the Indian team during that time?

Yes, actually Agarkar and I had come back from a successful Pakistan ‘A’ tour. Agarkar had been selected in the Indian side for the Tri Series in India, which also featured Australia and Zimbabwe. So I was really looking forward for a call in the near future.

What was the success story behind you wearing the Indian colours that day? And tell us about your family.

Wicket keeping has come naturally to me. It wasn’t like somebody forced me to take wicket keeping or something of that sort. The 1st day when I went to a coaching camp in Guntur, you had about 200 boys who came for selections. Out of those 200, there was only one wicket keeper and that was me. The coach was giving me difficult catches, and I was taking them as if I was very experienced. From that day, my coach Mr. Purnachandra Rao, he taught me and within another 3 months, I played for my state. When I was playing Inter Zonals in Andhra, the Honorary Secretary Mr. N Venkatram saw me and said, “This boy is going to play for the Indian team”. My coach and everybody associated with my life inspired me a lot and I really worked hard. Because, you know coming from a small village, it was not an easy job. As far as my family was concerned, my father was a central government employee and my mother is a housewife. My brother and sister both are in US right now. I am married to a doctor, and I have a small daughter.

Did education hinder your dedication towards Cricket?

I did my schooling in Kendriya Vidyalaya, Guntur and I did my graduation from Hindu College. Thereafter I immediately got a job in Bangalore, from there I went to Chennai and finally I came to Hyderabad, because I wanted to settle down in Hyderabad.

So you didn’t come across any hurdles, as you were performing all the time?

No, because ever since the 1st day in my coaching camp, everywhere I got encouragement from my physical directors and trainers and coaches. My parents were a big source of inspiration. My brother always used to encourage me with my game. So I got encouragement from absolutely everywhere. This was a rare thing to happen in a small city like Guntur. In Guntur they follow a culture in which you find an Engineer or a Doctor in every 3rd house. For ex: My sister is a doctor and my brother is an Engineer. My Wife is a doctor and her brother is an Engineer. So it was rather surprising a cricketer in the form of me to come out of Guntur.

Your Highest ODI score of 63 came against South Africa at Nairobi in the LG Cup finals in a quest for chasing 235. You played a fighting knock taking on the bowlers. Can you talk us through that innings.

Yeah, It was a beautiful knock. Unfortunately, I came out of that match with cramps. I could have really won that game, and that could have changed my career. Somehow I was really exhausted during that innings. We had a very long and tough overnight training session and somehow got dehydrated. We had less breakfast in the morning. I didn’t even have lunch, so it was totally empty for me. The night before the finals, I had pleaded Jadeja to send me if 2 wickets fall down quickly. I came in at No.4 in that Match, and our coach Mr. Anshuman Gaekwad didn’t even know that I was going at No.4. When I was going down towards the pitch, Anshu asked me …..”Where are you going?”. I replied Ja (Jadeja) asked me to go to bat and rushed down to the pitch. I started hitting from Ball one, I really was very confident and Jadeja rightly sent me at No.4 that day. I had really kept well also in that Series. Gavaskar also used to encourage me whenever we met each other and always asked me to keep on trying hard. You know even last year in an interview, Mr. Gavaskar was saying, “Why is this boy being neglected?”

Any memorable shots in that Match which you still remember today?

The first ball that I hit in that match was an on-drive of Pollock, which went for 4. Then I also flicked him off my pads for another 4. I also remember hitting Kallis over mid-wicket. That seemed like a really well established innings. Later on what happened was…I used to come in situations where you required 60 runs of the last 5 overs, which was practically impossible.

In the game against South Africa, you had to retire hurt due to cramps. What happened when you came back later to resume your innings?

Yeah, by the time I went and came back, 6 wickets had fallen down. Then I was left with Venkatesh Prasad in the end. We required 12 runs of the last over. Rahul Dravid was running for me during that time. I hit the 1st ball of that over, the runners ran 2 and sadly I got run out.

