Balaji eager to justify selection

Lakshmipathi Balaji’s presence in the playing 11 ahead of the second T20 international between India and New Zealand may be in question but there is no question as to how grateful the humble-spoken seamer is for being in the Indian squad once again after a gap of over three years.

The Tamil Nadu pacer last featured in a one-day international against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2009, but the 30-year-old has worked hard on his craft to return to the squad, whose next assignment is the World T20 in Sri Lanka. Excerpts:

How does it feel to come back and represent your country?

It’s really good to be back in the squad after three years. I’m really looking forward to giving my best for the country. It’s always an honour to represent your state and your country.

Coming into the squad is hard but given that the stage is the World T20, does it more pressure?

I think every match is important when you represent your country. I look forward to giving it my best. Whatever I can do, I will. I will try to deliver on that day. I don’t see expectations and if it’s a big tournament or not. I take it as it comes and give my hundred per cent.

How has your bowling evolved since you last played international cricket?

We (Joe Dawes, bowling coach) have been working on the little aspects of my game. We’re focussing on what my strengths are. I have to keep re-creating what comes to me naturally and that’s what we are trying to achieve.

How did you stay motivated during the lay-off?

I have been playing a lot of cricket. I was captaining the state side and it was an honour to lead them. It gives me a lot of opportunity to look into my own game. It’s been very challenging. The IPLs (Indian Premier League), Ranji Trophy and club cricket have really helped me stay in the mix.

Did it bother you that despite some good performances in the IPL and domestic cricket you could not find your place in the Indian team?

No… nothing like that. Everyday I wake up with the motivation that I will get to the highest level of cricket, and that is to represent the country. Whether that’s once or a hundred times, it doesn’t matter, it’s still an honour. So as long as you keep motivating yourself and keep pushing yourself to the goal, you will get somewhere. That’s the motivation I had.

How has the IPL helped you and your bowling?

I have worked on my bowling a lot in the last two years. It has been great. The IPL is a great platform to mimic international scenarios and that’s something we don’t get in local games. It’s been a major aspect to our game.

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