Transcript: Couch Talk with Kiran More

Couch Talk 159 (Play)

Guest: Kiran More

Host: Subash Jayaraman

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Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Hello and welcome to Couch Talk. The guest today is former Indian wicket keeper and chairman of selectors, Kiran More. He talks about his wicket keeper role-models, the best wicket keepers of his time and his memories from 1987 and 1992 Worlc Cups including the famous Javed Miandad incidents among other things.

Welcome to the show, Mr. More!

Kiran More (KM)– Thanks, Subash.

SJ– Thanks for being on the show. It is absolutely my pleasure having you.

KM– Good to be talking to you.

SJ– How old were you when you chose to be a wicket keeper, and who was instrumental in your decision?

KM– I started at a very early age, started with a tennis ball as a wicketkeeper. we used to play cricket with tennis ball with my brother who was brilliant with the tennis ball, he was quite famous in Baroda in the tennis ball tournaments. And he made a name as an outstanding wicketkeeper. That is how you go on the street and you want to be involved all the time. You bowl, bat or you can keep wickets where your involvement is there 100% of the time, or you go and stand somewhere. That is how I got in to keeping wickets.

SJ– As you started getting through the stages – district, state or first class cricket – were there other keepers around the world that you wanted to be like, like role models?

KM– Of course we had a couple of wicketkeepers in domestic cricket who were playing for Baroda. When I started playing school cricket, when I made my presence in school, I watched Bob Taylor, and took a lot of things from him, imitated him. That is how I got in my basics of wicket keeping. Bob Taylor was one of the finest wicket keeper. He played very late in his cricketing career, but he was outstanding.

SJ– You talked about the basics. I want to know what you consider as the basics, the absolute essential basic your good wicketkeeper must have.

KM– Basics – where your hand is positioned when you catch, you feet movement, body posture, hand–eye coordination is vital, your stance. It is like how the batsman and the bowlers have a good stance, wicket keepers also. Also, what height you take the ball. Those are the areas you work on so that you are injury free, the basics are right and you don’t get injured often. Wicket keepers have a tendency to get injuries big time. they miss a lot of matches because of serious injuries in the fingers, especially. Those are the areas you must be concerned about. if you get your basics right. You won’t get hurt often.

SJ– Of course, physical fitness comes into play and because getting up and down over and over 450 times a day in a Test match… What were your exercises and things that you did that kept you in that frame of body?

KM– I was a kho-kho player in the early stages of my cricketing career. There was a mixture of cricket and kho-kho that developed my fitness. Kho-kho is one of the fastest games and is domestically played. It is a very active game, you are diving and getting up. that is tough, and that shaped my career. Nothings specifically that I had done, an exercise, for my wicket keeping. There were no trainers. It was just what we watched of senior cricketers, what they did, and copied in fitness levels. I followed my routine yoga that I picked in early age, that helped me a lot. I was a student of B.K.S. Iyengar, and that helped me in my cricketing career.

SJ– Especially after your time, when Adam Gilchrist came along, coaches and teams and selectors started looking for batsmen who can keep wickets rather than the other way around where you are a pure gloveman. If you can contribute with the bat it is great. How do you assess this, is that a good way to go about it?

KM– I think wicket keeping is key to the team. If you are a good wicket keeper, if you have a good batting that does help you and the team. If the wicket keeper is not sure about catching the ball and is missing a lot of chances, captains won’t like it. talking about Adam Gilchrist, he was a good wicket keeper, he has a great record in wicket keeping. But, he was an outstanding batsman. As far as wicketkeeping was concerned, he was good enough to play for his country and break all the records in wicketkeeping also. The only thing I have seen is that people make you feel that wicketkeepers should be better batsmen than keepers. Wicketkeeping is very key to the success of his batting too- if he doesn’t keep wickets well, and he is missing a couple of catches, he is going to miss out on his batting because it is going to affect his concentration and confidence. I think when you look at Adam Gilchrist or a lot other wicket keepers who played batsmen-wicketkeeper you will see that they were fine wicketkeepers as well. i feel that wicketkeeping is very key to the team’s success. MS Dhoni or Adam Gilchrist, for example. MS Dhoni has more than 500 victims in all form of cricket. I think that they are good batters, they are good wicket keepers as well.

