Congratulations for you and your HCA’s achievement in constructing the Visaka International Uppal Stadium and hosting the two important first class games (Duleep Trophy – South Zone Vs West Zone and Pakistan Vs India A). So what’s next big thing with this stadium now?
Thank You. Most likely we are going to get the India-South Africa One Dayer and that would be in November. So we are hoping that it would be the first one day international played at the Visaka International Stadium.
But there was a talk that this stadium would be hosting its 1st ODI against Sri Lanka, what has happened to that?
Sri Lanka is playing 7 matches and as per rotation policy of the venues we don’t come under that, most definitely we would be getting the South Africa match.
What were the challenges that HCA had faced while constructing this stadium?
Oh there were quite a few challenges that we had encountered right from legal point of view because the land was allotted to us by the State Government of Andhra Pradesh. Then thereafter there was a court case pending from the lower court. In fact we went from the lowest court to the highest court and till Supreme Court we had gone for this case. Some how we had overcome all of that and now the stadium is standing there at Uppal.
People all around the world want to know what kind of wickets the Visaka International Stadium offers. So what’s your answer about this?
Well if it’s a One Dayer then the wicket would be batting oriented wicket. We want good scores to come up because people love to watch the big scoring matches in One Dayers. Whereas if it’s a test match… that is once we are allotted the test status we would give a sporting wicket with assistance to both the batsmen and the bowlers.
You have been a Test Cricketer, you have been a National Selector, and you have been the Indian team Manager and a Cricket board official. Of all these which has been the best role you have enjoyed?
Well definitely I enjoyed my playing days, nothing that can beat that. But I find that as an administrator, it is much more difficult and you have to face different kinds of things and challenges that you have to encounter. I find this job more taxing.
Let’s rewind back to almost 26 years back, on September 19th, 1979 you had made your Test Match debut against Australia at Bangalore in the 2nd Test. You took 7 wickets in that match, do you remember any special moments of that match now?
Yes I do remember that match very well because that being my first test match of my career. In fact I would like to thank the Late M.L.Jaisimha for guiding me during that period because he was the National Selector then and was giving me lots of tips during that test match. I just had to bowl accordingly and that gave me the 7 wickets. Well I do remember my 1st wicket which was that of the opening batsman Andrew Hilditch, who was caught by substitute fielder Arun Lal at deep square leg. Thereafter in the 2nd innings, I got Hilditch lbw and the upcoming batsman in those days, Allan Border clean bowled. I do remember M.L.Jaisimha walking up to me during Tea and telling me to go round the stumps and bowl the arm ball. That’s how I got Border; my arm ball had crashed onto the stumps in the gap between his bat and pad.
Tell us more about that series, you had a great time taking 24 wickets in the 5 tests you played.
See those days there wasn’t much of publicity given to the cricket. Though myself and Kapil were the top wicket takers, I mean if today had we done that we would have been taken some where else. Those days even though someone took 24 wickets in a series, it didn’t mean much because the publicity and the television coverage was just beginning then. Today the media is so vibrant that for just one performance a player is taken right on top and the moment you don’t do well they send you down. Those days it wasn’t that vibrant atleast.
Harbhajan had taken 32 wickets, you have taken 24…so does that mean that Aussies in general do have this weakness against good off spinners?
Well if you have a look at the history of Australian Cricket right from the days of Jim Laker to the days of Erapalli Prasanna, Venkatraghavan and then to myself, Harbhajan or for that matter even John Emburey, Aussies have struggled against good off spinners. I mean may be it’s because they have had lots of left handers in their teams and also they had this difficulty of handling the incoming ball. If you see the history, yes off spinners have always done well against Aussies.
After playing just 6 first class games, you got a big break getting selected for the Indian Board President’s XI against West Indies and 7 months later you had played your 1st Test. What do you think about such stunning progress in your career?
Basically as you said I got my big break playing for the Board’s team against Alvin Kalicharan’s team. That was played at CCI, Bombay. It so happened that I remember very clearly the captain of the side was Parthasarthy Sharma and he wasn’t aware that I was in the team as an off spinner. And in the 1st innings I wasn’t given to bowl till tea time. During the Tea Break, one of the selectors, Rajsingh Durganpur walked upto him and he said that he was also having an off spinner in the side and you can try him as well. Then thereafter 3 wickets were remaining and I was finally given the ball and I took 2 out of the 3 wickets. In the 2nd innings, I was introduced into the attack as the 1st change bowler and thereby I got six wickets. (Laughs) So that’s how I remember and had it not been for Rajsingh reminding Parthasarthy Sharma, I wouldn’t have played for India.
If we have a closer look at your career, prior to getting into the Board’s team or the Indian team, you hardly played 5-6 first class games and you just picked up 17 wickets. So what was the performance of yours that got you into both the sides?
Before getting into the Indian team, I was also given an opportunity to play for South Zone against Australia at the Lal Bahadur Stadium here in Hyderabad and I got couple of wickets in that game. Not only my performances at that time but may be the selectors thought they saw some talent in me. It could also be the way I was bowling and may be with Prasanna and Venkatraghavan both in their decline, they might have seen something in me and then I got the break.
Talk us through about Shivlal Yadav’s role in one of the greatest tests ever played – the tied test at Madras, 1986.
