‘If there is God, would there be only one Warne?’

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: What was to be a usual tryst with a couple of mugs of chilled Kingfisher beer at the Pelican Pub on a windy, cloudy Sunday afternoon in the company of my friend Prasanna, (S.S., not E.A.S.!)turned out to be one rollicking, memory filled walk down the lane of Indian cricket.

As we settled down in the shade of the awning, in walked one of the greatest leg-spinners of all time, Bhagwat Subramanya Chandrashekhar along with a common friend, Kumar

“Hello, hello, hello…,” he began in the manner that typifies him. The toothy grin was perfectly in place. And so was his enthusiasm. Not to forget the completely self-effacing coolness. “I’m so happy to be in Mysore. And to be able to have a beer or two. You know, I hardly go out in Bangalore….”

On Mysore: Let me tell you, I should have decided to buy myself a plot in Mysore a long time ago. It’s such a culturally evolved place. So full of calm. The worst part about Bangalore is the commuting. Even a trip to the market in the neighbourhood takes a good two hours. And then there is the problem of finding a parking space. 

On present day cricket: Oh, it‘s become so very mechanical. Too much of planning. Too much of analysis both on and off the field. I cannot comprehend that lap top guy Bob Woolmer. The naturalness of it all has gone forever. I can tell you, lots of matches these days have been lost because of excessive planning.

I would always tell (Mansur Ali Khan) Pataudi, give me a short leg, a fine leg and a leg slip. If I bowl short they’ll hit me to the fence. If I bowl the right length, you have your wicket. Simple. And they’d say my faster one was as fast as (Dennis) Lillee or (Jeff) Thomson.

Today’s cricketers are so conscious of themselves. Perhaps they don’t even enjoy a beer like the way we are doing now (laughs). But then, there’s so much money around these days, they cannot afford to take chances with themselves, I guess. 

On Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Mutthiah Muralidharan: Warne is the greatest greatest. My god, he’s too good a bowler. Kumble’s achievement has been phenomenal as well. Moreover, he’s a very good man.

Muralidharan a chucker? Well… it’s surely not possible to have chucked your way to some 600 wickets in life (chuckles). Just take a ball and try literally flinging it at batsmen like you’d fling a stone. Even then you’ll not get wickets. You would stand a chance of getting some wickets if you bowled.

What I mean is Murali’s action is his own. Too many unnecessary things have been written about it. And too much has been read into it.  Let him be. That’s his style of bowling. 

On Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar: For heaven’s sake, it’s not my intention to make undue comparisons but let me be honest, Gavaskar is the greatest batsman to have padded up for India. The quality of bowling during his time was way ahead of the present day stuff.  

Needless to say, Tendulkar is a wonderful batsman. But somehow the battles of the 1970s were more intense, especially for Indian batsmen. I can never forget Gavaskar’s hundred in the Manchester Test against the likes of Chris Old, (Mike) Hendrick, (Bob) Willis and (Derek) Underwood

On Gundappa Vishwanath’s epic 97 not out in the 1975 Madras Test against the West Indies: Well, it was not my fault that I got out (laughs loudly). ‘Avanu sumne irlarde, eh, nodkolo husharagi, bouncer haktane iga, anta helda.’ (Vishwanath came down the wicket and told me quite unnecessarily that they were planning to bowl a vicious bouncer at me. I got a little too conscious of that and when the ball was actually delivered, I ended up fending exaggeratedly. The result was a catch in the slips. Otherwise he could have got his hundred that day.) 

On Clive Lloyd’s famed West Indian pace battery: Don’t ask me. You should ask those guys who really played them. I would get out first ball or thereabouts (uproarious laughter!) 

On his success as a cricketer: Well, what can I say? I think it was all providence. I never imagined any of the things that have happened to me in my life. I’m not overly religious. But when I sit back and think of the way my life has unfolded, I feel there is some force that has acted upon me.

On whether there is God: Well, well… if God existed there should have been equality in this world. Every bowler should have been as good as me or Warne or Kumble or anyone else. Why are some people more endowed than others? Why are some people more fortunate than others? I just don’t know…. 

More beer….

The afternoon had soon turned to evening! My cell phone rang. It was my wife asking if I had forgotten to come home….

Also see: Swami Ayappa & Lyndon Flora