SJ– If you look at Pakistan in the World Cup, they tried Umar Akmal in the first 4 matches, he is a part time wicket keeper, and they got someone else to open. Now, they have brought back Sarfaraz Ahmed who is a wicket keeper first, and they are using his batting ability up the order as well. I think that is the better way to look at it, right?

KM– That is what I was telling you. Umar Akmal might be a good batsman, but he is not a good wicket keeper, that was affecting his batting as well. i always believed that Sarfraz Ahmed should keep wickets. He also has a great record, look at his record. I think he is good enough wicketkeeper, I think we can call him a specialist wicketkeeper. He was also good in batting, he can be an all rounder. For me, Sangakkara and MS Dhoni are both all-roudners and wicket keepers have to be all-roudner – you have to bat and you are the best judge of the match, you know the situation, the captain takes the updates from you on the batters, the captain and the bowler takes the tips from you, and you set up the fielding position even if you are not the captain. You are in the best position, even the captain is not there, at best he is at slips. The wicketkeeper is the best all-roudner, you can say – he is a main captain. That is what has made MS Dhoni so successful – he knows what is happening from behind the stumps. It is a very difficult job to captain and do wicket keeping, but MS has done that job outstandingly. He has done the job as a wicket keeper, is a great captain. It was said that it is hard to be a captain as a wicket keeper, the has proved everyone wrong. Earlier, the theory was wicket keeper cannot be the captain because he has to do too many things on the field. He has to keep an eye on the ball all the time. He has proved everyone wrong.

SJ– You took over form Syed Kirmani. In your playing career and after, who would you say is the best pure gloveman that you have seen in the last 30 odd years? Dhoni, Gilchrist, (Kumar) Sangakkara… all these guys are there, but they are all all-rounders who were batsmen as well as wicket keepers. But, pure wicket keepers that you have seen in the last 30 years – who had the best technique behind the stumps?

KM– I think we had Ian Healy who was outstanding as a wicket keeper. he was brilliant, more traditional wicket keeper. Jack Russell from England was outstanding, he was one of the best wicket keepers England has ever had. They are two guys that I can name.

SJ– You also kept wickets to the greatest Indian fast bowler – Kapil Dev, and you also kept wickets to perhaps the greatest spin bowler India ever produced – Anil Kumble. Was there any preference – did you prefer keeping to Anil or Kapil paaji?

KM– Keeping wickets to fast bowlers is always easy, and Kapil has beautiful action. I find it very easy to keep wickets to Kapil because he had more out-swingers, you know what is happening. He bowled a great line and so it was easy, a lot of balls used to come to the wicket keeper. I really enjoyed keeping wickets to Kapil Dev.

Anil was a terrific bowler, he was a bowler who was the toughest to keep wickets on the third and fourth day when the wear and tear on Indian wickets came out, it was difficult. He used to get that variant bounce. Indian pitches had variable bounce – some balls kept low, some bounced high. He had that the third and fourth day. The pitch used to play a lot of role in that. Anil was the most dangerous bowler to keep wickets to because of his height he used to deliver the ball, and he was a lot quicker through the air. First two days was not an issue, third and fourth day was difficult to keep wickets to Anil.

SJ– In terms of the wicketkeepers’ technique while keeping to spinners, especially on wickets in India – how difficult is it, how different is it, and how do you train for it?

KM– To keep wickets in subcontinent is always difficult – the ball doesn’t come to you, you have to catch the ball. Keeping wickets in Australia and South Africa is easier. England, again, especially a few wickets it is very difficult – like Lord’s or Leeds, where the ball dips in the last yard for the fast bowlers and changes the direction. So, it is most difficult to keep wickets in grounds in England. It is not easy to keep to fast bowlers. For spinners, it is not a problem. But, subcontinent is the toughest to keep wickets in. the ball keeps low, it is dusty, dry. To the fast bowlers also it is very difficult because the ball doesn’t come to you and the ball keeps low. So, you have to bend all the time and keep low all the time. it is very tough to keep wickets in India because when you play on sub-continental places, the spin takes a lot of advantages of the pitches. There are turning tracks and the matches get over in 2 – 3 days. it is very tough.

