Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Rolling Back the Years with The Left Arm of God: A Candid Interview with Wasim Akram

The sight of Wasim’s celebration in the nineties is imprinted on almost every Cricket fan’s memory

The Interview originally appeared at Dawn.com, this is the unedited version. 

Audio-Part 1 & 2

When you started playing Cricket, how much of it was tape ball growing up?

 A lot. A lot of tape ball, a lot of plain tennis ball. I remember six a side had started in Lahore and I was living with my grandmother in Inner Lahore at the time. This is around 83’ I think, I was about fifteen. Used to be a tape ball “professional” and would take Rs10/game to win sides matches.

It was only after 83’ then, that I started to play with a Cricket ball… Uss say pehley tau har jaga tennis ball tournaments hi khele..sarkon pai tournamnets ho rahay hain, ya chatoon pay, ya School ki lightonkay neechayn…Ramzan of course you used to have a tournament every night, so yes that’s how it started.

So what do you think of tape ball as the stepping stone for budding fast bowlers?

 I think the idea is really to just play Cricket at the age. Get your muscles going and just getting used to fast bowling. Then when you have hit the age of fourteen you can make the transition to a Cricket ball. So when I started bowling with a Cricket ball, I was quite nippy, because with tape ball you are already used to exerting more energy, which means I had strengthened my shoulders before I had made the switch to the Cricket ball.

Because it’s a common theory that does the rounds that since Pakistan has tape ball we have a lot of fast bowlers, and India who play with the heavier MRF ball they don’t produce as many….

 Maybe…..it’s a good observation but I have never thought about it in that regard. It could be the reason but I think the biggest factor is the difference in psyche…India main meray khial say fast bowlers aatay hain..,magar aik aik saal baad saaray ghaib ho jaatay hain bajay is kay ke aur taiz hoon.

Look at Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, Munaf I can keep on going with the list. Now they have found another in Yadav but let’s hope he can keep on going instead of fading away like the rest. So by phyche I mean they often lack the hunger and drive to keep going after hitting the biggest stage, they need to push themselves more and need good mentors to work with.

You don’t think it has any technical drawbacks for a fast bowler to grow up on tape ball and then suddenly make the switch to hard ball?

 No not suddenly…aahista aahista. I went to a proper Cricket net the first time in ’83 when. A guy in my neighborhood Khalid Mahmood, a first class Cricketer, told me to go practice in the nets when he saw me bowling with tape ball on the streets. I was in class ten, didn’t really heed to his advice said “Nahi mujhe net pai nahi jaana”…so he basically forced and carried me there on the back of his bike to Ludhiana Gymkhana. That’s when I slowly left tape ball and switched to the Cricket ball.

You got a five-wicket haul in your first first-class match against N.Z, did you realize it then that “Yes I am made to do this” ?

 No I didn’t. I thought while playing that game that if I don’t get any wickets I will be gone. Wo to saath out ho gaye…but I don’t know how. I remember getting Martin Crowe, John Wright, Edgar, Reid and all and got seven in the first and two in the second innings.

But after that I got good mentors. Javed Miandad who was my captain and he really groomed me in the Cricket camp, how to play, how to put in the hard yards. Mudassar Nazar was there and then I met Imran on the Australian tour in the mini World Cup.

So when did that feeling actually sink in?

 I think when I got ten in my second test I realized…actually was told by Javed bhai “Tum ne mahnat karni hai…You can play long for Pakistan.” Mudassar Nazar insisted as well told me how to work hard. Tareeka bhi to hota hai na mehnat karnay ka, paaglon ki tarah thori bhaagay jaatay hain. So I am grateful that I had very good people surrounding me at the beginning of my career that helped me to become the bowler I was.

The story goes that you actually weren’t going to go to the open-net camp after not getting a turn in the nets…tell us a bit about that.

 It was my coach Sabih Khan and fast bowler Saud Khan, a first class cricketer as well. I had gone up to them exasperated, “Mujhe bowling nahi mili teen chaar din, tau main nahi jaa raha”. But they insisted that I go, and they will call the people up and make sure I get a turn.

So the fifth day I went and got a turn with an old ball late in the day. I looked good…Agha Saadat Ali, a test-cricketer was the camp commandant and the next day he tossed me a new ball. I have never looked back since.

You had a small bustling run up not common to fast bowlers at the time, how did that come about?

 It was the 87’ tour of England if I recall, before that I had a long run up. Imran told me why don’t you try a shorter run up, you will be able to play longer. And I said what about the pace? Imran bhai lai gaye mujhe saath apne and measured out a run up. And that’s where I ran in from and bowled at the same pace. So he said agar chotay run up say utni hee taiz kartey ho to faida kia lamba bhaagnay ka…and he was right…

How much was it Marshall’s influence ?

 Marshall also did it later on in his career. I talked to him through out and kept picking his brains whenever I could because I always thought and it still remains the same that Marshall was the most complete fast bowler Cricket had ever seen.

I played against him and with him a lot. Always used to bugger him with questions, but he always gave me time and listened to me. And of course Imran, all of fast bowling’s technicalities, your psyche and reading the batsmen’s mind every thing I learnt from him.

So Imran was to you what Terry Jenner was to Warne?

 Definitley. Fast bowling for sure. More generally I had two, him and Miandad.

 Imran always used to stand at mid-on whispering in your ear, tell us a bit about that and if you can recall specific instances following or not following his advice.

I always used to follow his advice because I needed somebody to guide me, to give me confidence in the ball I was about to bowl. And Imran say behtar to koi bowler tha hi nahi confidence bharanay kai liyay.

 With the new-ball we usually did the normal of bringing the ball in, but with the old ball he used to tell me to change it up. Kabhi bahar nikal lo, kabhi andar lay aao, kabhi bouncer kar do…

 

Imran say behtar tau koi bowler tha hi nahi confiedence denay kai liyay

Did it ever happen that Imran was saying something else and you thought otherwise?

 No I never did that, because he was Imran Khan. By 89’ I had become confident and knew what I was doing. Had played a few seasons in county and polished off my game.

Same with Waqar, we usually stood at mid-off or mid-on when the other was bowling. Aik doosray sai baat kartay rehtay the…laray hotay the magar baat kartay rehtay thay. What to do. What not to do. What should be done.

And it’s very important for young and experienced fast bowlers. I mean you only have to look at the Indian bowlers here in Australia to know that. They get hit around, they are lost, no body talks to them. At least I had people telling me what fields to set.

Laray hotay the magar baat kartay rehtay thay

Your action if one sees footage of you through the years went through a lot of modifications. Who did you work with for that?

 Mostly I just worked it out myself. Going around the wicket, going over. Sometimes front-arm over, sometimes open-chested. The idea is to distract the batsman, wo aik rat ki tarah moon utha kai bowling nahi karni. Sochna nahi, bas aa kar ball kar dena, that I didn’t want to become. Mudassar Nazar helped me a lot with these little things.

You see all these bowlers, Zaheer Khan now, Vaas earlier emulating you in the yorker they bowl. The arm goes more round arm before the action starts…

 Yes the hand goes up and it’s a much higher release, the trajectory is better with ball dropping sharply to the base of the stumps…

Did you see someone doing that? Where did that come from?

 I wasn’t told but was inspired by the great West Indian Joel Garner’s action. I gained confidence knowing I was emulating his action aur phir yorker sahi paka lagta tha.

 Unfortunately I had to abandon that later on, because the cleverer batsmen figured out when the yorker was coming, so I started bowling bouncers with that change up.

Did you bowl the slower ball much?

 Slower ball I learnt after ’92. Watching the West Indian Franklin Stevenson playing county cricket in England. In the nets I started practicing, hitting people on the head, having the ball go fly over the nets, only got it right after a lot of practice.

Uptill ’92 it was all about pace, but after the World Cup I started realizing that variations were necessary in the One-Day game. In county we would play up to three limited over competitions at a time so it became really useful once I started bowling it in actual games and picked up a few wickets with it.

