The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Indians should have acclimatised first’

Indore: Legendary cricketer Mushtaq Ali has held the cricket board responsible for India’s poor performance in New Zealand saying that it had done nothing before the tour to help the players to acclimatise with the conditions there.

“The board should have made arrangements for thorough preparation before the trip, keeping in mind the conditions there. If we had done more practice on fast and bouncy wickets and anticipated the weather conditions, the results would have been different,” the former cricketer told visiting journalists here.

Despite being in New Zealand for almost a month, Indian cricketers are finding it hard to adjust to the conditions there and have failed to register even a single win on the tour so far. They lost the two-match Test series 0-2 and were trailing 0-3 in the seven-match one-day series.

Advocating appointment of a former Test player on the board, he said had it been the case things might have been different for the team. “I personally feel that a former Test cricketer should be on the board. Had it been so, the current team would not have faced the problems in New Zealand,” said Mushtaq, who started as a bowler in the Indian team and played six Tests in that role before shifting as a batsman to play the remaining five Tests of his career.

However, Mushtaq hoped that the dismal New Zealand outing would not have any impact on India’s World Cup prospects and the team would be able to return triumphant from South Africa. “Sachin (Tendulkar), Sourav (Ganguly), (Rahul) Dravid and others are all good players. God is with them and I hope we will win the Cup,” he said.

On other aspects of the game, like playing with coloured clothes, the former cricketer said: “I personally do not agree with the concept of pyjama cricket. I will not be in this world, but remember my words, the way things are moving, days are not far away when we will play cricket in shorts,” he said.

“Nowadays cricketers have started throwing out their shirts and a day might come when they would start throwing their trousers,” he said making an obvious reference to captain Sourav’s gesture after the NatWest Trophy final against hosts England last year.

Mushtaq, whose exclusion from the national squad before a Test match at Eden Gardens in early 40s had led to vociferous protests from his fans, said that he is no longer the ‘hero of Calcutta’ and his place has been taken over by Sourav.

“I was then Calcutta’s hero, but now I am zero. Indian captain Sourav is their hero,” Mushtaq said when asked what had led to his fans shouting slogans like ‘no Mushtaq no Test’ after he was excluded from the squad for a test match against the visiting Australians.

“When spectators came to know that I was dropped for the match, they gheraoed and heckled the then BCCI president Duleep Singh, who was also present at the stadium. I intervened in the matter and rescued Duleep Singhji and asked the fans to go away,” Mushtaq said.

On the death of former cricketer C. S. Nayudu, who died here last year, the octogenarian Mushtaq lamented the lack of financial and other assistance extended to former players. “I was once a hero of Calcutta, but what is Calcutta doing for me today' In our days there was little money in cricket. You calculate how much I could have earned for playing 11 Tests when we were paid Rs 250 per match,” the scion of Indore said.

“When one is sick, one needs medicine, and fond memories will not serve any purpose. Even a tablet costs between rupees three and five nowadays. CS died after suffering for three years and nobody enquired about him,” he said.

“It is good that present day cricketers are earning enough money. Unlike us, they will not have to endure any hardship in their later years. But I personally feel that cricketers should offer something in return to society, which has made them what they are today,” he said.

“The players should spend at least some time to coach poor players in their locality. They should also donate something to poor people.

“You should do something so that people can remember you after your prime. After all ‘teen din ki chandni, phir andheri raat. Aap ko kuch aisa karna chahiya jise log yaad kare’.”

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