World Test Championship Final: Cricket needs India, win in Australia made Tests come alive, says Richard Hadlee | Cricket News – Times of India
Sir Richard Hadlee, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara
MUMBAI: Sir Richard Hadlee, one of cricket’s classical all-rounders – and part of a very elite quartet alongside Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Ian Botham through the 70s and 80s – is looking forward to the ICC World Test Championship final next month.
A keen follower of New Zealand cricket and in awe of India’s growing bench-strength, the 69-year-old expects a good game starting June 18. He spoke with TOI about the sentiment swirling around this inaugural edition.
Q. How’s your health been lately? For scores of Richard Hadlee fans, this needs an answer before we move to anything else…
Health is very good at the moment. In 2015 I had a routine colonoscopy and was all clear of any potential health issues. I was booked in for another routine colonoscopy in 2018 and a cancer tumour was found. I was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer (bowel and liver). Two separate surgeries followed removing a third of the bowel and 15% of the liver – the gall-bladder was also removed. Then I had to deal with five months of chemotherapy which was an ugly experience. I also lost 10 kilos during that period. Today, I have regular check-ups every 3 months. Fingers crossed for the future.
Q. From Glenn Turner’s team in 1975 to the missed opportunity in 2015 to the outright heartbreak in 2019, New Zealand have come agonizingly close to an ICC world cup before letting it go…
We have a proud record in 50 over world cups, Yes, those near misses were frustrating and disappointing but we were so close to winning in 2019 at Lord’s. I would go as far to say there were no winners and losers on that day – it was just by a technicality that England won! Both teams scored the same amount of runs in 50 overs and in the super over. The match was tied. In the old days, New Zealand would have won because they lost less wickets in their 50 overs. A fair result would have been both teams sharing the world cup honours or at the very least another super over until a true winner was determined.
Q. Do you see the World Test Championship final in the same bracket as winning a World Cup, or probably a notch higher given the format? A chance for New Zealand to make up for past disappointments…
The Test Championship is a one-off game. Yes, it is a final, but I don’t think either team will be too fazed about it. It is a neutral ground with no home advantage. It is something to look forward to. Both teams deserve to be contesting the final because of their consistency over a set period. It all comes down as to who is better prepared and who adapts better to the English conditions the quickest. The weather may also play a part and if it is cold, that will favour New Zealand. The Duke ball will suit both team’s fast bowlers, especially the genuine swing bowlers, and the Kiwis are well-served in that department with Southee, Boult and Jamieson. If the ball seams around off the pitch, batsmen in both teams will be challenged. Both teams have high class batsmen, so it will be an interesting game to watch. Too difficult to call a winner at this stage.
Q. India has time and again been bracketed as a country that turned cricket a wee bit garish, thanks to the advent of IPL. Yet, India has upheld its priorities towards Test cricket…
There is no doubt India produces a lot of revenue for cricket. Without India, the face of world cricket would be very different, therefore cricket needs India. But India has also made an outstanding contribution to Test cricket – like in all formats. Their Test performances in Australia were outstanding despite that 36 all out blip. They bounced back superbly, and Test cricket came alive again. Their performances in Australia were a remarkable achievement especially with so many youngsters having to come into the team and perform. It showed the great depth of talented players India have in all formats of the game.
Q. Martin Crowe can rest in peace, knowing New Zealand’s batting legacy is in great hands, thanks to someone like Kane Williamson. Martin had foretold that by the time Kane’s done, he’ll be New Zealand’s greatest ever. Kane, though, doesn’t look content at just being NZ’s best…
Martin Crowe was a great player and thinker of the game. He was the best New Zealand batsman in my time – a touch of class. Greatness is a word that is often misused or overused. Martin earned that badge and wore it well. His assessment of Kane is absolutely right. Kane has earned his stripes to be recognized as a great player now and in all formats of the game. By the time he ends his career he will have all the New Zealand batting records for most runs scored, most hundreds and a world class batting average. Kane has worked on his game and handles pressure extremely well – his temperament is outstanding – he knows his limitations and thrives on his strengths. He keeps his batting game simple, and he has a proven method that is effective. He collects his runs and then he can use his power game by playing proper and at times innovative cricket shots. Through one-day cricket he has expanded his shot selection capabilities – there does not appear to be any obvious weaknesses in his game. His leadership has also grown, and his personality appears to be unflappable and consistent. He is doing a fine job in leading New Zealand.