In the Hampshire stint at the end of your career you said you practiced with the slower ball bouncer, no body was bowling that at the time…

Yes it wasn’t a variation used back then, but it was really at the end of my career that I started experimenting with that. I liked trying new things, was really the first that started using the left arm around the wicket angle consistently as a wicket-taking ploy.

How important is the left arm angle…

Very important, it is a very difficult angle for the batsman. When a left-armer comes round the wicket to a right hand batsman he is will always going to think the ball is going to tail in. Tau us nay khelna hi khelna hai wo ball, agar wo seedha reh jaye ya bahar nikal jaye tau edge hai.

 Later on for some reason the mind set of umpires changed a bit and the lbws were not given from that angle, but early on when I started using it I even got lbws with the fuller length deliveries.

When did you consider yourself at the top of your game?

After 89’ playing the Australian series there. After that till the end I always felt in control. The county experience had really shone through by that time and I think that had a lot to do with it. Even my batting improved a lot after that and I felt I could compete…

Not just compete but actually feel that no one could really stand up to you?

 Yes by compete I meant that I felt like I could get any one out. Kay daroon ga nahi kisi say, na darta tha as a bowler…

 So was there no one you feared bowling to?

 In that regard there have been many greats that have passed. Viv Richards, Martin Crowe, Allan Border, Mark Taylor…where there have been phases that some times they have won and sometimes I won, but was never intimidated by any one. Doosron ko intimidate kia hai, kabhi hoa nahi hoon. I knew how to tackle them, where to bowl what to them, bouncer, yorker I knew by 90’ how to get on top of a batsman.

Any spells that you remember in that regard.

 There are many spells like that but where it started was in 89/90. The Australian tour, in Melbourne specifically where I picked up eleven wickets. Wickets with the new ball, then with the old ball, reverse swinging it both in and out… even bowling batsmen off low swinging full tosses.

You have said that you considered King Viv to be the greatest batsmen you have bowled to. Tell us a bit about how it felt like bowling to him?

 Viv was a very different breed; it wasn’t just his batting but the whole aura that surrounded him. Over six feet tall, itnay itnay muscles, no sign of any protection, forget the arm or chest guard not even a helmet. So that whole aura was intimidating for a young skinny lad that I was at the time.

But I got him out a few times, because at that point he had started to come downhill and his greatest days were behind him, and I am glad I faced him then and not before.

The young skinny lad that was over awed by the sheer aura of Sir Vivian Richards

How do you rate him with the modern greats?

 His record is of course not the same in terms of numbers but he was the most devastating I have bowled to. It’s hard to rate him and compare him to the newer guys because I caught him so late in his career, but growing up I watched and admired him a lot. There was one name only and that was Vivian Richards.

But as a player playing against the best always gave me inspiration. Main kehta tha iss kay khilaf performance zaroor karni hai…Botham khel raha ho tau ussay girana hai…same with Viv and all the top guys.

And how would you rate them amongst themselves; Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting, Kallis, Inzi, Dravid?

 Man it’s very difficult. They all have such amazing records, it’s difficult to pick one out of them…

Bowling at them who did you feel like was the hardest to bowl at?

 Got Ponting out multiple times, without getting smacked around much. Tendulkar I didn’t play a test against in my peak for ten years. Also have gotten Lara out, but think he was the most difficult to bowl to. He was very unusual to a bowler’s eye…the bat coming down from up high at an awkward angle. Kabhi yahan jump karna kabhi wahan jump karna…so he was some one very different and difficult to bowl to.

Two Modern Greats of the ODI Era; unfortunately Wasim never faced up to the Little Master in Tests during his peak years

So no batsman worried or intimidated you ever…

 If I had to pick someone it would have to be Gilchrist in ODIs…

You say that, but at the same time have some amazing dismissals against him…

 Yes, but he has hit me quite a bit as well man. He wasn’t like an Afridi type pinch hitter. Kai pata hai kai Afridi sahib nay 100 main say aik match main chalna hai baaqi ka pata nahi…he was a proper batsman and could hit you at any time…

You also bowled to Sehwag. Was he comparable?

 I have bowled very little to Sehwag and didn’t feel the same way. In 98/99 he came down at five or six in the Pepsi Cup in India and Akhtar and Razzaq got him I think. And the only other time was the 03’ World Cup where he had gotten off to a great start thanks to our “premium” fast-bowler Shoaib Akhtar.

So I wouldn’t say any one intimidated me. With Gilchrist though I was a bit weary when bowling

Pace is everything to a fast bowler, but there comes a time over a long career when you start losing it. When did that happen to you? And what were your feelings at the time, is there a sense of denial at all?

 No I didn’t go through denial. After 97’ I think I realized that I had lost a bit of pace. Was always nippy, but I had mastered the swinging ball by then. There is no room for denial… Pata hona chiyay aap ko apnay khial main…a lot more to fast bowling than just pace.

Tell me a bit about defending that 125 against N.Z in 92/93 with Waqar?

 It was a long time ago, but we had decided that ball haath say chorna nahi hai, because if we had left it then the match was gone…

Was there a tiff going on at the time as well?

 No, Javed was captain at the time and Waqar was also new to the team. Javed bhai gave us the ball and told us what ever you can do you will have to do with the new ball. Tab tau thaktay bhi nahi thay hum…and it started to reverse a tiny bit at the end which gave us more hope, because N.Z never really learnt to tackle reverse swing, none of their batsmen really had a clue apart from Martin Crowe.

Your records in both Tests and ODIs are amazing but you got the feeling as a viewer that you especially enjoyed bowling with the white ball in your hand.

Yes early on, but later they changed the rules. The two new balls disappeared; the bouncers were banned which made it really difficult with one white ball. But I really enjoyed bowling in the death more than any thing else.

But as much fun as all that was, Test Cricket was the ultimate. In ODIs you knew  that at end you bowl in the block hole, with the batsmen are hitting out, you will pick up wickets. Magar  mazaa tau Test Cricket ka hee hai na phir.

 So you agree with the two new balls coming back into ODIs?

 Yes I do. I mean just look at Cricket today, every thing is tilted in the batsman’s favor. Especially on the Sub-Continent tracks where the ball deteriorates quickly and you started to lose sight of it after the 12th Over!  So Thank god ICC had the brains to bring in some change.

Two deliveries. One is to Dravid in Chennai where you take the top of off after a loud lbw shout turned down, and the other is one to Croft in England where it defies physics and hits him infront only to be turned down. Both have created quite a furor on YouTube amongst the fans, can you tell us a bit about them.

 I do remember them both being reverse swing. Croft I went round the wicket aur sahi zoor laga kar bowling kar raha tha. I bowled really fast on the Oval wicket, this was 96’I think. I remember somebody gave me a picture where Alec Stewart is ducking me and both his feet are airborne and over the wickets as he is swaying out of the way.

The second one… I had brought two balls into Dravid earlier. In this day and age he would have been given out with out a doubt. Magar nahi out diya….and before that in the previous over I had also just worked on bringing it in, and then I said ab main is ki laat say bahar nikaalta hoon ball and that’s what I did. And what I had visualized in my mind…that this is where I am going to pitch the ball and this is what is going to happen… thankfully exactly that happened.

So you are saying you had complete control over those miraculous deliveries?

 Definitely yes. Tukkay main aisee ball nahi ho sakti. You can bowl a bouncer and get a top edge or the batsman gifts you a wicket off a fluke ball, but you can’t get wickets like those, with the old ball to boot off a fluke.

The 1999 WC loss, of course a low point in your career…

 Very low man. Forget even the fact that we lost the final, the way we lost that match and the performance we gave…spineless.

The way we lost is what hurt the most…..spineless!

How much did it hurt compared to 1996?

