Transcript: Couch Talk with Chandu Borde

Couch Talk 137 (Play)

Guests: Chandu Borde

Host: Subash Jayaraman

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Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Hello and welcome to Couch Talk. Today’s guest is former Indian cricketer and chairman of selectors, Chandu Borde. He talks about the Indian selection policies, some of the great players he had selected, his role as Manager of the Indian team during the 2007 tour to England, and also the three of the greatest Indian batsmen he is associated with – Vijay Hazare, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar amongst other things. Welcome to the show, Mr. Borde. It is a pleasure and a privilege to have you on.

Chandu Borde (CB)– Thank you.

SJ– You were a very accomplished cricketer for India and you went on to serve as the Chairman of Selectors for India. Based on the experiences of your playing career, what were the things that you wanted to implement when you became the Chairman of Selectors?

CB– When I became the Chairman of the Selection Committee, I saw to it that the selection was done by our committee. Whatever the talk was about the regionalism, we never bothered about that. We only thought about the country, and how to give the country best Indian team we could give. That was our aim.

SJ– When you played, did you feel that there was any zonal or regional bias?

CB– In the past, there was a talk about it. This is hearsay, I would say, that they used to do it on a regional basis. The media also wrote about that thing in the past. But, when I took over, we saw to it that the regionalism doesn’t take place. We selected the team accordingly.

SJ– Having selectors from various zones makes sense. People from East Zone, West Zone, South Zone – they will know the players and the domestic scene. In the modern day cricket, where the information about every player is available at the fingertips of anybody that is interested, what is the logic behind still having a zonal system for selectors?

CB– Ours is a very big country and there are many cricketers. So, what happens is that everyone tries to push a person from his zone. But then, we used to sit together and watch some of the matches arranged by the board like, Duleep Trophy or Ranji Trophy or some other selection committee matches. After watching those players, we used to see what kind of talent they have and what is the best suitable person for the team according to the places. Who are the best openers, who are the good middle order players, who are the good bowlers and all rounders? We used to discuss all these players from different zones and who was the best. Accordingly we would discuss and select the players.

SJ– I understand that. You, coming from West Zone, and someone like Krishnamachari Srikanth from South Zone would know their respective zonal players. But, these days, we have all the information about players, videos and statistics available, but we still have a system in India where selectors are chosen based on zonal basis. Should we still stick to that system or should we go to a central system?

CB– Presently, a number of matches that are being played are watched by the selectors. In the past, they used to watch only in their zone or go to other zone. What we had decided that time is that a person from South Zone will go and watch matches in North Zone. One from East will go to West and the person from West will go to South etc., so that there is no partiality about the players when we discuss them while selecting the team. We used to get to know the players who we wanted to select. Their performances and their talent and approach were seen and accordingly select the team. Now also all these selectors go and watch the different matches and they select the players, and they have the data with them too. The media is also showing some of the matches on TV. That also they get to see, every selector gets to see. It has become easy for them, I would say. They are selecting the team according to their performances and talent. They are selecting on merit, I am sure.

SJ– That is true.

A lot of the cricket fans do not know what happens in a selection meeting. So, can you give us some insights into what the meeting would entail when you were the Chairman of Selectors?

CB– Many times, the selectors would used to definitely push their players; but then if we saw that two players are of the same kind of calibre and then we used to discuss about the players. Who would be more useful for the team? Whose contribution for the team is better? We used to convince each other and then select. Sometimes there are so many cricketers of the same level but their contribution as a good fielder or specialist batsman or all-rounder and who could be more useful to the team would differ. We used to talk on those aspects and select.

SJ– There have been a lot of players that made their Indian debut under your watch, when you were the Chairman of Selectors. Are there players that you personally persuaded other selectors to have patience on. They might not have immediately become a star…

CB– I will tell you one incident, everyone knows about it. Mohinder Amarnath, for instance. During our time he could not perform well in his first two Test matches. But we still persisted with him because we knew that his talent and his contribution will be very useful and that helped the team later on. He performed well in the Test matches after that, and he never stopped. He served the Indian cricket beautifully.

SJ– Are there certain players you selected or the group of selectors that you picked that you knew were very good or even great players for India and they came out to be great?

CB– I will give another example, (Mohammed) Azharuddin. I think this was when MCC was touring that time. I went to see a match in Hyderabad. It was South Zone vs MCC, and the way Azhar played there, I was very much impressed about his technique, his fielding and timing – he had beautiful timing and the time to play his shots. It was very impressive. That is why in the next Test match we had selected him into the 14 that we had selected.

