Robert Neil Harvey, a stylish left-hander in the classic mould, has served Australia with distinction. The one-bouncer rule and helmets have given an edge to the present-day batsmen, he told Debashish Datta.
How are you connected now with the great game?
I am 72 now (laughs) going very strong. Watch cricket matches at Sydney Cricket Ground regularly. Of course, I watch cricket on the TV screen.
Do you think the game has changed?
A lot. Fielding has improved a lot. Ultimately it's a fight between bat and ball. One cannot change this. Cricket is now a competition. More money has come. Very hard to spread the game. We did not have match referee, third umpire etc. These are good things. Yet, I find more controversies these days. I would only request the modern generation not to forget the tradition of the game. Cricket is still a fantastic game. I feel we enjoyed more.
Can you please tell us something about batting in the modern age?
Although they have helmet and other modern equipment to protect them, yet they are not very consistent. If you consider the uncovered wicket and hostile bowling, our job was a little more difficult. Helmet has definitely given them more confidence against the genuine pace bowlers. There was a time in the late seventies when a few top batsmen had the pride to score runs without the help of helmet. Now I find everyone has a helmet. Nothing wrong in it. But the purists would like to give more marks to those batsmen who did not use protective gear.
What about the bowling?
It was once dominated by the West Indies pace battery. They were real quick. It is unfortunate that Malcolm Marshall died at a very young age. He was really quick off the wicket. Joel Garner was a very intelligent bowler. Then they had Michael Holding with a smooth action. Andy Roberts was lethal. Pakistan had a good bowler in Imran Khan. Kapil Dev bowled well here in 1992. I am sure you will agree that our very own Dennis Lillie was the best among the lot. He had a magnificent leg-cutter. And if you talk about swing bowling, Richard Hadlee would definitely top the list. It is still a batsman-oriented game. The pace bowlers' main strength was bounce. They can bowl one per over now. I think the administrators of the game would like to provide some comfort to the batsmen.
What about the spinners?
They had a bad phase. With the emergence of Shane Warne, people are talking of spin bowling. Shane is the best. He would definitely find a place in any team of the world. I am really surprised that the Indian and the Pakistani batsmen failed to handle him in the Test series. Shane was troubling them. He looked like getting wickets in all the overs. The Australian public enjoyed the battle between Shane Warne and the Asian giants this summer. In some cases, I found the batsmen did not use their feet. They allowed Shane Warne to dominate. Full credit to our spinner. I thought Indian batsmen would get runs against him. They did not have a good spinner in the team this time. They could not bat well also against our only spin bowler.
The Times of London said that Neil Harvey would be remembered as a player who never grew old.
(Laughs) Do I look young now?
Then it is good. I think we enjoyed our life like the great game. We did not play for money. So we had to swallow less pressure. This is a key factor to have peace in mind.
You have been inducted in the Hall of Fame of Australia.
Like Steve Waugh and his team, I am also enjoying a great summer. First I found a place in the team of Australia's top 12 of the last century. Then this rare honour to find a place in the Hall of Fame. I am sure I would be a happy man in the remaining part of my life. The great game has given me everything.
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