 The feeling was very different. In 1996 it was more on the attitude of the players. We had players like Amir Sohail etc, I was injured, they knew I was injured and wouldn’t and couldn’t play the quarterfinal. And match sey pehle hi mood nazar aa rahay thay kay haar jaien gay, kiunke paata tha kay jeet gaye tau Wasim ka naam ho jaye ga.

 You see these Cricketers have spent their entire careers trying to bring me down instead of focusing on their play. Iss liye apni performance bhi nahi kar paaye sahi tarah. They have always been distracted.

Back to ‘99 then, tell us a bit about the mood in the dressing room before the final, what was going through your mind.

We were very confident. The entire tournament we had been performing well. We had an excellent bowling attack in Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain, Azhar, Razzaq and myself. We were batting down till no9….

In hindsight do you think the decision was right to bat first?

 Always, I have always thought it was the right decision. We were batting first on seaming tracks through out the tournament and it had been working for us.

Relating to that, we saw a lot of highs during your captaincy, but one thing that also came to the fore was the chasing problem. Why?

 I think it is more psychological more than any thing else. The Pakistan team still on most occasions falters when chasing, even scores like 220-230. A sense of fear creeps in and they are confused about the approach instead of just trying to get there sensibly with rotations of strike.

This fear doesn’t go with the team of the time, I mean starting from Imran and then you, Waqar as a bowler…Shoaib Akhtar all very aggressive players. Moin Khan another very aggressive cricketer, then why were you guys so defensive in chasing and had this “bakri” like approach?

 It was always in the head, I think fear of losing becomes too much. Log kya kahain gay agar haar gaaye…the batsmen already start thinking of that instead of concentrating at the score. We did try to get rid of this mental stigma but in the end it depends on the batsmen and how good they are as players and more importantly how mentality strong they are. I mean you have to play out the fifty overs to chase 250 in the end either way you look at it.

Would you agree to the notion that Inzi, the great talent that he was, always shielded himself for his entire career by coming down at no5 ?

 Of course, if Inzi had come at one or two down he would have been a different player. He would have had over 10 000 runs in Test Cricket, and would have had much more than Miandad even, who he wasn’t far behind when he ended.

But he always use to go on the back foot, because he didn’t believe in himself fully, that’s where Inzi’s problems always lied.

Quick…five wickets that come to your mind.

Hmmm…(long pause) I’ll have to think about them…

Just whatever is coming to your mind first

 Nahi koi bhi nahi aa rahi abhi tau yaar

 Kitni 500 wicketain lee hain…

 Yes 500 ODI over 1000 first class wickets…I have to think about them… Is tarah nahi aa rahi agala sawal pooch lo beta

 How was it playing under Waqar? What did you think of Waqar as a bowler? And as a captain?

 As a bowler…great bowler, a great sight to watch, one of the greatest bowlers of all time.

As a captain he had no brains, no strategy and was always on the back foot.

But as a bowler he was one of the most pleasant sights and I don’t think I saw or will see a bowler like him ever again.

And as a coach?

I think Waqar did well for Pakistan, but I think he and other people in Pakistan should realize that once you have stopped playing that’s it for you, it is the players who will remain in the limelight not the coach. In our part of the world who ever is coach, wants power first then the job. Tum nay power kia karni hai bhai, tum ho kaptaan kay peechay, kaptaan aur players ki madad karnay kai liyay bas. Descion making is the captain’s job and he has the final say.

This is the wrong mentality that Waqar had and Miandad for that matter. Kay mujhay power day do saari, I mean I coach KKR and all I want is for the guys to listen to my advice and show up at the nets on time. Just make a strategy and give it to them and then it is up to them. Stay away from the limelight, like Gary Kirsten did. If any body wants to know how a coach should behave they should look at Kirsten’s model and how he remained in the shadow.

For most people growing up in the nineties the sight of you running in at Sharjah is imprinted in memory…how do you rate Sharjah and what are your other favorite venues.

Sharjah was good fun. I loved playing there because of the crowd (half Indian, half Pakistani), the noise levels, and the attention we got as players. The facilities were nice too, but the tension and the pleasure that tension brought when you got a wicket is what made that place so special.

But if I had to pick a ground it will have to be Melbourne because of the pace and bounce and because every time I bowled there I got wickets. In Pakistan I would pick Karachi and bowling in the evenings with the sea breeze coming in. It used to swing three, three feet some time, making it even hard to control some times in that breeze.

Any other bowler you would exchange your career for?

 Malcolm Marshall.

You will exchange it, just like that…

 Haaaan! Araam say.

 Not Imran Khan?

 Nahi as a bowler Marshall,  as a leader Imran Khan of course.

When you played your last match in the 2003 WC, you were the highest wicket taker in the competition at the time. Do you think you could have gone on for longer?

Of course I could have played on. At least ODIs I would have like to carry on in. But for some reason the chairman at the time, Gen Tauqir Zia thought he knew more Cricket than me kiunke main khela hoon 100 Test, 400 One Day aur wo khela go shaaid aik club ka game. So it was more ego than any thing else.

When chairmans come in Pakistan Cricket their ego for some reason goes through the roof. They start thinking they are god…NouzibillAllah. And so I retired and thank god I did..kiunke un kai under main khelna bhi nahi chahta tha. Waqar ka bhi kaafi satya naas kia hai un sub nay…

 Because there are a lot of fans who cling onto the hope that one fine morning they will wake up to a Wasim bhai come back, we heard you bowled recently in the KKR nets and were still troubling all the batsman…

 Haan shooro main tau main bore hoa hoon wahan magar baad main ki hai bolwing sub ko. It was coming out fine and the batsman were troubled, swing ho rahi thi bowl

So what do you say about a comeback?

 No there is a time for every thing and I have had my time. Not like most Cricketers in our part of the world… jo coaching hi karay jaa rahay hain peechlay assi saal say, and don’t give any chance to the new people. I am not taking any names but you know what I mean.

Wasim’s blistering performance with the bat, and sheer artistry with the ball, won Pakistan the 1992 WC Final. It remains the country’s biggest sporting achievement to date.

Your memory is unfortunately fading and you are allowed to have one ball either the Alan Lamb or Chris Lewis ball remain intact. Which one?

Definitely Alan Lamb. It’s an unplayable delivery which was planned. I asked Imran what to do and he said do this. Fairbrother was there who told Lamb what was going to happen, that I was going to go around the wicket, because we played for Lancashire together. Magar Allan Lamb ko pata nahi tha kai around the wicket koi aisee ball bhi kar sakta hai. It was a very difficult ball.

From Chemistry to Cricket: A Candid Chat with Harsha Bhogle

I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down and having a chat with renowned Cricket Broadcaster Harsha Bhogle. Harsha, who commentated in his first international in 1985, is now a household name in the Subcontinent. Here I talk to him in an interview for Pakpassion about commentary, Indian Cricket and life in general. 

A Chemistry college major and a Management grad student Harsha against the odds found his niche in Cricket Broadcasting

We know Harsha the commentator through listening to your commentary for the past so many years, but tell us a bit about Harsha the man before he got to where he is today…surely that is a story in itself?

I don’t know…I don’t actually know whether it’s worth recounting it was such a long time ago. I went to school and played Cricket there, then played for the University lower division for two years, then seniors for three and got picked to represent my University side in the all India University Competition. So that’s the level of Cricket I have played.

I always say if you have played enough Cricket to understand the pain and joys that come with the game and know how it feels to be out there in the field then you are good to go. You won’t see me commenting on pitches for instance, because I don’t understand them but stuff you are able to understand you are fine commenting on. I did Chemical Engineering and it was a very busy time for me. Did an Advance Diploma in French and believe that age between 18 and 24 is a blessing for people that they shouldn’t let go. Was fortunate enough to get into India’s top management school after that, and things happened from there.

So how did you take the step towards Commentary?

