Have you got any positive feedback on Indian players playing in overseas T20 leagues after your recent discussion with Suresh Raina?
No, I haven’t gotten any feedback. But to be honest, if you are retired from all forms of cricket, I don’t think anyone will stop you. Obviously, you still need NOC (No Objection Certificate). I think that should be within the rights. Yuvraj Singh played the league in Canada and I think that should be fine as well.
If you get an opportunity from an overseas franchise, you don’t rule out coming back on the cricket field?
Before I retired, I didn’t enjoy my cricket. Also, that’s not the only reason I retired. I was still with Jammu and Kashmir cricket, I wanted to make sure that I build a young team. I had a couple of fast bowlers in the team who I wanted to grow and give them opportunities.
I wanted to make sure that I don’t play and take the opportunity of a youngster because if I play or don’t play at the moment in first-class cricket, it doesn’t matter. But for any young guy, who is 19 or 20 years old, it is an opportunity.
When I played the Road Safety tournament, I played well and enjoyed myself and I started liking playing again. As long as I am keeping myself fit, anything can happen. I will not give you an answer straightaway, but let’s see what happens and what the future holds for me.
Recently, you tweeted about the lack of a Ben Stokes in the Indian team and Yuvraj Singh pulled your leg. A lot of people said India have Hardik Pandya, what’s your take on that?
Ben Stokes has become the number one allrounder in the world by winning matches for England. What I wish for Team India is to have an allrounder who wins games for India.
Unfortunately, Hardik Pandya is not there in the top 10 (on the rankings) in any format of the game. He has the potential; there is no doubt about it. But what I’m saying is that if we have an allrounder with that kind of caliber who wins matches, Indian cricket will be invincible. If you compare man-to-man, we are much better than any other cricket team in the world. You just need that one piece to make everything come together and that one piece as an allrounder.
Numbers and performances show that you have been the best Indian allrounder since Kapil Dev. Should players first aim to be the next Irfan Pathan before thinking about being the next Kapil Dev?
In reality, no-one will like it because I don’t have a great management company doing my PR. I don’t have that. I played cricket on my own. I didn’t have any Godfather. Some of the big people sitting behind the mic – don’t speak of my achievement and I’m okay with it. I have no regrets with it.
In reality, if you reach that level, then you can think of Kapil Paaji. I’m okay with it. As long as my team wins and as long as who is performing in that place is doing the job and winning games for the team, it’s doesn’t matter if he becomes Kapil Dev or doesn’t become Irfan Pathan. It doesn’t matter.
Media keeps saying that, “Irfan Pathan was so good, Greg Chappell spoilt him.” Have you ever had any discussion with Chappell in this regard?
To be very honest, no-one should be blamed for anything. Sometimes people have taken my statement in a different way: that this particular captain the coach has destroyed my career. I’m not blaming anyone. I am No. 9 as far as the highest wicket-takers (for India) is concerned in ODI. I haven’t played international cricket for eight years now. I am still there. I am very grateful.
I am grateful that people love me so much even now, even though I have retired, even though I have not played international cricket for eight years, they still remember my swing.
But, if the question is did I get enough backing, I would say, I was not backed enough. It was clear. If a guy has taken five wickets in his last match and has got man of the match in T20, scored runs in ODIs, then he gets injured and there was never a roadmap for him getting back - obviously anyone will feel hard done by.
Lot of people feel you do not praise MS Dhoni’s captaincy enough.
People don’t talk about Rahul Dravid as much. So, people who don’t talk about Rahul Dravid as much, do they dislike him? No. Under his captaincy, India won 16 consecutive ODIs while chasing. Sometimes it gets under the wrap.
As a winning captain, as a result-oriented captain and the guy who got the result, who had an excellent team, it was Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
I have huge respect for Sourav Ganguly, I have great respect for the captaincy of Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and I think Gautam Gambhir should have led the Indian team a lot more as well than he did. He could have been a really good leader. I really admire Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, but that doesn’t mean, I don’t admire the quality of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Who according to you has been the best leader of men in India cricket and why?
Sourav Ganguly. He wanted to make sure that he built the team. I remember Yuvraj Singh was struggling at the start of his career for quite a few matches. Ganguly backed him. He knew that if I back this guy, some amazing things can happen in the future and certainly it did happen. Not only Yuvraj, Ganguly also backed youngsters like Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan.
He built the team when the India team was in a slump. People did not love cricket because it was a tough time for cricket in India. Making people love the Indian cricket team again, the credit should be given to Sourav Ganguly. That is why if we talk about leader, he was the leader of the players. Ganguly had only one agenda. To make sure Indian team grows. Nothing else.
Why do you think there is bias between spin bowling allrounders and fast bowling allrounders?
Majority of the time the spinning allrounders are finger spinners. You will hardly find a wrist spinner - who is a wicket-taker - an allrounder. If you have a spinning allrounder, the team combination on different pitches do not work sometimes. If you have a fast bowling allrounder, he can still be useful to the playing XI, even if they’re using two medium-pacers on a dead track or a spinning track. But similarly, if you need to make a choice on a seaming track – if you play in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia – you can’t have two spinners playing and three fast bowlers unless he is a wicket-taking spinner. So, that’s where the team combination requires a majorly the fast bowling allrounder, which can actually be useful on any track.
How do you handle trolls on social media?
People will say negative things about you no matter what you do. If you go right and do the right thing, people will say let’s go left and do this. You will find those people in your families as well. Which is fine. I have an issue with foul language. Disagreement is fine because everyone have their own opinion. Nothing wrong with it.
I also have a family; I have my parents, my wife they do come across things which is not nice. Sometimes if you keep listening and don’t do anything about it they will keep doing that.
Any chance of following the footsteps of Navjot Singh Sidhu, Kirti Azad and Gautam Gambhir in the future?
If I do decide to come in public service, in any level, I’ll do it with my whole heart because I won’t have any agenda to fill my pocket. Every penny that I have earned until now, woh poori imaandari ka hai (All through honesty). In future as well, my agenda will be if I come into public service, it will be to do good work and to genuinely do service for the people. Otherwise, I will not come.