That is one of the games which you can never forget till you die. I remember I had played a crucial role in the outcome of the game. The first four days of that test were dull and boring, I mean it was typical Madras heat and at the same time plenty of runs were being scored. It so happened that Allan Border gave us all a surprise by declaring on the 5th day. He gave us 348 runs in about 330 minutes in a day’s play and we all just sat over it and decided to have a shot at the target. And it so happened that for every 50 runs we scored, we lost a wicket, but the chase continued. When I walked in, we had 13 runs to win and Ray Bright and Greg Matthews were bowling. Ravi Shastri walked upto me and said if you want to take a chance take it in this over from Bright now. I remember I was nervous like hell and didn’t exactly know what to do at that point of time. I just blocked the 1st ball and it just occurred to me before the 2nd ball, it was preplanned. I mean it was a premeditated shot and I took a chance, went down the track and completed the hoik and luckily I connected. You wouldn’t believe it Allan Border was right down my neck standing at silly point and was shouting “catch it…catch it…catch it”. For a moment I thought Greg Ritchie would take the catch but fortunately Ritchie couldn’t jump up and catch it, the ball went over the ropes and into the pavilion for a six. That was a very exciting moment for me, my whole body was shaking, Ravi walked towards me and said great shot, now let’s concentrate on taking singles and finish off the match. Ray Bright then got me out bowled behind my legs. I went for a sweep shot and the ball hit my pads and then hit the back of the bat and then went onto hit the stumps. Then Maninder walked into the middle with 4 more runs to win. Then the equation became 1 run after Ravi had picked up a couple and a single and that left Mani with 1 run and you know what happened then, Mani was out lbw by Greg Matthews and rest is history. The final outcome was great for the game of cricket because had it been just another victory, people wouldn’t have remembered about it and we wouldn’t have been talking about it today even after 18 years.
So do you reckon that the six you hit was a decisive blow in that Test Match?
Well if you see the scorecard it looks to be decisive and ironically that was the only sixer I hit in my career.
The famous Melbourne Test in 1981, where India had won you had fractured your toe but you continued to bat and make a useful contribution. Could you talk about that innings?
Before my injury we played a Test Match at Adelaide and before that Indian team had lost a 4 day match against South Australia. I was batting with Dilip Doshi and I was shielding him by taking most of the strike. I got out to the leg spinner Peter Sleep and after that I got lot of lecture from Sunil Gavaskar and he fired at me saying that my approach was totally unprofessional and I had no business in playing such a kind of shot and throw my wicket at that stage. This incident got stuck in my mind. In the Adelaide Test, I was sent in as the night watchman in the 1st innings and I had a partnership with Chetan Chauhan. I managed to bat for an hour and got something like 15 runs. Then in the 2nd Test we were struggling at 128/8 and were on the brink of the defeat but myself and Karsan Ghavri batted all the mandatory overs and saved the Test match. In the Melbourne test, I was badly injured, I knew that the injury was very serious but with G.R.Vishwanath almost reaching his hundred I didn’t want to leave the field with just the last man Dilip Doshi to come. I somehow managed to bat and Vishy got his century and got out. After Doshi had come and got out and I remained not out on 20. That is what was the Gavaskar effect on me, after he had fired me up few days back to this innings I had decided that any stage I wouldn’t throw away my wicket and just hang in there and get as many runs as possible.
The Gymkhana grounds is reckoned to have the bounciest pitches in the country, was there any intentional efforts on HCA’s part to get the track bouncy?
Basically we are trying out, we are experimenting with the tracks. We want our boys to develop their game by playing on different kinds of tracks. Gymkhana is a bouncy track but we have other tracks which have even bounce and where you can play your strokes. But now we have changed the Gymkhana track also by not leaving too much of grass on the wicket. We want to see if we can still have the bounce after removing the grass and encourage strokeplay because ultimately the batters have to get the runs, then only the game becomes attractive.
Let’s talk about the Hyderabad Ranji team; if we have a look at the recent scorecards, Hyderabad team has struggled to bat for more than one day. Why is it so and do you think the batting needs to improve by a long way?
As I said before, Gymkhana wicket has been seamer friendly and all of our Ranji matches last year have been at the Gymkhana except the Semis. Not many teams have come up with good scores last year here and even the big teams have struggled to put the runs on the board. We had experimented last year with the wicket and now after changing the wicket, we hope that our boys would build the big innings. That is why we have our 3-days league cricket for the first division teams at different wickets like Gymkhana, Uppal and others. Strokeplay is good but at the same time strokeplay with common sense is required and we want the boys to bat for long time. At the same time, I am happy to inform everybody that we had won the U22 tournament, our U19 boys did well and lost in the finals, U17 boys lost in the Quarter finals. I mean these are all All India tournaments and shows that we have plenty of talent available in Hyderabad and given proper chances, I am sure we would have few players representing the country in the future.
We youngsters haven’t watched you much on the television, so could you describe Shivlal Yadav – the Off Spinner?
I was not a bowler who would bowl fast in the air, I relied on my flight and had big turn. As I grew older I learnt the importance of flight and that having big turn wasn’t the only thing that’s required. Like Prasanna I believed that flight was the most important weapon for a spinner.
Okay one last question, what do you think about the progress of your son Arjun Yadav in his cricketing career?
I would have been happy had he gone little higher in the level he’s playing at the moment now. The way he had shown the promise during his U19 days, he hasn’t met the expectations at this level. Unfortunately he has been having some injuries, like last year he had a severe back injury, he broke his finger and all this was in the middle of the season. So he had his setbacks. Let’s see if he can comeback from them and perform because ultimately if you want to play the higher grade of cricket, you got to attract the selectors through your performances and there’s no other substitute for that.