I used to do radio commentary on Ranji trophy games which is a story in itself. I was batting at 6 or 7 one day and decided to record some commentary on my University’s side openers. So i got those big cassette players that you had at the time and pressed play and record at the same time. Wouldn’t have been a wink over nineteen at the time. My University side loved it and wanted me to send it to All India Radio. But they would have none of it.

So my father talked to a Professor of Urdu, a very nice lady by the name of Zeenat Sajida at the University whose son I studied with. She said “Aisay kaisy bahcay ki tape nahi sun rahe hain, main baat karti hoon Station Master say, humaray parosi hain.” And so she had the Station Master Mr J.D Baweja over for lunch one day. The man turned out to be a very jovial ,  larger than life character from Lahore, who loved sharing his stories of growing up there before ’47.  He decided to give me a run on some Ranji Trophy games and so that’s how it started . There are always good people in the world.

Your favorite commentators growing up and if you hinged on to one liners like the Youtube generation does?

Naah..l read growing up about the aura around Arlott and all. But as I came into this business I realized that a lot of it had to do with archiving and the Westerners’ love of recording.  No one catalogues their stuff like the British do, and no one let’s gold go through like we in the Sub-Continent do. They promoted their own people and we sadly don’t give ours the same attention.

I met Ted Baxter, the producer of Test Match Special years later and he told me how often Arlott’s best “off-the-cuff” lines were also the most rehearsed. And I said “hmm I am learning some thing new I didn’t know before“, but they were all great commentators no doubt about that.

Another great thing was the fact that there was no television to distract the radio commentator. All the great broadcasters, you look at Arlott and Jhonston in England, McGill Ray here in Australia, Charles Fortune in S.A, Bobby Talyar Khan in India, Omar Qureshi in Pakistan, all made their name in the pre-television era. So I wasn’t influenced much growing up except for this great Indian Radio commentator by the name of Anand Setalwad who had a great cadence to his voice. But I didn’t follow or imitate expressions and lines, maybe it helped actually, because if you copy some one you only turn out becoming second best.

Differences you felt doing Radio and T.V commentary ?

Radio is easier, and definitely much more fun than T.V can ever dream of becoming. If you look at Cricket it’s a stop start game, and t.v is a stop start medium. More in the sub-continent where you are constantly going into commercial breaks, but increasingly all over the world now. When there is no play you don’t actually need to say any thing as the pictures are telling the story for you. In T.V you only have that 20 second period where you have to commentate going in and out of breaks, and with teams like Ch9 and Sky introducing three commentators at a time that time is reducing even more to around 10-12 seconds. So T.V is a lot more restricted, where as Radio takes a stop-start game and gives it continuity. It’s the story teller’s medium.

Every one who does broadcasting will love doing Radio more, but will do T.V because it gives you fame, exposure, money. People know you more and you feel good about that, so it has its benefits.

You mentioned to me earlier that doing Radio Commentary for ABC was the most pleasurable experiences in your broadcasting career, can you expand  a bit on that?

It’s the only place I would do Radio Commentary now, the last time I did it was four years ago here, and before that it was another four years prior to that. ABC are willing to adjust their roster according to my schedule and that helps a lot. Ever since I landed in Australia back in ’91, I have taken to this country like it’s my own. I love the attitude of people here, they always have a strong point of view and not shy of sharing it, but they are always receptive of yours in return.

I came here as a thirty-year old and got accepted really quickly, and to be accepted in another country as a broadcaster is a exciting and an honor. The ABC have always been very nice to me, so it’s almost like I regard it as my second broadcasting home after ESPNSTAR. We in the Sub-Continent are sentimental people and don’t like to forget these things easily.

Any funny/memorable moments that might come to mind in the booth, that don’t get out to the public?

Funny will come more in Radio, but I remember the good old Sahara Cup Days. Geoffrey (Boycott) was so funny. We were on top of the Toronto Skating and Curling Club once trying to record, and it was so cold that we had to borrow the camera man’s clothes. Geoffrey had covered himself up to the nose and with his hat also there, his eyes were the only part of his body visible. He tried recording through all that and we couldn’t get any of it done because none of us could stop laughing at the sight of him. Radio you will get a lot more funny moments just because of the nature of the medium and these last few weeks with Kerry O’Keeffe have been especially memorable.

The most memorable experience in my entire career without a shadow of doubt however was the India-Pakistan Test match in Chennai. It had been a security tour more than any thing else, but Chennai is a great city from that point. It’s not a provocative city, it’s a Cricket loving city and really they couldn’t have cared less about what was going around. The north of India is bothered much more about what’s happening at the border and all, the South not that much. It was a very close game, Sachin played one his best ever knocks and Pakistan in the end won by twelve runs I think.

And Wasim took his team on a victory lap…can you imagine coming to India under such pressure and taking your side on a victory lap, would be unheard of today, but could only happen in Chennai. I was about to hang my boots up after the presentation “Thank you ladies and gentlemen, will see you in Delhi….” when suddenly the producer’s voice popped in my ear and told me to keep talking. “Keep talking and I will give you live pictures in a few seconds….just keep talking over them…”. And it still makes my hair stand up as I recall and see it. As Wasim took the team round, it was almost like if it was a giant Mexican wave, everybody stood up and started clapping and I remember saying that, “Today sports and followers of sports have shown that it transcends every thing else, that in sports the community transcends and fits in with another community perfectly.” I talked to Wasim about it years later and he said he couldn’t believe what was happening.

Your thoughts on what’s going wrong with the Indian team here in Australia…

India always struggle overseas. We tend to lose the first test match every where we go, S.A when we went their just over a year ago, England in the summer, over here in 07/08….

There is something more than just that, don’t you think ? Given their performances in England and now here…

Well what that does is, it puts you on the back foot from the start, and once you are on the back foot you need some thing remarkable to pull you back. What was happening in the past was that Laxman, Tendulkar, Dravid were able to pull off that something remarkable. You had a very strong captain in Anil Kumble who had a big part to play as well. Now it’s the younger generation’s turn, by now I would have loved to see Dravid and Laxman in support roles, maybe even bat at five and six and would have had the youngsters breaking open the door open and stake their claim….

You think they have been given the appropriate opportunities…

Every time a youngster has been given the opportunity he hasn’t taken it. Yuvraj had many, Raina had a few and Virat has now played six test matches. Chetashwara Pujara, in the eyes of some our next greatest batting prospect, got a brilliant 72 against Australia in India, went to South Africa and struggled. So then the captain has to decide at all times what is his best chance, is Laxman his best chance, is Rohit his best chance or Kohli his best chance. So I am a little bit concerned with our young guys at not having kicked off one of the seniors by now and at least keeping the other two on tenterhooks…

…And we have never been a great bowling side to boot. Kumble and Srinath bore the burden for years, but most of the times we have played without even having a genuine third bowling option let alone four. Which is why India always struggled abroad and did well at home, because in the sub-continent the new ball doesn’t matter that much.

What do you think of Dhoni’s Captaincy?

I like him as Captain because the game looks simple from a hundred yards and even easier thousands of kilometers away… when it isn’t. And I don’t go much into captaincy because you have to trust the man on the job and back his instincts. And over a career Dhoni’s instincts have been right more often than wrong. There is a feeling he is a better ODI Captain than Test but that may also be because India have a better ODI team than a Test team currently.

You must also see the people he has available, in England who would he attack with. Zaheer Khan was gone, Sharma was running in all day and getting nothing and Parveen Kumar, not an Anderson or Dale Steyn to begin with did his best…

But over here they seem to have a reasonably good attack…

It seems that way, if it was a good bowling attack Australia would not have gotten over six hundred from being three down at fifty…

But surely the field placements had some thing to do with that…

It’s easy to say…maybe Dhoni was a bit more defensive than he needed to be and there is some thing in his mind. Maybe he doesn’t trust his bowlers much, or the wounds of England are too strong but I tend to think you have appointed a captain and you should trust him. As I said it’s an easy game from a hundred yards away and 8000 km away a very easy game. Saurav Ganguly once told me that he used to get 5 out of 10 decisions right when Captain and he turned out to be a fine leader.