Can you talk about your Test Debut against New Zealand at Mohali where the Indian team was shot out for 83 in the 1st Innings?

Yeah I remember that by the time, I was wearing the Indian shirt, 5 batsmen had returned back to the pavilion. When I went in the score was around 43/6. Sachin was along with me at the crease during that time, and he asked me “How do you look at the Situation?” I told him that I’ll play throughout the day and will be solid at one end. Sachin was happy to hear that reply from me, but he got out soon, and then Srinath and co followed him. We were all out for 83 and I was unbeaten at 16.

How was the pitch at Mohali. Was it seaming a lot?

Actually it was a damp pitch. We had made a mistake by winning the toss and batting first. What the captain thought was that the openers will play for 1 hour and then it will be a batting paradise. But within 1 hour, we lost 5 wickets. So the damp wicket led to our downfall on that day.

How was it keeping to the likes of Kumble, Srinath and how was it compared to keeping to the Andhra Bowlers.

Actually it was very good keeping to them. I was working for India Cements before I played my 1st Test. I had kept to good bowlers like Devanand and Gopikrishnan who are now in the Tamil Nadu Ranji team. So I got used to keeping to them, and I also had the added experience of playing the ‘A’ tours. But yes, Anil Kumble was very tough. Compared to Anil, Harbhajan was even tougher. Harbhajan used to extract a lot of bounce out of the wicket, which compelled me to use a helmet. Those days, everybody used to laugh at me for keeping with the helmet on. Even Sachin once angrily asked me “Why do you wear a helmet. It goes over your head sometimes.” Nowadays every body wears helmets, especially if they are keeping to Harbhajan or Kumble.

You were on the tough tour of Australia during 1999-2000 and you played 3 Tests there. So how different was it keeping to the fast and bouncy tracks compared to the Indian pitches. What were the adjustments and preparations you made?

No, actually it was very easy to keep wickets on the Aussie tracks. Once you open your gloves, the ball used to fall into it. In India, the ball hardly comes into your gloves. So once the batsman is completely set, the ball hardly comes onto your gloves. But in Australia, you will have a minimum of 3-4 balls coming into your gloves. One more thing is… the number of caught behinds you get in Australia is amazing. Normally, in every match you see Gilchrist having 5-6 victims. Even in the Adelaide Test, I got 8 catches, 5 in the 1st Innings and 3 in the 2nd.

What did you think about Sachin Tendulkar as a captain on that Tour?

It was not that Sachin failed as a captain in that tour. In fact everybody played poorly in that tour. See, if a team does well, then the credit goes to the captain, similarly if a team performs badly, the credit goes to the captain. One more important thing was, except Sachin, Sourav and Srinath, everybody were touring Australia for the 1st time. The new conditions and the steep bounce were not easy for the players. If you see the recent Indian team which toured Australia was a bit experienced as some of them had already toured Australia once, and you can see how well they played. Unfortunately, after that Australian tour, I was dropped and thereafter it was very difficult for me to come back.

What is it about the suitcase injury you suffered at the Kuala Lumpur Airport?

Actually, when we were in the Kuala Lumpur Airport, you had many carts carrying luggage in them. One of those carts accidentally hit my knee and I fell down. I took it casually and limped off. We reached Australia and had a tour match against one of the ‘A’ sides. I was not able to bend my knee and I noticed that my knee had swollen up. And I was sitting on one leg. Andrew Leipus our Physio who was also surprised to see that, took me to a nearby doctor. The doctor removed some fluid out of the swollen knee. Meanwhile, Nayan was asked to come from India and a big story was made out of that. In fact that was not true that I wasn’t treated well, what all came out were just made up stories and were not true.

Are you working towards getting a berth in the Indian Team again?

Of course yes. If you see my first class performances in the last few years, it has been really good. I scored 700 odd runs 2 years back. Last year I scored around 500 runs. It’s been very unfortunate that wicket keepers from U-19 are being given a chance immediately, and wicket keepers are not being selected from Ranji. I am confident that our team will do well this year in the Ranji Trophy and I want Andhra to reach the semi finals and if possible the finals, so that the selectors consider selecting Andhra players.

