Born September 27, 1981, Lakshmipathy Balaji is an Indian cricketer who was tipped to lead the side’s pace attack but injuries restrained him from reaping fruitful results. He was widely reckoned for making impressive comebacks and his knack of not backing off. On his 34th birthday, Suraj Choudhari looks back and pens down 10 lesser-known facts about the wily bowler.

1.  Domestic performances chiselled his ODI spot

Balaji made his First Class debut for Tamil Nadu in the 2001-02 season. He debuted against Goa in the Ranji and signed off that season on a high as he had 37 scalps to his name at a remarkable average of 20.51. These performances earned him a national call into the ODI series against West Indies in November 2002.

 2.  Miserable debut

Balaji, in his debut One-Day International (ODI) game against West Indies was taken for cleaners by Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds. He bowled four overs for 44 runs and remained wicketless, definitely not the kind of start he would have expected to his international journey.

3.  Comedy of errors  

Balaji is widely remembered for his six and the bat breaking incident against Shoaib Akhtar. During the fifth and the decisive ODI of the India in Pakistan ODI series in 2004, Balaji smashed one over long on for a maximum off Akhtar in the ultimate over of India’s innings. On the very next delivery, Balaji attempted a similar stroke only to break his willow into two.

4.  Three IPL teams

Over the years, Balaji developed canny skill sets and different deceiving variations in the shorter formats which proved effective in Twenty 20 (T20) cricket. He represented Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

5.  Hat-trick for CSK

Balaji once again marked his presence in world cricket, when he claimed a hat-trick in the inaugural season of the IPL while featuring for CSK against KXIP and also became the first bowler to achieve this feat.

6.  Earned a Test call through domestic season

Balaji had this knack of drilling hard at the domestic circuit and chiselling his path into the national side. In 2002-03 domestic season he claimed 48 wickets at a captivating average of 15.12 only to carve a spot in the Test side. He later made his Test debut against New Zealand in October 2003.

7.  Pakistan tour

Balaji played a crucial role with the ball in last two key ODIs against Pakistan in 2004. He picked two and three wickets respectively after a dreadful run in the first three games and helped India seal the historic series in Pakistan.

8.  Injuries tailed him

Balaji’s cricketing career has often haunted by injuries. He possessed immense talent and had the requisite ingredients to succeed in the international arena but his mistimed injuries and fitness didn’t let him achieve his dividends.

9.  World T20 side in 2012

Balaji was effective in the IPL and developed new variations with the ball. His hard work finally paid off when he was named in the Indian side for the ICC World T20 in 2012. He justified his selection as he was the highest wicket-taker from India with nine wickets in his basket.  

10. Retirement

At the age of 34, Balaji announced his retirement from First-Class cricket in September 2016. Till then, he played 106 First-Class matches in which he scalped 330 wickets at 26.10.

(Related story: Lakshmipathy Balaji: Life and Times)

(Suraj Choudhari, an avid cricket follower who plays the sport at club level, is a staffer with Criclife)