Couch Talk 154 (Play)
Guest: S Badrinath
Host: Subash Jayaraman
Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Welcome to the show, Badri!
Subramanian Badrinath (SB)– Sure, thank you!
SJ– It is a pleasure having you on.
How are you doing? How is the season with Vidarbha going?
SB– Honestly, it has been really good so far. From my performance point of view, it has been a great season for me. In 6 matches I have scored 500+ runs. Even in the One Dayers, in the two games that I played I got one 100 and one 85. So, overall it has been personally really good for me. My form has been good. It is just not the runs but also the way I am batting that is satisfying for me. I don’t see the volume of runs, but the way I am batting and the things that I am working on in the past one year – they have been coming good. That is what is making me really happy – my batting, the way I am hitting the ball.
SJ– You said ‘the kind of things that you are trying in the last year’. Could you expand further on that? You are someone who has played first class cricket for so long now, I am curious to know what are the things that you are working on now.
SB– As a batsman it is important to constantly keep evolving, keep on working on things – small technical things, small adjustments. After playing cricket for so long, it is impossible to make a radical change in the way I am as a batsman and as a cricketer. But, small adjustments… I have made. Small things, minor discrepancies keep creeping up in your game. So, I had an opportunity last year because I had a lot of time on my hand to work on my game and fitness. I have worked with a few coaches in Chennai and a few who I got in Bangalore when I was there. It was about a lot of homework that I did, a lot of video work, learning about what is going on in the game. I don’t want to go into the actual technicalities of it. But basically, I had a lot of time to actually invest in my game and fitness and also a lot of mental coaching and conditioning as well. That has also really helped. These things – in the last 6-8 years I haven’t really had the time to work on my game and invest into it. Last year, I had a lot of time and I really felt that I was a lot younger and could invest time and energy into my fitness and my game. that is what I have done. This season I am much fresher and feeling really good about myself. I am looking ahead to every day, waking up very excited about what the day is going to bring to me. That is what you need as a cricketer at this stage. A lot of passion has come into my life. These are the things that I am really happy about this year, at this point of my career.
SJ– Obviously you played for Tamil Nadu for many years. This year, you are playing for Vidarbha. What caused that change to move from TN to Vidarbha?
SB– Basically, it was all about the freshness I needed, because once you keep on playing domestic cricket for too long – I made my debut in 2000 – it is quite a long time that I have been playing cricket for TN. I enjoyed every bit of it. I enjoyed contributing to my home state, my home side. I have grown up playing my entire cricket there and I enjoyed playing very bit of it. It made me a cricketer. It was that stage where I needed some change and freshnes in my life, newer challenges. You have to constantly keep looking for newer challenges. That is what will drive you. It is what I would like to think about it – I need something driving me from behind to get the best out of me. it was at that point that I got a call from Vidarbha and I thought it was about the right time for me to take up a new challenge and move ahead with my career.
SJ– You have been the skipper of TN and you are now skippering Vidarbha. How different is it leading these two different teams?
SB– It is different. Talent wise, every team in India is talented, talent is abundant everywhere. The only thing different is in the mindset. Playing for TN, 7 or 8 guys would be pushing or aiming to play for the country or going for higher honours. But, I think when you play for a smaller state like Vidarbha it is important that they too start believing. For me, the challenge was also to change the mindset into playing more and more positive cricket – playing to win. It is a habit as well. Once you start playing to win, play positive cricket, you can’t go back to playing negative cricket. That is a challenge to me. That is something that I worked on as well. With these boys here, I have been empowering them. Rather than feeding a fish to a man, if you teach the man how to fish, you are doing more help to them. That is what I am trying to do here – I am trying to empower them, give them some confidence and play some positive cricket. I think there are two ways to play this game – playing not to lose and playing to win. That is what I have tried to change. These are small teams who are sometimes playing not to lose. But, it is important that now they have realised that. since I have been here, I have tried to change their mindset to play to win. That is where the major difference is between the two sides. I am happy it is something out really well.