Is it also because that U-19 World Cups, ‘A’ tours are being telecast on TV, but the same isn’t the case with First class cricket? And people like you are not getting enough recognition?

Yeah that’s what I say. See, The standard of U-19 matches is a bit low, when compared to the Ranji and Duleep trophy matches. If the selectors are going to select from the U-19 players, then we better stop playing first class cricket. See for ex: Sridharan Sriram, he has around 28 first class centuries, where is he today? He is still fighting for a place in the Indian Squad. So scoring these many centuries also is at times disheartening.

Since Nayan Mongia, many wicket keepers have been in and out of the team. You’ve had Saba Karim, yourself, Vijay Dahiya, Deep Dasgupta, Sameer Dighe, Ajay Ratra, Parthiv Patel and now Dinesh Karthik. So does this sought of chopping and changing demoralize a wicket keeper like you, or does it encourage you and keep you on your toes that you might get a call up to the Indian team anytime.

See, I believe that once you setup International standards for yourself, nobody can chase you. I frankly feel that when I was converting into a good wicket keeper, I was dropped. Same was the case with the 2-3 other keepers who came in. Parthiv was in the team for some time. Now even he has been replaced by Dinesh Karthik. So you need to lift your level of cricket, both with the bat as well as behind the stumps. See, if you score 1000 runs at first class level and you are not selected, then there is no use of sitting at home and complaining. Get 1500 runs in the next season so as to impress the selectors. See Robin Singh made his debut in 1987 and made a comeback in 1996 at the age of 33.

So you mean to say that a Parthiv Patel or a Deep Dasgupta or M.S.K. has to score hundreds and hundreds just like top batsmen plus also keep brilliantly and get into the Indian Team?

Yes, I purely believe in that. You need to set yourself to high standards, both in wicket keeping and your batting. Without playing first class cricket, you have no idea if you come into the team. So score a lot of runs and keep in first-class cricket so that it becomes easy to adapt to the conditions.

Anyway, what has been your most memorable and most embarrassing moment?

Most memorable moment has to be the catch, which I took of Lara’s, at Toronto. It was an unbelievable catch, and it was the best catch I had ever taken. Most Embarrassing moment was when I had to return back home from Australia, I was shocked at not being selected in the squad. Ganguly came up to us and casually read out the names. I still had plans of improving myself for the ODI’s before I got the shocking news of me not in the squad.

So what’s in store for MSK Prasad in the near future?

First of all I want my Andhra team to do well and win the Ranji Trophy. Then I want 2 – 3 players along with me to be selected in the Indian Team.

Who do you think are the future prospects for India from Andhra?

Venugopal Rao is in the peak of his form. He scored a double century against England A last year in the Duleep Trophy. Now this year again he has scored a 200 against Kenya. I think he is one good future prospect for India. Gyaneshwar and AG Pradeep also look good to be selected for the National side.

Any tips in keeping which you want to share with the young kids?

Basically, I feel that wicket keeping should come naturally to you. One more most important thing is that you must enjoy wicket keeping. See for ex:Deep Dasgupta lost his passion. Parthiv Patel keeps with a lot of passion. Kirmani also used to keep with a lot of passion. Even I used to keep with a lot of passion. So basically you should enjoy your keeping and set high standards for yourselves.

MSK, you also happen to share your birthday with a cricketing legend. Are you aware of that?

Yeah (laughs) I do share my birthday with the master – Sachin Tendulkar. Unfortunately we never met on that particular day. I always wanted to cut the cake along with him, but I never got the chance. May be in the future…

MSK, any message to…

Yeah, it’s lovely to get all the information on the net. Nowadays almost everybody is logged on to the net and get various types of knowledge. Lot of my friends keep on telling me the ball by ball scores. When we are in the offices, we don’t get the coverage, so my friend updates me ball by ball. So its really great and I wish good luck for the future.

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