Chandu Borde: In Indian cricket’s service for more than three decades

Chandu Borde has been associated with three generations of cricketers, first as a player and then as an administrator. Recently, he spoke to G. Viswanath in Pune.

Chandu Borde is one of those rare personalities who has played international cricket with three generations, been a coach and manager of junior and senior teams and a selector and chairman of the committee, too.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

There was an individuality in his game. He potted the balls correctly and almost cleared the table. A 42-22 win in a one-off snooker game must have slightly inflated his ego. It is in a short snooker or badminton game that Chandu Borde finds relaxation these days at the Poona Club.

“What else to do in the evenings? Something has to keep me occupied. And I have started to enjoy playing snooker or badminton,” said Borde, whose cricketing chores are now restricted to administering the Poona Club team, although he could soon be busy as a chief coach of the Maharashtra Cricket Association’s one-month camp for bowlers.

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Borde has not been linked with Indian cricket, some way or the other, only in the last year and a half. Otherwise, he is one of those rare personalities who has played international cricket with three generations, been a coach and manager of junior and senior teams and a selector and chairman of the committee, too. Which means for nearly three-and-a-half decades, Borde has been associated with Indian cricket. Perhaps only Polly Umrigar can match Borde’s credentials.

Polly Umrigar, Vijay Manjrekar and Chandu Borde were the ones who set 3,000-plus runs as a benchmark in Tests for Indians. Borde, in fact, played 55 Tests, scored 3,061 runs and took 52 wickets. It was only two decades later that Sunil Gavaskar set the big barrier of 10,000 runs. The threesome’s Test-playing span varied between 11 and 14 years, and if Tests had been as frequent then as they are now, they would certainly have made more than 5,000 runs each.

Borde and Umrigar (Manjrekar having passed away) are held in awe and admired by cricketers past and present. Umrigar is now executive secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and has in the past held such important posts as selector and manager. But Borde stands out from the rest. “I have been there for 30-plus years. And I am very much keen to continue and assist Indian cricket,” he says.

Borde is due to retire from service on June 1, 1991, after which he avers he will be available “full time” for cricket. The Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) has asked him to spot talented bowlers in Maharashtra and to train them during the one-month camp.

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In an interview to Sportstar, Borde among other things dwelt at length on managership and the role he has played as manager of different teams.

Excerpts:

Can you recall your association with Indian cricket after your playing days?

Well, I have been involved in different capacities, most of them relating to cricketing activities. To start with, I was coach, selector and manager of the junior India teams. To groom young cricketers was the priority of the board from the ’70s and here I must emphasise that it has given India outstanding cricketers. I was a junior selector and the board, with the good intentions of shaping young prospects, nominated me as manager of the junior India team which went to Sri Lanka and England in the early ’80s. Thereafter, I have been a senior selector and chairman, manager of Indian teams during Test series at home and then manager of the team in Pakistan in 1989. I have had the benefit of observing cricketers at close quarters for an entire decade and more.

The assignment with the junior teams which toured Sri Lanka and England in 1981 must have been really exciting?

I am very clear in my thoughts. It is not difficult to work with junior teams, but all the same one has to be very committed and very responsible. This goes for the senior teams as well, but with regard to the juniors, you are handling a team which is to be the country’s future. And on an overseas tour where the conditions are alien to the players, the onus is on the manager to shape each and every player.

On those two tours, Ravi Shastri was the captain of the team and there were players such as (L.) Sivaramakrishnan, Kiran More and a few more promising youngsters. Since I had seen them earlier, I knew their strong and weak points and hence it was easy to work with them. These are the tours in which the players show enthusiasm and work hard to improve their game. We did well in Sri Lanka.

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I must make a point here. For the England tour, the continuity was maintained, which encouraged the boys to show their mettle. There were the six promising players – Shastri, More, Sadanand Viswanath, Maninder (Singh), Sivaramakrishnan and Chetan Sharma... (Navjot Singh) Sidhu was as impetuous then as he is today against the slow bowlers. I was able to impart the knowledge I had and worked on them to get the best.

