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Venkatapathy Raju : Muscles of Might

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It was a Wednesday afternoon and I cut some time off from my office and decided to catch up with some players at the Gymkhana. Hyderabad and Uttar Pradesh were battling in the heat in the Ranji Trophy match. Hyderabad’s skipper Venkatapathy Raju walked in to bat at No. 10 and there was a camera man taking a snap of his, I asked myself is today anything special with Raju? Few minutes later, No.11 N.P.Singh got bowled by young left armer Shalabh Srivastava and that marked the end of the day’s play. All the Hyderabad players got down onto the ground immediately and were clapping their hands for their skipper Venkatapathy Raju. Finally, I got my answer and yes it was that of Venkatapathy Raju’s retirement from First Class Cricket. A Hyderabad side without Raju? Hmmm…that’s what we would be seeing from the next round when Hyderabad takes on Punjab at the Gymkhana.

Venkatapathy Raju

Venkatapathy Raju

Venkatapathy Raju Profile

Let’s go back to the start of Venkatapathy Raju’s early days into Cricket and yes I am going back to 1985/86. A sixteen-year-old left arm spinner was making debut for Hyderabad against Andhra at Kagaznagar. From that season to this season, the name Venkatapathy Raju had been attached to the Hyderabad Ranji Trophy Team and it only speaks volumes about his consistent performances all these years.

A well-deserved International break came to Raju in the India’s tour of New Zealand in 1990. There was a big announcement in my school, All Saints High School that time and that was the news of our ex student Venkatapathy Raju getting selected for the Indian team. That was indeed overwhelming for all of us; five years back there was an announcement and a party as one of our ex students Md.Azharuddin made it into the Indian team (I knew this from the photographs only as I was a 4 yr old Kid when Azzu bhai got picked). I was and I am proud to have studied from the same school that had the names of Abid Ali, M.L.Jaisimha, Syed Kirmani, Md.Azharuddin and Venkatapathy Raju.

Getting back to the Indian tour of New Zealand in 1990, Atul Wassan and Raju were the two debutants at Christchurch, which was the venue for the 1st test. The Kiwis posted 459 and the Indian bowlers were at the receiving end but one man was impressive to say the least and that was our very own Raju. Raju had figures to be proud of – 3/86 in 35 overs and that included wickets of Martin Crowe, John Wright and Ian Smith.

Raju’s Test Career got a move ahead when he bamboozled the Sri Lankans for a match winning 8 wicket haul. You would be shocked to know that Raju had these awesome figures of 17.5-13-12-6 and 36-25-25-2! For the record, this game at the Sector 16 Stadium in Chandigarh was the debut test for the present Sri Lankan Captain Marvan Atapattu.

Venkatapathy Raju recalls the 3-0 whitewash given to the Graham Gooch’s England in 1993 as his most memorable moment in Tests. He was also the part of the victorious Hyderabad team that won the coveted Ranji Trophy in 1986-87. Raju played all the games except the finals (interestingly this was only the 2nd time that Hyderabad had won the Ranji Trophy and the team was led by M.V.Narasimha Rao; the 1st time was in 1937-38 under the late Eddie Aibara).

Anyway getting back to Raju’s career, his records show that he had a tremendous liking to the Sri Lankan team. He has 26 wickets@an average of 14.84 in the 5 Tests he had played. And that includes 3 five wicket hauls and 1 ten-wicket haul. Along with wickets, this man also got a nickname “Muscles” presented by “Buckets” Brian McMillan. His ODI career has been decent enough with 63 victims at an economy of 4.36 and two 4-wicket hauls. Nineteen years he has been on the field and he has done his best for Hyderabad with over 100 appearances, Kanwaljit Singh was the only other Hyderabad player to play in 100+ Ranji Trophy games. All good things have to come to an end one day and so is the case with Sagi Venkatapathy Raju’s career.

On behalf of I wish him all the best for his future endeavors and many thanks for all his memorable performances, which have helped Hyderabad and India.

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