India’s epic win in the 1983 World Cup cannot be complete without mentioning Mohinder Amarnath, who won back-to-back Man of the Match awards in the semi-final against England and in the final against the West Indies.
India’s World Cup hero talks to Zeenews.com’s Swati Chaturvedi on her show Kahiye Janab. Amarnath re-lives the unforgettable moments of that famous win and assess Indian chances in the 2011 World Cup.
Swati Chaturvedi: First of all, tell us the secret behind your lucky red hanky?
Mohinder Amarnath: In India, everyone believes in luck, and when you know something is lucky for you then you want to keep it with you for all success.
SC: But how did it become lucky?
MA: My father was a great player and I used to listen many of his stories about his playing days. I had heard that he used to keep his favourite red hanky while playing. When I started playing, I wanted to emulate him every bit. To my luck, it turned out to be my favourite as well. Whenever I used to go on foreign tours, it was the first thing I used to pack. And I still have those red hankies at my house. Earlier, I had three of them, but now I have only two on which I have got autographs of two Indian teams - one of 1983 World Cup team and other of the tied Test match against Australia, and have got them framed.
SC: The 1983 World Cup was in very different times. When you people won the World Cup, there were hardly any expectations. Today it looks like that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is carrying expectations of billion people on his shoulders. What do you have to say about it?
MA: It all depends on how you adapt your game today. This current team has huge talent and potential, and there is this baggage of expectations too. But for me, the biggest worry is the injuries to players. If the complete team remain 100 percent fit, it is definitely the best chance. You have favourable conditions and wickets. But, cricket is a funny game and crazy thing happens. We almost went on a holiday in 1983 and there was no pressure on us. Today, it’s a different game. People of India have tremendous faith and are expecting nothing less than the World Cup. I have no doubt that India will reach the quarter-final stages and then you have to play the best cricket on three testing days - quarterfinal, semi-final and the final.
SC: In which department, you think, India looks a bit weak in comparison to other big teams?
MA: India have a tremendous batting line-up and the bowling too looks okay on subcontinent pitches. For me, the only department India need to worry is their fielding.
SC: Tell me, why are we so gloriously un-athletic in fielding?
MA: Fielding department requires the most amount of hard work during training. Things don’t change overnight and you don’t become athletic in a day. I remember Azhar used to train hard even though there were no good stadiums in Hyderabad. There is no short-cut to hard work and only hard work is pre-requisite to reach world class standards.
SC: You said hard work is the key to success. Yet there are players who party hard and look out of shape. You see players like Yuvraj Singh…Don’t you think cricketers of today should work hard more on their fitness?
MA: I believe when you play cricket, you can give no excuse for your failures. You can party whole night, but then you have to give more than your 100% on the field. And these guys are mature enough to understand it. It is just that these things make news when you don’t perform. But discipline is vital for every sportsman. You have to draw a line because your body does not allow you to party every night. Remember, if you are not 100 percent fit, it reflects on your batting, bowling and fielding.
SC: Who do you think is the fittest cricketer in the present set-up? People in your team used to be very fit those days?
MA: We used to have some brilliant fielders in the team. (Krishnamachari) Srikkanth was an outstanding fielder, Roger Binny was sharp too. Then you had superfit Kapil Dev. Even others were average fielders, but nobody was poor. If we compare both teams then definitely our team of 1983 was bit better because of three or four outstanding fielders. But things will not change overnight and no one will suddenly become Jonty Rhodes. So whatever you have, make the best out of it.
SC: Who according to you is the best fielder in the present team?
MA: Virat Kohli is a standout fielder. For me, at present, he is one of the best in the world. Suresh Raina is also a wonderful fielder, but the rest look average. There are few players who are in their 30s. Many of them are returning from injuries, which will reflect on their fielding. So, I think batsmen have to make the best of the opportunities to compensate for their average fielding performance.
SC: Many of our cricket experts believe that this long-stretched World Cup schedule is exploiting Indian passion for cricket for solely commercial reasons. What do you have to say on that?
MA: Honestly speaking, even I don’t think that this long a World Cup is necessary. World Cup is an ICC event so it is up to them to see if stretching tournament to 14 teams is a wise decision. I don’t think that a premier event like World Cup should be stretched beyond 30 days.
SC: Today, politicians have taken over top positions in national and international cricketing bodies. Do you think that it is necessary or there should be a change in the system?
MA: I respect people and politicians who are doing well in their careers, but I want to see more cricketers to take senior positions in sporting bodies. Personally, I want to see a cricketer as BCCI president.
SC: Do you think it is possible?
MA: Why not? Just see Karnataka Cricket Association. Cricketers like Anil Kumble, Srinath and other cricketers are running it efficiently. I think more cricketers should be part of BCCI because that will help cricket to grow in India. It’s a simple formula - if you are a cricketer, you think more about cricket ,and if you are a politician, then you think more about politics. Cricket in India belongs to cricketers and they should be treated specially.
SC: Coming back to the World Cup, what was the X-factor of 1983 team? We now know it was red hanky for you, but what was the X-factor for other players like Kapil, Binny and Madan Lal?
MA: For us, the biggest X-factor was our self-confidence. Every player knew his role and our captain never used to speak much on the roles of individual players. When a bowler was handed the ball, he was left to make his own bowling plan. Everyone played to their abilities and contributed at the time when it mattered most for the team.
SC: As a player, you’ve seen many captains like Kapil, Sourav Ganguly, Dhoni etc. Who among them would you rate the best?
MA: I’ve played under many captains and everybody had their own style. For me, Bishan Singh Bedi was one of the best for the team. Another captain I admire the most was Sunil Gavaskar. Though he didn’t have the best team, he was wonderful tactically. For me, a good captain is the one who can produce extraordinary performance from an ordinary cricketer.
SC: What message do you have for Mahendra Singh Dhoni?
MA: Give your best and play to the basics, you have billion people praying for your success. Go, play and bring back the glory!