You see questions being raised and tough calls being made if India are inflicted with another 4-0 drubbing?

Of course and I see nothing wrong with questions being raised and tough calls being made because India now have about eight months before a test tour….

And about two years before an overseas tour… 

Which is the damaging part of it all that’s glossed over. Ashwin and Ojha can win you a test series in India, they can never win it for you in England or South Africa. Laxman and Ishant Sharma can win you a test match against Australia in India, can they do it in Australia? Two years here, you can say lets keep winning in India with Laxman, Dravid scoring the runs or you can say great time to blood these youngsters and give them the full opportunity. But you will never know if they can do it abroad given the itineraries which is the sad part of it all.

Clearly you seem irked by the administrators…

My concern is the other team that plays for India, which is indeed the administration. You should never allow South Africa, England, Australia to follow in quick succession, but sadly we don’t spend too much time thinking of itineraries and how to make the best out of a tour. In 2008 we came here with only forty-eight overs of Cricket under our belts before the first Test, if I was the Australian captain I would have died laughing. So I think in the Sub-Continent we lose the administrative war.

I mean look at Pakistan for another example. We look at Pakistan and marvel at the players coming through but laugh at the administration constantly. Pakistan should be in the top three Test playing countries of the world constantly for the type of players they produce, but the administration doesn’t allow for that. Sri Lanka is broke and Bangladesh Cricket hasn’t grown in fifteen years.

What are your views  on the decline of commentating standards? And the fact that almost all commentators coming through are past players….who more often than not are almost painful to hear.

It’s a tricky one for me, my views on this are very strong, but if i express them I project myself almost as a loser. I didn’t play international Cricket, I played University Cricket, which is good enough for me. But whatever I say will always be covered by that fact.

But I have seen far too many Cricketers not understand their audience and not understand their medium. Cricket broadcasting is about two things, it’s about knowing the game and being able to communicate yourself to the people listening. If you don’t know the game inside out but are able to communicate it’s only half bad. By that I mean it is not as bad as sitting in a thermodynamics exam after studying English Literature all your life.

But if you don’t know how to communicate than it is just so much worse. And I think a lot of the boards these days and the producers these days are focusing on the knowing bit and not so much the communication bit. Which is why frankly commentators these days are getting boring. The bar for Cricketers, especially in the Sub-Continent to make that switch to commentating is set very small, while for a non-cricketer it is very high.

I count myself very lucky that I started when I did, today it is much harder, I wouldn’t even get a first class game today. There is of course the flip side. I don’t think a television commentary panel, or any commentary panel can be made exclusively of non-international players. Because there is a certain gravitas, a certain credibility that a Cricketer brings in. If a Cricketer can communicate, that’s the best combination there is no doubt in my mind at all.

But you need a combination of the two, one two keep the continuity in the story going and two to understand the fan. If you are a Cricketer, you tend to have lived in a bubble for quite a time and some time you forget what a fan feels like. Sometimes the player is so distant and so into the game that he would feel like “Yeh kia cheez hain kehne wali“, it’s almost beneath him…

Magar jo fan hota hai, ussay har cheez samajh nahi aati. Tau jaisey main aksar kheta hoon chauda saal kay larkay ko Test player nahi seekha sakta Cricket, Test player ussi ko seekha sakta hai jo U-19 ya first class khela ho. Tau uss larkay ko ussi level ka hee coach chaiyay.

So you need two kinds of people, in a commentary box to reach out to the audience.

How are schedules come up with in the commentator’s box…

It’s the producers call, he makes the rosters at the start of the day…

Because you get the feeling that Gavaskar and Shastri are always on  whenever some big milestone is around the corner.

I don’t know, I never worry about that. I mean I come in the morning and look at the roster and see who I am with and get my self ready. By that I prepare myself, because I have worked with Ravi, Gavaskar, Wasim, Chappelli so much that I know how to  make them comfortable…

So it’s not like Tendulkar is getting a 200, let these two just slide in…

I don’t know if it’s like that, but honestly I won’t lose sleep over it. That is the producer’s call, if a commentator is trying to influence a producer that is not a great way to live. At the end of the day I want to have fun, and if I am looking at conspiracy theories then I won’t have fun, and if that’s the case then my career is not worth it. The roster does change sometimes but that is the producer’s call and I don’t lose sleep over it.

A commentary moment you weren’t there and would have loved to be on air?

I wish I was on air when India won the 2011 World Cup. And it is also my perennial regret that when India won the 2007 T20 WC an Indian wasn’t on air…

Ravi was on air if I recall…  

Only for a very short while, he had to leave for the presentation, and Bumble was on the air. Now David Lloyd is as fine a commentator  as there is but to truly understand and communicate what the moment meant to the team and the majority of the audience you needed an Indian to be talking about it.

I don’t know how old you were at the time when Pakistan won the world cup in 1992. But you needed a Pakistani there to understand what it meant for a twelve, thirteen year old kid in Lahore or Karachi to win the World Cup. And nobody could understand that unless they have been that twelve year old kid growing up in Lahore or Karachi. So I think it was a broadcasting blunder in 2007, if the English team was winning the World Cup, I would have moved out and let an Englishman take over and that happens throughout the world. So yes I would have loved to be on air on those two occasions, but that’s ok…I have gained so much more than I have lost….why am I complaining like an old man?

I get a feeling that a lot of commentary is based on who you are surrounded by…if you have a good team you come off much better  individually. Is there any truth to this?

I’ll tell you what the secret is. A good pitch and you will get a good match, similarly a good producer means a good telecast. The producer will handle every thing and see to it that things are going smoothly. He will make sure the little things are just right. There is a work ethic to broadcasting that in the Sub-Continent we take too many liberties with, and that work ethic is paramount.

But specifically speaking about just the commentary part, do you feed off people you are commentating with?

Always…always. Each commentator feeds of his partner or partners. There is no doubt about that at all. Also if a commentator doesn’t rate the other you can sense it straight away.

Your thoughts on Ganguly as a commentator. I think after a long time here is a commentator from the Sub-Continent that has great insight and can communicate as you put it.

I’ll tell you what I want for Saurav, I want him to work with a good producer. What I like about him is the fact the he doesn’t sit on the fence. A commentator who says you can do this and can do that, you don’t really need an expert for that, you and I can do that. He speaks his mind. He understands what the players psyche is, because he is from the same generation. He understands what it feels to be insecure and what it feels to be confident, but is not afraid of saying it.

At the moment all I would tell him is to take a little breather. He is a bit too eager, like a child with his new found toys, but that happens. In the course of time he will find the right mean on how much to talk, but at the moment he has been a breath of fresh air.

Do you see the forced commercialization coming into commentary with the Citi moment’s of success and DLF maximums as defacing the art? 

I can see why they are coming in, but the reason I don’t like it is because of the fundamental bond that exists between the commentator and the listener. The bond of trust. The moment I am listening to a broadcaster I must trust that he is impartial. I must trust that he is speaking his mind, and I must know the broadcaster is not tainted by other considerations.

So the moment you have that commercializations coming out that bond is attacked. How far you let that go is a sign of the times but I see the Karbon Kamal catch and DLF maximums as the lesser of the two evils, evils none the less. Where I drew the line was when doing product promotions. When I had to say stuff like “What a great car this is, it does this and this…” No.  I am not a brand spokesman. They are a separate category of people, I am merely a sports broadcaster.

When I say DLF maximum it is the lesser of the two evils because I am not saying DLF is the best housing contractor in India or that MRF produces the best tires. Ideally I would like this to not be there as well, as that bond of trust weakens. I think Indian Cricket makes enough money to do without it and squeeze some from these gimmicks as well. The public doesn’t like it and in the end you have to give the public what it wants.

