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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XXI No. 19, January 15-31, 2012
Dennis no 'menace' in Madras
By Bhaskeran Thomas

In the playing days, Dennis Lillee was certainly a menace to batsmen facing him and finished with 355 Test wickets. Through the MRF (Madras Rubber Factory) Pace Foundation in Chennai, however, Lillee was a saving grace, developing fast bowlers for India and, later, for other countries as well. Name them, Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Zaheer Khan and a host of others were fine tuned by Lillee at the Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School where the Pace Foundation is located.

When Kapil Dev captured the headlines in the 1980s with his feats with the ball as a paceman, youngsters in India wanted to emulate him. This aspiration enthused MRF to launch a pace foundation in Madras. And who could be the best "pace guru" for the young aspirants? Former Tamil Nadu and India fast bowler T.A. Sekhar, in the thick of things with MRF, decided that the best man for the job was Dennis Keith Lillee.

In his playing days, Lillee might have annoyed the opposition and his own bosses, the then Australian Cricket Board (ACB), but he was a sincere bowler, committed to doing well for Australia. That was the commitment he showed in his over two-decade stint with the MRF Pace Foundation which ushered in a new chapter in Indian cricket-ing history. A country which was solely dependent on slow spinners while playing Test matches is now flush with a number of promising fast bowlers. Thanks to Lillee and Sekhar and now M. Senthilnathan, many a fast bowler who's not had exposure to the Foundation has benefited by a visit to the Pace centre. Upcoming Indian pacer Varun Aaron is a typical recent case of a bowler from far-flung Jharkhand coming for orienta-tion to the Foundation after an injury lay off.

What's the secret of the magical effect from the MRF Pace Foundation? The answer is simple: the dedicated commitment from Lillee and his support staff. If a bowler had an injury, he could approach them with an open mind and they'd be put on the right track. Lillee himself had gone through this rough experience of suffering a serious back injury at the start of his international career in 1971 and getting back to full fitness through a personal programme that's useful even after four decades.

Lillee recently announced that he was completing his tenure with the MRF Pace Foundation as he is now 62 and desired to be with his family. He recalled with joy the manner in which he was able to build up fast bowlers and also rehabilitate them when struck with pain. His parting comment was,"I gave one good gift for India by turning away Sachin Tendulkar from the Foundation when he was aspiring to be a fast bowler."

That the MRF Pace Foundation was a preparatory ground for bowlers from all around the world is testimony to Lillee's reputation as a pace guru. Forgotten is Dennis the Menace tag Dennis Lillee was labelled with by many. To remember is what he did for Indian cricket. Developing pace bowlers. – (Courtesy: Straight Bat)

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In this Issue

Is conservation on right track?
Neglect threatening QMC building
Beach, bins & beauty
Krishnan entertains off the court
In the Fort & outside...
Walking about with
Sriram V.
Collecting our memories
'Curdrice cricket'
Dennis no 'menace' in Madras
Inspiring a crop of chess champions
Changing times
Fly away with them...
Children's focus during Madras Week

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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