Dilip Sardesai spoke to Wisden Asia Cricket in 2003

'I was a defensive batsman on captain's orders'

Dilip Sardesai gets candid as he speaks to Wisden Asia Cricket

Dilip Sardesai pictured during the 1971 tour to England © Playfair Cricket Monthly

Cricket has undergone a sea change since my time. These days the heightened professionalism and the accompanying pressures have taken the joy out of the sport.

In many ways the money is actually harming the game today. Sponsors are even influencing team selection in their attempts to maximise their returns on players. That's vested interest, not national interest.

Player power has changed the attitude of the board towards cricketers. The board realises it cannot mess around with players any longer as it's the players who have the power to draw in the money and mass public support.

I'm not sure if the ICC has guts. How else can they overlook the proliferation of bowlers with suspect actions?

Cricketers do not necessarily make good commentators. Look at [Krishnamachari] Srikkanth - the guy talks before he thinks.

As I walked out to open the second innings against New Zealand in the Bombay Test of 1964-65, I was told: "You'd better get runs or you'll be dropped". I got 200 not out in that innings. We were following-on 209 behind, and the score was 18 for 2 at one point.

Mumbai cricket has gone to the dogs in the last 10 years or so because of administrative neglect. The chalta hai attitude has hurt Mumbai.

Getting into the India side in the late 1950s and early 1960s was easier than getting into the Bombay team. I could not grumble about having to wait in the Bombay reserves for two years when a Test player like Manohar Hardikar was also in the same boat.

Vijay Merchant didn't want me on the 1971 tour to the West Indies. I am extremely forthright. I once told Merchant in front of everyone in the dressing room not to offer useless explanations if he didn't want to select me.

It was Ajit Wadekar who thought I deserved to be in the side, since I had got four hundreds before the team selection. One of Ajit's good qualities as a captain was that he would heed the advice of his team-mates.

Tiger Pataudi was by far the best captain I played under.

The opener's job was often thrust on me. The blue-eyed boys of the time often didn't want to open the innings. Having to move up and down the order was unsettling. As a pure middle-order bat I could have finished with a higher average than I did.

I was a strokeplayer, though I ended up being branded a defensive batsman. It was a role I performed on the captain's instructions.

I got 106 with 18 fours in little over two hours against New Zealand in 1965 at New Delhi.

If I had to lead my life all over again, I would love to be able to play cricket in the present scenario. Today's bats are a marvel; the equipment offers better protection; and the money gives you financial security for life.

I am a believer in fate. But when fate gave me opportunities I grabbed them with both hands.

As told to H.Natarajan