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The Round Table
Next change: the superstars of the future
July 30, 2007
Ian Chappell and David Lloyd on the next generation of marquee names
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Shane Warne had that star quality - both on and off the field © Getty Images

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to the Cricinfo Round Table, the place where we discuss all that matters in the world of cricket. I'm Akhila Ranganna, standing in for Sanjay Manjrekar today.

Shane Warne, Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist ... superstars who captured the public imagination with their genius; truly some of the modern-day greats. Their exploits have dominated the headlines for well over a decade, but now times have changed. Some of these names have bid adieu to the game, others are in the twilight of their illustrious careers, and in the next few years the game will be without these superstars. The question now arises: who will be the next superstars? Who among the current crop have both the game and the flair to fill the void?

To answer these questions and nominate their superstars for the future, I have with me Ian Chappell, widely regarded as one of the most astute captains of the modern era, and David Lloyd, former coach of England.

Before we actually get into names, what do you think defines a cricketing superstar? Obviously being good at the craft is the main factor, but what do you think is the "X-factor" that is involved?

Ian Chappell: As far as the batsmen are concerned it has to be someone who not only makes big runs but makes them quickly; the guys who have the ability to change the game in something like a session - who keep the opposition captains awake at night. That's the story from the batting point of view. From the bowling point of view, it's the guys who take wickets. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne were exceptional, in that not only were they able to stop the runs, they were always likely to take a wicket. Fast bowlers are at an advantage because crowds like to see someone who is genuinely quick and who can shake up the batsmen, but then you also had Warne. Whenever he took the ball, there was a buzz around the ground. People would expect something to happen.

But that's the playing side of it. At the same time Warne was also a showman, with the way he appealed. And off the field the media were always on his case. Some people have that star quality. Sachin Tendulkar has that star quality without being controversial off the field. In his case, I think it was the style of his batting and probably also that he's made more money than any other cricketer. So there are a number of factors that go into making a cricketing superstar.

David Lloyd: It's almost like an actor and his performance - everybody rises to the performance of the player. People warm to them, real entertainers who can deliver the goods. The other thing a star-quality player does is that he gives the opposition sleepless nights. They worry about how they are going to get that player out, or how they are going to deal with his bowling. It's the sheer weight of performance and added to that, as Ian says, the entertainment value that goes into making a cricketing superstar. I would think that Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan like nothing better than entertaining the public, almost as if to say, "Look at me, I'm the star of this show."

AR: How crucial are these cricketing superstars to the growth of the game? People flock to the grounds just to watch Sachin bat. Their off-the-field stories, be it their endorsements or their much-written-about personal lives - as in the case of Warne - add to their aura, and in turn make the game more glamorous.

IC: Yes, people buy tickets to go and see that sort of a player - the match-winner who has star quality. That's why I think it is important to have good young cricketers coming through all the time. A few years ago Allan Border said that Australia will have to get used to guys around the age of 27 or 28 making their debut. Well, if that becomes the case, then Australia needs to seriously look at the system that is producing their cricketers.

For instance Ricky Ponting, when he was around 20 years old and making his way into the Australian side, you would have had people in Perth who hadn't seen him, talking about him saying that they had heard about this young player who was supposed to be very good. So, consequently, when the young Ponting would play in Perth, they would go to the ground to watch him, to see how good he was and make their own judgment. It's important to have superstars, but it's also important to have young players coming through, because not only do they enthuse the players in their own team, they also enthuse the public.

DL: In any sport you will have many stars, but not many superstars. Take the case of an Inzamam ul-Haq - there will be so many young boys in Pakistan who will be looking up to him and wanting to emulate all that he has done. You want your younger players to look up to someone and say, "I want to be like that guy."

When you talk to the younger players, it's always good to ask them who their heroes are and you will notice that that hero will always be a superstar. It will be a household name that they will throw up and say they want to emulate.