Q. Do you endorse Virat Kohli‘s brand of cricket – the aggression, that in-your-face thing he brings to the field of play? He is such an antithesis to Williamson. And yet, they are competing neck and neck to be the world’s best…
All sports at the highest level are about competing. It is finding a way to win a game and gain an advantage over one’s opponent. There will always be a fine line as to whether gamesmanship from a player or a team goes too far. I quite like seeing any player expressing himself towards the opposition by having a real presence – it is a form of intimidation that can be unsettling. I see Virat as being a very passionate and competitive cricketer with a strong desire for himself and the team to succeed. He is a proud man and a world class player – a delight to watch. The pressure and expectations on him to ‘win’ is enormous. Millions idolize him, which puts great pressure on him.
Q. Is the very idea of a quintessential all-rounder still existent? We have not seen the likes of Imran, Kapil, Botham, Hadlee happening to world cricket in close to 25 years now – barring Jacques Kallis or to more recent, and to an extent, Ben Stokes…
The battle of the all-rounders in the 70’s and 80’s was a special time. We all competed against each other and there was a strong desire and determination to succeed. My role in the team was to out-perform Imy, Beefy or Kaps. Whilst there was tremendous rivalry between the four of us, there was also mutual respect. I was bowling all-rounder with my bowling being my strength and my batting the weaker part of my game. In one-day cricket, there are all-rounders often called ‘bits and pieces’ players who do a bit of bowling and a bit of batting. It would be a good debate to say whether they are genuine all-rounders or not, but they still have a role to play. But an all-rounder in Test cricket is the pinnacle in that space.
Q. Jacques Kallis ended up becoming legendary. Other than Kallis, can you point out all-rounders post the turn of the century who have impressed you?
Jacques Kallis was an outstanding player – an all-rounder of high quality and hugely motivated. He was a wonderful batsman which was his great strength, and his bowling complimented the South African pace attack. Statistically, he is the best all-rounder in history and there will be some strong debate as to who is the best of all time. Sir Garfield Sobers may still have that title though. Over the years players like Keith Miller, Tony Greig, Andrew Flintoff and Shaun Pollock have dominated this space. Today, when I look at all-rounders, Ben Stokes stands out as number one – he is a competitor, a quality batsman and handy bowler who has single-handedly won games for England. Ravindra Jadeja, Shakib Al Hasan, Colin de Grandhomme, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Jason Holder are all worthy in their own right.
Q. What do you make of Jasprit Bumrah? With that kind of an action, does he have a long career ahead of him? Biomechanics have had a lot to say about him and whether he manages to prolong his career to the fullest with that action…
Being a fast bowler is a highly unnatural thing to do. Running in from 20 paces, gathering pace, taking off at delivery, bowling a ball at 140-150 kilometres, cartwheeling, twisting and turning, following through and then stopping, takes its toll on the body. Then the process is repeated time and time again. Fast bowling is an explosive sequence of highly coordinated movements – it is about rhythm, timing, and co-ordination and not necessarily about brute strength. All fast bowlers will have their own way of developing and fine tuning their actions to get the best result. Some have simple classical and effective actions, others will have unorthodox and unusual actions, and some will have short or long run ups. Jasprit fits into the unorthodox bowling category with virtually no run up to the crease. His technique in some ways defies belief but has proved to be highly effective. He is what I call a shoulder or strength bowler with all his power and pace coming from the final part of his action as he releases the ball. It would be very difficult to coach his technique to an aspiring fast bowler and I think a coach would refrain from doing from that because biomechanically it could cause problems with injury. Jasprit’s longevity in the game is yet to be determined. I suspect he could be more vulnerable to injury problems than those fast bowlers with more classical and ‘pure’ actions or techniques. Some of his potential injuries could be severe because of the stresses and strains he places on his body. I hope any injuries he may incur will not be potentially career-ending because he is a delight to watch, and he causes batsmen all sorts of problems with his unsuspecting pace, bounce, and ball movement in the air and off the pitch.