On the day of the match, this was at Calcutta, when Sunil Gavaskar was the captain, we both went to the ground and we saw the wicket and other things. Sunil had a very valid point and he asked what I thought about it. I suggested Azhar’s name, said I watched him in the earlier match.  Sunil said “OK, we will pick him.” He wanted somebody else with experience. it was such a big crowd, a newcomer will find it very difficult. But I convinced him and he agreed to it. We selected Azharuddin, and he performed wonderfully in that match. He scored a century. Again, he scored a century in the next Test and the third Test. I was very happy when Sunil Gavaskar said “Sir, thank you very much. You were right and I was a bit confused.” This sort of thing, with experience if you can convince the captain, then I think they also know who is good and who is bad.

SJ– On the other hand, are there players that you believed would come off good for India but did not, and you were wondering “Where did I go wrong?” ?

CB– When we selected them, not all the players had come to meet our expectations. There were one or two players unfortunately they didn’t perform that well. So, we felt very sorry about that. I, personally, used to feel very sorry to drop a player. Where did I go wrong? Where did my committee go wrong? I used to ask myself that sort of questions. And then, i used to feel very sorry about it. To select a team is easy, but to drop a player is difficult. If you look at it from that angle, you can serve the Indian cricket and select the best team in a successful way.

SJ– You had a long playing career – 55 Tests and you have been with India cricket for so long. Under your watch, who would you rate as the greatest player that you have played with, or selected or seen? Or group of names.

CB– To name a particular person, I will be doing injustice to others. That is not correct. But still, I like to mention that I was fortunate to play with Vijay Hazare. During that time, he was the best in the country. That would be my first. The second was Sunil Gavaskar when he was playing for the country and I was the Chairman of the Selection Committee.. Afterwards, it was Sachin Tendulkar. He was 16 years old when he went to Pakistan. That time also, I was the manager. He performed very well. i had association with these 3 great players. Also, other players like Kapil (Dev), Saurav (Ganguly) and Srikanth. There are many other too – Ravi Shastri etc. So many, there is a big list.

SJ– You just mentioned Hazare, Gavaskar and Tendulkar – three of the greatest batsmen India has produced. How would you rate their technique and temperament?

CB– In 1968, when we went to Australia, I captained the side at Adelaide. They have a tradition during the lunch time, both the teams would have the lunch together. The visiting captain would sit on the right side of the Chairman of that board. Sir Donald Bradman was there. While talking on cricket, he suddenly asked me “How is Vijay Hazare?” i was surprised. I was playing with him in Baroda that time. I said, “Sir, he is very fine. I played with him.” Sir Donald Bradman said, “Oh, he was a great cricketer, a great batsman.” That was a tremendous compliment coming from Sir Donald Batsman. Then, he talked about Vinoo Mankad and Amarnath also. But, to hear this sort of thing from great cricketers, you feel happy that you were associated with these people.

SJ– But, Vijay Hazare and Sunil Gavaskar had a lot of old school classical batting. You had a very special relationship with Tendulkar, you had seen him from a very young age – you were like a coach-mentor kind of thing, to being a manager/selector. What was that relationship like?

CB– That was a very, very close relationship on the field. When he was 16 years old, I found him there in Pakistan that he was so enthusiastic at that age also. When we go for practice he was the first person to go to the ground and the last person to come off the ground. Sometimes the groundsman would say, “Sir, please stop this youngster because we want to start the cricket match and remove all the nets etc.” He was such a dedicated person. In those days the manager would also be the coach. I did give him a few tips in the nets, when he used to bat. We found out in one of the matches that he played, in Hyderabad, the way he scored his 40 odd runs and the way he hit (Abdul) Qadir out of the ground, we felt that this boy is something different and we selected him in the next match. At Sialkot, the wicket was a green top wicket and they had great bowlers like Waqar (Younis), Imran (Khan), (Wasim) Akram, (Aaqib) Javed… they were great bowlers. In fact, the two umpires, I think one was (John) Shepherd and I don’t remember who the other was.

SJ– I think the umpires were Shepherd and (John) Holder.

