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From spiker to fast bowler: How lanky Prasidh Krishna became the newest pace sensation

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By the time he turned 14, Prasidh Krishna had to take a difficult call. Whether to pursue volleyball or cricket. Genetics perhaps played a role in this tall teenager from Bangalore’s Carmel School, excelling in these two different sports.

Father Murali was a fast bowler, who represented college, while mother Kalavathi was a state-level volleyball player.

Advise from former Karnataka first-class cricketer Srinivas Murthy, who was Krishna’s coach at Carmel School, made Krishna follow in his father’s footsteps.

“He was unusually tall for his age, and when he was in the 8th standard, he started bowling really quick. His coach Srinivas Murthy said that my son needs to play age-group cricket. That’s when he decided to become a cricketer,” Murali Krishna, who didn’t pursue cricket beyond college, told The Indian Express.

Krishna’s progression through age-group cricket was seamless. He made his first-class debut for Karnataka in 2015-16. Two years later, a stint at the MRF Pace Foundation, Chennai, helped him sharpen his skills, shed weight and improve fitness.

In his debut List-A season (2016-17), he prised 13 scalps at an average of 16.6. The following year, he finished with 17 scalps and was the second-highest wicket-taker in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.

An IPL contract with the Kolkata Knight Riders followed. A few India ‘A’ tours later, the 25-year-old played his first ODI against England in Pune, where he returned with 4/54, the best figures by an Indian pacer on debut in the 50-over format.

It was not just the pace that was impressive. Krishna was clocking 145kmph with ease. But what stood out was his cricketing smarts and composure after the hammering by England openers Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy in the first three overs.

“He has been considered a very good bowler in the shorter formats for a long time. When I was with the team, there used to be discussions about him as a good option,” Sanjay Bangar, former assistant coach with the Indian team, said on Star Sports.

The speedster also earned praise from India captain Virat Kohli, who had described him as a potential “X-factor.”

Krishnappa Gowtham, Krishna’s Karnataka team-mate, was not surprised by what he has achieved. “The thing that sets him apart is his calmness in tense situations. It’s got to do with the exposure that he has received with the numerous India ‘A’ tours and the IPL. Nothing seems to faze him. I remember an IPL game in which KKR were dead and buried against Kings XI Punjab, before Krishna picked up three crucial wickets of KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Prabhsimran Singh to help his team win by 2 runs,” Gowtham recalled.

M. Senthilnathan, chief coach of MRF Pace Foundation, who has worked with Krishna since 2017, said he was floored by his ward’s confidence and ability to deliver when the chips were down. “He was not dejected by the hammering he received in the first spell. All he was thinking was when would he get to bowl the next spell. When he returned, he understood that he cannot afford to pitch it up, and bowled just back off a length and was rewarded with four wickets.”

Senthilnathan was also instrumental in polishing Krishna’s rough edges and turning him into a match-winner. “When he came to the MRF Pace Foundation four years ago, he had the pace. But he kept falling too much, as a result of which he was pushing the ball into the right-handers. We worked on his fitness and strength and in getting the front and back foot alignment right. This has helped him hold his body and become a far better bowler.”

Krishna credited former Australian pacer Glenn Mcgrath for helping him remain calm when under the pump.

“The difference he made was to bring in that aura of calmness and also he was very specific about the line and length with respect to different pitches. He always spoke of being consistent. The first thing I picked from him was to remain in the present under all circumstances as it is the most important aspect for a bowler when you are playing a game,” KKR’s official website quoted him as saying.

Besides cricket, Krishna loves watching the English Premier League, and is a die-hard Manchester United fan.

“If he is not bowling, you are likely to see him in front of a Playstation console or playing badminton or table tennis,” his friend and teammate BR Sharath said.

Murali looked back at his son’s achievements with pride. “When I was young, we didn’t have the kind of facilities for upcoming cricketers that kids have these days. Playing at the international level is massive. When he sets his mind on something, he invariably achieves it,” he explained.

Despite being a former fast bowler, Murali rarely discussed cricket with his son. The splendid debut has catapulted Krishna to instant stardom. However, his father prefers staying in the background. “He has achieved everything through his hard work and dedication. I prefer my anonymity,” Murali concluded.