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This Indian team looks robust and motivated, says Brearley

Legendary captain feels the job is getting harder
EXCLUSIVE
Mike Brearley

London: John Michael Brearley, who needs no introduction, spoke to The Telegraph, at Lord’s, on Sunday evening.

Excerpts...

Q In the lead-up to the interview, you mentioned that ‘intelligent people and cricket go together’. Will you elaborate?

A On the whole, cricket is played by intelligent people. They aren’t stupid, so all Boards should engage with their players (in a structured manner).

Your reference is to the players’ associations, but India doesn’t have one as the Board is opposed to any such body...

That’s bad. I can’t understand the logic when even Bangladesh, from what I know, has an association. You can’t treat players like well-paid servants, you need to constantly have a dialogue with their representatives. That will bring about a healthy environment, built on trust and respect.

Is cricket headed in the right direction?

You need a balance between Test cricket and T20 at the international level and, for the home audience, a balance between domestic and international cricket. Getting it right on both counts is a challenge... For me, Test cricket must remain the pinnacle.

Some questions on captaincy... Would you judge captains on results only?

Not entirely. I’d judge captains on their tactical and technical skills, the impact they have on their teams and on the game... I’d look at the entire picture... How the teams respond to particular situations and how they handle success and failure.

Is captaincy getting easier or tougher?

Why do you ask?

Because, on the one hand, there’s a new format (T20) and, on the other side, captains now have an army of support staff...

It’s probably getting harder, because there are too many people saying too many things.

What about the captain-coach relationship?

Has to rest on trust, where nothing is said behind the back. Honest difference in opinion is acceptable... Nowadays, we’re probably seeing younger captains with little or no experience of captaining their state/province.

That’s interesting...

In my time and before, England’s captain would have led a County team for some years... In Australia, he would have captained a Sheffield Shield team... That hardly happens now.

Are you sympathetic towards Alastair Cook?

My personal sympathies are with Cook... He’s an honest bloke who is doing his best. It’s just that he’s going through a hard time. He’s not scoring and England aren’t winning. That’s a hard combination, which is getting noticed.

What should Cook do?

I really wouldn’t like to talk at length about Cook.

When will England start climbing in the rankings?

Actually, England have a pretty good team. Cook and Ian Bell need to get runs and Matt Prior has to stop dropping catches!

[England are No.5 in Tests and ODIs; No.8 in T20Is.]

Do captains have a ‘lead-by’ date?

Yes.

Then how would you explain the Graeme Smith phenomenon? He captained South Africa in Test cricket for 11 years...

Smith was a tough character, who had a good team at his disposal... Then, as an opener, he was himself successful... He got the captaincy at a young age — 22.

Is there an ideal shelf life?

Tough to put a number.

Your impressions of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the India captain...

Dhoni’s a survivor (referring to the defeats in England, Australia in 2011-12)... Having said that, he’s a very good batsman and a stable person... He’s calm, doesn’t make excuses and is straightforward. This has helped him be the captain in all formats for almost six years. But, as a ’keeper, he’s not as mobile as he should be. Dhoni’s a batsman-’keeper.

Internationally, who are the captains who stand out?

There’s Michael Clarke and I quite liked Angelo Mathews during Sri Lanka’s recent tour of England.

Mathews is a bold choice...

Well, Mathews batted extraordinarily well and, as captain, did a good job. He wasn’t intimidated and gave it back as good as he got. At 27, he’s young.

Clarke?

Tactically, Clarke’s good, but sledging has gone to another level in his captaincy... I’d like to sit down and have a chat with him. Talk captaincy.

What’s required for a team to be successful?

It’s nice if a team can have a Kevin Pietersen or a Muttiah Muralidharan or a Dale Steyn, but if that’s not the case, then the talent available has to deliver... The players need to step up and take ownership of responsibilities.

Would you have handled the Pietersen affair better?

Don’t know.

Your thoughts on the present Indian team?

I don’t want to make comparisons, but this Indian team looks robust and motivated. The batsmen have good technique and the bowlers bowl to a plan... You don’t have a Michael Holding or a Glenn McGrath or even a Kapil Dev, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma are impressive. As is Ravindra Jadeja. They’ll keep going at you... This Indian team is high on morale and strong on resilience.

Who has caught your attention?

Kumar has been brilliant, with ball and bat, in both Tests. He’s effective and committed, not dramatic.

Your take on the way the James Anderson-Jadeja incident has been handled... Shouldn’t the team managements have sorted it out across the table?

I’m with you on that... What I find odd is that the incident happened on a Thursday, yet people only began talking of it on the following Tuesday... Why did the captains and the managers not talk to each other? I don’t know how bad the incident was, but I’m disappointed at the way it has been handled.

The last one... You’re looking forward to working with Sourav Ganguly on the MCC’s World Cricket Committee...

Indeed... Sourav has his own mind and has strong views. He’s not afraid to air those views. We need his type on the Committee.