Originally for Pakpassion.net

The Silent Performer: Kyle Mills

Kyle Mills was the top ODI performer in the world in 2009

I bring to you the fourth and final installment of the Black Cap interviews. Kyle Mills was kind enough to spare some time and talk to me at the HRV media event in mid-Novemeber. This interview is prior to the Australian series of course

 You were for quite a considerable period of time ranked consistently as the number one ODI bowler in the world. Any particular reason for success in the limited overs format specifically?

I guess the main reason was the exposure that I got early in ODI Cricket. I had been given a chance to play at the International level much before I got to wear a Test Cap and that experience I think has boosted my performance in the ODI format. Some thing like that also becomes a goal, that you start striving for once you have had a taste of it, and you want to keep the honor for as long as possible. So I was really content when I got there and was able to remain high in the rankings for the amount of time that I did.

What’s your take on the much more frequent nature of injuries that fast bowlers are exposed to in current Cricket?

 Look, I think in my mind the amount of Cricket being played these days is just so much that there is not any respite for fast bowlers. It is one of the most un-natural things to do   –fast bowling, and especially when you are at the international level where it is so competitive and excruciating it definitely takes it’s toll on the body. I think a balance will have to be struck somewhere. You already see players leaving the longer formats to just play One Day and T20, or doing the reverse in the form of players like Clarke and Johnston who want to concentrate on just Tests.

In the end it’s a personal choice for players on what they see as a better fit for them. Remember this is also their livelihood, so I won’t judge them on what they choose. I also think that we will start seeing rotation being applied a lot more than it is being currently where players start getting rested from tours, it has started already but we will see much more of it in the future if the amount of Cricket remains the same.

What do you prefer personally?

Test Cricket is definitely the hardest form of the game and at the same time also the most rewarding. I think deep down every Cricketer would want to excel at the Test Level and prove their mantle in the longest format.

Tour against Australia coming up, how does it feel to be missing out due to injury?

I am desperate to get back into the Test fold, unfortunately an abductor tear in the Zimbabwe ODI series has sidelined me from Tests. I will be playing domestic Cricket here in N.Z but of course missing out on an Australian tour is a big blow. I don’t think it gets bigger for a N.Z Cricketer and I would have loved to be out there

Especially now when Australia have seen the departure of greats like Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist and come back to the pack a bit. No respect to the current side but this teams looks much more beatable and I think our boys will give them a very tough time in their back yard.

Whoe was your favorite Cricketer growing up wanting to be a fast bowler?

That’s a very simple question to answer, I think most Cricketers from this country have grown up watching Sir Richard Hadlee or watching video of him. He is by far the best Cricketer we have ever produced in my mind and is definitely the guy I looked up to most when growing up.

You have played a lot of Limited Overs Cricket and we have seen a massive shift towards giving the edge to batting in the format, your thoughts on that as a batter?

I agree conditions and pitches are pretty much becoming flatter and easier for batsman across the board, especially in ODI Cricket. It’s not easy being a fast bowler in these conditions and the biggest difference I see is the lack of bounce in pitches these days. But I do think that bowlers and fast bowlers in particular will adapt as a group and you will see them coming up with different techniques and ploys to wrest the initiative away from batsmen. Cricket is a constantly evolving game and the batsman may be having their time now but I see the bowlers fighting back to balance things out in the near future.

Something I have noticed personally is that you are able to comeback well in matches. You might get hit around early but are able to come back. Bowlers around the world, Umar Gul jumps to mind, find it very difficult to bounce back in the same match, do you have any suggestions?

I think as a bowler you have to concentrate on the ball that you are about to bowl. What ever has happened before doesn’t matter and the only thing you can change and effect is how you bowl the balls coming up especially the one you are just about to bowl. Concentrating on that particular delivery helps. It takes a bit of mental toughness though and is not easy. It also depends on the personality of the bowler and if he lets himself get carried away when the batsman is on top. Going off the field for a couple of minutes and getting your head straight is not a bad option in such times.

The best batsman you have had the “pleasure” of bowling to?

Without a doubt Sachin Tendulkar, I guess his record speaks for himself but he was the toughest I have bowled to as well. Really hard to figure out, as a bowler where to bowl to him, when he is on song.

Any stories you can tell of playing Pakistan?

I really enjoy playing the Pakistani boys. They are a very nice bunch to play against and definitely one or two of them are real characters. I don’t have stories particularly but Saeed Ajmal is a great character. I am always trying to predict when he would bowl the Doosra to me. I have many a conversation with him off the park as well and I enjoy playing him. There are a number of guys who are great to play against but a side that is very hard to predict. Sometimes they are absolutely unbeatable and on other occasions they just tend to roll over almost, but all in all a quality side.

World Cup 2015 at home, what do you reckon…. will be playing by the time it rolls around?

I would definitely love to play in it for sure, but it all depends on how the body copes I guess. I tend to re-assess things after every season and that is only how far I plan to look out for now. But it would be a great honor to represent your home side in front of your home crowd. I remember the 92 World Cup when the team did extremely well until Pakistan knocked us out…. Inzamam completely smashed us I remember. Was a young guy then and it was certainly a great inspiration for me as a Cricketer. Lets see how things go, fingers crossed I guess.

Originally for Pakpassion.net

The New and Improved: Tim Southee

Bringing to you the third in the Black Cap Series for Pakpassion: A chat with Tim Southee, a bowler who has lifted his game recently, sits down to discuss the revitalization in his bowling, what catches his fancy in the world of Cricket and how he is in the same boat as many Pakistani fans when it comes to Misbah’s batting

Southee has enjoyed his outings against Pakistan off late

You have been a new bowler these past couple of seasons. What do you think are the main reasons for this transition towards the better?

I think it’s just a whole lot of things that I have been working on over the past couple of years that have come good at the right time. A couple of good performances have helped in boosting my confidence and that coupled with the hard work I have been putting in has helped in bringing in the turn around, and I was pretty pleased at the way the season ended last year.

We have seen a few fast bowlers going the just T20/ODI route to extend their careers and prevent injury? Any such thoughts floated through your mind?

In terms of importance Test Cricket is certainly the pinnacle of the sport and there is no greater satisfaction than performing well in a Test match, at least personally that is what I think. I enjoy playing the other two formats as well and hopefully since I am still young I have a few years playing all three formats for N.Z.

Your performances against Pakistan have been noteworthy, especially in the last two series, any particular reasons?

No I don’t think it has much to do with the opposition. It’s just as I said my work with the bowling coaches and the effort I have been putting in off the field has started to show and it all sort of came together last season.

Who did you enjoy watching growing up as an aspiring fast bowler?

I always enjoyed watching Andrew Flintoff and Glen McGrath. I think those two would be my idols.

You have gained an extra tick or two on the speed gun off late. A lot of up and coming fast bowlers are interested in adding a bit of steam to their bowling. What is it that you have worked on?

It’s a combination of things I think. Worked a lot on fitness and have lost some extra baggage so that has helped. Apart from that just worked on my run up and trying to hit the deck harder than before, like Flintoff. Have worked with a few bowling coaches as well which has helped. Shane Jurgensen from Australia and of course Allan Donald. Allan had some good advice to give and it’s a shame really that he couldn’t be around longer with us.

The Australia tour is just around the corner. How do you see your bowling shaping up?

Looking forward to playing on those tracks especially the Gabba pitch is always fun for fast bowlers. It was good fun last time around in 08 and of course with the whole trans Tasmanian rivalry every body seems to lift their game a bit. Hopefully we can cause a few upsets and set the summer up nicely for our home games later on.

You bowled quite well in the World Cup. How do you adjust to bowling on flatter tracks which offer less purchase for fast bowlers and where do you personally enjoy bowling?

The tours prior to the World Cup to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India were key in my mind. Even though the results were not favorable they helped in getting adjusted to those conditions before the World Cup took place. You have to play it smart and get used to the conditions there. Adding a bit of variety to your bowling and field placements play a big hand as well. Personally I love bowling in Eng and the U.K where there is seam and bounce for the fast bowlers.

