It is a matter of great pity that many talented sportsmen do not achieve what they deserve. Unfortunate- but true. Varied reasons. Sometimes, excuses. But the fact remains that alongside every superstar there are many unsung heroes too. For almost a decade, when the nation was idolizing Gavaskar. Kapil Dev, G R Vishwanath, Dilip Vengsarkar and others there was this work horse answering to the name of Madan Lal. His first-class cricket career lasted a good 23 years. Madhi Paa, as he is fondly called, scored 10,204 runs with 22 hundreds, 50 fifties and a top score of 223.
He also has an amazing haul of 625 first-class wickets at 25.50 apiece and his best was 9 for 31. With this kind of a record one wonders how in a period of 12 years Madan Lal played just 39 test matches and a mere 67 ODIs. Was it that there were some fiery fast bowlers during his time or he was plain unlucky is a matter of conjecture. One really thought that Kapil Dev would have been glad with someone like Madan Lal at the other end. If wishes were horses.....
After retiring from first class cricket Madan Lal did his Level II and Level III coaching accreditation courses from England and Australia. He did a stint with the UAE team and the India 'A' as a coach before being appointed India seniors coach during 1996 / 98. During this tenure he almost won the series in West Indies but India failed to score 120 runs required in the second innings to win the test as well as the series. This perhaps is the saddest part of his cricket career.
Madan Lal was a member of the famous World Cup winning team of 1983. Vivian Richards was butchering the Indian attack. Madan Lal got this prize scalp, which set up a historical win for India.
He was also awarded the Cricketer of the year award in 1976
Despite his performances he was still in and out of the Indian team. Madan Lal was not a member of the Indian team touring England in 1986 but since he was playing county cricket in England the tour committee, of course with the blessings of BCCI, summoned him. He went on to prove the selectors wrong with his performance in the two tests he played.
He also served his term as a national selector during which period India did fairly well.
I had been earlier associated with Madhi Paa as the local manager of the Indian team while in Bangalore. This time around I caught up with him at the NCA where he is a bowling coach. He was very cordial as usual and answered my queries with all honesty and a lot of passion.
What is your role at the National Cricket Academy?
My role is that of a bowling coach at the NCA.
What is your qualification as a coach?
I have undergone level II and Level III from UK and Australia. I am still learning, as I believe cricket is a never-ending subject. You can learn from an international or maybe even from a kid. You have to be a good student of the game.
After being India Seniors coach, what motivates you to coach the juniors at the NCA?
It is just this that I love this game and it has given me a lot. I simply don't want to go out of this game. I would always want to be deeply involved in cricket in any capacity. Because of my love for the game, I am also teaching the game to the kids in my academy. I don't think I am good at anything else apart from cricket. I tried my hand at a couple of things but was not successful. That is when I decided to stay in my own field. That is why I am only doing cricket.
But we thought you were a high profile Director in Mohan Meakins?
I want to clarify that I am just working with them and am not a Director on the Board.
From the present batch at the NCA, who are the cricketers you feel are most promising?
Most of the kids who come here are talented. Some are more talented than the others. End of the day, the one who works hard and is committed will succeed. You have to be focused on what you want to achieve. Eventually it is your performance that counts. There are a few who I feel are highly talented. But I don"t want to take names as the others may get disheartened. In any case. I am not a future teller. Some kids get carried away. They start thinking - anyway I have the talent and therefore I am going to make it big. Thus they stop working hard and lose out. Some others get focused only after maturity, like say after they are nineteen. They suddenly become serious and career oriented. They start working very, very hard.
When should a cricketer decide to take cricket as a profession?
Like I said earlier it is very difficult to predict at a younger age. Only when they are mature enough do they show the true potential. The first step will be Ranji trophy. Once a cricketer starts performing in the Ranji Trophy you may say that this kid is going to make it. But here there should be a word of caution. One has to strike a balance between studies and cricket. In our country, studies are still the first priority. You need to be good in time management otherwise it will be too risky. Game and education go parallel.
You feel 18 is too early and the selectors feel 22 is too late. The boys are in a dilemma?
No not at all. 22 or even 24 is not late. It is only at this age that a cricketer matures and starts enjoying his game. Please do not compare any body to Sachin. He is a genius. A Sachin can happen only once in a life time.