SJ– As you mentioned, TN is a contender, so playing for a contender and being their captain is one thing. And, playing for Vidarbha is a different mindset. How do you approach it – not just as a captain, but as a player? How was it when you were playing for TN and how is it with Vidarbha? Hemang Badani, who also played for TN moved to Vidarbha. Did he have any input in your move?
SB– Yes, certainly. To be honest, he did have some inputs. I wasn’t sure what I was going to face here. He had been here for three years and played as a pro. It was important for me to get some inputs from him about things here, and how the people are, how the atmosphere is etc. He had a lot of good things to say about the state, the people, the environment and everything. That definitely helped me to decide on if I should make the move or not. That influenced me as well.
As a player I have really enjoyed myself so far. I have a lot of space to do whatever I want. That is more responsibility as well. Being a professional it is important to take up the responsibility. While batting, there is more responsibility in professionals and seniors to perform. There are some youngsters who haven’t played much cricket who are in the side. It is important for me to guide them and get a few cricketers play good cricket. That is my challenge. Not only just being there and scoring the runs, the important thing is to get a few cricketers to play good cricket as well. i think batting wise, I am really enjoying. I always enjoyed taking up responsibility and taking up load as a professional. So, I think it helps me to get the best out of me.
SJ– There is a question from a listener, Srinivasan – given the current state of cricket in TN, where there is a desperate need for an experienced batsman in the top-middle order area, and you had mentioned needing fresh challenges – there was a fresh challenge in TN. How do you see it being more challenging with Vidarbha?
SB– To be honest, this was a decision purely based on my cricket. Honestly, it was about my time where I thought my career was, and what I had to do with the rest of the cricket I had in my hand. That is when I made the change. It is not a question about if TN is going to miss me. At that point of decision, it was purely taking my cricket, and how much I can get the best out of myself into account. It was what actually influenced my thinking. This was a decision taken purely based on a lot of relationships that I had with Tamil Nadu Cricket Association – I went and sat with them and spoke to them. It was a very smooth process which happened after a lot of discussion and everything. that question is better answered by saying that it is more regards to where my career was heading and what I wanted to get from the rest of my cricket.
SJ– I want to just ask one more question on that topic. You had mentioned in an interview earlier that the TN State Cap is being given away too easily. Do you think that has affected TN’s performance and did it have any role in you moving out of TN?
SB– Honestly, I just want to make a correction. I told that TN state cap is actually earned. That is what I had said. i didn’t say that it was thrown away. I said that TN cap needs to be earned. I am a firm believer that any cap, state cap or a national cap, it has to be earned, it has to be given to performers who have served. It mustn’t be just given away for nothing. Only then you can get the best out of them. If something is given away too easy people don’t know the value of it. The important thing is playing for a first class team or a national team or for an IPL team, it should be based purely on performance, not just a lone performance but consistent performance. Lone performance here and there and (if) you get recognized, then that is not a fair call for anyone. It is important that any representative cap should be earned. It is how I like to think. Then, people would know the value and it would be easier for them to serve their national or state team for a long time.
SJ– Did it have any role in you choosing to move out of TN?
SB– Honestly, no. like I said, it had nothing to do with TNCA or IPL or anything like that. it was just a coincident that people get that notion. It was purely based on what I was looking at – my career. In the last 15 years, I have played for TN. I have had only one thing – my team, TN – on my mind. I have given 100% for the state. I have never thought of anything else. At certain points, I might have reached a thought of as a professional cricketer, about what I would want to do. It is important to come in your professional career a full circle. It was about the right time when I got the call, and it was about time that I wanted to move on for my career or for my personal perspective to get the best out of me with the rest of the cricket left in me.
SJ– In your time with TN, and let’s compare the Ranji Trophy wins with the neighbouring state – Karnataka. What do you think has held back from accomplishing as much as – let us forget Mumbai – Karnataka in the recent years?
