EAS Prasanna Biography
There was a reason they called Erapalli Anantharao Srinivas Prasanna the sly fox of Indian cricket. He never hesitated to toss it up, even if the batsman were looking for quick runs. They said the ball whirred in the air audibly; and the batsman, made to believe that a juicy full-toss was on its way, ended up groping for it. If he was lucky he spooned it to a fielder; if not, the ball ran through the gate.
Ian Chappell called him “the greatest slow-bowler of my generation”. Ashley Mallett rated him above Jim Laker and Lance Gibbs, and at par with Muttiah Muralitharan.
Prasanna reached 100 wickets in a mere 20 Tests — the quickest for an Indian bowler at that time (the record has subsequently been broken by Ravichandran Ashwin). He enjoyed a long run under Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, who backed his no-holds-barred positive approach with the ball.
Unfortunately for Prasanna, Pataudi’s successor Ajit Wadekar put more faith on Srinivas Venkataraghavan — a better batsman, an outstanding fielder, and an accurate off-spinner who would play foil to Bhagwat Chandrasekhar and Bishan Bedi. The aggressive, wicket-taking attitude hurt Prasanna, for he never played an ODI.
Prasanna made his Test debut against his father’s wishes, for education was more important. It took some convincing by BCCI Secretary M Chinnaswamy to allow him to tour West Indies in 1961-62 after playing a solitary Test against England at home. He was the first bona-fide Mysorean to play for India. However, Prasanna Sr had a condition: his son would have to finish his engineering degree on his return.
Prasanna had to complete his degree, and since his father had passed away, he also had to take up a job. He made his way back into the Test side 5 years after his previous appearance, following 8 for 87 on Day One against West Indies in 1966-67 in a tour match.
Prasanna shot into prominence against Australia and New Zealand, away and home: from 16 Tests he snared 95 wickets at 23.60. During this period Bedi (56) was the only other Indian to take 25 wickets. In fact, Graham McKenzie (77) was the one who came closest. He was easily the best bowler in the world, and played a crucial role in India’s first overseas series win, in New Zealand in 1967-68.
Overlooked for the twin tours of West Indies and England in 1971, Prasanna roared back in the home season in 1972-73, taking 4 for 16 to rout England at Chepauk to engineer a 4-wicket win. Two seasons later, at the same ground, his 9 for 111 helped India beat Clive Lloyd’s men. In fact, his 5 Tests at the ground yielded 36 wickets at 18.67.
His greatest claim to fame, of course, was the Eden Park Test of 1975-76, where his (3 for 64 and) 8 for 76 — still the best by an Indian overseas — to pull off a rare away victory. However, age kept catching up with him, though he had one last bite against England at home.
The last straw came during a failed tour of Australia — the only time he could not pull it off a spectacular show against them. He had two terrible Tests when India-Pakistan cricket resumed in 1977-78, and never played again.
A giant at domestic level, Prasanna often led Karnataka and South Zone. As captain he is most remembered for Ranji Trophy 1973-74 semi-final, where he claimed 5 for 117 to knock Bombay out of the tournament — after the latter had won the title 15 consecutive times. He took 9 for 102 in the final to beat Rajasthan, and Karnataka won their first ever Ranji Trophy. Prasanna did an encore three seasons later.
Prasanna later managed several Indian teams, the most famous of which was the victorious Benson & Hedges World Series campaign of 1984-85. He is a spin coach at NCA and MAC Spin Foundation, Chennai. When BCCI announced the CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, it went to the quartet — of Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna, and Venkat.