Sri Lankan World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga thinks Indian selectors are right in axing Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid from One-Day Internationals (ODI).
He says the young Indian team "did extremely well", gave the Australians back in sledging to win the triangular series and are now top contenders for the next World Cup.
To Ranatunga, president of the Sri Lankan cricket board, Indian ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been a revelation and Sachin Tendulkar can play till the next World Cup if he is "protected properly".
According to the Sri Lankan southpaw, Muttiah Muralitharan is on track to capture 1,000 Test wickets.
Ranatunga calls Twenty20 "three-minute Maggie noodles" and no cricket. Though the stocky Sri Lankan justifies the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in organizing the Indian Premier League (IPL) to earn money, he says the concept will harm the sport in the long run.
Ranatunga, who was in Toronto on a personal visit and felicitated by Canadian Cricket Association CEO Atul Ahuja Saturday, spoke at length with IANS.
Excerpts from interview:
Q: What do you think about India's just concluded controversial tour to Australia and their victory over the world champions in one-dayers?
A: I think the young Indian side did extremely well. They are a promising lot and can win the next World Cup. I am very impressed with Dhoni's attitude. He has turned out to be a good ODI captain. Frankly, I never expected him to do so well. He has become a different man, and people see that difference. He has cut his hair short and looks stylish (laughs).
Q: Do you think it was right to drop Ganguly and Rahul from one-dayers?
I think the Indian board made the right decision. They picked up the young team and made them play against the Aussies in Australia. Now that is not easy. But these young Indians have done so well.
Though I think Ganguly is still a great player, but he and Rahul have to go. The Indians are planning for the next World Cup and these two players don't fit in that plan.
In fact, we in Sri Lanka want to follow the same approach. Selections will be made keeping the next World Cup in mind.
Q: Do you justify Sachin Tendulkar's retention in the ODI team?
A: Sachin is a special case. He is totally different, and he can play till the next World Cup if he is protected properly. I think he should be played selectively.
Q: What are your views on the Harbhajan-Symonds controversy and the sledging in cricket?
A: Sledging should stop now. It has gone too far. I don't know whether they (the Australians) still overdo it, but they were the first to start it. Now that others have started giving them back, they are disturbed. But they should remember that it is a different world now.
Q: Do you think the Indians are right in having two captains - Dhoni for one-dayers, and Kumble for Tests?
A: As I said, the Indians are making the right moves. They entrusted the Test captaincy to Anil Kumble who is a senior player and respected in world cricket for his achievements. And Dhoni has come good in ODIs.
Q: With Shane Warne retired and Anil Kumble and Mutthiah Murlitharan at the end of their careers, do you see any great spinners on the horizon?
A: No. I cannot see a single proper spinner playing now, apart from Kumble and Murali.
Q: How long can Murali go?
A: He can play for the next four years. I am sure he will take 1,000 wickets easily if he doesn't get injured. He is a special case - he is like Tendulkar in batting. He is totally different and his commitment to cricket is huge. When he gets a ball, he can bowl for at least two hours without any problem. We will try to protect him till the next World Cup - he may play only a few games till then.
Q: What do you think about the Indian Premier League (IPL) in Twenty20 cricket?
A: I don't dispute that the Indian board has every right to earn revenue. After all, they have to pay for running the sport. My worry is not that the board is making lots of money; my problem is about players.
Yes, the seniors may not be a problem because they have gone through it. But why should a young player be bothered to play for his country if he can make so much money in just one or two months in IPL?
That's the issue. If players are given wrong values, the game will go to pieces. With IPL offering huge amounts of money, players' attitude to the game will change.
It may not be a major issue now, but it can become a big problem in two years' time.
You have to decide whether cricket is business or sport.
Q: So you don't agree with Twenty20 cricket?
A: It is like three-minute Maggie noodle. Bang, bang, and it is over. For me, it is not cricket. It is raw power. How can any great players fit in it?
Take Kumara Sangakkara. He is the greatest batsman in cricket now. But how will you judge him in Twenty20? ODIs are okay, but Test cricket is real cricket.
Q: Looking back, when you started your career in 1982, Sri Lanka were the minnows of world cricket. How did you transform within a decade to become world-beaters?
A: We changed our mind-set and commitment to the game. We became totally committed to the sport. Like when I took over, it was clear to everyone that they have to give me their 100 percent. Or they could walk away. I told them that I would be proud if they showed 100 percent commitment even if we lost the game.
So, total commitment to cricket was our first step.
The second step was transformation of our attitude. We have a problem in our Asian culture. We are taught to be submissive. We are not taught to hit back. But we decided that we would give back (to our opponents) as much we got. We went to Australia and started giving them back. The Aussies were unsettled as they have been against the Indians recently. Our philosophy was: don't leave an opponent when you are on top. Don't pull the knives out, but turn it around in your victim.
The third step was self-belief. We stared believing that we are better than our opponents, and it worked. I would tell myself that I am better than Wasim Akram or Sachin. That's how we transformed ourselves.
Q: And that's how you won the 1996 World Cup?
A: Here I think the turning point came when we lost the first Test within three days during the 1995-96 Pakistan tour. We vowed to win the next matches and immediately went to practice. We won the next two Tests and made history. That led us to the World Cup victory.