What do you think the present Indian team needs to become world number one?
I believe that this group is a very good bunch of cricketers. Only once in a way you get a combination like this. Suddenly you find a couple of youngsters combining with the seniors are winning matches for the country. The number one team is always debatable. Top three or four is also highly creditable.
Where do you think we went wrong in the World Cup finals?
Let us not forget that we played Australia in the finals. They were the best side and they deserved to win. India too was a good side and we also deserved to be there in the finals. This is no small achievement. But I also feel we got too excited, too worked up and brought pressure on ourselves. Sometimes you go bust under these circumstances. The pressure and anxiety of the finals was too much. Australia is a brilliant side and they handled the situation better.
You have played in the world cup final and won the accolade for the country. How different was the Indian team"s mind-set at that point of time?
Let me be very honest. There was no pressure at all at that time. The game is much more popular now. At that time there was not so much hype. Fan following was not to this extent. The way the team prepares now and the way they go to the world cup is so different from our time. Media glare was less and most importantly we had done much better than what was expected from us. The finals for us were like any other game. We had not won anything before 1983 and hence the expectations were nil. That was it. If you have to win a major event the whole team has to contribute. This Indian team of 1983 was doing just that. It was a good unit and everybody was contributing. Every match we had a different hero. You cannot say so and so won the world cup for us. I can say even those who did not play in the eleven also had a contribution to make.
As I know, you played with a lot of passion. Under the present scenario, skills, power or passion- what is the most important factor?
When I was the coach I believed and I tried to instil the passion. If you are passionate you can do wonders. Here, I will give a lot of credit to Saurav Ganguly. He has succeeded in bringing the passion in the team. You are there in the national side because of your skills. Power can be developed. If you combine these factors with passion you will have very good results.
How important is mental strength?
I believe the game is more mental than anything else. No matter how skilled a player the mind has to back you up. You have to believe in your self. Along with this I also feel physical fitness is very important as once you are physically fit you will perform in your skills and physical well being gives rise to mental strength. Now the board has appointed a physio and a trainer. I always believed this was very essential, as the physio knows how to rehab the injuries while the trainer will know the respective strength and weaknesses of individual players and work on them. We may be a bit late in appointing them but the board has taken a wise decision - better late than never. This is the best thing that has happened. We needed this very badly.
Regarding the ongoing India camp, do you think 36 is too many?
Yeah, people are talking about 36 being too many. This is our pool. The new trainer, King, Andrew Liepus and John Wright can have a good look at the stock and will know the replacements when required.
What do you think are the vacancies in the Indian side?
Maybe an opener or an all rounder, otherwise, more or less it is the same side.
Who was the best batsman you bowled to?
Without any doubt it was Vivian Richards. No second thoughts absolutely. He had tremendous confidence and he backed up his skill with his confidence. He totally dominated the ball. He could hit you to any part of the park at will.
What was your best moment in test cricket?
Any game that your country wins is a memorable moment. I have been a part of many Indian victories. I cherish the moment I got Viv Richards clean bowled in Kolkata and this set up a victory against the mighty West Indies. I also enjoyed my 5 for 23 against England where again India won the Test match.
And what was your best moment in the ODIs?
There is no doubt that my best moment in one dayers was our 1983 World Cup victory. In fact best moment not only for me but also for the entire country.
What was on the back of your mind when you ran in to bowl to Viv Richards in that World Cup final?
I was convinced that like all great players, in an attempt to dominate, Richards would take a few chances. I had to be very strong in my mind for us to succeed. We have to keep on going after him and wait for him to make that crucial mistake. When he did make that mistake, Kapil took that great running catch and the rest is history.
What should be an ideal practice session for an upcoming cricketer?
Good question. This is just what I was telling the boys at the NCA. I believe one has to wake up early. You have to be sincere about your training and physical exercise. Spend two and half-hours with your fitness training and if you have some time on hand please do your catching practice. Then you are off to school or college. Evenings again are at the ground this time practicing your skills. I believe it is not just practice that makes you perfect but it is perfect practice that makes a cricketer perfect. You need to identify your strength and weaknesses. You should know how best to use your strong points and should try and correct your weaknesses. Work hard but do not neglect your studies. This is my sincere advice.
What is it that you regret?
I regret that I did not do justice to my talent in the international level. I was a good all-rounder as you can see from my domestic records. (Added to the wickets and runs he was a good fielder too). I never used to give up in any situation. What went wrong -I don't know. I feel I should have done better. Maybe it is all part of life but I am disappointed. I also regret that we did not win the match at Barbados, West Indies. We needed just 120 runs to win. Sad.
One last question- should Shane Warne be allowed to play again?
Why bother about his personal life? I cannot say anything about that. But as a cricketer I have never seen a better bowler than Shane Warne. I would like to see him playing.
This was Madan Lal Sharma speaking his mind. Lion hearted warrior. He believes in hard work and honesty. He believes that one has to make optimum use of ones own skills. At the same time every cricketer needs to identify his weakness and rectify the same. But to accept your weakness and correct your faults a lot of honesty and sincerity is needed. If you are not honest you will not accept your faults. If you are not sincere you cannot correct your mistakes.
Player, coach and selector, Madan Lal has never failed. But did he get his due as a player? I don't think so!