CB– Yes. Holder, that is right. They came and asked, “Where is the wicket?” it was such a green top wicket. Anyway, when we were 3 or 4 down, Sachin went in to play and Waqar was bowling. The third ball hit him on the face, when Waqar bowled a bouncer. Blood was coming out, and I went on the field along with the physiotherapist. After dressing the wound, we said “Let’s go inside.” He said, “No sir, I would like to bat.” The next three balls, he sent them to the boundary fence. It was then we knew that here is a person who would serve Indian cricket for a long time. He never stopped after that. His determination, concentration and confidence level are really amazing.

Later on, in 2007 also, I was the manager on the tour to England. There also, he was out to (Jacques) Kallis in Scotland, in an ODI match against South Africa in a tri-series. England – South Africa – India. in the match, Kallis bowled him with a ball that pitched on the middle stump and hit his off stump. It swung so much. When he came in, I allowed him to settle down and later on I told him that the ball that he tried to play to [mid wicket], he should have tried to play to mid on. We went in the nets and I was just throwing the ball on the middle stump and he started playing straight. You will be surprised that after that in the same series, he missed 3 centuries, getting out in 90s. 93, 97 and 99 or something. He was playing so beautifully. Here is a person who when he makes a mistake would go to the nets and correct the mistake and never try to repeat the same mistake. Such a great player he was. Tremendous. There is a lot that others should learn from him.

SJ– Those were some of the great Indian players. Who were some of the greatest non-Indian players that you watched or played against?

CB– Oh, there are so many. [Laughs].The people who come to my mind – Peter May was a beautiful player. (Colin) Cowdrey was a good player. Sir Garry Sobers – oh, what a fantastic all rounder! I am yet to see a better all-rounder. Tremendous player. Sir Frank Worrell was a very stylish, elegant player. Rohan Kanhai. Neil Harvey. They were great players absolutely. Bowlers like (Roy) Gilchrist had speed. In those days we didn’t have helmets or chest guards or thigh pads. Nowadays they wear on both the legs, the protection is so good now that they are not afraid of fast bowling. In those days it was very difficult to play against those people. Even (Fred) Trueman was nasty, but (Brian) Statham was very accurate. Alec Bedser, though he was getting on with age when we played him, the way he bowled against us in 1958-59, that was fantastic. There were so many great players. (Richie) Benaud was another one. Simpson and Neil Harvey, the way they batted against us, they were fantastic. Lance Gibbs was a wonderful off-spinner. There were so many good cricketers. And don’t forget, we played on wickets which were never covered. On the uncovered wickets, every day the wickets would be different. The rules were also different. The front foot rule was not there. The fast bowlers would drag and overstep the crease and bowl from 18 yards! There was no restriction of bouncers. They could bowl 3 or 4 in one over. Sometimes, Gilchrist and Hall, Gilly in particular, bowled beamers.

SJ– I want to ask about that – against WI in 1959, and this is a question from Makarand Waingankar, he wants to know – you failed in 4 of the Test matches, but in one Test you scored 109 in one innings and almost scored another century in the 2nd, a 1996. What was different in Delhi where you scored almost 2 hundreds in two innings?

CB– Before that match, what happened was that in the first two matches I didn’t do well and was dropped from the team. They kept me in the reserves because I was an all-rounder and a fairly good fielder. That is why they kept me in the reserves. At Madras, now Chennai, one of the players was sick. So, again I was included in the team. Then, in the first innings I failed, I felt very miserable and bad. I went to the hotel, I think it was Connemara. I was sitting in the room after the game and my elder brother was there. He came to see me. He saw my face and said, “What’s wrong? It doesn’t matter, don’t worry. Let us pray together.” And we prayed together. You will be surprised that in the second innings I scored 50 odd runs. I don’t know what courage I got to bat against them, that was the turning point in my life. After that, I was again selected to play in the last Test match, at Delhi.

At that time, I decided – these bowlers are hitting me and taking my wicket, why not I give them back? That was my attitude. Instead of fear, I became a more confident player and a more fearful player. I decided to face them in their own yard, so to speak. I scored a 100 and just missed a second by 4 runs. That gave me tremendous courage, the 56 runs which I scored in the 2nd innings at Madras gave me the courage and confidence. After that I never looked back and was never dropped for 10 years!

SJ– I want to finish this with one last question, regarding serving Indian cricket. In 2007, the series in England, the one that you earlier mentioned, you went with the team. The Indian team didn’t have a head coach, since Greg Chappell was just fired. What was your influence on the team as a whole, on how they performed and how they won the Test series?

CB– What happened is that there was a lot of write-up in the media about Indian team’s performance – that was in WI I think.

SJ– Yes, the World Cup in WI.

