New Delhi, Jan. 6 -- Sitting in one corner of the practice area at the Ferozeshah Kotla, an elderly gentleman with dark shades attracted respect from most of the Pakistan cricketers. Hanif Mohammad, 78, is visiting the venue where he'd made his debut 60 years ago as a teenager. Comfortably ensconced in a chair, Hanif remembered his nervy debut. Lala Amarnath had done enough to unnerve him then.
Years later, he scored a triple against the West Indies. It is said that his mother would pray for him to get out when she heard that the Caribbean pacemen were really quick.
Hanif, the original Little Master, spoke at length about his debut and the current state of cricket.
India have lost their top batsmen. It seems to be having an effect.
I think Sachin's departure has affected India the most. The way he retired surprised me. I have never seen or heard of such a thing (a player of Tendulkar's calibre retiring on the day of selection).
I think the decision was wrong. I think there was something out there that made him retire. A player of his calibre should have been left alone. I would rate him a notch above Don Bradman. As far India are concerned, these are phases every team has to go through.
Suddenly, there is a batch of four or five good players and the team starts to do well. And, then, when a few players retire, it hurts.
Is the IPL having a negative impact on cricket?
IPL is also a format and gives you practice. The problem, I think, is that there is too much of cricket. After all, human beings play cricket, not machines. Then, there is so much money now and players cannot say no to any game.
Is the quality of batting slipping?
There are good batsmen now also. But I think the shorter formats have had an effect. Few players step on to the field telling themselves that they're playing a five-day game. A majority of the batsmen play strokes, which aren't really there.
Memory from the first Test
Well, the way Lala Amarnath would walk in and speak to his players and opposition. That was enough to unnerve a youngster like me. The atmosphere was very good and friendly.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.