Budhi Kunderan

'Cricket taught me that life is a team game'

The late India wicketkeeper on cricket, rivalries, politics, and matters of the heart

Interview by Rahul Bhattacharya

Budhi Kunderan, the former Indian wicketkeeper, passed away recently at the age of 66. Cricinfo looks back at a selection of memories from Kunderan, about cricket, rivalries, politics and matters of the heart.

Budhi Kunderan: 'I always wanted to entertain the crowds...I was a confident young man' © Getty Images

Cricket's been my love. It's been my life. It's how I met my wife.

I read somewhere that I was a product of India's mass-coaching scheme. I have never been coached in my life. We learned our cricket by watching the big cricketers play in the maidans. We learned by making mistakes.

I always wanted to score as quick as possible. I always wanted to entertain the crowds. I always played as I played in the maidan. I was a confident young man.

My father didn't like me playing cricket. Without telling him, my mother altered his trousers and shirt and gave me my first whites. I scored 219 in my first time on a cricket pitch. My father saw my picture in the papers the next day.

The first Test I played, I had to borrow gloves from Naren Tamhane, who I replaced. I didn't have a proper pair of my own. All five days of that match I slept in the open in Bombay's Azad maidan, because the neighbours at home would make too much noise.

The second Test I played, I scored about 16 runs in the first over, opening the batting. The Australian commentator Michael Charlton came to me and said `Do you realise you're playing Test cricket?'

Cricket's taught me that life is a team game. To survive in life, you've got to back each other, you've got to help each other; it's a give and take.

I credit Lala Amarnath with building the bright young team of the sixties. He wasn't the type of selector who would go for only the `correct' players.

Salim Durani was a great, great cricketer. He could have been the greatest allrounder we ever produced. But he wasn't a very stable person. And a little lazy.

Pataudi, in my view, wasn't a players' captain. He was aloof and domineering. I think Jaisimha was very unlucky not to become Indian captain.

Farokh Engineer and I had a healthy rivalry. We had a similar attitude to life, to cricket, and we shared rooms on tours. But I average one point more than him. That means something to me.

I've even opened the bowling and batting in a Test match. When the captain asked me `What do you bowl?' I said `I don't know.'

Chandrasekhar was the hardest spinner I kept to, especially on wet wickets. Bedi had a beautiful action. But no one can really compare to Vinoo Mankad.

I think keepers today are more agile than in my time. Parthiv is a natural keeper, but he has to cool down. Players today, when they catch the ball they react as if they've never caught a ball before.

The best part about touring is making friends. You want to remember. And you want to be remembered. I still get letters from people I've met 40-45 years ago. To me that's what it's all about.

I met my wife on the England tour of 1967. In those days we'd save our allowance of a pound a day so after two weeks we could afford a new bat.

My family is my biggest happiness. My wife is my greatest joy.

I was disgusted with the cricket politics here so I quit at 30. And when my company refused to give me leave to play league cricket in Scotland, I just moved for good. I played for Scotland at 42.

The biggest challenge of my life was establishing myself in a strange country. You land up there with nothing in your pocket and you got to start your life again with a wife and a kid.

I get the feeling this will be my last trip to India. I'm here to say goodbye to my homeland.

I'd like to be remembered as someone who enjoyed his life and his cricket. As an entertainer. As a jolly good fella. `Nice to have a friend like Budhi.' That kind of thing.

Rahul Bhattacharya is the author of Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India, 2003-04. This interview was first appeared in the March 2004 issue of Wisden Asia Cricket