'You got to have fighters'

RITESH GUPTA

"WE need warriors on the field. Those who are ready to fight it out," says Clive Lloyd, who led the 'demolition squad' to two successive World Cup victories in 1975 and 1979, adding that a lot needs to be done in West Indian cricket.

S. SUBRAMANIUM

The 57-year-old Lloyd, renowned for his leadership skills and powerful strokeplay, has no plans of being associated with the West Indies cricket, at least for the time being.

After a rather unsuccessful three-year stint as the manager of the national team, Lloyd never showed any great interest in joining the West Indies Cricket Board after his resignation. Lloyd was last associated with the national team in 1999, when he was the manager of the team, which toured New Zealand.

The Georgetown-born left-hander, who has also worked as a civil servant in the Guyana Ministry of Health, runs a nursing home in Manchester. Apart from this, Lloyd is also working as an Operations Executive with the Major Cricket League Inc. USA for strategic development and promotion of the sport in the U.S..

Lloyd, was in New Delhi for the launch of the Wisden cricket awards. Here are excerpts from an interview to The Sportstar.

Question: How are you associated with cricket these days?

Answer: I am working with Major Cricket League (MCL) Inc. USA as an Operations Executive. The organisation is trying to promote cricket in conjunction with the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA), which is the sole affiliate of International Cricket Council from this region.

To what extent has the Major Cricket League been successful?

We are trying to get some grounds. Cricket over there needs extra push. It is a very good area for sports but cricket has been run by an individual or two for too long.

At the moment, USACA is the only ICC affiliate, so they need to work harder with those companies which have shown interest to get associated with the sport. A long way to go but we are in the right direction. (MLC also tried to secure broadcasting and media rights for cricket in the U.S.)

Considering the increasing influence of sports such as basketball and football in the Caribbean, is cricket losing its popularity?

Well yes, I suppose people are graduating to other sports. There is no doubt about that. Youngsters are switching over to lucrative sports such as football, which is quite popular. It is played throughout the year and in every island. Basketball has picked up, too.

So how does it feel to see cricket losing its popularity?

It is very painful. It is all about going out there and leaving an impression. We had players, who were very determined, very professional and very disciplined. You got to have fighters, who are there to perform at their best.

Crowd still is mad about cricket, we can see it from the attendance at the venues. For some section, cricket is a passion.

What do you think needs to be done?

I think talent has to be tapped, and also knowledge and expertise has to be utilised to nurture the junior level. We need to develop academies. And academies should be like universities, where you have the best professors to teach students. We need to have such developments for producing top class cricketers. We need the right people to build right image, so that youngsters pursue cricket keenly.

The pitches have slowed down in West Indies. Do you think there is need to work on pitches?

Well, they have slowed down considerably and are not quick as they used to be. We need to follow New Zealand where the pitches are grown outside and use them for a couple of years and then put them back. Quicker bowlers will be able to get purchase and will be encouraged, spinners will get bounce and batsmen, too, will get accustomed to playing under different conditions. We need to work towards such situations.

Are you planning to join the Board?

It's really down at the moment. I don't want to have grey hair.

You have been an ICC referee, you were also part of the committee that probed the match-fixing allegations in the matches hosted by Sharjah and a commentator. How do you manage all this?

I wonder sometimes, if my body was a car, I would have gone for servicing quite regularly. But it's good to be involved. I like what I do and cricket is very important to me.

How does it feel coming here?

It's always good visiting here. I enjoy a great relation with the players. India has been good to me. I made by debut in Bombay in 1966. My first Test as a captain was here when we toured in 1974-75. I got my highest score (242 not out) here. Every time I come here I feel it's like home away from home. I have got a lot of friends and it's wonderful coming here.

What do you think of the current Indian team?

I think Ganguly is doing a fine job. You can't get Gavaskars and Kapil Devs. Every country goes through this cycle (of rebuilding). You have talented guys. I feel in the next two years, if the talent is harnessed properly, it will be a wonderful cricket team. There is need to have two solid openers along with the present middle order and good spinners. Fast bowlers have come along nicely too, so India can be a force to reckon with in the future.

Do you think the players are taking too much load these days?

Yes. I would like this to be changed. Players should be only playing after recovering and not when they are half-fit. They should play less cricket, so that they are fit and when people watch them, they can enjoy too. This way spectators will get to see them at their best.