“It’s Important We Play Against Pakistan. It’s Our Ashes.”

“The ICC Can’t Remain A Mute Spectator Now”
December 28, 1998
Red Cherry Blossoms
February 15, 1999

“It’s Important We Play Against Pakistan. It’s Our Ashes.”

Why are we playing so much cricket with the World Cup around? 
We are playing a little in excess perhaps. But, Pakistanis are coming to India after 12 years. It is important we play them because it has the same value for us as the Ashes have for Australia and England. If you miss the slot now, the next might come after 10 years. The Asian Test championships are also important. If you have to run the game in India, specially with Ranji having gone to super league, you need money. All the expenses are on the bcci. You have to generate funds. We need $2 million plus just to keep the momentum going. If you don’t play cricket and it’s not seen on TV, then you have to dip into your reserves and that’s not healthy. So there’s very little option but to play. Even the Australians have played as much as us. I know our boys are tired… but you feel fatigued mostly when you are not winning. No winning team has complained about being tired.

We don’t do well abroad. Why? 
By sheer accident I happened to be the manager of the winning Indian side in England. Right from 1932 to 1999, which is the gamut of Indian cricketing history, we have not played well collectively. When our batting has clicked, our bowling hasn’t and vice-versa. Right now we have calibre in Sachin, Azhar and Sidhu and there’s the resurgence of Rahul Dravid.
For instance, in the second Test match, Srinath kept bowling short consistently. There’s something wrong with his technique which is a pity because he can do so much more with the ball. The biggest problem is that the standard of our bench is very poor. We spent Rs 40-50 lakh on the A team’s tour to West Indies. No names came up. Agarkar apart.

Any other promising player? 
There’s this Ramesh who is Tamil Nadu’s opener. People tell me he’s shaping well.

You must be happy with Dravid? 
Yes. He’s a fine player and a good student of the game. But Sunny played 125 Tests and faced the best and biggest battery of fast bowlers. Sachin is a match-winner. Perhaps the best since C.K. Nayudu.

Now, to the icc commission. Was there any significant change in the draft paper Dave Richards submitted and the one that was adapted? 
Absolutely not. The commission was president Jagmohan Dalmiya’s idea. There was an exchange of ideas, but no disagreement.

No dilution in the text? 
No. In fact, checks and balances have been beautifully brought aboutthe ambit has been widened to drugs.

And members? I believe the legal member will be from the UK? 
Since the icc is situated there, it’s convenient. The appointments will come in two weeks. We spoke to Dalmiya on speaker phones three times in two days. He wasn’t able to make it because of a personal tragedy.

Are the subcontinent boards more interested in protecting players than letting the truth come out?
It’s not that people are trying to protect players but it is a natural tendency. If you are the principal of a school you will punish the boys, and protect them even if they do anything outside. But the current commission has a larger ambit and if there is an unfair protection it will balance it out.

Evidence is a much-bandied about word. Do you think there is going to be video records of malpractices? 
We don’t have the legality to take action otherwise. Shane Warne and Mark Waugh admitted to it and were fined. Take the recent story of the journalist corroborating Manoj Prabhakar’s story. The gestation of a human is nine months and in this case the story gestated for four years. If I were playing cricket and somebody approached me I would catch him by the scruff of the neck and take him to the manager. As for Prabhakar, he is finished with cricket, lost his deposit in an election and now wants to be in the limelight. Why didn’t he tell the management then?

He says he was told to keep quiet. 
Then he should have said so to Justice Chandrachud. What is the fear? It’s put a cricket-loving nation into shame. He went to TV sometime back and said if you pay me Rs 25 lakh I will tell the name. He sat in the TV chair and then walked away.

Was the inquiry a whitewash? 
Chandrachud is a retired chief justice and this man (Prabhakar) had the gumption to say he wasn’t asked about the allegation. Chandrachud told Prabhakar he could give the name or names and he wouldn’t write it in the report. Prabhakar says he wasn’t asked. Would you believe a retired chief justice or a retired, frustrated cricketer?

Are you satisfied with the inquiry? 

Why wasn’t the full report released? 
No good would have come of it. Everybody would be quoting portions freely. We placed it before the working committee and they said it would be very dangerous to release it.

It would have given credence to allegations? 
It would only have fuelled unsubstantiated things being written. ‘So and so’ said this. You see two lines and make 14 out of it.

In a hypothetical situation, if the Aussie board punishes a certain player, fans may feel some subcontinent players got away with murder? 
Well, wasn’t the Indian board the first to conduct an inquiry? Look, it’s like this. Somebody comes up to me and asks about the pitch. I will say it’s dry and will turn etc. I will not expect any payment. One youngster approached me during the first Test and asked me ‘what do you think?’ I said both teams were evenly balanced. He said ‘no, Bombay bookies say it will be a draw’. The game was abandoned. Bookies rang up the Met office in Dunedin and found out about the rain. You don’t need a player for that.

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