Can you tell us about your early memories in Test cricket?
I still remember the first Test match that I watched. It was the India-West Indies Test in the 1983-84 season in Mumbai. Michael Holding was fielding at third man and I was right behind him in the stands. I did not know he was such a great bowler then but it still was such a thrilling experience for me. Then I saw Vivian Richards. Those memories inspired me.
The crowds for Test cricket are dwindling…
My suggestion is that a couple of stands in the stadium should be thrown open, absolutely free, to the school and college students on Saturday and Sunday.
It is very important for them to get a feel of Test cricket. Gradually, they will begin to appreciate the nuances.
What are your thoughts on the proposed all-night Tests?
I really don’t know how this will play out. Will the white ball retain its colour all through? Or would they find some other colour for the ball? Then you have the dew factor…
The switch-hit is an interesting innovation…
I don’t really know the leg-before call for the umpire once the batsman changes his stance. If his stance is that of a right-hander, I believe, the umpire should regard him as a right-hander irrespective of whether he changes his stance or not. (Then, he gets up, stands straight facing the imaginary umpire holding the imaginary bat between his legs). What am I now? Am I a right-hander or a left-hander? The stance is extremely important and the umpire should ask the batsman the question at the start — “Are you a right-hander or a left-hander.”
You have various issues here. If I keep three slips for a batsman and then he plays the switch hit, he can claim a no-ball since the rules do not allow more than two fielders behind square.
The over-rate has been under much focus in recent times…
I think we have been doing fine here. Some other teams have got into trouble. It’s not just about moving to your position quickly during and after an over. The captain has to ensure that the bowlers complete their overs in time.
The great pace predators, who you took on in the early and the middle phase of your career, are largely missing these days…
Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were not Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, the greats, when they started. One generation ends and another begins.
Eight years back when someone asked me a similar question, Brett Lee was a rookie paceman. Now, he has more than 300 Test wickets. I believe you have to give cricketers time.
Do you believe the surfaces of the world have slowed down over the last few years?
Surfaces do change over a period of time. Again there are a number of factors involved here, the matches, the wear and tear. However, I am not willing to believe that pitches all over the world have changed. There are still some lively pitches around.
The dynamics of batting have certainly changed, particularly in Tests… Teams have been a lot more positive while chasing big totals.
Batting in Test matches has changed and tThis is the direct result of Test and Twenty20 cricket. The batsmen want to get on with the game. They are playing a lot more shots in Test cricket. Being positive is one way of countering the pressures.
What keeps you going even after 19 years in international cricket. Your motivation and hunger remain undiminished. You have also, on occasions, conjured masterpieces under great pain.
It basically boils down to your passion for the game. Without passion you cannot play. I have retained my passion for the game. I have asked myself the tough questions. I love the game. I enjoy my cricket.
Given the amount of money and instant fame in world cricket today, how difficult is it for the younger cricketers to stay away from the distractions?
There are a lot more distractions and how the young cricketers handle it depends on the players themselves. I think the young cricketers must respect the game. By this I mean, your teammates, the opposition, the fans, the officials, the umpires and the ground-staff. If you develop that respect for the game, everything else will fall in place.
I also feel you have to be a good human being to evolve as a cricketer. Cricket is just a part of your life.
You interact so well with the younger bunch…
I have always been very comfortable with the younger cricketers. I love the exchange of ideas. Some years ago, when Greg Chappell was the coach, there were some reports of a rift between the senior and the younger cricketers. This was completely untrue. In the Indian team, there is no senior or junior.
India is a country of extreme reactions. Does the speculation bother you?
They do. Sometimes it does leave you a little hurt. You learn to live with it and respond on the arena. A cricketer should not be swayed by the emotions of the moment. He should stay focussed. Eventually, the love of the people keeps me going.
The year 2008 witnessed some ugly on-field incidents. A few teams crossed the boundary between aggression and bad behaviour.
Aggression to me is a quality that is within you. Aggression should be felt, not seen.
India has shown great belief as a team in stressful situations…
A team’s strength should be judged in how it comes through a period of struggle. England dominated the Chennai Test for three and a half days. We won the three sessions that mattered. There is great belief and resilience within this Indian side.
What are your impressions on India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni?
Dhoni has been a very balanced captain. He is calm and composed. A lot of credit for our success also goes to coach Gary Kirsten. He’s quietly efficient. The support staff has contributed immensely. Paddy Upton, Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad have played their parts. Dhananjay, our video analyst, has chipped in. Russell, who organises our travel, has been running around for us.
India has also been flexible with its tactics. The packed off-side field with the pacemen bowling outside the off-stump frustrated Australia…
We controlled the pace of the game. We were ahead in the series. They were 1-0 down in the series and I was pretty surprised that they did not do enough to counter our plans. In fact,