Krishnamachari Srikkanth was a flamboyant opening batsman for India in the '80s and played an important role in India’s 1983 World Cup victory. It was under his captaincy that batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar made his debut. In 2008, BCCI appointed Srikkanth chairman of selectors and it was during his tenure that India won the World Cup and also became the number one ranked team in the world. Replaced by Sandeep Patil last month, he believes that Indian cricket is in the right hands.
He talks to Aabhas Sharma about Tendulkar’s much-debated retirement and the importance of nurturing spinners. Excerpts:
There has been much talk about Sachin Tendulkar calling time on his cricketing career. What’s your opinion on it?
A couple of bad innings and I don’t know why everyone starts talking about Sachin’s retirement. A cricketer - especially of the stature of Tendulkar - knows best when he should call it quits and whether he has the desire to continue in the game. Knowing Sachin, he won’t hang around for a minute if he thinks he can’t contribute to Indian cricket. He is a champion and I do believe he still has much to offer to Indian cricket. I find this unnecessary pressure being created by the media a bit strange. Let the guy concentrate on his cricket. He has been there for the country for the last two decades and performed incredibly.
When is a good time for a cricketer to retire? Is there an inner voice which tells you, ‘that’s enough’?
It depends on an individual actually. Look at Laxman; he surprised everyone by announcing his retirement. He was having a bad patch but sometimes you lose the hunger to perform. Look at Ricky Ponting. He thought he wasn’t able to perform at the highest level as he would have liked to and perhaps did the right thing. After playing cricket for years, you suddenly realise that you aren’t enjoying the game or that you aren’t able to live up to the high standards you’ve set. There’s no 'right' time as such and varies from person to person.
You had a successful tenure as chairman of selectors. What do you think of your time and what does the future hold for Indian cricket?
I think there were both highs and lows. Winning the World Cup after 28 years in front of our own fans has to be the highlight as well as being the number one team. We lost to England and Australia which was a big disappointment as I thought we had a good squad but things didn’t turn out as we expected.
But there are no regrets for me. Credit must be given to the players who were great and rose to the challenges pretty well. We did our best to pick up teams and gave a chance to young talent as well. Indian cricket has a good future. Players like R Ashwin, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are extremely talented and will play a crucial role in Indian cricket’s future. Then you have experienced heads like Virender Sehwag, MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan. So there’s a good mix of youth and experience.
Is there a dearth of good spinners in India? Are we not nurturing them properly because there haven’t been many new spinners who have staked a claim in the team?
I don’t think it’s that big a problem. There are Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Piyush Chawla and Rahul Sharma. Harbhajan is still around and can still be an asset to the team. We need to give spinners time and back them to come good. Too much chopping and changing doesn’t make too much sense. We have had such a strong tradition of producing spinners and I don’t think that will change. There are some good spinners on the domestic circuit and I am sure they will get a chance.