Raj Singh Dungarpur

'The most thankless job is the most fruitful'

The former Indian board president talks about the players and teams he knew

Interview by Anand Vasu

"I was president at the wrong time" © Cricinfo Ltd

Cricket has penetrated every corner of this country. Like no other thing, not even films. People recognise Sachin Tendulkar more than Shah Rukh Khan. Shah Rukh is unreal, Tendulkar holds the bat and makes runs for India. That is real to people. Twenty per cent of all Indians are not sure of two square meals a day. But if Sachin scores a hundred or India wins, they don't want the second meal.

CK Nayudu would have been a huge hero if he had played in this age. He is the greatest match-winning Indian batsman I have seen, barring Tendulkar.

As the first black man playing the white man's game, Ranji's hundred on debut was awesome. Only two people have succeeded in this manner - Gandhi at Pietermaritzburg and Ranji at Old Trafford.

The BCCI is a vote-oriented body when it should be a cricket-oriented body. If there's a clean administrator who is passionate about the game, the clouds will clear and you'll see a rainbow in the sky.

It was a great shame that Subhash Gupte had to go to the West Indies to find a job, coaching in a sugar plantation.

No one could late-cut like Vijay Merchant. Once, he put on his kit for an advertisement, 12 years after he last played. I told him I would bowl outside off from halfway down the pitch. He asked me to bowl normally, full tilt, with a new ball. First ball, he produced the perfect late cut. It was magic.

Gavaskar must be rated next to Len Hutton. He played the greatest fast bowlers without a helmet.

Vinoo Mankad once nearly knocked Nayudu's head off with a beamer after being denied a lbw. The next one was tossed up and Nayudu hit it into the stands like a seven-iron shot. My hair stands at the memory.

I bought a ball and bat for a boy in my village, Dungarpur, [in Rajasthan]. He held the ball with two fingers split and the seam running through. I asked him where he got the grip from. He said, [Lakshmipathy] Balaji. I was stunned. Balaji had reached a hamlet with a population of 1200 people. That's what television has done.

The present Indian team is the best Indian team ever.

John Wright changed it all. Because he didn't come from one of the zones he didn't have to listen to a Raj Singh, a Dalmiya or a Rungta.

A team really gels when it wins. That's the cementing factor.

Ranji did one amazing thing to cricket. For the first time a game of forearm became a game of wrist. When you play with the wrist like that, like Azharuddin or Laxman now, you're on a different plane.

The most thankless job in Indian cricket is the most fruitful - chairman of the selection committee. Making teams is the most challenging job, but if you have integrity you will come out okay.

I saw Sachin Tendulkar make a triple-century when he was 15. I knew then that my cup of joy was full.

When I was board president and Jagmohan Dalmiya was secretary, I told him I didn't interfere in accounts and that he shouldn't interfere in the cricket. I held my own ground.

I was president at the wrong time. I got mixed up in the muddy waters of politics and the likes and dislikes of individuals. If I was president now I would be more mature.

Anand Vasu is a former associate editor at Cricinfo. This interview was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine in 2004