Last Updated: August 05, 2022, 07:30 IST
Cricket Legend Venkatesh Prasad was the spearhead of the Indian pace attack along with statesman Javagal Srinath in the late 1990s. A vital member of the Indian squad, yet rarely the centre of attention, Prasad was an ideal team player who was always focused on his task. Catapulted from the outback of Karnataka, Prasad made his debut for the Indian national side in 1996. The lanky pacer’s USP was his unremitting line and length along with his immaculate ability to swing the ball in both directions.
His iconic face-off against Pakistan batter Aamer Sohail in the 1996 World Cup is still fresh in the hearts of Indian cricket fans. The aggressive batter slashed Prasad for a boundary and taunted him by gesturing to smash him again in the same direction. Prasad knocked Sohail over in the very next delivery and gave him a befitting send-off. The historic moment is one for the ages made ‘Venky’ a household name because of the magnitude of what was at stake in that match.
As the legendary bowler celebrates his 53rd birthday, let’s take a look at some of his best bowling performances:
- 5/76 vs England, 1996 Test
Prasad produced one of the greatest bowling performances against a much-fancied England side at the iconic Lord’s stadium in 1996. Playing in only his second Test match, the right-arm pacer took advantage of the overcast conditions and ripped down the English batting unit.He scalped his maiden five-wicket haul and etched his name in the elusive leader board of Lord’s. Prasad took another couple of wickets in the second innings of a match that ended in a draw.
- 5/60 & 5/93 vs South Africa, 1996 Test
During India’s tour of South Africa in 1996, Prasad embossed his name in an elite list of bowlers to take 10 wickets in a Test match.At the seaming pitches of Durban, Venky finished with exemplary figures of 5/60 and 5/93 in the first and second innings rattling the Proteas batters. Despite Prasad’s valiant efforts, South Africa thumped the visitors by 328 runs owing to India’s poor batting performance.
- 5/27 vs Pakistan, 1999 ODI World Cup
The India-Pakistan clash is always an overwhelming encounter, but the intensity multiplies when the arch-rivals meet in a World Cup fixture. The 99 World Cup was no different as the palpable tension was eminent among players and fans alike. Prasad who is known to come out clutch under pressure situations displayed one of his finest ODI performances when India needed him the most. In the Batting first, India managed to post 227 runs on the board. The Pakistan chase led by Saeed Anwar seemed like they would run away with an easy win on the day.However, Prasad stepped up and turned the tie on its head. He shattered Pakistan’s star-studded batting lineup including Anwar and scalped his first ODI five-wicket haul, guiding India to a remarkable 47-run World cup victory.
- 5/72 vs Sri Lanka, 2001 Test
The Indian side had a terrible reputation outside India, but a win in the second Test against Sri Lanka in 2001 helped to change this perception. The Sri Lankans blew a chance to extend their lead in the Test series, as Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid chased down the required target of 264 with knocks of 98 and 75, respectively.But the win was possible only because of a world-class display of pace bowling by the 32-year-old Prasad. He wreaked havoc on the Lankan Lions and scalped another five-wicket haul in his last Test match, as the Indians bundled out the hosts for just 221 runs to set up the chase.
- 6/33 vs Pakistan, 1999 Test
When India faced fierce nemesis Pakistan in a two-match Test series, the spotlight was on the spin maestros- Anil Kumble and Saqlain Mushtaq.Contrary to the opinion that Prasad does well only in favourable foreign conditions, the pacer paradoxically put out his best performance on Chennai’s turning tracks. Ace Pakistan batters including Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi looked bemused as the seasoned campaigner finished the match with career-best figures of 6/33. Despite Prasad’s heroics, India was defeated by 12 runs.