Pravin Amre is the new Coach of the Mumbai Ranji Side. An ardent fan of Indian Cricket will remember him as the 9th Indian Cricketer to score a Century on Test Match Debut which he did on the historical tour of South Africa in 1992/93. Amre still holds the record for the highest individual score in the history of Irani Trophy history with a score of 246 for Rest of India in 1990/91 against Bengal. In this interview, he shares all his memories of playing for India and his vision for Mumbai Cricket along with other things with BV Swagath…
You are the new Coach of the Mumbai Side, but few years back you were a pupil of one of the famous Cricket Coaches in the world, Ramakanth Achrekar. So are you going to implement some of his coaching techniques with the Mumbai boys?
Well definitely, like whatever he had done to Mumbai cricket, nobody can come closer to him and people like me are very fortunate to have learnt the game from Ramakanth Achrekhar. Since I have been very close to him, I know him since the last 25 years and his main thing was that hard work is the bottom line for everyone to succeed at the higher level.
What are the basic flaws that you observe in young batsmen trying to make a mark in the domestic circuit?
Well its not like flaws or something but more of the mental frame which would come up with their experience. They are many youngsters who are talented in Mumbai which is very important and they have shown that by beating a full strength Bengal Side in the Moin-ud-Dowlah Trophy. This is a big achievement for our young team.
You were a specialist batsman throughout your career, so do you think pure batsmen like you can tackle the bowlers efficiently well?
Well basically, yes I was a specialist batsman in my career, but after finishing my first class career, I was very much interested in coaching and then I started to do the training for coaches. All the Level I, Level II and the Level III Coaching, I have cleared. Level III is the maximum in India that teaches everyone who have passed all the aspects of the game. So everyone who has passed this Level III will have to know not only the batting, bowling and fielding but the entire strategies that you have to apply during a game. So that has helped me to communicate or guide the bowlers.
I had checked your Test Match Statistics and I was stunned to see a batting average of 42.50 in 13 innings with one 100 and 3 50s. As far as the numbers show, Pravin Kalyan Amre should have played a lot more Test Matches than he actually did, what do you have to say about it?
Well that is sometimes part of your luck also. There are certain things that are not in your hand basically. I believe that whatever is in your hand, you should do and now last three years I was very busy as an India Juniors’ Selector and that period gave me tremendous job satisfaction contributing to Indian Cricket. That was a great experience and now again I am in a new role, which is also a challenging one coaching the Mumbai Ranji Team. The expectations are so high when your are working with the Bombay Team, everyone wants Mumbai to win as the past cricketers set up very high standards winning the Ranji Trophy 36 times. No one says Mumbai is performing well unless they enter the finals of the Ranji Trophy Championship.
Praveen Amre would be remembered for years together as an Indian batsman to score a century on Test Match Debut on a fast Durban track. I am not sure if we had the opportunity to watch that match on Doordarshan those days, so could you just recall those moments for us?
Well for any batsman, the Debut Test Match is very very special and for me it was very very important for me to perform at the highest level. The way I was scoring heavily in Domestic Cricket, people were thinking that I could only score at the first class level and had question marks about my abilities to perform at the highest level. That kept all those people quiet after getting that hundred on the fastest track and it was tremendous satisfaction. Apart from that, the match situation basically, we were at 38 for 4 I think when I had come, that motivated me because you wanted to play for the team and we were in trouble. That innings we got the lead and could save the game.
How was it facing Allan Donald, Brett Schultz the left arm quick and then McMillan, Meyrick Pringle in that series? They were really tough bowlers, aren’t they?
Well definitely, they were all playing on their home soil and the main thing was nobody knew what kind of wickets we would get to play on in South Africa because that was a historical tour. No other team had gone there before, so for us it was more challenging as we were not aware of the conditions over there. It was all about mental toughness to achieve success in those particular conditions. Playing on those wickets was something of an experience because I never played on such wickets in India nor did I happen to face that kind of pace. So to achieve success over there was because of the will power and mental toughness.
In your short International Career, you had to face against some great bowlers on some really pacy wickets. How was it like? And who was the toughest bowler you had faced?
Any player getting to score a hundred in a Test Match is important. And then getting to play in the World Cup was one of the good things to have happened to me. It was good that I played against all the countries and that is a mental satisfaction because as you grow up as a cricketer you dream of playing with everybody. Rightly as you said, in a short career facing Ambrose, McDermott, Bruce Reid and company on all those pacy wickets like Perth, Durban was an experience and it gives the satisfaction that you can do well against such good bowling as well.