The thing that I admired the most about Lara was that he didn't change his style of play - at the end of his career he was still the same style of player that he was in the beginning whereas Tendulkar now, is nothing like the player he was when he was a young bloke

Ian Chappell

AR: In turn, how much does their success rub off onto their teams? Along with his cricketing genius, the aura that surrounds the superstar, gives the team an edge, doesn't it?

DL: A superstar does exactly that. You get many stars who don't fit into the team, but the superstar is the team player. The team as a whole fares better when he does well. Everybody admires what he does, because at the end of the day there is a subtle difference between him and another player who is also a star - but everybody knows that he doesn't play for the team and there's been plenty of them over the years.

Australia are pretty ruthless in this regard. If they have a player who they see isn't giving to the team, they make sure he's out of the team. I'm not going to take names, but there have been a couple of modern-day players from Australia who have played once for their country but aren't going to be given another chance.

AR: Ian, Moving specifically to individuals now: Sachin Tendulkar, Shane Warne and Brian Lara are definitely three of the modern greats. Two have retired and one is probably in the twilight of his career. All three superstars, yet all three very different...

IC: Yes, all three of them are very different. It is amazing, the way Sachin has coped with life in India. The fact that you have to wear a wig and go out to watch a movie only at night... I wouldn't be able to do that, I would have gone mad. When I was growing up, I was a big rock n' roll fan, and I remember Cliff Richard, the English rockstar saying in an interview that he felt sorry for Elvis Presley who was stuck behind the four walls of his house, whereas on a Saturday morning he could go to the local market and go shopping without being bothered. That's when I realised that being a superstar isn't as great as it's made out to be. I'm sure Warne will agree with what I've just said.

It's also interesting to note that since Warne has finished with international cricket, the media has been leaving him alone, which goes to show that despite all the stuff that was written about him, it was mostly his cricket that attracted the media.

Brian Lara, for a while, struggled with his superstardom. I remember him being quoted somewhere as saying that cricket was stuffing up his life. Well, cricket was earning him a hell of a lot of money, but at that point he wasn't coping well with his superstardom. But then he learned how to cope with it. And the thing that I admired the most about Lara was that he didn't change his style of play. At the end of his career he was still the same style of player that he was in the beginning, whereas Tendulkar now is nothing like the player he was when he was a young bloke.

DL: It absolutely staggers me, the way these players cope with their superstardom. After Lara retired after the World Cup, I remember him asking in an interview, "Have I entertained you?" That's what these superstars crave - that people have enjoyed what they have done.

AR: Warne, Anil Kumble and Muralitharan - three modern spinners, each hugely successful, but each with a totally different appeal. Who do you see filling the gap after they go?

IC: I think it will be Monty Panesar. He's certainly got the ability; he's a match-winner who has already taken quite a few five-wicket hauls. He's getting good top-order batsmen out and he has also captured the imagination of the public. Everybody talked about how he'd have a nightmare in Australia because the crowds would get on him. Well, the crowds loved him in Australia. I think there's a simple reason why Monty is so popular: his enthusiasm for the game just comes through. Everybody watching him realises that he is loving every second of being on the cricket field. That makes people warm to him. I also think that a lot of people identify with the fact that he's not such a great cricketer - most of them are park cricketers themselves, and when they see Monty fumble a couple, they think, "Jeez, that's what I do on a Saturday morning in the park," and that makes them feel better. I think Monty has definitely got it - he's got the ability, and he's got that star quality that is going to take him into the superstar class.

Kevin Pietersen has that confrontational quality about him. You can like and hate him at the same time © Getty Images

AR: David, is Panesar the next big hope of spin bowling?

DL: Yes, most definitely. He's just a genuine character. He's got a lot of soul, he's a pure individual, and he plays with a smile on his face, does Monty. When he's on the field, he looks absolutely petrified. That's what Ian just mentioned - he doesn't really want the ball to come to him, and people identify with that. He's a modest soul, but make no mistake, he is fantastic at what he does. He is a superb left-arm spinner and he will get 300 Test match wickets, which will make him a true superstar.

