Exclusive: Ravi has done a fantastic job, says former India wicketkeeper Engineer

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Former Indian wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer. — Rituraj Borkakoty
Former Indian wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer. — Rituraj Borkakoty

Dubai - The former Indian wicketkeeper also says that with Rahul Dravid now at the helm, Indian cricket is in very good hands

By Rituraj Borkakoty

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Published: Fri 12 Nov 2021, 12:57 PM

Last updated: Fri 12 Nov 2021, 1:14 PM

Long before MS Dhoni earned rock-star status in India with his flamboyant skills as a wicketkeeper-batsman and flowing locks, it was Farokh Engineer who had set the pulses racing in cricket.

Engineer, the former Indian wicketkeeper who used to hit bowlers for fun, famously earned a Brylcreem contract for his good looks in the 1970s.

“Those days to be offered a contract by Brylcreem was like being on the front page of the Vogue magazine,” Engineer laughed when this reporter asked him to take a trip down memory lane.

During a freewheeling chat with Khaleej Times, Engineer, who scored 2,611 runs with two centuries from 46 Test matches, also opened up on Ravi Shastri’s tenure as Indian coach.

Are you here to watch the matches?

You know Ajay Sethi (Chairman and MD of the Channel 2 Group Corporation), is a very good friend of mine. I met him at the Royal Box because I was invited for a couple of games here. He asked me to do radio commentary (for Talk 100.3 FM). He said I have got the voice for it, so I did the India-Namibia game. Now the semifinals and the final. We have a wonderful team, we have Clive Lloyd. We are enjoying the cricket. And also I always enjoy coming to Dubai, my daughter (Scarlett Engineer) works in Dubai for Adidas. So I visit Dubai quite frequently.

How would you rate Ravi Shastri’s stint as a coach? He didn’t win an ICC trophy, but the team did well under him, especially in Test cricket…

Ravi has done a fantastic job for Indian cricket. Ravi is a fighter, he is tried and tested at all levels. He has been a great servant for Indian cricket. He was a great commentator as well. This role just fell into his lap and he has taken to it like a duck to water. He has done a splendid job along with Virat Kohli in building this Indian team. Ravi and Kohli have done such a good job that India can pick two teams. People like Shikhar Dhawan is not in the team, Mohammed Siraj is not in the team. These guys, you can pick a whole eleven from them.

Will that make the job easier for new coach Rahul Dravid?

Much easier. He just has to keep the momentum going. Rahul Dravid, his style of management is probably different. Rahul Dravid is not there to undermine Virat Kohli or Rohit Sharma. He is a very sensible boy. He is a thinking man, he is a wonderful human being. His management skills will be completely different. He won’t interfere with the team. He is not known to make a lot of noises. He will make the right noise when he has to. So yeah, Indian cricket is in very good hands. He has inherited a wonderful job.

Many experts have felt that Rohit should also be given the ODI captaincy…

I am not in favour of split captaincy. England have done it, Joe Root couldn’t get into the T20 side. I don’t know why because he is a very good batsman. I am sure if he was in the T20 squad, he would be like Kane Williamson. He would be contributing and Joe Root can play some really good shots and pretty quick as well. He would certainly get more runs than what Eoin Morgan is getting. But he has captained well. It’s good for the country to have such good bench strength. But England have chosen to do it that way, that doesn’t mean India should do it. Why should we copy England?

How disappointed were you with India’s performance in this World Cup?

It was very disappointing because India were by far the favourites to win this. But Pakistan gave them a knockout blow in the first match. All credit to Pakistan. They out-batted, out-bowled, out-fielded and out-captained India. I think against New Zealand, India pressed not the panic button, but the self-destruction button. They kept on hitting aerial shots right in the fielders’ hands as if they were giving them fielding practices. Why would the batsmen, who were so experienced, such class players, not try to place the ball between the fielders? They were hitting it exactly where the fielders were. That’s why we paid the price. If Trent Boult and Tim Southee, who are great bowlers, had taken wickets with great, unplayable deliveries, I can understand. You know we slaughtered teams like Afghanistan, Namibia and Scotland, but what’s the point?

As a wicketkeeper, you were the trendsetter back in the 1960s and 1970s with your flamboyant batting. Then India found MS Dhoni and now they have Rishabh Pant…

I am so happy. MS Dhoni has followed my tradition. Now Pant is carrying it on. I am very proud of them. They remind me of my youth. I know both the guys very well. They are full of respect, they always come to me for advice. It’s lovely to talk to youngsters, whatever knowledge you can share. Dhoni improved a lot tremendously as a wicketkeeper over the years, Rishabh has also improved a lot. It’s good to see wicketkeeping is in good hands.

With your style of cricket, you would have been a massive player in IPL…

Sachin always jokes with me that ‘you would have been the highest earner in IPL ever’. I think so because I loved hitting the ball hard, that was my style of play. I wish I had the equipment that these guys have these days, these bats. You know I once scored 94 before lunch on the first morning of a Test match, that was unheard of. It was against West Indies on a green top in Chennai, against Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith and Garry Sobers and I opened because nobody else wanted to open. But I could have easily got a hundred before lunch. I got it in the first ball after lunch when Lance Gibbs came on to bowl. And, after facing bouncers and beamers, there was no limit on bouncers and beamers those days and no helmets, seeing an off-spinner come to bowl, I hit him out of the stadium. I think the ball is still travelling, they never found it!

Did the game have bigger characters back then compared to now?

There were larger than life characters in our time, even though there was no money. We played for 50 rupees a day. I and (Sunil) Gavaskar were batting against New Zealand, you know, we were winning a Test match in four days, we needed 15-20 runs. And messages started coming from the dressing room, asking us to take the match into the fifth day because we would have lost out on the 50 rupees for the last day. So we had to block, and the next morning we scored the three-four runs needed for the win, a big cheer went up. The whole team got 50 rupees each. That was for playing one more day of a Test match!

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