Cricketing stalwarts Vivian Richards, Imran Khan and Arjuna Ranatunga discuss the game, the World Cup and much more in an interview with CNN-IBN. Excerpts:
Is cricket healthy in all aspects as the World Cup approaches?
Imran: It is healthy in terms of commerce; but is it healthy in terms of standard, quality, class? There are some batsmen who are doing very well but in terms of fast bowling, never have I seen so few quality fast bowlers as they are right now in world cricket.
Does the world game need to look at quality of competition between bat and ball?
Richards: What took place then was the best you have got in that particular time. But one cannot fault the individuals for being around at this particular stage when a lot of money which has come into it. I certainly believe there are a lot many quality batsmen because, as Imran just said, there isn't quality pace on a regular basis. There are not too many guys getting in above your head on a regular basis.
On the impact of Twenty20 cricket on traditional cricket.
Ranatunga: When it comes to cricket, Test cricket is ultimate. Then it's a fifty-over game because you need time to adjust. If you analyse from 1975, I was captaining the under-12 side and there was balance between bat and ball. And there were top bowlers, top quality batsmen. But later part, it's probably close to 2000; the balance has gone away from the bowlers. It's more like 75 per cent batsmen.
How important is the role of administrators. Is the ICC a toothless body?
Imran: The ICC can never be too powerful. It's a very much decentralised system. ICC can not micro-manage cricket in other countries. You need to institutionalise cricket a bit more now. The itineraries are so heavy . One of the reason you don't have fast bowlers is simply too much cricket and too much one-day cricket.
Richards: One got to remember India wasn't all that strong before.
It's now that they are reasonably strong, finance-wise. India is sitting in a position now, where you can strike a particular balance with the governing body (ICC) to make sure that all your members are satisfied with the progress that's being made.
On the scourge of spot-fixing.
Imran: It's a huge problem. I think in particular it's devastating for Pakistan. But looking at those images, any team could be doing it. Match-fixing is a much bigger deal and perhaps can be detected. Who's going to detect that? If a batsman plays a maiden over, how do you know he is taking money or not? Players should submit their bank accounts. They should make it so transparent that how much money they have, how much tax they pay, assets declaration.
Ranatunga: You need expertise to watch cricket because you can have the best cop in the world but I am sure he won't be able to identify something happening in cricket. But may be if you can get hold of five-six honest past cricketers to sit with them, maybe they might identify some things happening.