I would say there was a rapid improvement in their performance because they were able to absorb what
was being told to them. Their observation was keen and the best part was they were eager to perform. After those two tours, I had mentioned in my report about the players who could progress to the Indian team and that Ravi Shastri had the potential to become a good captain.

What do you have to say on Sivaramakrishnan, who was on both the tours?

Siva was an absolutely brilliant bowler. He was the trump card and a match-winning bowler. He had tremendous potential and had it in him to become a great leg spinner for India. He had the rhythm, a good googly and the loop which deceived every batsman on the tour. He had the flipper and bowled to a good line and length.

But when I saw Siva in the camp in Bangalore, I could not believe my eyes. All the selectors were there and I was particularly shocked to see Siva bowling with a longer run up and struggling to land. When I asked him why he had changed his style, he kept quiet. He had lost his rhythm and his hand was coming lower. I have asked him several times thereafter, but I suppose he does not want to embarrass anyone. The case of Maninder Singh is similar. He had a beautiful action. Now it’s not there.

We have had glaring examples before in Dattu Phadkar and Pandurang Salgaonkar. They went to England, got their action changed and were nowhere after their return. I don’t know why people told them to change. I am a firm believer that originality should be encouraged and not killed. Even now if Siva comes back to his original action, he would be effective. But everything depends on his inclination to work hard and get back the confidence.

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Ravi Shastri lost his rhythm and confidence to bowl. At Karachi, he was disgusted with his bowling. Shastri is very touchy about his game. He began to shout in the dressing room and nobody could understand why he was doing so. At Sialkot, I observed his action and found out the problem. At the time of delivery, Shastri’s right hand was on his knee and only the left hand was movng. The problem was in the rotation of the hands. He was jubilant after he got his original action back. I think very soon we will see Ravi back in action. Maybe he is keen on batting now. Ravi is one who loves to bowl. Make no mistake about that.

Chandu Borde: At Sialkot, I observed his action and found out the problem. At the time of delivery, Shastri’s right hand was on his knee and only the left hand was movng. The problem was in the rotation of the hands.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

You were the cricket manager on the tour of Pakistan. This was your first overseas assignment with the senior team. What were your thoughts before accepting the job and after?

Well, we were written off, not by Pakistan, but by our own people. One had to accept the fact that Pakistan had a great bowling line-up in Imran (Khan), (Wasim) Akram, (Saleem) Jaffer, Aquib (Javed) and (Waqar) Younis. So, the general question was whether India would be beaten 2-0, 3-0 or 4-0? And considering what happened in New Delhi before leaving for Pakistan, the pressure was mounting on me. My big worry was how to motivate the players and raise their morale and confidence. Additionally, there were three youngsters in the team. It was a real challenge for me.

At New Delhi, the players were mentally disturbed. (Sachin) Tendulkar, (Vivek) Razdan and (Salil) Ankola were anxious. They were not sure if the tour would be on. But Pakistan was tremendously prepared for the series. They were in the mood to crush us. As manager, I was concerned. But soon after we reached Pakistan, I had a meeting with (K.) Srikkanth, Kapil (Dev) and the senior members. I stressed the need to forget the differences with the board. They had to forget that for the sake of the team and the country.

We discussed at length and decided to concentrate on the game. India’s image was at stake. I was a very happy man after the meeting. It was in the first meeting that the battle plan was chalked out. Because the mental preparation was made at the Lahore meeting, half the battle had been won. Even Imran said at the end of the series that Pakistan hoped to crush India 4-0 and that by drawing the series, India had actually won it.

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And mind you, we had to win it on and off the field. There was tension building up after Srikkanth was attacked and the Babri Masjid issue was in the news. Most of the players wanted to leave the field. But I told them to stay because we would have been declared losers. Even the Indian embassy personnel thanked me and their tremendous support helped us face the situation in a bold manner.

