Exclusive Interview: “Ashwin is the No 1 spinner in India at the moment : The former India left-arm spinner, Maninder Singh is a very busy person. However, our correspondent, Subramanian Krishnamurthi managed to get hold of him for a ‘coffee-table’ discussion and pick is brains.
The discussion starts off with the second historic TIED Test against Australia, played at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, in 1986 and gradually go through the prospects of the current Team India that is touring West Indies under the captaincy of Virat Kohli and the new coach Anil Kumble.
The excerpts from the interview:
- Maninder, the mention of your name always brings to fore the TIED test at Chennai against Australia in 1986 which is about three decades ago from now. What are your memories?
See I believe in destiny. It was destined to happen and so it happened. First we wanted to avoid defeat and Ravi’s single did just that. We avoided the defeat. I tried to take a single in the next two deliveries, but unfortunately got out.
In the history of Test cricket, there have been only two instances of TIED Test and I am glad to be part of one.
- You had Ravi at the other end. Did he not egg you up for a single?
Yes that’s what I said. Ravi’s single was very much necessary to save the Test and it happened. While I tried to tale a single in the next two deliveries, I got out.
- It’s almost quarter of a century since you retired. Post retirement you tried your hands in umpiring and commentary. What happened later on?
Well I am happy doing whatever I am doing now in my own way and keep myself occupied.
- How are you keeping yourself busy these days? Are you connected to the game in any way? How about an academy and bring out new spinning talents
I am doing coaching work on and off as and when opportunity arises. I am also involved in offering my comments and observations, when sought. It’s an ongoing process and I am glad it’s happening.
- What is your take on the current Indian team?
Oh it’s a very good unit with a very aggressive and vibrant captain leading the team. They definitely look very strong on paper. The guys now will have to understand and shoulder their respective responsibilities. They have to take the team forward and make Team India, the world’s best team.
They have the potential and the capabilities. They just will have to do it. I am a great fan of Kohli and Kumble.
- What is your take on Harhajan Singh? Does he have any cricket left in him?
Well, as long as he is playing in the domestic circuit and is able to perform, definitely he has a good chance of being in the national team. He has won many laurels for the country. Between him and Anil Kumble, they have collected more than 1,000 wickets.
It’s just that at the domestic level he would be required to take more wickets than a competing youngster just to establish the fact that he is still a force to reckon with.
- Ashwin is being preferred over Bhajji. It’s really sad to see Bhajji warming the bench and playing second fiddle to Ashwin. What is your take? Should Bhajji call it quits?
To ‘call it quits’ or not it is his call. But as long as he is able to get opportunities and make his presence felt in those opportunities, its fine.
- Whom do you rate as the best spinner in the current team? How do you view Ashwin, Jadeja, Amit Mishra
Ashwin is the No 1 spinner in the country at the moment. He has a good variety in stock and is able to make use of them efficiently. Yes of late, there has been some decline in his form but then he should be made to believe that he can deliver under all conditions.
Well, with Anil Kumble as the coach, Ashwin will go a long way. He tries very hard and is very a keen learner.
- Is there any quality spinner in your mind in the domestic circuit who could make it to the national team immediately replacing any of the existing spinners?
The one name that comes to my mind is that of Yuzvendra Chahal. This guy has the correct attitude and a fine body language, two important qualities for a great bowler.
He recently did exceedingly well in Zimbabwe. Though I do not rate Zimbabwe as a tough opponent, but for a youngster to play at the international level and not be overawed by the situation is very tough.
Chahal handled the situation very well and also performed well with the ball both in ODIs and T20s
- From the time of the spin quartet of Bedi, Prasanna, Venkat and Chandra, Indian spinners were always known to be the best in the world and were highly respected. How do you look at the status now? Do you see decline in the quality and if so why is that?
Yes there has been a great decline in the quality of our spin attack. Blame it on the domestic cricket. It is really sad to see the Ranji Trophy games getting over in two days or even lesser. If young spinners are made to play only on turning tracks, they get use to it and when they have to perform at international levels under different conditions, they literally fail.
Our country’s successful spinners like Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh all have bowled in tough conditions that may not suit spinners and those experiences have helped them perform at international levels with great success.
Now that the Ranji rules are changed and the matches would be played in neutral venues, improvements can happen. Let us see.
- When can we see another Maninder roll over his arms in Team India?
(Laughs) Why only Maninder? We will definitely get to see the likes of Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh also, provided the youngsters at the domestic level play on competitive pitches and develop their skills.
It’s all about exhibiting your talent, playing under unfavourable conditions at the domestic level, which would hold the players in good stead at the international levels.
- Would you at any point of time want to be associated with BCCI? Did you make any attempt in the past? If not, why not
See, I am not the one to go and ask for work. If BCCI felt that I would be of use to the Board and the game, they can always approach me. I am always available for the sake of Indian cricket.
We, players, who have got so much from the game would definitely want to give back to the game, but then the Board should take interest in approaching.
For the future, it depends on how the Board is going to be managed with the recent developments that are taking place and how roles would be defined.
- Is one year time sufficient enough to assess Kumble’s coaching abilities?
Kumble himself is a strict disciplinarian and a hard worker. He is a great motivator also. Someone who can put in so much of hard work himself and also motivate himself, definitely would succeed in doing the same with the team.
The team can learn a lot from Kumble who has a wealth of knowledge and experience and now it’s up to the boys how much they can extract from him. No doubt, he would be willing to give as much as the boys want.
Yes one year is a decent time frame to know the potential.
- Why did you not apply for the Indian Team coach’s job? Would you want to don the coach hat
Well, first of all, many reputed and experienced cricketers had applied for the job and secondly, I would be interested in coaching youngsters in the U16s, U13s etc so that the base can be strengthened and prepare them for the big stage
- Finally to conclude the discussion, Maninder, what is your advice to the youngsters and how can they combine academics and sports together
Well, the advice is to be a good human being first, for what goes round, comes round. Be passionate and pursue your goal with all sincerity.
In our days ONLY sports was an unimaginable thing. But the present day scenario is very much different.
Sports, as a career is possible these days. So the youngsters should follow their passion and do it with all honesty. Put in your best effort always.