CricInfo: Lets start by talking about your beginnings, the Vizzy Trophy in
1970-71 where you first attracted attention...
Madan Lal: That was a long time ago. I remember playing in the Vizzy Trophy in Chennai. I got 22 wickets in two matches! I still remember it vaguely. I think the ball was moving a lot on that occasion. In the first match itself I had a few wickets. In the second match my captain told me not to bowl because I had enough wickets. I insisted and asked for the ball and got some more wickets. My captain was Ashwini Marwa from Delhi University. He helped me a lot by giving me enough opportunity to bowl. The 22 wickets I took in total was a record for the Vizzy Trophy. I still remember that day actually. There were no stands behind the bowler at the end from which I was bowling. There was a strong breeze blowing from the far end too. Even today I can still visualise the ball moving.
CI: Then there was the tour of Sri Lanka in 1973-74 where you combined
so well with Pandurang Salgaonkar
ML: I think pace bowling for India really started from there. Both of us finished the unofficial Test match in about four days. We got 17 wickets between us. I remember clearly that we won the match for the team. It was a very good Test match for me as I picked up 10 wickets. It was only after that match that people started talking about me.
CI: Your official Test debut of course was against England at Old
Trafford in 1974. You dismissed Tony Greig and Alan Knott in quick
ML: I still remember that very clearly. I think I was wearing three pullovers, it was that cold. The wind was so hard that it made bowling very difficult. I bowled a couple of overs against the wind and that was particularly hard. Then I changed ends, bowled with the wind on my back and that's when I picked up those two wickets. It was really a new experience for me back in 1974, bowling on green wickets. It's always good to get a few wickets in your first Test match.
CI: You didn't have a particularly good time with the bat though..
ML: That's right. Before the series started I was the top man in both the batting and bowling averages. I was really doing well. But then again I was a raw young Punjabi. I was really never bothered about anything. I simply wanted to hit every ball out of the ground. Even if people bowled bouncers I went for the hook shot at will. I never realised that this might pose a problem for me later on. I was a passionate player who wanted to do everything himself. The wind was so hard, the ball was moving, it was so difficult to bat. It was so cold that it was difficult to even open your eyes! I had a rough game batting wise. Mind you, I was picked as a bowler. I was supposed to get a few runs and chip in because my first class record says that I can bat a bit. (laughs)
CI: After that tour you were dropped. And then you came back against
the West Indies in the third Test at Calcutta in 1974-75. That must
have been your first taste of really quick bowling
ML: You're right there. I was dropped because I didn't have a good series with the bat. Those days you had to contribute with the bat as well. We had four spinners at the end of the line up and I used to bat at number six or seven. I was supposed to get runs. But I didn't do justice to my batting.
CI: In 1975 there was the World Cup in England, where India lost to
England, New Zealand and where Sunil Gavaskar made his infamous 36 not
out of 60 overs. What are your memories of that?
ML: I still have very strong memories. At that time One-Day cricket was not played as it is today. We were all just beginners in 1975. We had no experience of One-Day games. I don't blame anyone during those games. We had some rough times with One-Day games back then.
CI: You got your first five wicket haul against New Zealand in
Christchurch in 1976, when India made twin tours of New Zealand and
West Indies. That must have been a special moment..
ML: In my time, most of the bowling used to be done by the spinners. Whether it was in India or outside that was the case as the spinners were our strength. We (the mediumpacers) used to get bowling only in breaks. First you got to bowl five overs, then come back before lunch, before tea and that sort of thing. We weren't even encouraged much in those days.
CI: With the bat however you had a pretty good series this time around..
ML: I always enjoyed my batting. I used to love to bat. I believed that in India you had to be able to bat as well if you wanted to survive as a mediumpacer. I worked very hard on my batting. I used to try and get at least 30-40 runs coming in at number six or seven. If you do that, you can put together a small partnership and add valuable runs. I remember getting runs in Barbados. It's more thrilling getting runs when you are a bowler. That way you are contributing more to the team.
CI: The next big game for you was the five wicket haul against
Australia at Brisbane in 1977-78..
ML: I took nine wickets in two games and was promptly dropped! I was told that it was because I had not done well with the bat. Remember I was selected as a bowler, not as a batsman. People don't understand that. I know that I had serious problems against fast bowling. Whenever someone bowled a bouncer at me I used to close my eyes. That was a technical flaw. I did badly in the Tests but managed quite well in the four day game we played. Even against the quickies like Alan Hurst I made 88 at Melbourne. There was too much pressure on me to get runs in the Tests. I never relaxed when I was batting in a Test match and that did not help.
CI: Do you remember the famous Peter Toohey catch you took as a substitute in the fourth Test against Australia in the 1977-78
ML: Yes, I remember the catch. I did not play in that Test as I was sick. But I had to be in the field as an substitute when I took that catch. Since I was not playing in that game and wanted to contribute something for the side, I went for the catch and took it.