Raghu a gauge of quality for India
HE’S been tagged the greatest fast bowler you have never seen and he has already tested batting superstar Virat Kohli on this tour.
Kohli grunted his way through seaming, sharp-lifters in his first net practice at the Gabba on Sunday.
But he was comforted that anything Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins could serve up had been matched, or even eclipsed, by the fare delivered by a tiny, anonymous craftsman called Raghu.
Raghu, 33, is perhaps the only specialist throw-down bowler to tour with a team in world cricket but is frequently credited with improving the performances of India’s batting overseas and is their secret weapon as they strive for their first Test series win in Australia.
He hails from a village called Kumta on the Arabian Sea and left home as a teenager, headed to the National Cricket Academy in Mumbai where the idea of becoming cricket’s man with the elastic arm was hatched.
With his trusty slingshot device known as a sidearm or “whanger’’, Raghu worked for up to four hours at a time alone in a net developing his 150km/ h bullets – not just pure pace but seam and swing.
He has been with the team for six years and you can see by his engaging facial expressions that net sessions are his Test matches, right down to the committed rhythm of his quirky five-pace run-up and strong, high action.
His body language can at times mimic the true Test stars with hands-on-hips disdain after a sloppy leg-side delivery, or a sneaky, triumphant smile when he catches the edge.
In his first net session at the Gabba he extracted Kohli (pictured) out twice through edges and yesterday he would have had vice-captain Rohit Sharma done twice with miscues to midwicket.
Kohli groaned and halfcursed himself once but never complained for he wallows in the challenge and has been known to pull reporters aside at net sessions to tell them how important Raghu is to their campaign. Once you have been “Raghued’’, everything else gets easier.
Because Indian fast bowlers ply their trade on such flat decks, there is a theory they tend to “present’’ the ball rather than dig it into the pitch searching for seam movement.
This is where Raghu comes into his own for he slams it into the deck and gets generous bounce.
Sometimes he gets carried away with himself as evidenced by some bouncers which climbed a metre above the batsmen’s head.
But none of the batsmen whinged. They know there will be much more of the same this summer.