The Kapil Dev-inspired 1983 World Cup triumph changed India’s image as a mere Test nation. But he is against tinkering, and a two-tier system, to boost it. And he feels an all-time Indian Test XI to mark the 500th Test starting in Kanpur on Thursday will have to be packed with players from the last two decades, in this interview on the sidelines of a promotional event by official broadcasters, Star India.
Q. Your thoughts on India playing their 500th Test
A. It’s wonderful, and Test cricket has survived so long. Till 1980s we were known only as a Test team. Now it’s a big fight between T20, Tests and ODI cricket. India have done fairly well in every department, and people love the game.
Q. Venue is Kanpur and opposition is New Zealand. Could we have made the occasion grander?
A. It is unfair. That would mean we don’t respect New Zealand or Kanpur. Whichever place you pick, it will be making history. Can’t really say it should be Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Chandigarh or Bangalore.
Q. What do you think about the uncertain future of Test cricket?
A. I don’t think Test cricket is going to die. Yes, the country has moved so fast in the last 20-30 years, everyone wants to see results fast. They don’t have time to go out for five days. The cricket body will have to plan to bring people back. Modify a little bit, but not much because it is about history. We’ll have more entertainment off the field so people come. And you have to pick the right days, like long weekends. Players should also work in a manner the public comes back. You have to play for the crowd also sometimes.
Q. On TV and commercial pressure on Tests
A. It’s a big challenge. Again, people who love classics will watch those movies, those who want to see action movies will pick them and those who want to watch romance will opt for them. There are people who love Test cricket and they will come, but it is very important for Test cricket that there is entertainment. As a player I’d like to see 50,000-80,000 coming to watch me play. You have to reduce ticket prices or whatever the administration thinks, maybe have a lottery so someone gets something very big.
Q. Your opinion on the pink-ball experiment
A. It is too early. Only those who played can say (but) sometimes a player can be biased, so you have to give it a couple of seasons.
Q. The two-tier system has been opposed; 4-day Tests have also been discussed
A. Test cricket should stay the same. I don’t want it going the hockey way. I still like to see hockey on grass as well. Hockey sticks have also changed. I hope they don’t change so much. Forty-fifty years back, it was the artwork of players. If you change cricket in that manner, it will be unfair. It should be like tennis, you still have grasscourt and clay.
Q. Earlier, top Test players came into limited-overs cricket, now it’s the other way around. Is this a challenge for Test cricket?
A. A Test player can figure in any format, 99 % of them can play T20, but not every T20 guy can play Test cricket.
Q. Your all-time Indian XI or players who can’t be left out of a select XI
A. I can’t speak about those who played before the 1970s. There is only one cricketer I keep thinking about, who could have played any type of cricket (in any era), and that is Vinoo Mankad. Rest, those who played in the last 20 years, look far better than those before. You can say Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, MS Dhoni, nobody can rule these cricketers out if you pick an all-time great Indian side. Virat Kohli is also there, but it is a tough exercise.
Q. On applying to become national selectors
A. I haven’t put my mind to it. (But) these cricketers (advisory panel of Laxman, Tendulkar and Ganguly) can decide who are the best, like they picked the coach. Of course, a lot of changes are taking place in the cricket board.