Erapalli Prasanna tosses it up
© PA Photos

Match That Changed My Life

Spinner, interrupted

A promise to his father disrupted Erapalli Prasanna's career, but he returned better than ever

1967: South Zone v West Indies

In 1962 I went on my first overseas trip, to the West Indies. It was a very successful tour for me since I finished as the second-highest wicket-taker on the tour (20 wickets) even though I played just one Test. On my return I lost my father, in May. I had promised him that I would complete my engineering degree, which I was studying for before I went to the Caribbean. He was reluctant to let me go on tour because he thought my passion to play cricket might get in the way of finishing my studies.

So I took a little step back from international cricket, gave up my place in the Indian team and focused on finishing my education. Once I completed my degree, I actively started to focus on cricket. And one of the first games, for South Zone against the West Indians on my home ground in Bangalore, proved to be the game that changed the course of my life. What I am today, the reputation I enjoy, is because of that match, where I took 8 for 87 in the first innings.

Though I had switched my focus back to studies in the years out of the Indian dressing room, I kept myself match-fit by playing for Karnataka. There was a lot of competition in South Zone, including S Venkataraghavan, who was one of the best offspinners around. But I was confident against the West Indians.

People talk to me as an authority on spin. From where did it originate? From this match

Their batsmen could not play me. They read me, but I bowled better. Rohan Kanhai tried to drive me through mid-on against a flighted offbreak. The ball took the leading edge and I moved about ten yards to my left and took the return catch. I was anticipating that. Then Basil Butcher charged halfway down the pitch - he was close enough to shake hands with me - and he was bowled. The West Indies offspinner Lance Gibbs complimented me, saying I had been excellent.

People talk to me as an authority on spin. From where did it originate? From this match. The selectors were impressed and included me in the Test squad and that started my comeback. A week after this match, I was playing for India. I was proud to be back and proud to be playing against Garry Sobers' West Indies. Through that tour match I reminded the Indian board and selectors that I was probably the best offspinner in the country. I stamped my authority.

The prime period for a cricketer is when he is around 27 or 28 years old. When my dad passed away, I was 22. If I had played for India in those five years in between, I don't know how many wickets I would have finished with.

Erapalli Prasanna played 49 Tests for India between 1962 and 1978. He was speaking to Nagraj Gollapudi