World Cup diary: Is eating meat behind rise of India's fast bowlers?

Chetan Sharma, India’s first hat-trick man in World Cup, disagrees with Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi (Getty Images)
Shahid Afridi (Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Shahid Afridi, the former swashbuckling Pakistan allrounder and captain, offered a strange explanation last week for India being a breeding ground for quick bowlers now – eating meat. A theory, promptly discarded by Chetan Sharma, the pint-sized pace bowler and India’s first hat-trick man in the World Cup in 1987.  

Speaking at a sports show in Pakistan in a build-up to the ICC World Cup, the former Pakistan captain had an offered an explanation behind the emergence of the likes of Mohammed Siraj & Co: “India has a huge 1.4 billion population, and the quality of cricket has changed [over the years]. Back then we used to say that they are producing great batters while Pakistan is creating good bowlers, but that was not the case as we were generating both bowlers and batters… However, their bowlers have now started eating meat, so they have gained strength.’’ 

Sharma, who defied his small frame to generate a lively pace and opened the new ball attack with the legendary Kapil Dev in the ‘80s, feels it’s an outdated theory now. Speaking to National Herald over phone, the former chairman of selectors recalled a famous story about him: ‘’I was a vegetarian and had broken into the national team when at a party, West Indies pace icon Michael Holding and captain Clive Lloyd patted me for my efforts but suggested: maan, you need to start eating meat to gain strength. 

‘’It was the perception those days and once I told my father about it, he brought about a few changes in my food habits with soup etc. However, times have changed and players rely more on balanced diet and supplements these days. The best example is Virat Kohli, who I believe has turned vegetarian,’’ Sharma said. 

Kohli, in fact, turned a vegetarian back in 2018 soon after he suffered from uric acid – a fact he revealed during an interview with Kevin Pieterson. He had also responded to a fan comment on his post in 2022, clarifying that it was ‘’the biggest myth in the world’’ that non-meat eaters cannot be muscular. 

Incidentally, two of India’s finest new ball bowlers who hunted in pairs in the Nineties and in early 2000s – Javagal Sritnath and Venkatesh Prasad – were vegetarians from Bangalore. 

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