I thought National Selectors were very serious individuals and would be reserve to their words. However, I changed my opinion ever since I met Kiran More, the Chairman of Selectors and former Indian wicket keeper. From whatever I had seen of him on TV as a naughty wicket keeper who could be a real pain to the opposition batsmen (ask Javed Miandad about that), it’s the same Kiran More today, who is very jovial and doesn’t mind answering the crowd who ask him “Who should keep for India – Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv, Dhoni or Dravid?” These are the excerpts from the breakfast table at Hotel Karan that had me and of course Kiran More with Pranab Roy, selector from the East Zone :
Kiran More, along with you there were keepers like Sadanand Vishwanath and Chandrakanth Pandit, but you managed to play a lot more Tests and ODIs than those two. What really was the reason for your success?
I think my wicket keeping made a lot of difference to go with. I kept well in all the important games. I had a dream debut against England in 86 taking 16 catches and I batted well and we won the series. And when you win the matches, the captain has a different feeling for you basically. Even the selectors felt that I was a match winner and that’s why I had a great tour of England then and was probably preferred more than the other two keepers.
So talk us through your early days in Cricket?
Early days I got a very good opportunity to play for India U19, played lot of school cricket, which was of a very high standard, played Ranji Trophy. I joined the Tatas in Bombay and scored a 100 on debut against a team, which had Sunil Gavaskar as captain. That made a huge difference of my impact on first class cricket. That helped me a long way and that 100 gave me good exposure in Indian Cricket. So that’s what carried me into the Duleep Trophy and then I got a break into the International arena in 1982/83 during the tour of West Indies. So 83 was a good breakthrough for me as I played against top West Indies players, got to play 7 top fast bowlers, I learnt a lot from all those experiences. And when I was drafted into the Test XI in 1986 against England, I knew what was coming up at this level and I knew how it has to be handled.
To come up to the level of playing India U19, Ranji Trophy, you must have had very good coaching, so what is the story about that? Also what is the reason for Baroda producing lot of International cricketers, whereas Gujarat hasn’t to that extent?
Yeah of course the coaching was very good with good practice facilities we have at Baroda. We have a strong base, with the cricket being well organized; most of the credit for this should go to the Maharajas of Baroda – Royal family, they have set up a nice ground and cricketing culture. I had a good coach in Nayan Satam. Baroda infact has a very good base for junior cricket and I think that is a reason why Baroda has produced many International Cricketers than the neighbouring Associations we have. A person who does well in Baroda is encouraged very well and is taken care of.
What do you think about having two wicket keepers on a long tour? Do you think it is important?
It definitely helps. Few years back we had different kind of itinerary with some ODIs played between the Tests, but nowadays there are different itineraries for the Tests and ODIs. So at this moment we can just fly a wicket keeper whenever necessary and it just takes a couple of days for him to reach. But yes when the tours are 2 or 3 months long it’s ideal to have 2 wicket keepers, you can keep rotating both of them so that your no.1 keeper stays fit for the important games. You do need 2 keepers during the side games and the practice sessions. And the No.2 keeper can learn when he’s not playing and that really helps the bench strength, if the no.1 is injured, the other keeper can get into the groove immediately. But if it’s a 15-20 days tour, one keeper is enough.
Do you think wicket keepers these days are conscious to be better batsmen than the keepers in the 1980s and 90s?
I think there have been wicket keepers in the 80s and 90s who have been good batsmen as well. Definitely things have changed a lot today and we need an all rounder wicket keeper, who can bat well and keep well. You need to have a good wicket keeper, as he would be the key member in the team who can influence the game, plus he has to bat well these days. Most of the countries are having good wicket keeper batsmen, attitudes have changed, policies have changed and with that the game has also changed. Therefore you need to have a wicketkeeper who keeps well and also bats well.
Were you inspired by anyone to take up wicket keeping?
Not really…but I always enjoyed wicket keeping because the ball used to come to you most often. Right from my childhood I felt that a wicket keeper has the most involvement in the game than anyone else. I always looked up to Bob Taylor as the greatest wicket keeper, he was technically so sound and I learnt a lot from him infact.
What do you think have been the best and worst moments of your career?
Best was that I had a fantastic Debut at Lords, we had won the series also, I had done very well. Disappointment was losing to Australia in the semi finals of the 1987 World Cup at Bombay. We should have won that match easily and we couldn’t make it to the finals. It’s a dream to play a World Cup Final and we missed out on that part.
Probably you missed out on the dropped catch of Graham Gooch off Sanjeev Sharma, Gooch was on 36 and he made you pay a heavy price by scoring 333…
It’s a part of the game, I don’t care for it, everyone cannot take all the catches; best of the best fielders do drop some dollies sometimes. Anyway I am talking about missing out in the 1987 finals as a team point of view not as an individual.
You played in the 1992 World Cup which was the 1st Edition to be played in colours, how was the feeling then within the players?
It was good I think, a very great feeling and it was very colourful. That World Cup was in Australia, which is a very well organized country. And yes it was a great honour to be playing in the Indian colours.
Talking about the 1992 World Cup, one cannot forget about the incident in which Javed Miandad did the Jumping Jack act to imitate you, can you talk us through that incident?
Incidents like this come out in the heat of the moment. I mean it’s because of the media, that this incident was given all the unnecessary hype. India Vs Pakistan games are of high pressure and all the players fight it out on the field, but off the field we are all good friends. Recently I had gone to Pakistan and we had a good dinner with Javed Miandad, we are good friends.
Are you satisfied with your overall career? You did score 7 important 50s and you have more than 200 dismissals to your name in International Cricket…
I think I should have done better. I should have scored a Test Hundred but the number I was batting at was too low and it wasn’t easy to get a hundred. But had we got a good fitness program or had a good physio, I could have done better, played more cricket than what I had.
So how is to be Kiran More, Chairman of Selectors? How difficult or easy has the job been?
It’s a different ball game and you have to make a tough call sometimes. You have to take your decisions as you have played enough cricket. It doesn’t matter whether people like your decisions or not, you got to make that tough calls. It’s not necessary that whatever decisions you make clicks, if we try 5 new cricketers every year and if atleast 2 out of them do well for India, then you know that we have done our job really well. Everyone are doing well in Domestic Cricket, but performing in International Cricket is a different ball game. You need to give all those performers in the domestic circuit a fair trial and if they do well it is a very positive thing for India.
Who do you think is going to win the upcoming Indo-Pak series and which Pakistani player you think would be a major threat for India?
I can’t predict that but definitely it would be a tough contest with both the teams giving 100%. It should be a really close call. Salman Butt is a very good player, but you do get Pakistani players who come and go, so I think Inzamam is their main player as always.
Any message Kiran More wants to give to young budding wicket keepers through Cricketfundas.com?
You got to work hard; nowadays you need to be an all rounder wicket keeper. You got to bat well and also be an outstanding wicket keeper. Nothing is impossible, so work hard and perform well in Domestic Cricket. You would definitely get your opportunities.
One final question, who do you think would be next long term Indian wicket keeper?
I don’t want to mention that but they are 2-3 very good keepers who are doing very well. We are very happy with the progress that the keepers are doing and certainly our bench strength is becoming stronger now. We have options also now and that’s good news for Indian Cricket.