I was alone for 28 days after the second official returned to India. But I was able to carry on because the players cooperated with me. That was the precise reason for India fighting it out and not losing the series. I would like to point out here that there were no problems in striking a rapport with the senior players. The reason is, to begin with, I had played cricket with three generations. First with the likes of Vinoo Mankad, Polly Umrigar, Ghulam Ahmed, Subash Gupte and Vijay Manjrekar. I was the youngest member of the team then. The second was with Nari Contractor, (Mansoor Ali Khan) Pataudi, (Farokh) Engineer and (M. L.) Jaisimha. And the third was with Chandra (B. S. Chandrasekhar), Pras (E. A. S. Prasanna), (Bishen Singh) Bedi and with Pataudi as captain. And I saw the fourth generation as coach and selector. So I was connected from one era to another. There has been a continuous link. The combination of elements has helped me. Playing with so many of them had taught me the practical part of it and being involved with the administration, I had seen the growth of the current set of players.

You said you were worried about the motivation, morale and confidence of the players. How did they get it?

Well, the Indian team was like a wellknit family there. Srikkanth was overeager to perform better and this came from the bottom of his heart. He had his own way of doing things. Kapil came out with suggestions and clever observations. Shastri made a few comments and they were most valuable. So, all things put together, we were able to plan and act accordingly on the field.

Were you disappointed that you were not retained as manager after the tour?

I was. Very much. Because nobody gave us a chance and we returned home with our heads high.

Bedi, (Sunil) Gavaskar and Kapil lost their captaincy after losing a series in Pakistan. Srikkanth did not lose the series, yet he was dropped from the team itself. Why?

It’s a million-dollar question. It’s beyond my comprehension as to how Srikkanth was dropped. I would like to know that myself. In 1954, I toured Pakistan with Vinoo Mankad as captain and Lalaji (Lala Amarnath) as manager. I was the youngest member of the team then. It was the first series after Partition. And rivalry between the two teams was at its peak. Then in 1960-61, I played against Pakistan which was led by Fazal Mahmood.

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What I am trying to portray is Pakistan’s intense desire to beat India. From 1954 to 1989, I have been watching the Pakistan team. After assessing all the teams, I would say that the Pakistan team of 1989 was the best. It was an exceptional all-round side. Moreover, it was well prepared to rout us. The prey was there to be killed. Considering all these things, the Indian team’s performance was fantastic. I don’t want to say anything more.

Kris Srikkanth drives Andy Roberts for a four. His 38, off 57 balls, with seven fours and a six, was the highest score in the 1983 World Cup final.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

Do you approve of the BCCI’s policy of changing the manager for every tour?

I would not agree with that in any way. Look at England, Australia and the West Indies. The board should have a manager for three years. And he must have a say in the selection of the team. A full-fledged cricket manager should be employed by the board for a period of three years. Make him responsible. Give him the confidence, a free hand, and put him in charge of the national team. Because it is the cricket manager who has played cricket for a long time.

What will be your formula for success in Australia?

There ought to be a camp for a duration of four to six weeks. A person acceptable to the players should be made the cricket manager and he should be in charge of this camp. There should not be more than 20 probables. You should have four players as standbys, who will provide the cushioning if somebody gets injured. I don’t think there can be any change for the World Cup. A situation has been reached where all the Test players are experienced enough to adapt to One-Dayers.

I would give weightage to fitness for a lengthy tour like this. It should be ensured that bowlers who have the ability to bring the ball up are chosen. The Australian pitches have the inherent quality to encourage the fast bowlers. The more medium pacers we take, the better. A good left-arm spinner will do well on the tour.

What about cricket in Maharashtra?

Well, when I was the coach, the team reached the semifinals. After the 1988-89 season, I have not been the coach. It is being felt that the state senior team does not need a coach. But there is plenty of talent. Surendra Bhave is a better opener than most in the country. He is a tremendous fielder, too. But he failed when he was on trial. But he is a very solid opener. Then there is Santosh Jedhe, who has the potential to become an excellent all-rounder. Shantanu Sugwekar is a very good bat.

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