Keeping wickets on turning tracks is easier than keeping wickets on flatter tracks. On flatter wickets sometimes for two hours you won’t get a ball and then a ball will just come after three hours for a caught behind and you drop the ball. You lose the concentration. On the turning tracks it is enjoyable to keep wickets, it is challenging. But I used to enjoy keeping wickets on turning tracks because there are more chances of getting victims and create victims. I used to really enjoy doing that.

SJ– There is a question from a listener – Srinivasan. This is about wicket keepers wearing helmets for protection. You had the Mark Boucher incident where he got hit in the eye by a bail and he lost his eyesight. And, Nayan Mongia was hit in the face by one from Kumble. You didn’t wear a helmet while keeping. But, if you were to play now, would you think about wearing protection? What do you think has changed in the wicketkeeping technique that people are wearing helmet now?

KM– I say, thank God I didn’t get any injuries because watching cricket now, playing without a helmet is scary for me. in those days, you had to do everything including standing up to the fast bowlers without helmets. But, keeping wickets without helmets is like hell because of too many inventions of innovative shots – the reverse sweeps, the Dilshan Scoop – it is very dangerous standing upto the stumps and keeping wickets. It is very challenging. I would advice everyone to wear helmets. It is most dangerous. I was lucky that I didn’t have any injury to my face, without wearing a helmet while keeping the wickets. Everyone has to wear helmets now. The equipment are good and there are great helmets that cover your face and the eye. The eye injuries are very dangerous, if you get hit on the eye you are gone forever. If protection is available, why take chances? Wear it and keep wickets.

I can also tell you a fact that the wicket keeping techniques have gone down. I feel that there is more work done for the fitness, but not for the technique of wicket keeping, like the hand position while keeping wickets or position while standing up, the head position. I don’t see any classy wicket keeper in world cricket as there were. The technique improves, like in batting. there will be less injuries to the wicket keepers and there will be more victims, they will get the benefit out of that.

SJ– Also, since the World Cup is going on, I want to get your thoughts on the two that you participated in – the 1987 at home in India and 1992 in Australia. First, the 1987 World Cup – playing at home, India having won in 1983 and the World Championship in Australia in 1985 – there was a lot of pressure on India for winning at home. Can you talk about your memories from the 1987 World Cup?

KM– In the 1987 World Cup, we thought we would be in the finals. We were playing very well. We were one the favourites, playing at home. That was one of the advantages for us. India and Pakistan, both. We started off very well, we won a match, we lost to Australia by one run, we then beat them in Delhi. We beat New Zealand in Nagpur. We qualified for the semi-finals. we thought England were one of the best teams in the World Cup. We came to Wankhede, the home ground. We had an advantage because of the lights, the turn. It was dry. We were 217 for 3 and we collapsed to 250 or something like that. We lost about 20 runs there. We thought that the match was in our hands, but due credits to England they were outstanding. I thought that we had one of the best sides in that tournament because our track record was outstanding since we won the World Cup. We were dominating World Cricket in the ‘80s because in 1985 we won the World Championship, we dominated the tour to Australia in ‘85/’86, we won in 1986 in ODIs in England. When we played in 1987 in India, we thought we had a big chance to win the tournament in India and I thought we lost that chance by a whisker.

SJ– In 1992, India did not have a great World Cup – India won only against Pakistan and Zimbabwe. But, from the match against Pakistan, there is this iconic image of you and (Javed) Miandad. A lot of people sent in questions asking about what was said between you and Miandad. Can you elaborate on that?

KM– 1992, we were playing for the first time against Pakistan in World Cup. It was a huge hype. We would just listen to hockey matches, and India – Pakistan was huge in world hockey. This was the first time in any cricket World Cup that India was playing Pakistan. Big build up, the crowd was not that great but there were 78000 people cheering all the time. the media built it up big time.

