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Cricketers reflect on their lives and times

Nari Contractor

'Take it one ball at a time'

Once India's youngest Test captain, Contractor took India to a famous Test series victory over England before his career was cut short by a wicked bouncer

Interview by Nagraj Gollapudi

March 6, 2008

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Mangesh Zemse

I got everything from cricket except money.

You field the whole day and the ball might come to you only a handful of times, but on every ball you need to anticipate that it will come to you. That way you're co-operating with the rest of the team.

Brian Statham was the finest bowler I faced, as far as accuracy went. For sheer pace, Roy Gilchrist and Wes Hall.

One ball at a time, that's the best way to confront a bowler.

My god was [Vijay] Hazare. He never surrendered his wicket.

Cricket started at school for me - Boys' Town, Nashik. We used to carry the matting to the ground, lay it, and after play, roll it back and go home. We did it for the love of the game. Can you ask today's kids to do that?

The first time I opened in my life was in a Test match.

There was this one inter-school final in which three future Test cricketers played - Bapu Nadkarni, Bal Dani and myself. Had I not come to Bombay, had Bapu not gone to Poona, who would have spotted us? There is talent in these small towns, but who taps it?

I've always spoken what I've felt. I don't care tuppence about whether it's accepted or not.

Don't be overawed by any situation. I enjoyed the game because I took up the challenges that came my way and overcame them.

The result-orientedness in today's cricket makes it interesting.

In 1952 I was called to try out for Gujarat against the spin of Jasu Patel and [Shah] Nyalchand. On the morning of the Ranji Trophy game against Baroda, the Gujarat captain woke up with a stiff neck and I found myself in. I ended up getting a century in each innings of my debut first-class game.

When I faced the fastest bowlers, I felt I had achieved something. I enjoyed that challenge.

I rate my 81 at Lord's highly because I continued to bat despite suffering two broken ribs after being hit by Statham when I had not even opened my account.

Tenacity was one of my better attributes.

I was originally not going to play in the Barbados tour game in which I got hit by the Charlie Griffith bouncer. We had been warned about Griffith's pace, and when he came on to open the bowling, we expected fireworks, but after his first over we thought he was pretty ordinary. On our way in to lunch Dilip [Sardesai] said to me: "Kya, ghanta fast hain!" ("Fast, my foot")

If you create fear in yourself, it will show in the way you play.

The greatest pleasure I've got after my playing days is from coaching. At 71 it keeps me fit, keeps me alert. I like exchanging views with the boys.

I was committed, not gifted

I have been a diligent student of horse-racing. Racing is a game of percentages and I have won my share of money. Every Saturday and Sunday I devote myself to racing, and that's the biggest fight I have with my family.

With a bad disposition you cannot expect to be successful. You need to enjoy jokes at your expense, and the ones that you play on others.

Whenever I walked in to bat the first thing I always did was to horse-blind myself. This was to magnify my focus on the other end of the wicket, so that I would see the ball properly.

What I hate is the tinkering with the original laws of the game, like the one on chucking.

My only regret was that I wanted to play just one Test after my head injury but people didn't want me to. When Ghulam Ahmed, the head selector, asked my wife how she could permit me to play, she told him: "The very fact he is here today is his destiny. Who am I to tinker with his destiny?"

I believe in today and tomorrow, not yesterday.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo. This interview was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2004

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