IC: England seem to have cornered the market on future superstars. Kevin Pietersen - if he isn't already in that category - is moving in that direction very quickly. He seems to have settled his life outside of the cricket field quite a bit but he still has that star quality, and certainly he is a match-winner as far as his game goes.

DL: Pietersen has that other quality of confrontation: "Okay, you're here, I'm here, let's rumble now," and people like that as well. So England, in Pietersen and Panesar, have got two star players in the making; two people who will force the public to buy tickets just to watch them play.

AR: David, you and Ian have spoken about Pietersen who is perhaps the closest to the Shane Warne mould. A perfect blend of on-field talent and off-the-field appeal. On the other hand you have a Mahela Jayawardene who perhaps fits into the Sachin Tendulkar mould where cricket takes centrestage.

DL: Jayawardene seems to me a very quiet, private chap. He is a fine player, a good leader who takes his job conscientiously, whereas Pietersen has got a little bit of negative about him. You hear people in England talk about Pietersen and there's a little negative about him, which again is a part of his appeal. It again comes down to the confrontational quality in him. And then when he does his interviews he might say something that other people don't like. Just a while back he said that he was feeling a bit tired. I don't have a problem with that. You're just expressing how you feel. I know that a colleague of mine - Mike Atherton - got really upset about Pietersen saying that. Atherton had done his digging and diving as a serious journalist and asked why Pietersen was doing promotional work on his days off. So there's something about Pietersen that you like and hate at the same time.

AR: Ian, you've spoken about the buzz around the ground when Warne would come out to bowl. Do you think Pietersen is well on his way to creating that buzz? Or is he already there?

IC: Oh, he's already there. You could hear Lord's buzzing the other day. You could tell that there was expectancy in the crowd when he had to fight hard for his runs in the evening and the first session before lunch on the fourth day. It was as if they were thinking that though Pietersen is battling hard for his runs now, sooner or later, if he's there for a little longer, he's going to break out, and of course he did break out after lunch.

You talk about people sitting on the edge of their seat. That's what happens when Warne takes the ball, Muralitharan takes the ball, and now when Monty Panesar takes the ball. Similarly, when Brian Lara, Pietersen, Tendulkar walk out to bat, there is that buzz. People still remember what Sachin did as a youngster, and when he is playing in your area you end up buying a ticket and going to watch him bat because you think to yourself, "I never know if he can recapture his old magic, and if he does that today, I want to watch it happen."

AR: Ian, Shoaib Akhtar has recently been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, now we also have Mohammad Asif in the Pakistan squad who has a tremendous impact on the international scene - movement, control and a drugs scandal to boot. Do you see him go the Akhtar way or do you see him being able to rise above all that?

IC: I hope his drug problems were because of bad advice. I have really liked him in the little bit I have had to do with Asif off the field. He has got a ready smile, he is a bit of a character, he likes to live his life outside of cricket, and he can certainly bowl. The first time I saw him in Sri Lanka, he made the ball talk. He has got a quality about him - even though he is not a genuinely fast bowler. He is probably like Glenn McGrath in that people look upon him as a real tradesman but with that little bit extra about him.

AR: David, your thoughts?

The reason Monty Panesar is so popular is that his enthusiasm for the game comes through © AFP

DL: The pair, Akhtar and Asif have got "it", they get people to watch their performance. I would like to see this pair with a strong management to point them in the right direction - to do what they do, and do it well, without being misled. If you are talking star quality, then Akhtar boy has got it. If you can bowl at 100mph, people at the other end, 22 yards away will notice. He gets wickets and he gets the best players out. He likes to entertain but somewhere along the way - like Andrew Flintoff did - he took a wrong turn.

AR: David, there's another pair, although from different teams - Lasith Malinga and Shaun Tait. Both had a huge impact in the World Cup. They're fast, with the ability to blast out the opposition. How do you see them faring?

DL: They are both doing very well. Tait is a big chap, very young, and there's a lot more to come from him. When he first burst on the scene, people said that he wasn't very good, he was all over the place. But he has developed, he has become much better, and he is bowling at nearly 100mph, and everybody will take notice.