Q. There is a reserve day in the WTC final. Just like the good old days. A more guaranteed way to derive a result.
Yes, we had rest days in the 1970s. Sometimes I looked forward to a day off! Rest days were only good because it allowed especially bowlers an extra day to recover from a heavy workload. The disadvantage of rest days is that the momentum of the game can be lost. Players also had to switch-on again and be mentally prepared to perform and this did not always happen in my time. Not so sure if rest days guarantee extra results. These days we still get a lot of good results in four or five days of play anyway.
Q. In the longer run, do you see Test cricket surviving the onslaught of white-ball cricket? Or you reckon, there’ll be enough space for every format to co-exist?
Personally, I am a great supporter of Test cricket. That’s all I knew when I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. Yes, one-day cricket gained momentum in the mid 70’s but there were not many games back then. In the 80’s one-day cricket really took-off. For me, Test cricket still remains the format to play. It is the foundation on which the game is based, and it must be protected and preserved at all costs. If we lose sight of or neglect Test cricket, we will not get it back. Test cricket is a real test of mental and physical fitness; technical, tactical, and skill-set ability and attributes over five days in changing pitch and weather conditions and in different match situations that players need to adapt to. There is no other game like it. One-day cricket is and has been the other option. T20 cricket for me is not real cricket, but a high-risk game with many limitations and few opportunities for most players to excel in. But the financial rewards are great to off-set any disappointments. At least television and fans love T20 cricket and it is an exciting game to watch and enjoy.
Q. New Zealand is a small country, with a population of 5.06m – around one-fourth of Mumbai alone. In that, not cricket but rugby has been the country’s top sport. To remain competitive year after year in cricket at the global level, with a potentially lesser pool of manpower to choose from – what has been the key to New Zealand’s cricketing resolve?
As a small country, there are people who say we don’t have the numbers of people to choose from to be competitive on the international scene. I see our small population base as an advantage because the best sportspeople are spotted early and will come through the system and be given the resources they need. In bigger countries many talented sports people may not be seen or be overlooked and miss out on an opportunity, simply because there are too many people to choose from. Sportspeople in New Zealand are recognized and picked up very quickly. There is a saying in New Zealand that ‘we punch above our weight’ in international sport. The fact is, we have produced world record holders, world champions, Olympic gold medallists and we compete in many sports including rugby, cricket, hockey, sailing and yachting, motor racing, netball to name a few.
Rugby is our national game and cricket is our summer game. In rugby we are highly regarded, respected and generally top ranked – we win a high percentage of games, more than any other country and secure many victories especially in the final 20 minutes of play with a power game where players impose themselves on the opposition. The aura of the ‘silver fern’ and black jersey is often intimidating and feared by the opposition which gives the All Blacks a mental advantage. The tradition and history of the game is part of our national culture. Expectations are high from our team.
Cricket has always held its own during the summer, especially today. We compete in all formats. Players are full time professional players, and they gain added experience by playing in overseas tournaments such as IPL, BBL and on scheduled New Zealand tours to other countries. There are career paths available for young players to pursue through academies and High-Performance coaching support. There is support staff in specialized areas and with access to technology, it allows our cricketers to gain more knowledge and be better prepared than ever before to achieve at the highest level. Players get well looked after today. They sit in the front of planes whereas we sat in the back of planes – they are accommodated in 5-Star hotels or apartments whereas we were put in motel units. How times have changed!
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