Former Indian wicketkeeper Kiran More is currently preoccupied with the running of a cricket academy named after himself in Baroda. The Kiran More-Alembic Cricket Academy was set up in 1997 with the support of the pharmaceutical major, Alembic, which has its factory just overlooking the sprawling ground housing the Academy. The South Africans who warmed up here before their ODI against India at Baroda earlier in the year did pronounce themselves happy with the practice facilities. Thirty-eight year old More makes an appearance every afternoon and oversees the workout of three separate batches of teenaged enthusiasts who go about their jobs with a studied seriousness of purpose. CricInfo caught up with More just before one of these sessions got underway and India's most successful Test keeper after Syed Kirmani, with 130 victims to his collection, was glad to telescope his thoughts on a lot of matters.
Q: How did you actually take up wicketkeeping in the first place ? Was it planned or was it by accident ?
A: It wasn't planned you know. Any youngster coming up always has some natural ability. When you start with a tennis ball, you know what you're good at. I found more thrill in wicketkeeping and I was very good with the soft ball. One day I took a job with the hard ball also and I found it very easy and very comfortable. The job is such that you're involved in the game all the time. A youngster when he starts playing cricket likes to be 100% involved. So that's when I thought if I become a cricketer, I should be a wicketkeeper. It was a thrill then but I never thought it's going to be so tough when I grow up and play for India because wicketkeeping is really one of the toughest jobs.
Q: You were selected to the Indian team at the age of 20 for the 1983 tour of the West Indies. Did it come as a surprise ?
A: It wasn't a surprise because I was doing very well in domestic cricket. I'd played a lot of matches till 1983 and got a big score against UP that year. I was also doing very well in local cricket in Bombay. At that time the Times Shield was a very recognised tournament in India. All the Test players used to play and I got a hundred on debut against Nirlon. That's where it all started. Then I played in the Deodhar & Duleep Trophy where I did very well. That's why I got a break. Before that I was playing for India Under-19 from 1977 to 1980. Other youngsters were also there as wicketkeepers like Sadanand Viswanath, Chandrakant Pandit and a lot of other cricketers like Ravi Shastri, Gopal Sharma, Shivlal Yadav, Roger Binny, Kirti Azad, Lalchand Rajput. We all were from one batch and attended 3-4 All India camps. They found that we were a bunch of talented cricketers and all of us went on to play for India. So definitely it was a very good grooming of Indian cricket.
Q: You spent a long time in the team before actually playing your first Test match. Did it serve as a learning experience ?
A: It turned out to be brilliant actually. I always feel wicketkeepers should wait for their opportunity. In 1983 I came to the Indian team and waited three years to make my Test debut. I played a lot of matches against touring sides and toured with the Indian team. That's where it helped me as a wicketkeeper. You have to wait for the right time and you must have the experience behind you because it's a very challenging and thankless job and takes a lot out of you.
Q: In fact your debut series in England was still your best, you took 16 catches in three Tests. Was it difficult to adjust to the conditions in England ?
A: I went to England for the first time in 1982 and played in the Northern Lancashire league for a club called Barrow. That must have helped me because I knew the conditions and up north in England we used to have some of the coldest weather. I played after that also for a couple of seasons in England and when I toured in 1986 that definitely helped me because I had an experience of their weather. Specially when you play league cricket, it's a different ball game from international cricket. It's even tougher because in international cricket, you get good wickets which are rolled while in league cricket, the wickets are not rolled. I think we had an excellent side in 1986, it was one of the best India ever had in the 80's. We were winning all the county matches as well and we had a great tour there. I also had one of the best tours, averaging 52 with the bat and taking 16 catches, so it was excellent for me.
Q: You were a gutsy batsman in Test cricket with several fifties to your name but no century. Was that a bit of a disappointment ?
A: Yeah, it was a disappointment but I never had an opportunity to go as a nightwatchman or to bat before the No.7 position because we had such a good team overall. Kapil used to bat No.7 and Shastri used to bat No.6 so I never had a chance to go up the order. By the time I came in, the tail used to finish and we used to have only a couple of batsmen who could bat with me. Most of the fifties I got, I was not out. I had the ability to score a hundred but that's life, you know.
Q: Your best knock ?
A: I think in England in 1986, a couple of knocks I played were very difficult ones. I had fifties in West Indies and Australia also but I think the crucial one was in Karachi, when we were playing the first Test match in Pakistan after a long time. We were struggling and I got 58 not out and saved the follow-on. That was the best innings I had because we drew the four Tests in Pakistan which was one of the best results the Indian team had there.
Q: No wicketkeeper has captained India so far although you were named vice captain for the tour of New Zealand in 1990. Do you think it's too much of a burden for a wicketkeeper to combine the duties of captaincy ?
A: Actually from the cricketing angle, it's always difficult to be a wicketkeeper captain. There are many wicketkeepers who've done it like Ian Healy and Adam Gilchrist just now. But Moin Khan is struggling with his keeping. He is a good team-man and really works hard but the keeping will definitely suffer because you're not able to concentrate enough. The job is very tough, you've got to keep watching the ball all the time and there's so much of pressure on you as the captain. You've to watch the fielders, think about the bowling, face up to the media plus you've to do the wicket keeping which needs your involvement all the time. A batsman captain or bowler captain makes more sense because they have the time. I think a wicketkeeper can be an ideal vice captain because he's a big guide to the whole team. He sees the wicket, the movement in the air, and what sort of line the bowler is bowling. The wicket changes every day if you're playing a Test match and the keeper is the only person who's always close to it. He knows which end is turning more, which are the rough areas on the wicket and so on.
