Former cricketer Chandu Borde, who played 55 Tests between 1958 and 1969, feels Indian batting, bowling and fielding is superior in comparison to the English team and backs the MS Dhoni-led team to come out on top in the upcoming four-match Test series.
In 2007, you were suddenly faced by the huge task of managing the Indian team. Were there any apprehensions about accepting the responsibility?
(Laughs) Frankly I like challenges. See I am a practical person and not a theoretician. I was not acting as a coach to them...instead I helped the players with few tips. Being a senior cricketer, who had played for the country before, they respected me and implemented those ideas to good effect.
We won the Test series in England 1-0 then; do you think India can better the result this time around?
We have a better team now and I am very impressed with our pace bowlers this time around. Zaheer Khan is one of the best left-arm bowlers in the world at the moment; Ishant Sharma has got his confidence back; Praveen Kumar has the ability to swing the ball at his will and Munaf Patel doesn't allow batsmen to enjoy too much liberty against him. I personally feel Indian batting, bowling and fielding is superior to England. We have got the players who can deliver in those conditions. The team has been playing well as a unit and I feel India will come out victorious again.
You played a leading role in India's 2-0 win over England at home in the 1961-62 Test series. But winning in England has proved difficult. What were the challenges faced by you?
Apart from the weather which plays a significant role, they always tried to build psychological pressure on us by making certain statements in the media before the tour itself. The English planning mainly focuses on pitching the ball outside the off-stump and then bringing it in. We lacked quality medium pacers and spinners then. Moreover, the English management made sure that Subhash Gupte (in 1958-59), one of the finest exponents of leg-spin bowling, got a green-top wicket favoring the batsmen and pace bowlers.
While you were managing the team, did you ever think India would go on to become the No.1 Test team?
India always had good talent at their disposal but the ability to perform together was missing during our days. But now we have a very strong unit, bigger bench strength - if one goes out - is dropped or injured - there are others in the line with greater abilities. The confidence level of the current bunch is very high and they play without fear to keep their team in the game.
How do you rate Dhoni's leadership?
Dhoni is one of the coolest leaders around (laughs). He is the person who gives confidence to the bowlers and batsmen if they are having a rough patch. He doesn't lose his cool in any situation. He is a born leader and a great asset to the Indian team.
You were the manager of Indian cricket team in 1989-90 in Pakistan which was also the debut series for Sachin Tendulkar. What were your recollections of the series?
We were greeted with an absolute green-top wicket at Sialkot and with an attack comprising of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan - it was dreadful. Sachin was hit on the face by a Waqar Younis bouncer but the brave youngster refused to leave the field and immediately after that bang, bang, bang he hit three fours - which made me believe that this boy is going to be somebody someday. Though the tour was a dead rubber, Tendulkar was the find of the series.
Being a leg-spinner yourself, are you concerned with the lack of quality spin bowlers around?
We do have some good spinners around but the art of flighting the ball, making the batsmen think is slowly diminishing due to fast-paced One-day cricket and Twenty20. They try to stop the runs rather than going for the wickets. Previously, we use to flight the ball a lot, deceive the batsmen in the air with had lots of variations - which unfortunately is missing in the youngsters today. However, I am particularly impressed with newcomers like Ravichandran Ashwin and Rahul Sharma - who have a bright future ahead.
Do you think the advent of shorter formats like T20 have negative impact on cricket?
Let's not blame leagues like IPL or Big Bash, the taste of the people are also changing. Cricket associations are catering to all sorts of fans and they ought to have these kind of tournaments which attracts lots of people and makes you money. However, a good cricketer should set his priorities right, realise what is good for the team and himself while playing in such events.
You headed the selection committee twice, in 1982-84 and 1999-2002. What were the areas you focused to make India a dominant force in Test cricket?
I was constantly looking out for players who had talent, great fitness level and the ability to perform at the international level. If I spotted a talent I made sure he was given enough opportunities to perform and be available for the team.
What has life been like for you after the 2007 tour? How do you keep yourself busy?
(Laughs) I am a much busier person now than I used to be. I follow the Indian team more closely than ever and whenever there is an opportunity I pass on my suggestions and observations to the youngsters.