A bowling spell so far that sticks out as memorable?

The Test Debut of course is always some thing special and getting five on debut will always remain a fond memory. The Gabba test of ‘08 where I got four on the first day and three in the first session is also some thing I cherish a lot. Limited overs Cricket wise the 5-18 in the T20 against Pakistan and then my first five-wicket haul in ODIS against them I enjoyed as well.

Who is an absolute nightmare to bowl at?

I look up to the challenge of bowling against quality players and feel like as a bowler you give that much extra when you are up against class acts like Ponting, Tendulkar, Mohammad Yousuf, Dravid. I guess of all the batsmen I have bowled to Tendulkar is the one that really sticks out. I haven’t looked like getting him out and as a bowler that is a worry when you can’t think of many ways to dismiss your opponent.

Who are the Pakistani players that you have relished playing against? And those who have gotten under your skin at times.

Watching Shoaib Akhtar run in and bowl 150+ is always fun so he is some one whose bowling I have always admired.

Misbah annoys you as a bowler at times because we couldn’t seem to get him out for any thing less than fifty the last time he was here. He is a great batsman but tends to get under your skin the way he plays, but I think that’s more credit to his game and us not being able to get him out more than any thing else.

Interview Originally conducted for Pakpassion 

Presenting the Kiwi Captain: Ross Taylor

Presenting the second in the Black Cap series…Ross Taylor, the Captain of the N.Z Cricket team sits down for an interview where he talks about being new at Captaincy, the baggage that come with it, his batting and every thing Cricket.

Ross Taylor: The Plunderer at Kandy

 

You are filling is some big boots, following in the footsteps of the likes of Dan, Stephen Fleming…your thoughts on that and how you intend to keep the flame going?

I guess I have never thought of it that way. Following Dan you would always be literally filling in some big boots! But yes New Zealand has been fortunate enough to have a tradition of great Cricket Captains. At the end of your career you would always want to look back and think that you had a successful run at it, and maybe even finish as one of the country’s all time great Cricketers but I am a long way from that and intend to learn a lot while at the job.

You played under both of them, any favorites? Can I put you on the spot and ask which one you think was better?

It’s hard to do that with captaincy, especially when both of them have been such great captains. I played a little under Stephen and he was regarded as one of the great Captains at the time. Tactically very strong and a really good Cricketing brain, but most of my career I played under Vettori and he borrowed a lot from Fleming but has his own unique style as well. Really close to the players and an excellent man manager. They were both good captains in their own right.

 You have had a sniff of Captaincy now. How has it affected your personal game? Some great players, Sachin Tendulkar is the first one who jumps to mind in this regard, have failed to juggle their personal game and the act of leading the side. Have you felt any different when at the crease?

I guess a little bit but not that much so far. That is something I have learnt a lot from Dan. He was the best at leading the side from the front and getting the best out of himself while captaining and I want to follow him in this regard. Want to keep batting the way I have over the last few years and keep putting up the scores. I have been originally put in the side to score as a batsman and that’s my aim when at the crease. It is something I think that will also ease the pressures of captaincy and make the process of learning the tactical side of it more comfortable.

I wanted to talk about the World Cup clash against Pakistan a little…best Birthday ever?

 Definitely the best birthday gift ever, but I have got to thank Kamran Akmal for that though. I wasn’t high on confidence running into that game and the scores were a bit low as well. It just shows how much a couple of balls can change the way you play this game. Had a bit of luck go my way and ran into a bit of form. That is definitely the way I look at that match, luck was on my side and I started to time the ball well and took a lot of confidence from the match on to the rest of the tournament. Felt a completely different batsman following the game against Pakistan and that’s just how this sport of ours is.

How big were you seeing the ball and how much of it was bad bowling?

When you have been out there for a hundred balls or so full tosses become a bit easier to spot. And by that time the ball had started to come on nicely to the bat. It was a shortish boundary the end Razzaq and Shoaib were bowling from and I was backing myself to clear it even if I got a little bit of the ball on to the bat.

 

The tour of Australia is going to pose a pretty stern test for the Black Caps. How do you see the team shaping up?

 Oh we have a few players coming back from injury ready to knock down the doors. Playing Australia, our old rivals …I guess we don’t need any more motivation than that…. to do better in their own back yards. We proved in Zimbabwe that we are a side gelling well together but having said that we have a lot to improve on, and with some of our main guys coming back into the fold I can definitely see us putting the pressure on Australia, hopefully take it to the fifth day and any thing can happen from there.

 

Talking about the fifth day, what thoughts were running through your head on the last day of the Test against Zimbabwe? Did things get a bit panicky when the batsmen seemed to be on top and cruising home at one stage?

 No you always try to stay ahead of the game and you keep trying different things. When they come off you look like a genius and when they don’t it doesn’t look that great. Going into the fifth day we were pretty confident, but the Zimbabwean batsmen came at us pretty hard, and credit to them for that. At the same time picking up seven wickets in a session of a test match though against any opposition is no mean feat and we should take away a lot from that performance, especially the way Vettori and Doug Bracewell bowled. They will take a lot of confidence from that into Australia.

 

Your thoughts on the novel experimental policies being applied by NZC recently, namely their selection methods are being considered by some as being regimental…

 I guess there will always be people questioning any policy you apply so I don’t see that as much of an issue. At the end of the day if you are picking the right players and getting the best out of them, disregarding any external issues, then the job is getting done and that is what the main concern should be. The team culture comes into it a little bit, and the senior player group has a lot bigger part to play after the selection gets done.

How much of a say do you have in the selection?

Oh I have a little say, not a big say or any thing like that.

 

As a batsman you are a very strong puller and cutter of the ball, very Australian traits. What type of wickets do you like playing on?

 Yea I don’t mind playing on surfaces with a bit of bounce and playing the back foot shots, but at the end of the day it’s all about scoring runs and adapting to any sort of conditions to pile up the scores. Conditions in Australia are going to be vastly different from what we faced in Zimbabwe but that is just one of the challenges of modern day Cricket and it is a challenge I am looking forward to.

Suppose you are being offered a great opening batsman or a tear away fast bowler which would you pick?

 Oh we already have good opening batsman so I’ll take the fast bowler.

N.Z Cricketers have taken a liking to t20, where do your priorities lie and what should the balance be like?

Test Cricket is definitely the ultimate form of the game and rate it higher than any other form. In terms of balance I don’t think they have figured one out that is right so far. We have a world ranking now and the aim is to be number one in that and win the World Cup but Test Cricket has been around much longer than t20, which is still young, and ODIs, which are about 30 years old. It is the ultimate test of a cricketers ability and a right gauge to judge yourself against the Cricketers from the past.

Your idols growing up as a young batsman?

Sachin Tendulkar and Mark Waugh growing up. I wouldn’t say I emulated them as I had my own unique style and couldn’t ever bat as gracefully as them. Of the current Cricketers Sachin is still there, but Rahul Dravid is someone who I have developed a great admiration for playing with him at Bangalore and getting to pick his brains. Certainly one of the batsmen playing currently I have great respect for.

Pakistani players you have liked playing against?

 Shahid Afridi I have enjoyed playing with on the park. Just his all round game and how goes about it holds a lot of appeal and admire him for that. Muhammad Yousuf and Younis Khan are two of the most consistent in World Cricket let alone Pakistan Cricket and I like watching them bat.

Maori Cricketers and Polynesians are more rare in Cricket than compared to other sports, for example, Rugby in New Zealand. Any special reason for that?

 They are an untapped market and have not been exposed to Cricket to the same extent they have been in other sports. You will see them playing softball a lot and I think if they are given a chance and are exposed to it more you will definitely see more of them coming through the ranks. We already see some results due to the exposure in recent years and I think t20 is a great avenue to get the Maoris and Polynesian populations involved in Cricket more.

