CHENNAI: With the demands of the game diversifying and priorities changing, it’s important to nurture talent judiciously. It’s necessary to be receptive to ideas and keep pace with time. This attitude can work wonders if tempered with traditional virtues and Tamil Nadu’s handling of Malolan Rangarajan stands out as an example of how things can be done in the humdrum of modern day cricket, where long-term benefits sometimes get compromised for immediate goals.
The off-spinner is 25, in his fourth first-class season and looking at figures and impact, has been the team’s principal spinner in the last two seasons. Dropped when the team played three quicker bowlers against Bengal, Malolan with 25 wickets from five games is sharing third spot on the Ranji Trophy list this season. Yet, he has played just one limited-over game at the senior level. Men behind the team want him to understand fully the nuances of bowling with flight and other conventional qualities before letting him into an arena where requirements might compel him to essentially different things.
“His turn in one-dayers will come shortly. Not that we want to restrict him to the longer format. He’s in the traditional mould, with flight, turn and bounce. That’s how he should be appreciated. We want him to get accustomed to the finer points. After that, we’ll come to the transition. This isn’t a plan, but a process. We’re doing what’s best for him and the team. He’s a good man to have in the team and will do well in both formats,” said Tamil Nadu’s chief selector S Sharath.
There’s something about Malolan that set him apart from five other spinners in the recent Tamil Nadu-UP match. He cut an imposing figure with his pronounced side-on approach and left leg kicking high before landing and acting as pivot for the body to complete an elaborate action. There wasn’t much intention to flight the ball, as “on this wicket, my plan was to be quicker through the air when the ball became old” and Malolan slanted the ball in with a hint of drift, extracting turn and zip. “If the bowlers kept bowling the same areas, it was difficult to get away. My intention in this game was to be consistent. I had to be economical and knew what had to be done for the team, be it bowling maidens or getting wickets,” said Malolan after his second five-for at Chepauk this season.
Malolan is yet to be tested away from home and most of his wickets have come on helpful tracks. With Karnataka in trouble in Bengaluru, CM Gautam attacked him to turn the match on a seaming pitch. He wasn’t picked when they opted for one spinner in Kolkata. “He’ll have to use his variations when conditions become different and learn to bowl on different wickets. But if you look at Indian spinners and Malolan’s qualities, he stands a good chance of making it to the national team,” said Sharath, one of the most prolific South Zone batsmen.
That’s future. As for the present, the next match against Mumabi will be on TV live. Since this became regular, players have drawn wider attention from these fixtures. After two expensive wickets in the first televised match, Malolan and his mentors get another chance to show he’s on right track.