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February 19, 1999


The Cricket Interview/ Sadagoppan Ramesh

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'Thoughts of failure did not cross my mind at all'

Sadagoppan Ramesh Sadagoppan Ramesh is the latest sensation in Indian cricket after the 60 and 96 he got in the second Test in Delhi though Anil Kumble's 10 wicket haul overshadowed his efforts. All those who watched the two Tests against Pakistan were impressed by his confidence. Shobha Warrier met Ramesh a day before his departure for Calcutta. In real life too, he appeared as cool and casual as he was in the Tests. Ramesh graduated from the Guru Nanak College, Madras, in economics and now works for SPIC.

Were you confident of getting selected for the Indian team when the openers failed in New Zealand?

It was not a question of the openers failing in New Zealand. I did perform well against the West Indies A team and I had a good Ranji Trophy season. So, I was hopeful of getting a call. I thought it was only a matter of time. The selectors had been talking to the press about the need to have young openers. So, I really thought that they might consider me for the Pakistan Tests.

Who broke the news of your selection to you?

My father. I was practicing in the ground and he called me on my cell phone and told me of my selection. I was with my good friends. So, naturally all were excited. We celebrated for five minutes there itself.

How did the celebration go?

Nothing much. We just jumped and hugged and then all of them wished me well. I didn't come home immediately. I went to the other ground and met my other friends and broke the news. That's it.

After that, were you looking forward to the match, or were you nervous about the big day?

Actually I was looking forward to the match because when I was selected, I had a lot of runs behind me. So, that gave me a lot of confidence. I took the Gwalior game against Pakistan as a practice match because I was getting a chance to know the bowling of Wasim and Waqar. So, that match really helped me. Obviously the pressure will be there when you are going to face such great bowlers.

But pressure is there even in Ranji Trophy matches and it will be more for your first match. So, you can imagine how it will be for the Test match! But I take everything, every match as a challenge. You should understand the reality.

On the eve of the first Test, could you sleep well?

Sadagoppan Ramesh I had no problem! I think once you get selected for India, you will sleep well. Do you know why? Because you are happy.

What was in your mind when you went out to open for India, that too in a match against Pakistan?

Nothing. It had been a very lucky debut for me as I made my debut on my home ground. The people of my place will be more motivating than any other crowd. All those who saw me wished me and said they would pray for me. It was a great motivating factor and gave me a lot of confidence.

Was the pressure more because you were going to play in front of your home crowd?

Of course, pressure will always be there in all debut appearances. In my case, whoever I met here in Madras said, we are going to come and watch you. Don't disappoint us. And this definitely put more pressure on you. But you have to accept the reality that it was your debut and you were going to play in front of your home crowd who had a lot of expectation from you.

How did you relax then?

I kept telling myself that I should give my best. I was mentally ready to give 100%. I thought, okay, if you get out to a good ball, no problem. The only thing in mind was, I should not throw my wicket away to a bad ball. But I looked at the match as a good opportunity to prove myself. I knew that if I got a good score in my first match, it would be easy for me to establish myself in the side.

The thoughts of failure did not cross my mind at all. I never thought, God, if I fail in this match, I wouldn't be able to play for India at all. I had only positive thoughts in my kind.

In international cricket, unless you stay cool, you cannot perform. When you are facing world class players, you have to stay cool. When you are cool, you are sure of what you are going to do. So, I always relax and play.

Who instilled this attitude in you?

Nobody. That was the way I played cricket throughout my life.

You missed a half century in the first innings.

Yes, I missed my first fifty. I got only 43. But I got out to a good ball. It swung a lot. I'll tell you one thing, I don't set targets normally.

Were you not disappointed?

Definitely I was disappointed. I am disappointed even now. I wanted to get my first fifty in the first innings itself. Then I thought I could play well in the second innings.

Experts found fault in your footwork, especially against the ball, which got you out.

Yes, I know that. I tried to talk to Sunil Gavaskar over this. He asked me to carry on and promised to talk to me after the series. Basically I am only a good timer of the ball. I don't stretch too much or lean too much. That's the way I played my cricket and I have been getting runs.

But won't it be better if you rectify the problem now itself?

Yes. The problem, I think, was because I slightly adjusted myself to Wasim and Waqar and while standing itself, I was a bit leaning, more like stretching. The wicket was keeping so low on the first day itself, so you had to stretch. But I didn't play away from the body. I just waited for the ball to come to the wicket. I decided to let them bowl to me instead of me going and chasing the ball.

Did you watch television replays of the match later?

I did. But then you cannot be adjusting your technique when you do well. I feel you should not think of changing your technique unless you fail in 4,5 innings.

Did you speak to Srikkanth after the match about your footwork?

Yes, I spoke to Srikkanth and he asked me to carry on. That's it. Even in the Chennai match, all of them were satisfied with my performance. They said, I had made a very good start and gave a good impression.

A match against Pakistan is always tough. How was it for you to play your first match against Pakistan?

An India-Pakistan match can never be friendly. They have the best bowling attack in the world. I feel Wasim and Waqar are the best fast bowlers in the world and Mushtaq and Saqlain are one of the best spinners too. So, it is a rare combination. If you look at many other countries, they may have good fast bowlers but no good spinners or vice versa, and not this kind of deadly combination. So, runs against this team will give you a lot more satisfaction and confidence.

Were the Pakistani players friendly?

Yes. But both teams were desperate to win the series. They were really desperate. Obviously the pressure will be more on both teams. The crowd also was electrifying. They were cheering for every run you scored. So, I feel you will have to give 200% against Pakistan. When you make a brilliant stop, the crowd cheers you and it really motivates you to field even better.

After the match the Madras crowd gave a standing ovation to the Pakistan team. Did you feel proud?

Yes, definitely. It was really a sporting gesture on their part. I feel that's the way they should take a game, like a game and nothing more than that.

How did you prepare yourself for the second match in Delhi? Were you hoping to get a better score there?

My target for the Delhi match was, play as long as possible. First I thought of playing from the start of the play till lunch. I was concentrating on the time more than the runs. That really helped me because I didn't go for any big shot. I just waited, waited and waited for the loose balls to come. I got a good score only because of that.

You got out at 60 in the first innings. Did you lose concentration?

Sadagoppan Ramesh No. When you play two or three good shots, you tend to become over-confident and try something unwanted. But I am learning, learning through my successes and failures. I will mature with time and more matches.

You missed your first Test hundred by just four runs. Could you believe yourself when Mushtaq got that return catch?

I couldn't. The disappointment was there for nearly ten minutes. I just couldn't get over the feeling. All the others consoled me saying there was a long way to go and not to worry. So, it was their consolation which helped me tide over the disappointment.

You stood there for a long time before walking back. As you walked to the pavilion, what was on your mind?

Photographs: Sanjay Ghosh

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