Cricket
An English Summer: Tinu Yohannan (second left) with Indian teammates Parthiv Patel, Dinesh Chopra, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan during the 2002 tour of England. Image Credit: Courtesy: Tinu Yohannan

Dubai: It would have been a perfect example of excellence through sporting genes - and Tinu Yohannan’s start to the international career held enough promise. However, the young and lithe pace bowler who created quite a stir as he broke into the big league in 2001-02, failed to do justice to his talent - and blames nobody but himself for it after all these years.

If the son of T.C.Yohannan, India’s legendary long jumper and Asian Games gold medallist, had not faded away barely two seasons after his arrival - it would have been him and not Shantakumaran Sreesanth as the pace bowler from the south Indian state of Kerala to strike gold for the Indian team. Tinu, the man with a famous surname in the echelons of India’s sporting history, is the first player from the state to play both Tests and One-day Internationals for India - but could not make the most of it.

‘‘I didn’t push the limits and gave it up too early,’’ said Tinu, now 41, and employed as the Head of High Performance Centre for the Kerala state cricket team. Brutally honest words from someone, who made even the likes of Kapil Dev sit up and take note when Tinu made his Test debut against England at home in the 2001 series. It’s a pity that he ended up playing just three Tests and as many ODIs, picking up five wickets each from them.

Speaking to Gulf News in a telephone interview, the soft-spoken cricketer stood out with his candour and the way he gave credit to his peers who shone brightly in the international arena. ‘‘Sreesanth started only a few years after me and he was an exception among the mild-mannered players in the team. He was never afraid to express himself - a quality which I saw in abundance in Zaheer (Khan) too when we were together in the MRF Pace Academy,’’ he said.

Making his debut against Nasser Hussain’s visiting Englishmen in the Mohali Test in December, 2001, Tinu impressed everyone with his smooth run-up to the wicket, decent pace and bounce as he picked up the wickets of openers Mark Butcher and Marcus Trescocothick in both innings. The Indian think tank, then under skipper Sourav Ganguly and coach John Wright, looked at him as an answer for for a right arm quick who could be a back-up to Ajit Agarkar but Tinu turned out to be a classic case of flattering to deceive.

Sreesanth started only a few years after me and he was an exception among the mild-mannered players in the team. He was never afraid to express himself - a quality which I saw in abundance in Zaheer (Khan) too when we were together in the MRF Pace Academy

- Tinu Yohannan

‘‘In hindsight, I think I got into the national team very early - just after playing 10-12 first class matches. I only knew to run and bowl but was not a good thinker of the game. My communication skills were also not good enough so that I could discuss my problems with anybody,’’ he recalled.

What, according to him, were exactly the problems which affected his form suddenly? ‘‘I had a few niggles and my left knee started bothering me. I was having problems with my action, which was my strength, and there was a time when I bowled 110 no balls. Gradually, I went out of the radar,’’ he said.

Given that these could be common problems for a pace bowler, why didn’t he approach the Indian team management? ‘‘I was then out of the national team and had no mentor. I was also out of the state team for a while and eventually had a good season in 2008 when I picked up 25 odd wickets. However, it was too late by then,’’ said a candid Tinu.

Pointing out that there had been a marked improvement in the support system for the pace bowlers in the country, Tinu said that the presence of Bharath Arun as the fast bowling coach has made a lot of difference for the likes of Bumrah & Co. ‘‘He has played a huge behind-the-scene role in the improvement of the fast bowlers of the country,’’ added Tinu, who played in one IPL for Royals Challengers Bangalore in 2009.

Cricket
Tinu's parents, T.C.Yohannan (left), India's legendary long jumper and his mother celebrate at the news of him making it to the Indian team in 2001. Image Credit: Courtesy: Tinu Yohannan

A chip off the old block

Tinu is the younger son of Thadathuvila Chandapillai Yohannan, famous as T. C. Yohannan, famous Indian long jumper who held the national record in his event for nearly three decades and represented India in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. An inspirational figure for Indian athletes, especially from Kerala which produced a golden generation in the Eighties, Yohannan will be known for the new dimension he gave to long jump in India in 1974 Tehran Asian Games. Yohannan cleared a distance of 8.07 metres to bag the gold and set a new Asian record.

‘‘My sporting genes certainly helped me as I did a lot of athletics at school level. My dad, now 74, is still fit enough and goes out for his walks,’’ Tinu chipped in.