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Tinu Yohannan: India’s towering pacer who faded away quickly

Tinu Yohanan © AFP
Tinu Yohanan © AFP

Tinu Yohannan, born on February 18, 1979 was built like an edifice. He could generate bounce and bowl at a decent burst of pace. However, he struggled for consistency and drifted away from the scene. Bharath Ramaraj has more…

Tinu Yohannan, the towering giant from Kerala and the son of India’s legendary long jumper Thadathuvila Yohannan was regarded as a fine pace bowling prospect when he came onto the First-Class scene. He could extract bounce and bowl at brisk pace. But after scaling peaks to play for India, he went through slump and faded into the wilderness rather quickly.

If we jog back our memory, it was in 2000-01 season; brightness glowed in Yohannan’s bowling when he took 19 wickets in Ranji Trophy at an impressive average of 24. The fizz in his bowling impressed one-and-all and he was soon drafted into the Indian team for the first Test match against England at Mohali in 2001-02.

In his very first Test, his ability to bowl the one that drifts away from a left-handed batsman with an open-chested action led to both of England’s openers, Mark Butcher and Marcus Trescothick struggling to pick the length. If Butcher was caught in the slips early in his innings by VVS Laxman then Trescothick shouldered arms to a delivery that straightened a touch after pitching to shatter his stumps. When the tall seamer snared the wickets of Butcher and Trescothick yet again in the second innings, there was genuine hope in the cricketing circles. Cricket pundits raved about his lithe run up, infectious energy and in addition, an athletic build.

During India’s tour of West Indies in 2001-02, he continued to notch up mind blowing performances. He impressed with a match-winning spell of three for 33 at Bridgetown, Barbados in a One-Day International (ODI).

Unfortunately, after that fine spell at Barbados his career went on a downhill path. In the next ODI played at Port of Spain, Trinidad, despite taking two wickets in the match, he was taken to the task by Chris Gayle. Gayle’s blitz seemed to have taken the wind out of the sails in the youngster.

In 2002, in the NatWest tri-series against Sri Lanka at Bristol, Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara tore apart his seam bowling. India won the game convincingly, but Yohannan’s career had hit a concrete brick wall as he was dropped from the ODI team.

Yohannan last played for India in a Test match at Hamilton against New Zealand in 2002-03. On a track with plenty of grass in it, he bowled economically, but couldn’t make inroads into the New Zealand line-up. The only wicket he scalped was that of Lou Vincent. After playing just three Tests for India, he was jettisoned from the team forever.

He was left to plough through Indian domestic circuit for the rest of his career. Sporadic success came his way. In particular, in 2002-03 just after he was dropped from the Indian squad, the mettlesome pacer with an aim to make come back into the line-up scalped 24 wickets at an average of 22.00. In 2008-09 too, he rose up to the occasion of leading the Kerala’s pace attack extremely well by taking a truckload of wickets, but other than that he was largely unsuccessful.

In 2009, Yohannan was picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore‘s (RCB) think-tank to play in the second edition of Indian Premier League (IPL). Even then success didn’t come his way. Sadly, 2009-10 season turned out to be the last time one saw Yohannan play First-Class matches. It was a season when he bowled a mere 40 overs and took no wickets.

Yohannan was a fine prospect, but the bane of Indian cricket has always been that pacers have struggled to sustain their good performances over a period of time. Yes, it can be said that selectors perhaps could have given him a longer run in the side. But Tinu Yohannan himself has to take a major share of the blame for not being able to climb up the ladder and become a regular feature of the Indian team at the top echelons of the game.

(Bharath Ramaraj, , an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it) 

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