Ajay S Shankar: Mr Pataudi, as in 2007, Indian cricket witnessed this huge debate about youth and experience when you were made captain at the age of 21 in 1962. What was it all about then, and now, do you think it is the right time to create a whole new Indian team Or is there a better way of doing itof phasing out the senior players
When I became captain, it was entirely by default because the captain got injured (Nari Contractor was felled by a bouncer from West Indian paceman Charlie Griffith in Barbados). I think, by then, the Board had begun to get interested in continuity. I was the youngest in the team, anyway, but I also got the support of two or three senior players. People like Polly Umrigar, Vijay Manjrekar and others; they gave me a lot of support. One or two also gave me a lot of problems. The youngsters, of course, supported me. And naturally, one gained confidence with experience. And then one became the oldest in the team, and the time came to leave. When you talk about people like Sachin Tendulkar, when you talk about the exceptional players, they know perfectly well when it is time to go. I think it is a little unfair to force them out. Some people, of course, do tend to hang on. But here, the players themselves are complaining about playing too much cricket and suffering injuries. So it was felt that giving rest to senior players wasnt a bad idea, in a kind of rotation. How well it will work, I dont know. But I think it is sensible if you are going to play 60-70 matches in a year to rest one or two of your older players.
Shailaja Bajpai: Would you agree with what Sunil Gavaskar has reportedly said, that Greg Chappell is responsible for the decline of the Indian team
No, I wouldnt agree at all. I know that Sunil wasnt very keen on having Greg Chappell. But the majority of people who interviewed him (in 2005) accepted him as the best that they could get. I think what he tried to do was change the system towards a more sort of team effort than individuals.We are very good at individual games, if you have noticed. But towards the end, I also got the impression that, perhaps, Chappell himself was indulging in a little bit of politics. The advantage of having a foreign coach is not only that he is technically more qualified than most coaches in India. But since he has no idea about the politics of cricket in India, he stays above them, he doesnt understand them. But I think Greg started getting involved a little bit and therefore, suffered. I wouldnt go as far as Sunil Gavaskar has gone, but I would say that Chappell read it slightly wrong.
Seema Chisti: In your time, it mattered whether you were from Maharashtra, from Karnataka or the North. Has it got better or worse now
I dont think it has got any better. I think regional identity is playing a stronger part now in many ways than it used to.... If you have selectors who come from different parts of India, they will of course support their part. That is why we suggested that selectors should not come from separate parts of India. And its not the Board that nominates those selectors, its the local association we said no, this is not a good idea, we said the selectors should be nominated by the Board, they should belong to the Board, their loyalty should be to the Board. Once their loyalty is towards the Board, which looks after cricket throughout India, then presumably they will have greater loyalty towards India and less to their state or their area. Lets see how it works.
Ajay S Shankar: If you are made the coach of the Indian team, what will be your blueprint for the road ahead
You have to improve your domestic cricket because thats the only way you can improve your international cricket. You should also concentrate a lot more on your under-16, under-17 and under-19 teams today; thats very important. By the time you reach 20-21, and you are good enough to play for your country, its difficult to change. You are already set in your ways, you are already set in the way you play opening bowling, or how you play swing or spin. So a coach, I think, is necessary at an under-16 level more than at the international level. Because once you get your basic technique wrong, it is very difficult to get it right later on. You get away with it in domestic cricket because the pitches are so slow, and because the bowling is not so good. This is because the best bowlers are anyway not playing against youthey are busy playing international cricket. So you suddenly find people scoring several double centuries in Ranji Trophy games, but once they enter the international field, they are unable to take that step further up because there is a huge difference between domestic cricket and international cricket.
Ajay S Shankar: So its going to take time
Its going to take years of organisation. If the Board and the state associations take it seriously, lets talk in terms of 15 years.
Unni Rajen Shanker: You talked about putting a lot of emphasis on domestic cricket. Do you think we need to look at pitches seriously Also, if you prepare spinners wickets, where are the spinners
I will take the second question first. Today, you wont find spinners because how will spinners learn to bowl in a 50-overs game You cant go out there and say I have got 10 overs to go and what are you supposed to do Are you supposed to get the chap out or are you supposed to stop him scoring runs Where are you supposed to set the field You have forgotten how to be an attacking bowler like Prasanna and so on did when we were playing. They could afford to bowl 25-30 overs in a day. Today, Harbhajan Singh is told you have 10 overs, make sure they dont get more than 3.5 runs off you. So you will bowl flatter and flatter and flatter, and you forget how to bowl. There are exceptions, of course, like Muttiah Muralitharan, but he also has an exceptional action.
