Venkatesh Prasad claimed 96 Test wickets and 196 ODI wickets in 194 international matches for India from 1994-2001, but he is well known for his send-off to Pakistan opener Aamir Sohail during the high voltage tie between the two neighbours in the 1996 World Cup quarterfinal match.
In the winners’ take all match at Bengaluru’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium, India scored 287-8 in their 50 overs. But Pakistan openers Saeed Anwar and Sohail were on fire as they added 84 runs for the first wicket. Javagal Srinath sent Anwer back to give some respite to the hosts. Then, the momentum completely swung India’s way in the 15th over following Sohail’s departure dramatically.
Recalling his on-field tussle with Sohail on FanCode Facebook page, Prasad said: “There’s not even a single day that goes by without anybody, whoever sees me, come what may, would definitely ask me, every single day from the last 24 years.
“He [Sohail] should’ve just gone back to his crease probably after getting that, but there was some exchange of words and a gesture that he made which didn’t really go well. Obviously, with the entire nation and spectators who were watching, and of course, with me as well. My blood was really boiling, and we needed a wicket.
When asked about the send-off, the 50-year-old said, “I would’ve been penalised for that sort of gesture because that’s when the ICC Code of Conduct had come into the picture during the ’96 World Cup; so I had to be very careful. And Shepherd was the umpire, so Azhar, Srinath and Sachin, everybody came to my rescue; otherwise, I would’ve probably been penalised or may be banned.”
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After retiring from the game, Prasad turned coach for India Under-19 team which played the Youth World Cup in 2006, and the likes of Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Piyush Chawla and Ravindra Jadeja were under his tutelage.
Now talking about the colts he helped groom for the international stage, Prasad said, “These three guys – Piyush Chawla, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma – I had no doubt about their talent and their capabilities. I knew very well that they’re going to go a long way. In fact, the moment the U-19 World Cup (2006) was over; I did write to BCCI in my report saying that these players should be fast-tracked into playing Ranji Trophy or the zone matches, this is what I had said.”
Prasad was also the bowling coach of the Indian team when they won the 2007 T20 World Cup in South Africa under the captaincy of MS Dhoni.