Is it Cricket 24/7 now that you are married to a professional Cricketer? And how much of the captaincy is coming from your better half ?

Cricket has always been a big part of my life and it certainly is right now. As far as captaincy is concerned I am afraid that’s left all to me, but yes can’t wait to keep leading the side and look forward to more success during the course of the coming season.

Originally for Pakpassion.net

The Professor of Cricket: Daniel Vettori

The Black Caps recently held a promotional media event in Auckland to launch the HRV Cup this year and I had the pleasure of meeting some of them and holding interviews for Pakpassion. Here I bring to you the first in the series, a chat with Daniel Vettori on his career as a player, the nuances of captaincy, spin bowling and his thoughts on N.Z Cricket in general.

Vettori one of the sharpest Cricketing brains going around

How much of your style of captaincy and the way you run the team did you take from Stephen Fleming?

Probably hundred percent of it I would say. He was in charge of the side through out most of my career, I think except for four test matches under Lee Germon and Dion Nash my entire career was based under him.  So he was the major influence on my style of captaincy and I learnt so much from him. Particularly the trait of remaining as calm as possible out in the middle, because I think people feed of that and if you tend to be irrational or up or down emotionally it becomes tough for your side to follow you.

Who were your heroes growing up as a kid?

Sir Richard definitely, watching him bowl in the Brisbane Test where he took nine wickets and just seeing him bowl so well in general….Steve Waugh I think even as a young guy growing up I liked watching him play. It changes a bit when you start playing guys who were your idols when you were young but those two when I was growing up.

What are the traits, in your opinion, young captains need to develop to be successful at leading?

I think the most important thing is developing a rapport with your players. They follow you because of your performance and more importantly the way you lead the side. I think captains generally are good players, or you would not be put in a position of that much responsibility so your performance tends to take care of itself if you are mentally strong and don’t let the pressures that come with the job get to you. So it is developing an understanding and empathy of the way your players work that is key to the job.

How much of it is knowing the tactics of the game?

Well I think tactics come to you as the game unfolds. It is difficult to go out on the park with a rigid plan in mind because the game can change so quickly. So you have to be adaptable, going in with little ideas and allowing yourself room to change. Also knowing your players gives you the ability to know what you can get out of them and what each of them can provide you in certain situations.

 Can you walk me through the World Cup Quarter Final game against S.A? Any special instance that turned it for you and you think made it possible for you to win the game?

 You are always thinking you are going to do something but it hardly ever goes according to plan. I think we put a total on the board that we thought was competitive, and the way Jesse and Ross played gave us that opportunity but it was still going to be very tough from there. We probably never believed till we ran De Villiers out because he is such a fine player and because of how well he has done for them in the past in similar situations, so that is some thing that galvanized the team and lead us on.

And Guptill’s fielding effort…..?

He was amazing in the field, but that is some thing you count on as there are very few guys who can change the course of a game through their fielding and we are lucky to have him.

N.Z Captains tend to be great improvisers and be the most innovative Captains of their time, but when it comes to batting and bowling there is a feeling the play is too by the book. Do you think there is a sense of over coaching at the grass root level?

 No I don’t think that’s generally true. I think there are not that many great coaches floating around to begin with and the guys growing up play the game for the love of the sport and to be in the company of others who enjoy the game as much as they do. And that’s the most important part of it, to love the sport; the coaching bit only comes in later when it becomes more of a necessity.

 

N.Z Cricket manages to perform consistently, especially at the World Stage but lacks that final push on most occasions. You think there is a reason for that?

 There are different ways you can look at that. I personally choose to admire how much N.Z Cricket has been able to achieve over the years representing a population of only four million compared to say your Indias (with a billion) and Pakistans (with 180 million). You can step back and be proud of what we have achieved especially in World Cup tournaments over the last 30 years. Of course at the same time there is a huge expectation with in the country and people who follow the game to do better and I think creating a balance between those two is the hardest bit.

Test Cricket or T20?

 I love Test Cricket, it is the game I grew up on and love playing and being involved in. The decision I made to stick to Test Cricket is one of the best ones I made and will stick with that as long as I can. Hopefully Test Cricket remains the integral part of the Cricketing landscape.

You became quite a handy lower middle order bat late in your career? How did you manage that transformation ?

 I wasn’t happy with my performance and what I was delivering as a batsman and knew I could do much better. Spent a lot of time and effort with Ross the assistant coach of the team a while back and Stephen Fleming, both of us being tall left handers I tried to take a leaf out of his book. But most of all it was the mental application. Being an aggressive batsman and dragging that out to as long as possible was the biggest switch in my opinion.

Growing up as a spinner who did you aspire to….

 John Bracewell when I was really young. I was a medium pacer till I was fifteen so I guess watching spinners wasn’t top of my priority list. Then Shane Warne, I think any spinner my age would have aspired to him growing up.

You are famous for the drift you get and your arm ball? Is that something that comes naturally or something you have developed over the years working hard on it?

I would say reasonably naturally. I think the drift particularly that’s just my action and the way I release the ball. And the arm ball depends on the conditions on the day, if it’s swinging it’s fine and if it’s not then it becomes difficult at times…hopefully it is natural because I think most things that work well for players are those that come naturally to them.

You used to be a bigger turner of the ball. But later on your bowling depended much more on flight variation, deceiving and out thinking the batsmen. Was that a concentrated shift?

No I don’t think I was ever really a big turner of the ball. I think it’s a popular myth and misconception that has gained popularity due to the game against Australia where I took twelve wickets on a spinning wicket at Eden Park. That was just an excellent track for a spin bowler to bowl on, especially considering now as the pitches are not conducive for spin bowling in N.Z at all, short boundaries add to the misery and it’s a lot of hard work. I have always been an accurate bowler who tries to deceive batsmen with variations in pace and bounce and that’s just the way I’ve been through out my career.

You come of as some one who is a great student of the game. Is that true?

 I love the game and I enjoy following it. Maybe not a big reader of Cricket Literature but I know the game. Have a sense of the records and the great people who have played the game before us and appreciate the history of the game. And also know that there are many more greats who will follow in our footsteps and respect that sense of occasion immensely.

As a Captain what would be top of your wish list a tear away great fast bowler or a great genuine attacking opener?

I think you want to be greedy and want to have it all, but N.Z haven’t generally had a rich history of opening batsman with averages in fifties like say Austrlia or India so that’s some thing that’s always a draw. It’s hard to pick one and fortunately I am not Captain any more so I don’t have to worry about it.

If you had to do a brutal evaluation of your captaincy and pick out what you did best and what some of the regrets were, what would they be?

It’s hard to know I think because it is what it is in a lot of ways and you learn to deal with it. As a bowling captain I really enjoyed working with the bowlers and building a good rapport with the team in general, that’s some thing I did well and really enjoyed. In terms of regrets I think you will always be judged by your success in the long run and my win/loss ratio is not that great especially in tests so that is some thing I would have loved to improve because in the end that’s what people remember.

Some one who got on your nerve a lot?

I don’t know about getting on my nerve but I can tell you who was the hardest guy to bowl to was. Rahul Dravid is the best player of spin that I have come across, was always difficult to bowl to him and guys like Gichrist who can hit you out of the park at any time, it’s not getting on your nerve but definitely hard work.

Your favorite Pakistani Cricketer?

 Saqlain Mushtaq for sure, I used to love watching him bowl. Got to work with him over the last couple of years when he came over and helped the team. Not only from a bowling perspective but batting as well. He is a lovely man who imparted a lot of knowledge on us. Not only the way he played the game and how innovative and successful he was as a spin bowler but him as a person as well.

World Cup in three and a half year’s time in N.Z, you reckon you will be there for a last Hoorah!

Would definitely love to. I remember the 1992 World Cup as one of the great moments in the history of N.Z Sport and how I was swept up in it. The team did really well in the tournament as well and reached the semi-finals and I would love to be a part of something similar.

Originally for Pakpassion.net