CricInfo: You were out of the team for 35 Test matches. That must have been a
hard time for you...
Madan Lal: Actually that was the best thing that could have happened to me. People say that it was terrible that I got dropped and things like that. But for me personally it was a good period because it gave me time to go back to the basics and work on my batting. I was living in Delhi then and I returned to my home in Amritsar to work on my batting. I concentrated on batting, particularly against short pitched stuff. I began with a tennis ball. Then I realised that a tennis ball doesn't hurt anyone and took to a leather ball! That really helped me overcome technical flaw against fast bowling.
CI: When you made the comeback, you took 5 for 23 against England in Bombay. Do you remember that match?
ML: I didn't have a good game till then and also had food poisoning due to bad food. Kapil who was my roommate took me to a doctor and I had an injection. From there I went straight to the hotel and rested. I asked Kapil not to tell anyone about my health. In the morning I started to bowl and got those wickets purely because of my inner and spiritual strength. I think God was with me that day and I got five wickets.
CI: The biggest moment in your career must have been when India won the
World Cup in 1983. In the final you played a key role, taking three
ML: We had played against West Indies quite a few times before the final. Most of us knew what was needed when playing against them and that helped us. Let's be honest - no one gave us a chance in 1983. But we all were confident that we would do well. And in the end, we won and surprised everybody!
CI: Then you had some good runs with the bat in 1983 when you shared some useful partnerships, once with Roger Binny when you two put on 155 runs for the seventh wicket against Pakistan at Bangalore and then with Kirmani for the ninth wicket against West Indies at Kanpur? Was it the result of your practice?
ML: Yeah, right. I worked hard on my batting and was determined to prove that I can handle fast bowling. I was hurt when early in my career people branded me that I cannot play pace bowling. When I made my comeback, I was batting at number eight or nine and I tried to contribute a little whenever I could.
CI: Can you tell something about your comeback against England in 1986 when you were summoned to play for India when you were playing league games there?
ML: I was playing league cricket in England when they called me to play
the Test match. But I didn't want to play that game, not because I was
not fit or I was scared or anything but because of Kapil Dev.
Sometimes if you call someone, it backfires on the captain if the
player doesn't perform. But Kapil said, "No, no, you play" ...
CI: 1042 runs from 39 Tests at an average of 22.65 and 71 wickets at 40
apiece. Compare this to a Ranji career where you had over 5000 runs
and over 350 wickets. At the end of the day are you happy with that?
ML: No. I'm not at all happy with that. My Test career was a very rough
ride. I wanted to make a mark at the international level and missed
out. That's the way life goes. Sometimes it hurts when I look back at
that. I really feel that I have not done justice to my talent at the
CI: You were part of Delhi's winning Ranji teams for five years, two as
captain. You must have some fond memories of that too?
ML: I am not one to brag about my past. I don't believe in my past; I
believe a lot in the present. I remember winning Ranji Trophy twice,
winning Duleep Trophy once or twice and we went to Lahore and won that
also, you know, the Super Wills. As a captain I had a good run because
I had good players working with me. I always believe I can put the
people in the right sort of direction...
CI: What about your experience as coach of the Indian team in 1997?
ML: It was a wonderful experience. I had a very good stint with the
United Arab Emirates team. I wanted to be very successful as coach of
the Indian team as well, but there was a lot of pressure on me. I
sometimes think I was too straightforward a person for the job. In
that process I made a few mistakes. My record isn't that bad though.
The Barbados Test where we failed chasing 120 was very difficult for
me personally. That really broke my back. I thought I had enough then. That was easily the biggest blow I got in my life. But you have to take it in your stride. I must say that I don't have anything against anybody though. I enjoyed myself with the team. I can still walk with my head held high. I did my best as a coach and people know that.
CI: You're still giving something back to the game as a national selector.
What's that like?
ML: This is the toughest job I've ever done I think. It is very difficult to satisfy the public and the players. I'm not really answerable to anyone in particular. It's my conscience that guides me. If I am honest and believe in myself, I can convince people about my decisions. I can actually put it both ways - I can say I enjoy the job or that I don't. It's frustrating when things don't go right for you. It's such a big country. Only 14 or 15 can be selected. Someone is bound to be left out and annoyed. I believe that most players select themselves. They get dropped because of their own mistakes too. We are not here to destroy anybody's career. I enjoy the job, all things considered. When I pick a player I back him through and through. That helps me keep my conscience clear.
CI: Finally India came back very strongly against Australia in the Test
series after a slump. What would you say is working for the Indian
cricket team at the moment?
ML: Well, this is the one of the best series I have ever watched for a long long time. Let's be honest, no one gave a chance to the Indian team before the series. I know that people said, oh no no, they are going to be beaten, but we must give them credit the way they played. The way they made a comeback to win the Test series I think was a tremendous achievement. I thoroughly enjoyed all the three Tests and I think I'll remember it for a long time. This the best thing to happen to Indian cricket for we have a lot of cricket left in the next six months. After match fixing, this was an important series for Indian cricket as the people wanted to see the side win. this is the best thing to have happened for cricket in the country.