CB– Yes, and, I believe the media wrote that there is unpleasantness amongst the team players and they were not on talking terms and something like that. The relation between the coach and the senior players was not very cordial. So, they decided to have someone with experience, who is respected, and that is why they selected me. I think largely because of Mr. Dungarpur– I think he suggested to BCCI President Sharad Rao Pawar. I had a call in the afternoon from Delhi and they called, “Chandu, do you have a passport?”

I replied, “Yes, sir. I have a passport.”

“You are going to England as the manager of the Indian cricket team.”

That came as a pleasant surprise to me. they selected me because, one thing, I knew all these players. I had coached many of them. When they were 19 years old, I was their manager, I was their selector, chairman, everything. That is why the boys had a lot of respect for me. When I was selected, because of my presence there, whatever the differences and other things that they had among themselves disappeared and we concentrated on the game and we won the series in England in England after 20 years. A lot of people didn’t give that much credit to the manager. I was their coach, their manager and everything. Now, they have manager, batsman-coach (sic), fielder-coach (sic). I had to look after all those things.

SJ– When you went with the team, when you went with them to England, did you have a meeting with the senior players and tell them what their responsibilities are?

CB– The very first thing that I did before going to the match, I said, “Before going to the ground, let us get together.” I called everybody and we had a meeting together. There I started asking questions right from the groundsman to the elder cricketers. One by one, I asked them questions. I asked their opinion also. They were elated. I told them, “Listen, I played cricket also. I am a cricketer. I know what you want and I know what what goes on as well. We are here to play cricket. You are a better team, much better than these people.” It hit them very nicely. That is why we could perform well in that tour. In fact, we won the ODIs there, we won the Test series, plus the Tri-series cup. At that time, they had introduced one cup, called “Pataudi Cup”, which also we received because we won the series. We won 4 cups.

SJ– What sort of the relationship did you have with Rahul Dravid, who was the captain for the series?

CB– Cordial. Rahul is a knowledgeable boy, there was very little to tell him. He knows the game and he played quite a lot of cricket. He played against all the countries and his experience was also there. Everything went on very well, satisfactorily.

SJ– When you look back, India hasn’t won a Test series in England since. India lost 4-0 in England in 2011 and now they lost the series 3-1. What do you think should be done by these players to actually win the series like they did when you were with the team?

CB– Let me be honest – I personally thought that after winning the Test match [at Lord’s], they should have continued with that performance in the remaining Test matches because this team is full of talent, there are a lot of talented players. But, the mistakes that they did the later Tests, where the English team corrected themselves from the loss from earlier in the series. If you notice, their batsmen used to stand outside the crease and smothered the swing of (Bhuvneshwar) Kumar. They changed their technique. For India, only (M.S.) Dhoni was coming forward, and to a certain extent, (Ravichandran) Ashwin. He also batted well, if you noticed. They came forward, left their crease and performed very well after that. But the remaining batsmen didn’t correct themselves. That was sort of the downfall of our batting line up. It should have been corrected and implemented earlier. Only Dhoni did that. That was the reason why they lost the remaining games.

England changed their technique and tactics and bowled well on the green tops. Of course, that were suited for their medium pacers. They prepared it. We do the same thing in India when other sides come, we prepare slow, turning wickets. It helps. That sort of thing, we should have done, because the boys have very good talent, and I was really shocked that they lost after winning the Test match, and lost all the remaining Test matches. It was quite a surprise to me because they didn’t change their technique.

SJ– You have been associated with Indian cricket for 60 years or more. As you look back at your playing career, your coaching and managing, as well as selectorial career, what sort of feeling did you have about yourself and Indian cricket?

CB– Frankly, I was one of the fortunate ones to play for my country continuously for a number of years, and then after that serve Indian cricket in different capacities as manager, coach and sometimes as curator also. I have done all these things very sincerely, dedicatedly and I enjoyed it enormously. Therefore, when I sit back, I feel so satisfied. I am a contended man. I am thankful to the board for giving me opportunities for serving the game for a long period.I am happy that, as a Chairman of the Selection Committee, we introduced so many cricketers and they had performed so well for the country and are still doing very well. That satisfaction is fantastic. You cannot write it down in words. It is superb.

Absolutely superb.

SJ– On that note, thank you very much Mr. Chandu Borde. It was an absolute pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much for your services to Indian cricket.

CB– Alright! Thank you!

SJ– Bye.


Episode transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman