There used to be time when Laxmipathy was a regular member of the Indian team but a recurring lower back injury did not allow him to be a regular for long. However, one thing that should not have gone unnoticed was his unquestionable pedigree as a seam bowler, who could trouble the best of batsmen with his accuracy and guile, which is why he has been able to carve out a successful career for himself in the IPL after he got back to fitness following an operation in his back. Over the past 6 seasons of the IPL Balaji has represented the Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkata Knight Riders with distinction, as a result he is regarded as one of the unsung heroes of the tournament who perhaps is not given as much credit as he deserves from pundits and spectators alike.
One of the biggest advantages of having a bowler like Balaji as a part of the playing eleven is that he can bowl at any stage of the innings. He has been successful as an opening bowler, first change as well as a bowler who has the ability of controlling the flow of runs in the slog overs. In addition to that, what sets him apart from plenty other new ball bowlers in the IPL is that he looks for wickets early on when he is given the new ball. There have been many instances in which he has won the game for his side with an early burst of swing and seam. In the latter part of the innings he usually depends on changes of pace and the slower ball that he bowls from the back of his hand.
Balaji’s price at the first auction is unknown but his performances for the Chennai Super Kings in the first three seasons of the IPL firmly cemented his reputation as one of the best back up bowlers in the business and so when the Kolkata Knight Riders decided to restructure their fledging squad with new faces they decided to go for Balaji with a definite intent. He was eventually sold to the Kolkata based team for a handsome $500,000.
It is not often that a bowler ends up claiming 5 wickets in a 20 over game simply due to the fact that he can only bowl a maximum of 24 deliveries in such a game but Balaji is one of those rare bowlers who have managed a five. He returned outstanding figures of 5/24 in 4 overs against the Kings XI Punjab in a league game in IPL 1 and needless to say, he helped the CSK in winning the game comfortably when it looked that the match could be tight at one stage.
Balaji can be classified as an IPL veteran due to the sheer number of games that he has played so far. Although a glance through his stats over the past four seasons clearly shows that he had not exactly covered himself in glory in the first 4 seasons as far as economy rate was concerned, he pulled it back remarkably in IPL V and hence his overall economy rate is now a far more respectable 7.94. However, something that is evident is that Balaji is a wicket taking bowler and a career strike rate of 20.42 is ample evidence of that fact.
Did you know?
Balaji was the only Indian cricketer who created a following of his own in Pakistan during the Indian team’s visit to the country in 2004 and the primary reason for that was his smile as well as the fearless way in which he clobbered Shoaib Akhtar for sixes. He is married to South Indian model Priya Thalur and the couple got married this year. Hope it brings ‘Bala’ some lady luck in the next IPL season.
By Soham Samaddar