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April 9, 1999


The Rediff Interview / Roger Binny

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'We said, let's go out and fight!'

 Roger Binny
"Can we have some forms for your cricket summer camp?" asked two middle-aged men, obviously on a family errand during their lunch time. Roger Michael Humphrey Binny reached into the green Maruti Gypsy that he had just alighted from, and handed them some sheets of paper. After bank hours, the man who was once one of Indian cricket’s best all-rounders will teach young boys the rudiments of his favourite game on the campus of a local school. And come June, he will start training the first 20 students of his own cricket academy in Bangalore.

It all began at Montford Boys’ High School in Yercaud, where Binny began playing cricket to improve his physical fitness. Then, he went on to play hockey and athletics at the junior state level and even held the school record in Bangalore for javelin throw in 1973. This was possibly how he developed the loping run that used to make him instantly recognisable by spectators while he was out on the field. After playing school cricket, Binny slowly improved his game and finally got into the Indian eleven in 1979.

However, he himself readily admits that he felt his best series was the World Cup in 1983, when he took 18 wickets over 6 games -- to emerge as the leading wicket-taker in the competition, ahead of bowlers of the calibre of Holding, Roberts and the like -- and also helped the Indian side with his batting prowess.

He feels that the English and Australian pitches were most suitable for his style of bowling, and as far as India goes, the Eden Gardens remains his favourite venue. Happily married to his boyhood sweetheart Cynthia, who was his best friend’s sister, Binny has three children: Laura, Lisa and Stuart.

"I was never at home for their birthdays or Christmas when they were little," admits Binny wryly. "But we all knew that the career span of a cricketeer is not more than 10 years, so I made the most of my time at the top then, and am happy to be back with my family now."

M D Riti spoke to him at Bangalore at some length. Excerpts:

The 1983 World Cup brought the concept of the all rounder into vogue, and you were one of the best representatives of that tribe. Who exactly is an all-rounder, and how do you think he is better for the team than either just a bowler or a batsman?

An all-rounder is basically a person who is three-in-one: he bats, bowls and fields. Its much safer for a captain to pick an all-rounder for his team than just a bowler or a batsman, because he is always delivering something, with bat, ball and in the field.

In a recent interview to Rediff, Dilip Doshi said, 'The last all rounder India had was Ravi Shastri'. Do you agree?

 Manoj Prabhakar
No, I think that Manoj Prabhakar was also a very good all-rounder, and in fact much better suited to one-day cricket than Ravi Shastri.

What Doshi said was that an all rounder should be able to bowl ten, and bat anywhere in the order. Is that a good yardstick?

A batsman all-rounder has to be able to fit in anywhere. If his captain wants him to open, he should be able to do that well. If he wants him to go in the middle order, he should be able to handle that, or just pick up a few quick runs for his team late in the order if that's what is called for.

How would you rate the all rounders of today like Robin Singh? Are they all rounders in the class of Klusener, Pollock, Kallis or Afridi?

 Shaun Pollock
My order of merit would be Shaun Pollock first, because I regard him as the world’s leading all rounder, who can get runs or wickets, whichever is called for, on any kind of venue. Then would come Steve Waugh, who is again an ace batsman and a bowler. After that, Klusener, followed by the others. As for Robin Singh, he has not really been bowling his ten overs in recent times. I think we now need him to bowl his ten overs to determine if he can do well. After Kapil Dev and Manoj, we have not had any all rounders.

Kapil Dev suggested in an interview to us we should try to build on what we have instead of just moaning about what we don’t have. In other words, should we try to convert our ace batsmen or bowlers into all rounders? Do you think all rounders are born or made?

 Javagal Srinath
When I led Karnataka initially, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath played under me. I used to tell them that they must take their batting seriously, and not just concentrate on their bowling. When you are aiming for an opportunity to play for the country, it helps to find favour with selectors if you are an all-rounder. A good cricketeer should excel in batting, bowling and fielding, which are three entirely different skills required on the pitch. Besides, he must make an effort to improve his physical fitness. All-rounders are sometimes born, but they are also made through hard work.

If you were in charge of managing players like Kumble, Srinath or Agarkar, how would you help them hone all their three skills?

