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I’ve been stubborn with my injuries: Oram

Uva Next’s Kiwi all-rounder talks of his battle with his own body

Sportsmen are a stubborn bunch. With the mere strength of their will, they defy the oddest of odds to achieve something that is unfathomable for us, ordinary humans. In the end, they leave us mesmerised, and at times, feeling foolish.

One from this obdurate breed is Jacob Oram. In this New Zealander’s case, it’s his own body that he’s been taking on for more than a decade and is still winning the battle. “I know my body is not built to do what I’m doing but I just ignore it and keep trying to push through,” the all-rounder told clt20.com.

In South Africa for the 2012 Champions League Twenty20, Oram is a marquee player of his team, Uva Next, the champions of the inaugural Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL). In what was a very honest chat, New Zealand’s highest wicket-taker in World Cups, spoke about his never-ending tryst with injuries and how he chose to cut short his Test career rather than give up bowling.

Didn’t you think of giving up one aspect of your game to prolong your Test career?

In 2009, the decision I had to make was either retire from Tests – as an all-rounder you shoulder high workload in Tests, especially while bowling – or play as a batsman. I had chosen to play as an all-rounder when I first played for New Zealand (in 2001) and eight years down the line I saw myself as a cricketer who does both batting and bowling. I didn’t want to give up bowling; it was part of me and something that I enjoyed. When I thought like that, the decision to give up Tests was easy.

How has playing only limited overs cricket changed your approach to bowling?

I realise that at times I’m bowling heavier in the sense that when you know you only have a limited number of balls to bowl, you give it your all. But in Test cricket you bowl 15-20 overs a day and again come out to bowl the next day. It’s tough on the body. Also, in the shorter formats I try to keep it tight because unlike in a Test match, here you don’t bowl for wickets all the time.

Do you prefer to play as an all-rounder because it enables you to put yourself in the opposition’s shoes?

Yes, it does help a lot to be able to think like a batsman while bowling and vice versa. In the shorter formats where you don’t have much time on your hand, you are always looking to outsmart the opposition. As a bowler if you’ve just bowled two-three dot balls, you try and think what the batsman is thinking of doing next. While batting too, the position that I bat at, you need runs straight as soon as you walk in with no time to set in. So, it helps if I can think like a bowler in order to identify his plan and then negotiating them.

What gives you more joy – scoring runs or taking wickets?

Scoring runs. When I started out as a cricketer, I was solely a batsman. I only began to bowl when I was about 20 years old. For the first 10 years of my cricketing life, right through the age-groups and youth teams, I only batted. That is something very close to my heart and scoring runs is always more satisfying.

What has kept you going despite suffering a series of injuries throughout your career?

I get a lot of criticism for my injuries and am perceived to be soft. But I have been stubborn to keep pushing through these injuries and decided to carry on when at some stages in my career I should’ve given the game up. It’s been hard both from a physical and mental point of view. Rehab after rehab gets pretty monotonous and draining. It is character building in a way but it also does damage to your psyche. But at this stage of my life and career I’m just looking to make the most of whatever cricket is left in me.

Talking about the CLT20, how much will Uva Next have to lift their game at this stage?

No disrespect to the SLPL but I think when you think of the CLT20 being played by all champion teams, it’s going to be much ahead in terms of standard of cricket. As a team we have to play better to succeed here. All the sides are good and there’s a lot at stake.

Your 11 wickets at 3.82 rpo in SLPL were instrumental in getting Uva Next to the CLT20 Qualifiers. How much did your IPL experience help you?

That experience helps you in integrating yourself into a team culture that you’re not used to. The guys are very friendly and helpful; but when you come into a side where you don’t know the players, they’re not of your nationality and speak a different language, it can be tough. But when you’ve been with an IPL team and then go to a side like Uva Next, the transition gets a lot easier.

Is it also difficult to adapt to the different roles that you’re asked to play in various teams?

Yes, it is. For instance, I’m not an opening bowler for New Zealand, although I have done it on a few occasions. But my first game with Uva Next, the coach came up to me said ‘You’re opening the bowling’. I said, ‘You know I don’t do that.’ I had my apprehensions but as it turned out it’s gone really well. Also, when playing for a franchise you take a lot more responsibility as one of the very few overseas players at the team’s disposal.

Are you happy that your team is not in the same Qualifying group as the Auckland Aces?

Actually, I am happy. I play for the Central Districts back home and two years ago the Auckland Aces defeated us in the final (of the HRV Cup, New Zealand’s domestic T20 competition). Last year, they got the better of us again. They know my game too well and it would be too easy for them to work ways out to score runs against me and dismiss me. Having said that, I want them to do well because we need a team from New Zealand coming good. But I just hope it’s not against me.

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