In the 1980s and Pakistan was always the better side and we were the underdogs. They batted very well initially. They were about 70 or 80 for one or two down when Javed walked in. Sachin (Tendulkar) was bowling well. There was a appeal down the leg side off Sachin’s bowling. I thought Javed was out down the leg. He told me, “Aap appeal kyun kar rahe ho?” Why are you unnecessarily shouting? I replied to him, “You mind your business, I will mind mine.” So, that is what started it off. We kept on chatting all the time. he was batting and we kept on chatting. He said that “we will finish it off and will win this match.” I am talking in a better version. India – Pakistan matches has more of gaalis because the languages are pretty common – Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. There was another appeal on Javed. I flicked the bails and jumped and appealed again, and he started imitating me. he was telling me, “Kai ko appeal karte rehta hai?” (Why do you keep appealing?) And that is how umpire (David) Shepherd came into the scene, and shouted at Javed, “Why do you keep doing this? I will pull you out.” Javed was quiet later, but he was still chatting. I used to keep the gloves on my face and said a lot of things. Javed got frustrated because of his batting and I kept telling the bowlers to bowl up to him because he could not drive the ball. He was quite contend trying to play to the fine leg. I told the bowlers to pitch up to him as he couldn’t drive the ball and he got frustrated. a lot of pressure built on Pakistan team. Imran (Khan) got run out from extra-cover at the non-striker end, and the pressure came on Javed again. He kept shouting at me, said a lot of things, i gave him back, the whole team was giving him back. That was how it went, and then India won the match. That was a great feeling, beating Pakistan in the first meeting at the World Cup. That was great. People in India told us, “Don’t worry if you don’t win the World Cup, you won against Pakistan.” That was like India winning the World Cup. There were no hackers, no stone throwing when we came back from the tournament.

SJ– You also served as the chairman of the national selectors for India. I want to talk about that briefly and we can finish this off. There is a question from a listener, Karthik – you served as selector and did all the good work, India won 16 chases in a row, etc. But then, they had a very tough World Cup in 2007 and then having (Rahul) Dravid as captain and (Greg) Chappell as coach – those tough times, can you talk about those times and what you were trying to accomplish as a national selector?

KM– The unpleasant part was that in 2007, we didn’t pick the side. What plans we had before the World Cup, we worked for 4 years till 2007, and before the World Cup we had finished our tenure. We requested the board also if we could select the team to the World Cup as it would be easier for us to select the team than the next set of selectors. But we didn’t get a nod from the BCCI. So, a new selection committee comes in, and that was their call. The new selection team came in and picked the team for the World Cup. What we wanted in the team was not the same as that which went to the West Indies. So, one of the hard work that we had done did not help us. but, the 2011 side was one of the sides which had a lot of youngsters who we had backed in 2007. They won it in the 2011 World Cup. So, we are very happy that we thought about building a side….

You can’t build a side in one or two years, if you have plans for the next World Cup, you should start thinking about it now, not one year before it. you have to give opportunity to each and every player and give them a few ODIs before the next World Cup. You have a mixture of experienced guys who have played more than 100 ODIs, and those who have played 50 ODIs, so that there is experience going into the World Cup. That is the kind of plan that we had, but it didn’t work out. Before the 2007 World Cup, we had to go, and that was one of the disasters of the World Cup. I wish we could have selected that team, it might have been a different story.

SJ– Last question, and this comes from a former India cricketer – Hemang Badani. His question to you is that he had scored 60* only 2 games before he was dropped and he never played for India again. He was wondering why he was dropped, with you as the chairman as selectors.

KM– It is always a competition. You have great competition. There are very close calls that are taken. It is not that any biased selection has been done in the selection committee. It is always that there is a fair call. At that time he had competition from Yuvrajs (Singh) and (Mohammad) Kaifs, and the (Saurav) Gangulys and there was Dravid and Tendulkar and Laxman, too many. Maybe he was in the wrong time. i played one of the greatest left arm spinners in Indian history – Padmakar Shivalkar, I kept wickets for 14 years for him, and he never got to play for India. he got 700 wickets in Ranji Trophy, first class, matches. In those times he didn’t get an opportunity. That is what happens in cricket – there is always a close call that you have to take. sometimes they go right, they may go wrong also. The intentions are very good; there was no bias or call taken on any of the individual. There is only a marginal call taken by the five selectors.

SJ– I see. OK.

Alright! On that note, Mr. More, thank you so much for talking to me. It was an absolute pleasure talking to you!

KM– Same here. Thank you.

SJ– Thank you. Bye!


Episode Transcribed by Bharathram Pattabiraman