Ajay S Shankar: What are the Sri Lankans doing differently, compared to India The conditions in Lanka are the same, the system is similar.
Sri Lanka is not part of the sub-continent! They seem to have more hunger than we do, they dont seem to have the kind of politics that Pakistan has, they have obviously been playing longer than Bangladesh and have developed into a good side. They are very serious about their cricket and they are very disciplined. That is the difference. We are not disciplined. We call ourselves professionals, but we are not professionals, we are commercial.
Ajay S Shankar: Is there any captain in todays cricket whom you admire
No, I dont think I know enough about modern- day captaincy. I can certainly pick out, if you want, captains of my time. For different reasons, I consider Frank Worrell the best West Indies captain. The West Indies were then just emerging from a colonial group of islands (as far as cricket was concerned) into a single entity. They were very keen to prove to the rest of the world that they had something to offer after the British left. Frank Worrell understood this very well and he created a team accordingly. I think Richie Benaud was the best Australian captain we have seen because he was very shrewd, very tough and a very good player. Imran Khan was the best captain Pakistan has produced because it happens to be a far more feudal society than anybody else playing cricket. And they need somebody who will not only be a captain but would get after you in a less democratic way than you can do so in this particular countryI can mention Mike Brearley also, for taking captaincy to the heights of intellectualism. The way he dealt with Ian Botham, who was a very difficult player to deal with, was remarkable.
Aabha Rathee: Going back to the domestic scene, Chappell had spoken about the lack of talent in a country where cricket is the single- largest sport. Do you think it is a question of channelising that talent
I think it is necessary to have proper coaching at the ages of 16 and 17. You will get a Tendulkar every 30 years; you will not get him every three or four years like you should do. That is because of lack of proper coaching facilities.
Ajay S Shankar: What is more challenging Being the captain of an Indian cricket team, or being the father of a Bollywood actor
For 30 years of my life, I was known as Sharmilas husband, and you now want me to be known as Saifs father
Kavita Choudhary: Whether it was media hype or not, we all felt that we were bringing back the World Cup again. But now, theres a view that we didnt have the talent in the first case.
I dont think many of us thought that India would bring the Cup back. Most of us thought that we would at least get into the quarter-finals (Super Eight) and with a bit of luck, into the semi-final. But none of us had thought that we would win the Cup. For that, it would have required a little more talent than what we had. Let us say this team was at its best about four years ago (for the 2003 World Cup). It is the same team. Kumble is there, Harbhajan is there, Sourav is there. They are all there, but they are four years older. You saw the best of this team four years ago.
Raghvendra Rao: After the World Cup, Pakistan has appointed Shoaib Malik as their captain, Australia is in the process of grooming Michael Clarke. Are we lacking somewhere in grooming future leaders
I was hoping very much that they would bring in a youngster like Yuvraj Singh. But obviously, the BCCI doesnt agree with me because the BCCI feels that this business of (Yuvraj) talking to the press, they got upset with it. So they feel perhaps that he is not the right kind of person that India would need. But I cant actually think of anybody who they can make vice-captain in this team and say Right, he will be captain after Dravid retires in a year or so, and then captain for five or six years.
Ajay S Shankar: In which areas would you like to see Dravid improve as captain
I would like him to be a little more demonstrative. Obviously, he is strong-willed. He insisted, from what I understand from your newspaper, that Sehwag go on. From newspaper reports, it went against the wishes of several selection committee members. So he obviously has a will and he would like to fight for what he wants. I dont think there is anything wrong with his captaincy at all. I just feel that in India, we would like him to be a little bit more demonstrative, thats all.
Abhay Misra: How much of cricket is left in Sachin Tendulkar He is a great batsman, but he has failed when we needed him to score.
Obviously, I have felt disappointed with many of Sachins innings. On the other hand, if you look at his record over a period of years, which is what we must do, he has also given us a great deal of joy. How long he can continue to do that is a very difficult question to answer because only he will know. I think all of us who have played cricket at that level, though not at that standard, instinctively know that its time to go. He doesnt think it is, so he wont go. And if you look at his record, it is better than anybody elses, especially the youngsters. You are disappointed because your expectations are still so high of him that if he gets out for 20 or if he doesnt score a 100, people are going to get disappointed. He is not going to be able to do that because he is not what he was 10 years ago, five years ago or even three years ago. He has reached the top of the mountain; hes not getting to the end of the plateau, soon he will be coming down. That is when he will think and say Yes, it is time to go.