Malinga, again, is a showman. He is totally different. He won't get past a MCC coaching manual. He would have been thrown out. He has got a very different action, a good character, and he has given Sri Lanka that something else. He is a really exciting cricketer and the two of them, to me, look supremely fit individuals who will continue for quite some time.

AR: Ian, David spoke of Flintoff on a rise but unfortunately taking a wrong turn. What do you think went wrong? Is it the weight of expectations that's pulling him down?

IC: His main problem seems to be injuries; his ankle seems to be troubling him. You need him bowling fast and well to be a true allrounder.

It is a sad part of the modern game that you cannot go out and have a few drinks. It would have driven me mad if we, as an Australian team, had had the success and then had to walk back to our dressing rooms, pack our bags and say, "All right boys, see you next week." You work very hard to win a five-day Test match and I always felt that as a team we needed to celebrate it. However, you try not to mess up other people's lives while you're celebrating.

I found it objectionable that Flintoff was out having a drink and the public dogged him because of that, but that's something you have to be aware of nowadays as a modern-day player. There will be a lot of jealousy around with players earning big money and certain fans will feel like they are being let down. If you're a drinker, you cannot sit in your hotel room and look at four walls for three or four months while you're on tour without having a drink, but you have got to pick your moments - where you have your drinks, and the way you behave.

AR: David, both of you have spoken about Flintoff. Two other cases are Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh. Both showed tremendous potential but are now finding it difficult to get a place in the Indian side. What seems to have gone wrong there?

DL: I think with Harbhajan, he seems to have lost his mystery, his aura. The batsmen in the opposition don't actually talk about him too much. They have worked him out; they don't see him as a threat. Anil Kumble is always a threat - a massive threat. If India bats first, rack up the runs and you get on a pitch that is wearing, Kumble is box office. And what I hear about Pathan is that he has lost his action. You wouldn't want a passenger in your team. It is all about hard work, getting the numbers next to your name to regain your place in the team.

AR: Just looking at these two cases, David... the inability to deal with instant success can also be career-threatening. Somehow we see more instances of this in the subcontinent.

DL: If I can just dwell on the Flintoff business for a bit... I wouldn't have had a problem with him. I trained him when he was 15, I know all about him. You can manage him easily, without any problem whatsoever. It [the pedalo affair] was a good story, a good photo opportunity, and he wasn't playing for a number of days after that. They are young men, they need every now and then to enjoy themselves. I will be so disappointed if a member of the public took a photograph - which they did - and sold it to newspapers for money. That is all that they were interested in.

But to get to all the young players - there are so many trappings in the world now. There is so much you can do if you are a superstar. So along the way you need to be managed properly. And you need a good captain. A good captain will be on the lookout all the time for the welfare of his team.

Harbhajan Singh seems to have lost his mystery, his aura. The batsmen in the opposition don't actually talk about him too much. They have worked him out; they don't see him as a threat

David Lloyd

AR: Your top three superstars for the future?

IC:: Pietersen is already there probably, Panesar is headed there, and I think if Mohammad Asif gets his life sorted out, he has something about him. He is a very good bowler, and like David said, if someone has the ability to take 300 wickets he has got star quality, and I think Asif can do that.

DL: Well, Panesar is going to be a superstar. Everybody loves him to bits wherever he plays his cricket. He's going to do the business.

I always like rank outsiders. I'll give you the name of a 19-year-old in England who, if he continues to improve, will have a massive impact. He is a legspinner; his name is Adil Rashid. I saw him in the Lancashire versus Yorkshire game. He scores runs, fields brilliantly, and he bowls good legspin. And he got top players out in that game - Brad Hodge and Stuart Law - bowling legspin. He is not the finished article, but he's got a look in his eyes and he is very confident, so watch out for him.

And another player that I really like - I'm not sure he is going to be a star but I have seen him since he was 17 and he is just starting to get hundreds - that's Mohammad Ashraful of Bangladesh, and I think he is going to become a really good player.

AR: Thank you gentlemen, for joining us on the Cricinfo Round Table.

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