Farokh Engineer tells Derek Abraham that India’s esteem will take a beating if they dish out menacing pitches
You were there when India got thrashed in England last year. It must have been depressing. How do you think MS Dhoni & Co can do a turnaround?
Yes, it was extremely depressing and disappointing. Our boys just couldn’t play. They didn’t have enough time to settle in. They were not guided properly; I’m not trying to criticise the coach or anything here. The wickets were not unplayable. They were just normal green pitches where the ball just moved around. And people like James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowled very well.
And England batted well...
Yes, indeed. Our bowlers were ineffective. As an Indian, I was heartbroken. It was a combination of several things. I could have helped the team with my experience. I know every blade of grass in England. I was willing to offer my services for free. But they never got back to me.
Whom did you approach?
Forget it (laughs)! Let’s hope we win 4-0 here.
Will a 4-0 result banish the demons of last year?
To a certain extent, yes. I would be delighted but the important thing is India must not get complacent. England have a world-class spinner in Graeme Swann. They have Kevin Pietersen. These are players capable of hitting back. Most of their bowlers can bat. The series won’t be one-sided at all. Dhoni wants rank turners, but hello, which pitch in India doesn’t turn? Even bowlers in my time — Erapalli Prasanna, Bishan Singh Bedi, Bhagwath Chandrasekhar — used to turn the ball from Day One, but not menacingly. The fact that Dhoni is asking for rank turners is ridiculous. If that happens, our esteem will take a beating internationally. And what if he lose the toss? If England get 500, then India will have to bat second and fourth. Dhoni says the wickets in England were green. They were normal, usual wickets.
Do you think England play spin better than Indians play pace?
That’s a tough one. England didn’t play well in Ahmedabad. The demons of the past are haunting them.
Why is this happening tour after tour?
It’s a psychological issue.
But Alastair Cook and Matt Prior batted well...
Also Cheteshwar Pujara. You have got to graft. KP must learn to graft. He was trying to sweep a ball pitched on middle and leg! That sound of ball hitting timber is going to give him nightmares. He was bowled twice in the match. He seems to be trying too hard. He should just relax a bit.
Have you looked at the pitch?
Yes, looks like the pitch has already hosted a game.
Yes, you are right! Mumbai played Railways earlier this month. And Sachin Tendulkar scored a hundred.
Oh, is it? Dhoni’s wishes are going to be granted, I guess. It will turn from Day One, I reckon. But how much, I don’t know. But I hope it’s not a wicket where one ball hits the helmet and the next one hits the toe. It must turn reasonably, not menacingly.
Will the Test match last five days?
I think it will be over in four.
What’s your XI?
The toss will play a crucial factor. If England bat, then Swann could attack us. I would not play three seamers. Monty Panesar must play. I would be tempted to play Harbhajan Singh too. Let’s attack England from all sides. Make them think the ball is doing more than it actually is. When Ajit Wadekar took ill during the Kolkata Test in January 1973, I took over as captain. I threw the ball to Chandrasekhar and placed fielders all around the bat. England didn’t know what hit them. They made a mess of the 192-run target and lost by 28 runs.
Could you predict the scoreline?
I’m not a palmist (laughs) but it’s going to be 3-1 or 3-0. But 4-0 would be absolutely great.