The interaction had to be somewhat curtailed, though, owing to Ian’s post-match TV commitments.
Ian rarely gives interviews, but he has occasionally been making an exception for this Reporter. The first one-on-one, in fact, was way back during the 1992 World Cup.
Q You’ve been a part of official and unofficial cricket history... You played in the first-ever ODI and captained Australia in the first unofficial Super ‘Test’ and in the first-ever unofficial D/N 50-over game (the last two during Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket)... As a commentator, you’ve now watched the first D/N Test... Your match-end observations?
A No.1 reaction is why did it take so long? I played an unofficial D/N ‘Test’ back in January 1978, almost 40 years ago... I’d always thought D/N Tests could be an option as they allowed fans the opportunity to finish the day’s work and, then, come over to the ground. Perhaps, the only thing holding D/N Tests back was the colour of the ball... D/N Tests can also be beneficial for players with (white) skin like mine. They won’t end up playing that much in the sun! Sun-inflicted damage gets minimised.
[The six-day unofficial ‘Test’ saw the Tony Greig-captained World XI defeat Australia by four wickets.]
In a signed article, you’ve written that the only players who’d struggle with the D/N Test concept would be the ones very concerned with their records...
Yes, that’s what I feel.
Just to go back to 1978... Did you have to adjust much going into the unofficial D/N ‘Test’?
One just did what needed to be done, for one didn’t want to perform poorly... The bowlers don’t sit idle and look for ways to get you out. So, you have to adjust in the best manner.
You obviously enjoyed the D/N Test...
I did, yeah... It might be a low-scoring affair when bowlers do well, but the matches certainly get interesting. The previous Test (in Perth) was boring. I don’t enjoy the cricket when it’s not a fairly even contest. The one at the Adelaide Oval was exciting. All of us enjoyed it.
Choosing Adelaide as the venue was smart, wasn’t it?
Absolutely. Picking Adelaide was, to my mind, a masterstroke on the part of Cricket Australia. The weather lends itself to D/N cricket and Adelaide has always been a traditional cricket city. You won’t have empty stands and, this time, there were record crowds. To have 1,23,736 come through the turnstiles was nothing short of staggering. That, too, in three days.
D/N Tests won’t be possible in every country, for obvious reasons... Also, even within one country, there would be venues not suited for D/N Tests... How could this, then, be taken forward?
Look, in recent years, Test cricket is already being played under a different set of rules... Some series have the DRS in place, others don’t. So, if that is acceptable, with there being no uniformity, then why not D/N Tests in some countries, not in all 10? With all the countries having watched the first D/N Test, I assume some would like to hold one, to start with. I expect this to catch on, even if gradually.
What about the minuses?
Nothing is ever perfect in this world... Having said that, I didn’t see anything for me to say that we aren’t ready for D/N Tests. We are. Of course, dew could be a factor in some countries/venues... That being so, don’t play there. Play where possible.
Is the twilight period a bit of an issue for batsmen? The ball definitely did more then...
My take is different... The twilight period creates opportunities for tactics... The administrators need to fix the long (40-minute) break during that phase, so that much of it falls in the twilight period.
You mentioned tactics...
Yes... A captain could come to the twilight period in a poor position, but (through tactics) could use that phase to change the situation completely. The twilight period actually gives captains the opportunity to add tactical aspects to their game. Anything which allows room for tactical imagination is good for cricket.
Captains need to think more...
Has captaincy become rather predictable?
Predictability is a problem in the 50-over game, with captaincy having become blueprint captaincy. Please, captaincy shouldn’t work that way... It’s because of the predictable nature of captaincy that I’d like the experiment of two 25-over innings for each team instead of 50 overs straight. That way both teams would bat during the day and both at night. The idea was quickly shelved as the players probably didn’t embrace it.
Overall, are you satisfied with the standard of captaincy in the present times?
Nowadays, I see some ludicrous things in captaincy... Often, captains make a move which defies explanation. That makes me cranky. Captains must have a reason for doing things... A captain is decent only if there’s a reason behind his moves.
Well, who qualifies as a good captain?
Captains come in different shapes and sizes, their personalities are different... Players like honesty and captains must earn their respect. Also, a bit of imagination never hurts. Think out of the box, at times... A captain must take his gambling instincts onto the field.
Captains shouldn’t fear losing, but hate losing... If you hate losing, you’ll then do everything you can to avoid such an outcome.
How much of captaincy is off the field? Surely, it’s not a nine-to-five job...
The more you’re a captain off the field, more the rewards you’ll reap on it. It’s not a 24-hour job, but not very far from it either. As captain, I always believed that if I expected 100 per cent on the field, I’d have to give that much off it... When Terry Jenner was in trouble, people asked me why I’d gone to meet him in prison. My answer was that once captain, you’re the players’ captain for life... I couldn’t have put it any better.
[Jenner, who is no more, was behind bars for a white-collar crime. He was released after 18 months and, in the initial stages, had a role in Shane Warne’s rise.]
In recent years, at least, have you liked somebody’s captaincy?
Michael Clarke, I thought, was a very good captain. He always tried to take the game forward... He was innovative, tried to take wickets... He was imaginative. Looking back, his declarations were aggressive... Michael probably let himself down a bit off the field, but was very good on it.
Earlier in the interview, you talked about the DRS... India have consistently opposed it...
I don’t blame the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), for I don’t support it either... The BCCI has been very short-sighted by not allowing commentators to speak about the DRS on the TV... Many commentators may support the BCCI! How can you have the correct decision if you have a finite number of reviews — two per innings for each team in a Test?
The D/N Test saw a shocker from TV umpire Nigel Llong...
I agree. He didn’t see what the rest of us saw at the Adelaide Oval.
What do you favour with regard to the DRS?
I’d like the umpires alone to decide when to review, could be two times or even four... Captains shouldn’t use umpiring as a tactic. The first thing that any cricketer is taught is that the umpire is always right. Now, the administrators want you to question the umpire’s decision. I don’t agree.
How do you bring in technology?
I’m clear that 50-50 decisions must never be reviewed, only the really bad ones. The 50-50 decisions never cause a problem on the field. The horrendous ones do, yes. Some decisions put one team totally at a disadvantage... So, eliminate the really bad decisions and, by doing so, cut down the animosity on the field.
But would the TV umpire intervene on his own?
It’s for the International Cricket Council to instruct umpires that only the correct decisions have to be awarded. Why should any umpire have a problem?
Before we wrap up... Your thoughts on the four-day Test concept being floated...
That is more practical with D/N matches as you can then have seven hours of cricket. That’s what we did with Packer... It would be 2.00 to 10.00 pm, with the breaks thrown in... The quota of overs must be completed and the umpires have to speed up things... With so many Test matches finishing in three and four days, the four-day Test isn’t far off.
The four-day stuff is being tossed around as a revolutionary idea...
People are jumping about that being so... They’re forgetting that Test cricket itself started with a different number of days and we had uncovered pitches for decades since the 1877 beginning... Sport evolves, for that’s the name of the game.
Finally... Nowadays, you don’t travel much overseas in your avatar as commentator...
(Smiles) I’ve cut down for the last four years... I do get time for myself.
Courtesy: The Telegraph