I personally felt that Brett Schultz was the toughest to face, particularly the Test Match at Durban. He was very fiery and we still remember his unplayable deliveries even now. He also had a short career but has great records and was a tremendous bowler.
What was your favourite World Cup moment in Australia? Could you tell us about what the players were thinking about the Kiran More-Javed Miandad Jumping Act?
Well beating Pakistan, yes definitely that one. Even though we were not qualified for the later stages of the World Cup, we came back home with good memories of beating Pakistan and they also became the World Cup winners. I think Kiran was very intelligently teasing Javed Miandad who was known to have great mental toughness but even some one like him had to react the way he did.
Your One Day International career wasn’t the best with just 2 fifties from 30 innings, can’t really blame you because you were batting too low down the order. But one innings that you had played, 84 not out helped the Indians to manage a smile at the end of a very tough tour…
Yes I played in the first Test Match and I got the Man of the Match in that. This was the last match of the Series, the 7th ODI which I wasn’t supposed to play. But it was a late inclusion in the side which I came to know in the team meeting that was in the afternoon. So it was an opportunity for me to get the runs and going back home with good memories. Ultimately I got the runs and went back home with the Test Match Man of the Match and One Day Man of the Match.
What was the mentality of the Indian players in the early 90s during overseas tours? Obviously we were bad visitors sometimes getting bundled out under scores of 100, 150…
Well yes the wickets and the weather conditions were completely different from what it is in India. And also the infrastructure those days wasn’t good enough; we didn’t have enough time and opportunities to adapt ourselves before playing the Test Matches. But mental toughness was always there and we got many good players on that tour, so the only thing was the facilities we never had to get used to the conditions abroad.
India had flopped miserably on the fast and bouncy tracks on the tours of Australia and then South Africa. But the next Series was against England at home which you won 3-0 through the spin trio of Kumble, Raju and Chauhan. What do you have to say about the pitch conditions in that series which had come under lot of criticism those days?
When we go abroad, nobody gives us a turning track, so when we come back home it is the same for the other team that tours us. Always the home conditions suit the home team. We had great spinners who won the matches for us and we played well like a team. It was one of the great memories, that England Series winning 3-0 particularly after coming from the defeats of Australia and South Africa.
Ok Pravin Sir, you had played Domestic Cricket for 15 years, what’s the difference you find in the players and the quality of cricket today compared to the 90s?
Well lots of awareness has come in the youngsters. The Technology growth has helped to bring this awareness and that is a good stand. Well fielding standard, definitely yes, the boys are very keen on fielding, their standard is very high. The only thing is the mental aspect of the game that is lacking; I don’t see many cricketers playing a long inning, which is a question mark. And I can’t see many good spinners these days which wasn’t the case 15 years back. All the teams had good spinners who could win matches. But the Medium Pace department has improved, everybody knows how to reverse swing and that is a good sign.
Some ex-players are feeling that Indian Cricket is facing a shortage of quality spinners including you and the batsmen including Sachin Tendulkar are struggling to dominate even lesser known spinners from other parts of the world like Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle, Shaun Udal and many others…what’s your take on that?
Well I don’t think he (Sachin) is struggling on that. But there aren’t many great spinners in International Cricket as well. There are very few good spinners like Vettori and few others. Most of the spinners today are One Day bowlers only because it is all about pressure to contain the batsmen in One Day Cricket. But Sachin is a great player and he can play any quality spinners and any attack basically.
Is that true that Indian batsmen these days aren’t using their feet much to the spinners?
Well it’s always up to the individuals on how they play the spinners. But to succeed against the spinners, footwork is the key. It gives you more scoring opportunities and thus improving the strike rate.
Getting back to Pravin Amre’s early days in cricket, I heard somewhere that Ramakanth Achrekar Sir used to rate you as a better batsman compared to Sachin and Kambi. Is that true?
Well it was his opinion (Ramakanth Achrekar). But we all know that Sachin was a real genius because he was very talented and was God-gifted. But Coaches always like players who work very hard and I was very hard working. So that is the quality that Coaches like to see and they also like players who always play for the team. For Sachin, everything was like gifted but whatever he achieved is great because even if you are gifted, it is not easy to maintain the success levels for a long time. For that Sachin has worked very hard to maintain that success at that kind of level.
Okay Sir, to wrap up this interview, what is the Mumbai coach planning to do for Mumbai this season?
Well it’s like my batting. I always talk with my bat. I think it’s better to wait and see and let the boys perform and we will speak one day about that.