Rahul Dravid's calm nature played a big role in Indian victory: Roger Binny

When the team was under stress, he used to cool them down

1984540062 Roger Binny | Getty Images

Exclusive Interview/ Roger Binny, BCCI president

When Roger Binny and his mates went into the 1983 World Cup, they did so, famously, as underdogs. The current Indian team, though, goes into each ICC tournament as a favourite, which makes failure even more heartbreaking.

Gautam Gambhir has played in all three formats. He has played a lot of T20s, so I think that should be a plus point for him.
When [Sachin] Tendulkar retired, nobody thought someone will fill his shoes. But then Virat came along and he did a fantastic job. I’m sure the IPL is throwing up a lot of young cricketers.

Binny, now as BCCI president, had a close-up view when India broke the 11-year curse of not lifting an ICC trophy.

While there, Binny also caught up with old friends including Viv Richards and Clive Lloyd. “Sir Garfield Sobers is 89 and he still walks around to the matches. He sits and watches the whole day,” he said.

He also spoke about how the gentleman Richards had lost a bit of weight and muscle mass, but had remained fit at 72. “Viv was telling everybody around, you know, this is the team that did us in 83,” he said. The West Indies legend had also said that if the Men in Maroon faltered, he wanted India to win. And in fact, when he met Binny in Antigua, he said, “You’re on your way.”

India did make it all the way, but Binny knows the job is not done. Cricket in India never stops and the next item on his list is filling the position of head coach that Rahul Dravid leaves behind.

Hours before boarding a chartered flight to Delhi from Barbados―which has been hit by Hurricane Beryl―Binny spoke to THE WEEK about the World Cup, India’s success and about Gautam Gambhir as a candidate for the coach’s job. Excerpts from the interview:

Q/ It had been 13 years since a World Cup win and India finally have the monkey off their back.

A/ The cricket these boys played was superb. The way they fought. We were in two very difficult positions. One against Pakistan. You know, they were sailing along in New York. And they should have won the game, actually. But somehow, we were able to turn around that game. And also in the final [against South Africa]. We were in the same situation in the final. We were [slipping] at one time. After the 15th over. The courage they showed and the fighting qualities were really good.

Q/ India had lost every final since 2013. Finally, something has come together. Would you attribute this to a single reason or multiple?

A/ There have to be multiple reasons. The main thing is that Rohit [Sharma] led from the front. And he and Rahul [Dravid] were able to get the team together. Which is very important. They did that in the 50-over World Cup in India, too. But here, at no stage of the game were they giving up. They played with so much passion. They had that in their mind, what happened last time.... Second, I think the wickets also were suitable for us. Our type of cricket. Slow. And the ball was spinning a little bit. We had the extra spinner with us. So that also contributed to the success.

Q/ Did the calm nature of Dravid play a big role?

A/ Of course, it did. When the team was in a tense situation, he used to go in every break. After 10 overs, he used to go and have a pep talk and cool them down. So, definitely, his presence in the dressing room and on the field made a big impact.

Q/ Now that Dravid is going out, have you guys found a replacement?

A/ We have not yet finalised it, but they have [shortlisted] two or three people. When we get back, we will think [about it]. They (the advisory committee) will decide finally. Because the committee has to meet us first. We will know when we get back.

PTI06_26_2024_000065A Winners across eras: Ravi Shastri feeds cake to Rishabh Pant at a party in the Caribbean to celebrate the 41st anniversary of the 1983 World Cup victory; Roger Binny and Sunil Gavaskar look on | PTI

Q/ What are the names shortlisted? Of course, one is Gambhir…

A/ I know Gambhir is there because he is doing the rounds everywhere, in every newspaper. I don’t know who the others are.

Q/ W.V. Raman’s name has also been mentioned. But you know, Gambhir and Rahul are opposites. One ever-calm and the other ready for a fight. Is that a negative?

A/ It’s basically how the coach handles the situations. And Gambhir has played in all three formats. He has played a lot of T20s, so I think that should be a plus point for him.

Q/ Are you looking at a different red-ball and white-ball coach?

A/ That is not yet decided. But actually, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. You know, if you can zero in on that, look at two different areas. But that has not yet been discussed. We have been so tied up with this World Cup that everything has been put on the back shelf for the moment. From tomorrow, we’ll start again.

Q/ Everyone is talking about the end of an era for Virat and Rohit. Perfect way to end their T20 careers?

A/ It’s befitting; they both participated, they did well. And I think it’s the right time for them to go. They have gone at the right time. They have had a fantastic run [and] we are going to miss them. [But] there are a lot of young cricketers who have to step in and put their hands up and take their places. When [Sachin] Tendulkar retired, nobody thought someone will fill his shoes. But then Virat came along and he did a fantastic job. I’m sure the IPL is throwing up a lot of young cricketers. So we should find someone who will be capable in the next few years.

Q/ There are a lot of names, including the likes of Abhishek Sharma. But just on that, Roger, there is the complaint that India won the first T20 World Cup in 2007. After that the IPL started and India did not win another T20 World Cup till this one. Why do you think this is the case?

A/ I think we were close in many situations. But you know, [in] T20s, if you have one small bad session on the field, you’re gone. Of course, the last one in Australia we lost by 10 wickets [in the 2022 semi-final against England]. But otherwise, you know, even in this tournament, we could have been knocked out if we had just one bad session. We were able to convert those sessions in our favour.

Q/ Did you guys have a mental conditioning coach or was that aspect just left to Dravid and Rohit?

A/ They had someone coming in on occasion, whenever they wanted it. But I think all credit goes to these two, Rohit and Rahul. And they had the support of Kohli also, being a former captain and such a great player and leader. So that also played a big role in taking these guys up there.

Q/ On the whole, what is your take on this World Cup, especially the US leg? The New York pitch came in for some criticism.

A/ It was a bit disappointing, the US leg, because the pitches were not up to the mark. They probably had a lot of difficulties because they couldn’t prepare the pitches earlier because they had just gone through winter. And they had to wait for winter to finish before the grass was laid. But still, I think they were not ready for the World Cup, really. The venues were lacking in Florida and in New York. [When they] had a lot of rain, they didn’t have enough covers for the grounds. We lost one game in Florida (India vs Canada). Luckily, it didn’t have any effect on us, but you cannot lose World Cup games like that, due to weather. Pakistan probably went out because of that. It’s not fair.

Q/ What corrective measures should the ICC take going forward?

A/ They will have to improve. They have other centres that have been very active in local cricket. But I think they need to do a lot of grassroots development. I mean, just playing with all the expats in the team doesn’t make sense. You know, they have to get the American kids to play the game and make it popular like baseball and basketball.

Q/ Do you see that happening?

A/ It’s a big challenge. They have to start right at the school level. And it’s going to take time, but they have got to have the patience to wait. Otherwise, it’s just going to be like what happened in Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong. I mean, they just didn’t move from there. The Middle East is a fine example. It’s all Indians and Pakistanis playing there. No local person is involved. So, the game is definitely not going to be supported even by the government.

Q/ So, how does ICC spread cricket? What are your suggestions?

A/ We have ICC tournaments, like we have the Asia Cup and all that. We have ICC Americas play their own tournament. And ICC Asia plays their own tournament. So I think that’s [an area where] a little more activity should take place. They should probably play in the junior categories, 16s and 19s. And then bring the best team that qualifies into the World Cup. Because there are too many teams that actually didn’t fit the bill to play in the World Cup. It’s not right. I think it takes away from the World Cup when you have teams who are not performing and records are being broken. So I think the ICC has got to look at that. They’ve got to have more development in their grassroots areas for these ICC teams.