"I don't know for certain if the Indian Cricket Players Association (ICPA) would be that helpful especially in domestic cricket. Most of its founding members (Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble) are not always available. I hope that ICPA does take some interest in the domestic arena. The domestic scene is pretty sad. Jobs have dried up. Whatever we get for playing for state is not that good either," he said in this free-wheeling interview.
Excerpts of the exclusive interview:
How are your preparations for this years Ranji trophy?
This year we are playing in a tough group. There is lot of competition and its very tough. But our preparations are quite good. We'll try and do our best.
What are your views about the new Ranji format?
It's definitely a good concept. It will raise the standards of the domestic cricket. No team can relax due to the promotion and demotion of the teams according to the results (promotion for win and demotion for a loss). You actually know where you stand. Players will be focused all the time.
What are your views about Indian Cricket Players Association?
I don't know for certain if it would be that helpful especially in domestic cricket. Most of its founding members (Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid and Kumble) are not always available. They are on tours most of the time. There'll be a lot of things to be discussed, and it's possible to interact on telephone all the time. There are too many domestic teams and I don't understand how they'll manage to interact with all of them. At least till now they have not sent anything to us about the association. We have heard about it that's all.
But I hope that ICPA does take some interest in the domestic arena. The domestic scene is pretty sad. Jobs have dried up. Whatever we get for playing for state is not that good either. Hyderabad team is lucky enough to get a sponsor (VST). The Mumbai team is managing without a sponsor. I hope ICPA takes some interest in improving the situation.
What about your views on contract system?
It's definitely good. Guys with two years experience and guys with 17 years experience get the same match fee. That's pretty bad. Contract system will enable payment accordingly.
Were you surprised when you were recalled to the national team last season against Australia?
A little. Actually I have noticed that they recall me to the team especially whenever the Aussies tour India. This happened in 1996-97 Aussies tour to India. I feel selectors should give a player at least few matches to prove himself. One or two matches are not good enough chance for a player to prove his abilities. Because there is a lot of pressure when they comeback to the international scene. I sincerely hope J P Yadav is given more chances. I hope he is not dropped after this series.
What are your comments about the current performance of the Indian team?
India has always done well in One-day cricket though there was no consistency. The Indian team was failing in the crunch situations and losing in finals. But after the NatWest series it has been doing quite well. There is a lot of improvement. Especially fielding. I feel the team is playing to its potential, though there is still some scope for improvement. Especially bowling seems to be weak now. I think once Zaheer comes back things will be different.
What are your views about Dravid keeping the wickets in One-dayers?
I think the team management has taken the decision of Dravid keeping the wickets in ODIs keeping the team's interest in mind. I think it is working out well right now. As long as Dravid is enjoying the job there shouldn't be any problem. But I would definitely opt for a professional wicket-keeper for the Test matches.
What would you say about the selectors decision to recall Srinath out of his Test retirement?
I think the concerned player's view is very important. After playing for so long if a player wants to retire I think one should respect his decision. If you see, Johnty Rhodes opted out of the Test matches and the South African selectors honoured his decision with out any fuss. And he still continues playing for the ODI team.
Do you think Azhar and Jadeja should be given a chance to play if they are proved innocent?
It all depends on their fitness and form...also their age.
Do you think match-fixing actually exists?
As far as I know I haven't seen anything like it. But with so much to hear, I feel there must have been something. Otherwise I don't think there would have been any smoke with out fire. But what ever happened is sad for the world cricket.
What do you think of India's chances of winning the World Cup?
I think Indians are the hot favourites. Unless Indians are either too over relaxed or too over confident I think the Indians are definitely in the race. There shouldn't be too much of chopping ahead of the World Cup.
What are your future plans, do you want to get into commentating?
Well, may be a bit of coaching and helping other players. You know we haven't got too many options in our field. I guess I won't be able to manage commentary.
Your advice for the youngsters...
My advice to the youngsters would be - work hard and be honest to yourself. They should definitely put in extra hard work, as there is too much of competition now.