All these three players are bowlers now. I would put them through their paces in batting on a regular basis. Generally, in the nets, what happens is the side's main batsmen bat first and the main bowlers bowl to them. The bowlers get tired with that stint, and then they bat last, against weak bowling. I would prefer to make them bat first, relax for a while, then come in and bowl. You don’t have to bowl flat out at the nets, you just have to keep a rhythm, get your run up right, just bowl about 20 balls, go through the motions. You never bowl as if you’re bowling in a match, but you still end up expending a lot of energy. But batting has to always be done as if you were playing an actual match. And if the bowlers are made to face new balls in the nets, they will be better equipped to contribute in actual matches. Generally, bowlers never get to bat against new balls in the nets, which is a pity.

There was, in recent times, much debate about Rahul Dravid's value to the one day side, the main criticism being that he was a slow scorer. How will Dravid be useful to the Indian team at the Cup?

I think the situation will be very different in England. You are not going to be able to make a great start of 70 or 80 in the first 10 overs -- it may happen in the odd match, but not regularly, as happens in our sub-continent. There, the ball will dominate more than the bat. The person with a better batting technique, and the all-rounder who can hold up the batting in the middle, will therefore matter more there. Sachin, who always tries to hit over the top, is not going to be the same or get away with it in England. I think a person like Rahul, who doesn’t just swing the bat around, and looks for the right gaps, will be useful there.

Going back in time to the 1983 World Cup, tell us about the preparation phase. How early did you get to England? How did the acclimatisation process go? Did you face any problems, like colds or fevers?

This time the Cup starts in May, but in our time it was played a little later in the year, so the conditions were better. We had no health problems as such. England is just cold, and as long as you protect youself from that, you’re quite okay. You do get sore shins, knees and hamstrings because the surface is so soft. Besides, we went straight from the Ranji Trophy that year, with soaring temperatures at 40 plus in Delhi and Bombay. It takes a few days to get used to the changes in weather and ground.

How early did you go there?

We went about three weeks before the tournament started. We played a lot of practice games, at least six or seven, to warm up, against Leicester county and the Leagues. That was a good run-up.

If you were in charge, how would you plan the Indian squad's acclimatisation phase for this World Cup?

I think I would get them there early and start them playing. There, the ball dominates over the bat. We are so used to India, where the ball can be hit on the rise and off a good length. This does not happen in England. The balls seams a little more there. If you watch replays of the 1983 World Cup, you will see that a lot of our wickets were taken by balls seaming off the wicket, by guys like Mohinder and Madan Lal. Whereas Kapil Dev and Sandeep used to rely a lot more on movement in the air. Thats what our batsmen need to get used to.

Take us back to the morning of June 9, to the Old Trafford, and India playing its first game against the two-time reigning champions What kind of strategies did you plan? Did you think you stood any kind of a chance?

 Viv Richards
The Indian team had just come back from the West Indies before we went to England. I wasn't in the side for that series. But the guys who had been there, they had a fairly good idea of who’s who in the West Indies side. We were looking at a score of let's say, 260 or 270. Our main strategy was to get rid of Greenidge and Richards, who were the main batting strength of the West Indies.

What was the mood like and what was the team thinking?

We were very tense. We were not the favourites, nobody gave us a chance at all. The talk was that we would just play a few matches and disappear. At the previous World Cup, we had won just one game! We were tense, but everyone wanted very badly to do well.

During the 1983 World Cup, you were bowling noticeably slower than usual. Was that deliberate?

I did bowl a bit slower because the ball was seaming around a lot. The faster you bowl in England, the quicker the ball comes off the bat, and it doesn’t give the ball a chance to swing. I bowled slightly slower, and pitched the ball up. That's what made the difference. I was playing local league in England from 1982, and had found this strategy useful from there. I felt that the quicker one bowled to strokemakers like Lloyd and Richards, their strokeplay was that much better.

Would you recommend this approach to our present bowlers like say Srinath?

I think they will on their own bowl slower, because Srinath and the others are much more experienced than we were in 1983. They have played a lot of league matches in England and know what the pitches are like there.

Your own approach stride was a bit like a javelin thrower’s: why?

That's something I developed in school, that kind of stride. It didn’t affect my ankles or my run up in any manner. I remember even Kapil Dev, sometimes when he overstretched, his legs did swing like mine. Basically, mine was an outswing: I used to get the ball to swing out.

Roger Binny Interview, continued

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