SB– I think it is only with the mental ability. I would say that is what has held TN back. Talent wise, there has always been talent and cricketers who have been coming up who are talented. It is all about handling pressure, the mental ability. When you go out there and face a bowler who bowls really well, is consistent and when you see a track which is helping the bowlers – you have to forget everything else and just watch the ball. It is not easy, it is easier said than done. It is important to develop the mental skills. I definitely feel it is lacking in TN cricket. It is definitely not the strongest point. When there is pressure and when the conditions are up and difficult, when playing in the North, in bowler friendly conditions, it is not the talent but the mental skills that need to be developed for that. The difference is only in the mind. The mental skills have to be there. I don’t know how it can be inculcated or brought in, but there is the difference.
SJ– I want to talk about your IPL career a little bit and then your Test career. Talking about IPL, there is a question from listener, Anantha, who is a big Badrinath fan. His question is – you were sent in if there were early wickets down for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to come and steady the ship, while if the openers did well or the top-3 did well, then a lot of the times you didn’t even get to bat. This sort of shuffling, do you think this affected your prospects with other IPL teams? Was this done based on the skills that you had?
SB– No, I think it was just my role with the CSK. I don’t think I am a player who can just do that role. If you have seen my knocks, it is a tough thing to play. When the game is at 0/2 or 5/2 or 10/2, I don’t think it is easy to go out and bat. But, I have played knocks and I have a strike rate close to 120. It is just that in CSK it happened to become like that. i don’t think I am a player just for that role. I have my skill sets, and I have proved quite a few times that I can play any number and play any situation. I have played crucial knocks and pace when we chased down 190 – 200 runs. It is just that the mindset, the way it has become… To be honest, if any team is thinking that I can do only that role, it is definitely not valid and I cannot accept that. I have proved it otherwise. In CSK it became like that because of the players who were there who were ahead and behind me – I had (Suresh) Raina ahead of me and (M.S.) Dhoni behind me, followed by (Dwayne) Bravo and we opened with (Matthew) Hayden. These kinds of players, the team and combination which designed my role to such a way. But definitely it wasn’t the way I can play. I am a multi specialist player as a batsman.
SJ– I want to understand the scenario. Let’s say you enter the ground – whether it was Chepauk or wherever, but you are not sure where you are going to bat that day. More than the skills, I want to know how you approach. T20 moves so fast, you don’t have much time thinking what is happening. But, at the same time you have to stay focussed to be ready to go in whenever required – whether it is 5/2 or 150/1.
SB– Like I said, it was definitely not an easy thing to do. It was a very hard role. I remember Stephen Fleming – CSK coach – speaking to me quite a few times, where he told me that what I did for the team was definitely invaluable and not an easy thing to do. It is a hard thing to do. I can understand that from my side. Many times I had been upset, not in the best frame of mind. It is just normal. He has spoken to me a lot of times, telling me that it was not the easiest thing to do. I think it was very hard, but I was really proud of myself that I had fulfilled that role. It was so tough but I did it to the best of my abilities. I had to work harder, had to practice playing defensively and offensively as well. I had to work on quite a lot of things.
SJ– From the mental aspect of it – you did this for 5 years.
SB– 6 years, actually. Yes, mentally too, it was not an easy thing to do. i had to come into the match and I didn’t know where I was going to bat. I had to pad up with the openers, but I didn’t know when I was going to go in to bat. Like I said, it was not easy, mentally. I had to prepare myself for multiple situations. I had to practice for them all, it was hard work.
SJ– Did you feel let down by the CSK when they didn’t pick you in the auction last year?
SB– To be honest, yes. immediately after the action I was feeling a little let down. CSK being my home team and being with them for 6 years… It was natural to feel let down. I have moved on. That is done and buried, it has almost been an year now. I have worked hard a lot on my game and it has taught me so much. Over the last 15 years of my career, the last year has taught the most with regards to my mental ability, my training skills, fitness, batting, everything. I am a much more matured person nw. I am more equipped to handle anything, both in my life and in my game. My next phase has come, and I am preparing myself for what is to come ahead.