Shailaja Bajpai: Leaving out yourself, who do you think has been a good captain for India In fact, what kind of a captain were you
There are two ways to captain a team. One is to pull it, and the other is to push it. I can give you several examples of people who pulled the team like Gary Sobers and Richie Benaud. Or, those who pushed it like me, or Ray Illingworth, who were not the best players in the team and, therefore, couldnt take charge either in the batting or bowling, for whatever reason. Therefore, they pushed the team. I dont think my record is any better or any worse than most Indian captains, but I havent spent a great deal of time thinking about it. I think the best captain that we have ever had is possibly Sunil Gavaskar for the very simple reason that he, either by chance or lack of availability, took the emphasis away from spin bowling and tried to bring the emphasis back on fast bowling. Mainly because he was an opening batsman, he also understood very well that it is fast bowling that wins you matches, not always spin bowling. As far as I am concerned, I dont think India has ever produced the greatest captain in the world. But I would give it to Sunil Gavaskar, from the ones I have seen after I stopped playing.
Sujit Bhar: Coming back to coaching, Ravi Shastri will not be there after the Bangladesh tour. What is your personal opinion about the type of coach that India should have
There are advantages to having a foreign coach, and there are disadvantages. The same applies to an Indian coach. The disadvantages of a foreign coach is often the lack of ability to communicate with players, some of whom come from a particular kind of background where even English is not clearly understood. So how do you communicate with them That is one thing, which is a disadvantage for a foreign coach. The advantage is that he stays out of politics till the system absorbs him. Whoever comes into this country either runs away or gets absorbed into the system. The advantage of having an Indian coach is that there will not be a question of lack of communication. But there could be a question of interest in local politics, and there could be a certain amount of this bhaichara business. You know: I have known you for 25 years, I have played cricket with you, you are a personal friend of mine, how do I sack you I think some of the foreign coaches are possibly technically better qualified, but they may not necessarily suit us, in our particular system. But I dont see a single Indian coach. Ravi Shastri is the type of coach we would need. He is a strong man, he is a good cricketer, and he has been following the game very closely. But he doesnt want to do it. So what do you do You have to look for somebody.... I cant see anybody obvious who would make a good coach from India. I just dont see anyone.
Anuradha Nagraj: Do you watch your childrens films Any performance that surprised you.
Listen, if you come to my house, you will find nothing but films being discussed. From my wife to my daughter to my son, to the other daughter. The only person who stays away from this discussion is me, because they think I dont know anything about it. I have seen some of my wifes films and have been surprised by the improvement in my sons acting in the last 2-3 years. I am hardly qualified to judge, but the last film I saw was Omkara, and I enjoyed it. It was hilarious. I saw it on my laptop and it was dubbed in English.
G S Vivek: There is a lot of buzz about the bowling actions of Lasith Malinga, Paul Adams before and Muttiah Muralitharan. If you ever go talent scouting in India at the grassroot level, will you appreciate such actions Will you encourage them
No, I dont think I would. I dont want to call it a disability, but if you have a difference in physique, it may give you an advantage. But if you being in a law that this is permissible, then it has to be followed. Then, you cant blame Muralitharan, you cant blame his coach, you cant blame anybody for saying, Right, if Muralitharan can take a 1,000 wickets with this kind of action, fine, why dont you try and have a go if you have got a funny joint or something. I dont agree with it, but the law is the law. They allowed this law to come in recently after a great deal of discussion because they said that in fact, 90 % of bowlers chuck. Where do we stop It upsets people like me because we wouldnt have thought that people bowling like Muralitharan should be allowed to play cricket at all. About 40 years ago, he wouldnt have played at all.
Sandeep Narayan: You said the Board wasnt happy with Yuvraj Singh because he spoke to the media, which was one of the reasons why he hasnt been made the vice-captain. But then, you had Greg Chappell going to the media almost after every tour.
I dont know if you read Chappells contract. I think you might find that he is allowed to go to the press and make statements. You cant stop him from doing that. I think his report, from what I understand, has to be taken seriously. And I hope it is taken seriously by the Board. I am very sorry that Chappell didnt work out, because his ideas were right. But it was very difficult to implement them in this country.