Q: Which are the dismissals you cherish the most ?
A: Martin Crowe in New Zealand in the 1992 World Cup and David Gower in England (in 1990), these two dismissals showed the alertness of the wicket keeper, how he has to be 100% involved in the game all the time. You may get them once in a 100 times or a 1000 times but you have to keep trying and it was my day. [I interject: I remember the Crowe run out. You were throwing blind with your back to the wicket]. Yeah correct. I must have tried so many times to get that kind of dismissal in domestic cricket but that day it clicked and I got him out. Gower also was run out. I picked up the ball and threw it to the non-striker's end. He was not aware at all.
Q: There was also one that escaped you when Graham Gooch was making 333. You missed a catch early on [off Sanjeev Sharma when Gooch was 36]. Do you remember it ?
A: Yeah, I don't think there's any wicket keeper in the world who's not dropped catches. You drop some catches, take some catches, but as a keeper I always believe that you should not avoid catches. It's not done in cricket. Sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn't stick. I think it was my bad day and I dropped him and he scored 333 but in the next match, I took a brilliant catch off him. It's part of life, a part of cricket. I never felt bad about it but it's always there in your mind.
Q: What about the incident with Javed Miandad in the World Cup ?
A: It was a pressure game and we were doing very well. We scored 200 plus runs. An India-Pakistan game is always competitive. He tried to imitate me and there were a few verbal exchanges. I also gave him back to him. It's always a tough game. Because of TV I think it looks big and it was quite popular worldwide. I thought he was very close to being caught down the legside off Sachin's bowling. That's when I appealed and he did not like it but if you see the action replay of the catch, I think he was out caught behind. But I rate him one of the best batsmen I've ever come across. He plays for his team 110%, that's how you have to play for your country, and I also give 110% for my country. I've got very high regard for him. After the end of the day's play we were friends together and went out for dinner. He's quite a friendly person and I have nothing against him at all.
Q: There have been a lot of keepers tried in the last season but no one has really clicked. Why ?
A: I think basically we never groomed any wicketkeeper. Lately if you see, there's a trend that only one wicketkeeper is taken on a tour while according to me, they should take two and groom the other keeper. Otherwise it becomes a big gap between the first keeper and the next keeper. I think hopefully we should get wicketkeepers in 1-2 years time. There are a few youngsters coming up really well and there should not be any problem at all.
Q: Who do you think is the best keeper in India right now ?
A: I haven't seen much but we have one Milap Mewada in Baroda. I think he's very outstanding. He played for India Under-19 as well. The only thing is he's not getting opportunities because Nayan is the No.1 wicketkeeper for Baroda and is still good enough to play for India. This fellow's waiting, I think he's experienced now. I've been watching him for the last 10-15 years, he's really doing well in domestic cricket for Baroda and hopefully we'll hear a lot about him.
Q: What were the circumstances in which you began your involvement with coaching ?
A: I wanted to give something back to cricket, specially for Baroda, basically to give a systemised coaching for youngsters. I've travelled so much, seen a lot of academies in Australia, England. We follow basically the Australian Cricket Academy system and I have a lot of material from them. Overall I've got a lot of experience about coaching and I find the job very interesting. Specially in India, we have a lot of talent but the system should work properly. We have a coaching system here, but it's not quality coaching, it's quantity. Boys go to coaching classes for 5-6 hours, that's not done. If you have five balls and 25-30 boys practising, I don't think it'll work. The boys are wasting their time just standing there and talking. But if you give them 15-20 balls, if each boy has a ball, they can take 100 catches in an hours time. So quality coaching is basically making them practise more in a shorter time. You also have to make them play more matches because there's nothing like match experience. Fitness too is very important for the game now because it's become more competitive, more aggressive and more physical as well.
Q: What's the general routine you follow and who are the promising youngsters here you think can come up in a big way ?
A: We have about 60 boys overall and we're concentrating more on the 16-18 age group. In the morning we have one batch and in the afternoon we have about three batches. I come here in the afternoon while in the morning we have another coach who looks after the youngsters. There are a lot of boys here playing for Baroda Under-19, Under-14 and Under -16 but it'll take some time, overnight success is not going to come. It'll take five, ten, fifteen years. You have to give them all the guidance, all the opportunities, all the facilities and it's up to them to perform and give 100%. The educational system has become very tough, so you have to be careful about that also because the boys should not suffer. Cricketers don't get jobs very easily these days. In India domestic cricket doesn't give you anything back. So if you don't play a good class of cricket, you have to concentrate on your studies also alongside. There are a few boys coming up like Kunal Pandya who's a left handed batsman, Hrishikesh Parab, Chandolkar, Irfan Pathan who's played for Baroda in the Ranji Trophy and Shekhar Joshi who's a fast bowler. They're all very outstanding cricketers.
Q: Any other plans on the anvil ?
A: I'm doing a lot of coaching for the ICC Development Programme. It's a specialised wicketkeeping job and I'm busy with that as well, travelling out of the country. I went to Bangladesh and I will be going to Kenya and Uganda. It's working very well and I'm enjoying my specialised wicketkeeping duties, it'll be great to bring up some wicketkeepers from other countries as well.