SJ– I want to talk a bit about your India career as well, so far. You only got an opportunity to play two Tests, which form the outside seems quite unfair. Out of those two Tests in SA, in one of the Tests you scored a 50 when none of the other batsmen made any runs. Do you feel that justice wasn’t done to what you had done for the team?
SB– Honestly, I have scored over 9000 first class runs with an average of close to 60. That speaks, I don’t need to talk anything else. I playing only two Tests is not anything I – or anybody – would be happy with. But I think it is something beyond my control I cannot select myself. The selectors have to select me. I am just focusing on my career, on whatever I have on my hand and trying to play the best cricket that I can for whichever team that I am playing for. I am burying the rest of the expectations. Whatever comes, I will take with both my hands.
SJ– As you mentioned, you made the first class debut in 2000 and you made your Test debut in South Africa many years later. What was the feeling when you finally got to wear the India cap and you are facing the number one team at that time and the number one bowler – Dale Steyn? What was it like when you got to your fifty? It must have been satisfying. Can you take us through that innings, and how it was to face Steyn?
SB– Honestly, it was a dream come true. I still remember the day before the Test match, I was really nervous going to practice. I was really hyped up, looking forward to the game – I couldn’t wait for the game to begin. I couldn’t wait for the excitement of the game to happen. I had a nice chat with the maestro – none other than Sachin Tendulkar. I told him that I was nervous and I didn’t know what to do, and i had a Test debut ahead. He said, “It is OK. Just relax. Even I am nervous before every game. i have been playing 100 Tests and even I am nervous. It is normal to be nervous.” I needed to accept that I am being nervous. He said, “This is where you want to be – among the best, facing the best of the bowlers, the best team in the world.” that is what you want and look forward to as a cricket, looking to be among the best.” That is what I learnt from him.
The next day, when I was facing Steyn, I wanted to focus on the ball and forget everything else. I remember when I spoke to (Michael) Hussey before, he had told me that when he played on his debut– OK, I have achieved, I have played Test cricket. That is what I thought as well – now I have played Test cricket as well. I think it is something that I have achieved. i wanted to leave everything behind, and just go there, relax, watch the ball and play. When I went in to the middle, I was so serenely relaxed. Only the day before I was nervous. That really helped me, being relaxed, I batted really well and got a fifty. That is the way I like to bat – watch the ball and bat.
SJ– When you look at Hussey, he also made his debut for Australia quite late.. but now, if you look at Chris Rogers, current opener for Australia’s Test team – he played for Australia and was dropped and when he was 35-36 he has been brought back and he is going to have a bit more to his international career. Do you take inspiration from characters like that?
SB– Yeah, like I said – this has been covered by some of my answer before. People get to earn their cap. These are the cricketers who have played really good cricket, in tough situations. When people do things like this, you can’t help it but be inspired looking at these people going out there and doing it for their country in the later stages of their carer. These are the things that is inspiring to me, these guys are inspiring. Like I said, I have not ruled anything out. I am not having any expectations, I am just trying to play my best cricket, whatever I can do with whatever I have on my hand. I am leaving my expectations to the almighty, whatever comes my way I will take it.
SJ– This is an unfair question to ask, but let me ask anyway – which one would you like – a contract with an IPL franchise or another opportunity to play Test cricket? Which one – if both options were available – would you pick?
SB– Honestly, it has to be Test cricket. It is a very easy question. It is just for my childhood – when I was 17-18 years old, from that time I had been dreaming of Test cricket. There was no IPL or anything like that – it happened only 7 or 8 years back. Since I was a kid it has always been a dreamt o play for India. It is a simple answer, it is a childhood dream. Like a kid who wants to be a pilot, I wanted to be playing Tests cricket. That is an easy answer. I am a greedy person as a cricketer, if I could I would want to have both. But, if I had to pick only one it would definitely be Test cricket.
SJ– Alright, Badri! Thank you so much for being on the show. I wish you all the very best.
SB– Sure, Subash. Thanks a lot.
Episode Transcribed by Bharathram Pattabiraman