Monday, February 11, 2008

Captain's corner - Take 9 : Avinaschander Manivannan

For the next few posts, I shall hand over the blog to Sohail and let him talk about each WVUCC player (along with player ratings for the 2007 season). Here is Sohail, in his own words...

Avinaschander Manivannan
Left Arm Fast

(Even though it looks blank, do click on the video below, it will play)

Oh these left arm pace bowlers! No matter how much we right arm seamers try, it is these lefties who always steal the limelight. They just have that something different about them coming left arm over the stumps, angling the ball away from the right hand batsmen and occasionally bringing it back in. Cricket is certainly a game of angles and no one can beat these left arm pace bowlers when it comes to the grace and rawness of pace bowling. Avinas, being only one of three left arm pace bowlers for WVUCC (Usman Hashmi and Rajesh) in all the years I have played cricket for WVUCC, naturally is a surprise package full of youthful aggression and style. He could possibly be the youngest debutant of WVUCC (Manish can you confirm that? Editor's note: Only one other player - Kuntal Shah - was the same age as Avinas when he first played for WVUCC) even though I always thought that I would retain that honor for ever myself. Bowling over and around the wicket Avinas always gives me the impression of a young (Chaminda) Vaas, even though I find his mental approach to bowling more comparable to the great Wasim Akram himself. He is a true match winner because he bowls with only one purpose- taking wickets.

My first impression of Avinas was that of a young boy who is crazy about cricket and just plays the game for the fun of it. Even though that initial impression has not changed much, I think that the pressure of being the spearhead of the bowling department did work in his favor making him use the faculties of his mind way more than his usual self, thus transforming him into a clever little bowler.

In 2006, when Avinas made his d├ębut for WVUCC, he remained for most part an understudy doing his bit when given the chance. Picking up 10 wickets at a strike rate of 13.2 is hardly an average performance considering that it is your first season as a bowler on a ground where the boundaries are short and batsmen are aggressive. This just goes on to tell you how blessed WVUCC has been in the last two years when it comes to strike bowlers.

The most obvious trait in Avinas as a player is his hunger for the game. He is one of those guys who would play a game of tennis ball cricket with the same enthusiasm and commitment as a hard ball league match. How many cricketers come back to play for their team after having undergone surgery on a knee in a season which hardly lasts a couple of months? Not only did Avinas come back from that injury but was quick to get back into the playing eleven at a time when there was extreme competition in the bowling department. At the end he raised his game, bowling with great pace and venom during the play-offs and announcing himself as the best bowler in the play-offs.

During the finals while Ashok was hammering the ball in all directions, it was Avinas with the new ball, and Nishit with the old ball, who kept up the pressure and did not allow any partnerships to form. I believe that we won the finals because of our bowling and fielding, restricting sides like Hurricanes and Steelzags to below-average totals when there were players like Ram, Neveen, and Anu among them. His best bowling spell was during the finals when he troubled all batsmen with some fierce pace and bounce picking up 2 wickets for only 9 runs in 4 overs. During the finals I was fasting and hardly had any fuel to bowl at the death end of the bowling innings. I was worried about it. Avinas, Nishit, and the others, made sure I was under no pressure when I came to bowl. They bowled the best spells of fast bowling I have witnessed a WVUCC team ever come up with. Simply brilliant bowling! What more can I say?

Avinas ended up taking 11 wickets for the season with a phenomenal average of 10.7 runs per wicket.

My Favorite Avinas delivery: Bouncer rising from good length whizzing past the batsman's throat.

My favorite Avinas spell: Match-winning 2 for 9 against Steelzags in the finals.

(Even though it looks blank, do click on the video below, it will play)

Technical Analysis:
Technically analyzing Avinas I was able to pick out some weak areas. The first one is his run up. He has a very haphazard approach to the bowling crease. I think he will do better with a measured, repeated, run up to the crease. Another thing where he can improve is his right arm. It goes down too quickly for my liking. If he is able to delay the decline of his right arm during his jump at the crease, he will get better direction and will add more pace to his armory. Avinas has the most natural bowling action you will ever see. His head is very stable at the point of delivery and his hip rotation is well balanced. He sometimes gets carried away with bowling yorkers and short deliveries. He needs to find the middle length more often using the short ball and the yorker as a surprise weapon. I think that Avinas has very good control over his swing bowling and his seam position is excellent.

Mental Analysis:
It is his mental strength which varies at times, making him an interesting and dangerous prospect. There are times when he is feeling very confident and displays the full range of his talent. At other times when his run up is not good and his injury bothers him, understandably so, he tends to just release the ball off his hands rather than bowling it. One good thing about his bowling is that he does not allow the batsman to dominate him. If a batsman shows intent to thrash him, Avinas puts his level best and it brings out the aggressor in him. There is one other quality which makes him better than the others as a fast bowler. I think he has a great ability of reading the batsman's intent. Just like a good batsman reads the ball off the bowler's hands and not after it has pitched, a good bowler is he who is able to read the batsman's stroke by reading his body movements. That being said, he is still young and will learn a lot in years to come.

What Else:
Avinas certainly needs to get fitter and improve his fielding. At times he is slow in the field and his athleticism is average, at best. Being the youngest fellow in the team, we all expect a little more energy from him. Avinas is probably the easiest bowler to set fields for as a captain. He bowls with a plan and his intent is to pick up wickets. I always keep attacking fields for him and he never fails to impress me.

Since Avinas is the youngest fellow in the team, he is the most obvious choice for others to tease and taunt. The great thing about Avinas is that he always has a smile on his face and never fails to enjoy the humor of the situation. Like most of his team mates, Avinas has an easy going personality and is a comfortable person to be with.

I think that he will do even better in the seasons to come now that he has two successful seasons under his belt. Another thing about him is that he is an expert in cleaning dishes at home since he never cooks yet wants to contribute in some way or another. All in all he is a very good person and an excellent bowler. Keep it up Avi!!

Marks Out of Ten this season (8.5/10)