Chandu Borde

'In cricket you always get a second chance'

Chandu Borde played Gilchrist and Griffith without a helmet and padding and has lived to tell the tale

Interview by Siddhartha Talya

"My selection policy is simple. The first thing is, the person has to be 100% fit. Secondly, his attitude: he must play for the team" Siddhartha Talya / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

When I was a youngster, I used to go to the YMCA in Pune to fly kites. Sometimes the members who came early used to say, "Arrey, chokra, come and throw the ball." I used to go and throw the ball at them. I didn't know how to bowl or bat or field. When practice got over, around 6 or 6.30, I used to help collect the nets or roll the mat and water the ground.

Cricket was never played in our family. Nobody knew cricket.

I always say, "Ranji Trophy cricket was given to me by Maharashtra, and Test cricket was given to me by Baroda." Playing with Vijay Hazare, DK Gaekwad, [Gogumal] Kishenchand, Deepak Shodhan - they were Test players - my game improved. Then I was selected to go to Pakistan in 1954-55.

We are five brothers and five sisters. In those days family planning did not exist. It was such a big family to feed. Sometimes my mother used to keep some food aside for me.

The captain of the Poona Club was Nosh Nagarwala, he was a well-known personality in Pune. I had done well against them. Nosh said, "he is an upcoming boy, send him from tomorrow to play for our club." I bowled and batted more regularly, and became a regular player of their team. Mr Nagarwala encouraged me quite a lot.

Bowling at Hazare in the nets helped me a great deal. He never used to speak much, but if I was doing something wrong, he would tell me.

At a function in Madras, Sir Frank Worrell told us that there were bowlers in the West Indies team who were very, very quick, and you've got to be very quick on your feet. In those days they used to bowl beamers, and the front-foot rule was also not there, so they used to bowl from 18 yards.

We were once playing at a school ground. A few overs were left and the captain felt sorry for me because I was only fielding, running around, throwing the ball, no shoes, nothing. He said, "Come on, bowl", and I bowled legspin and picked up three wickets. Next day, in the newspaper Sakaal, there was a line, saying, "Borde, three wickets." When my family read that, they started encouraging me.

In Madras in 1959, [v West Indies], they gave me another chance. I failed in the first innings and I thought that was the end of my cricketing career. In the evening I was in my hotel room. My elder brother had come there for some work. He came, he sat, he saw my face, and we prayed together. In the second innings I got 56 and that was a turning point in my Test career.

I had to borrow a cricket bat once. In fact, when I went to Pakistan, I had to borrow clothes.

Jasu Patel was cutting and spinning the ball in Kanpur [1959] - he became absolutely unplayable. He took nine wickets in the first innings, I took the other one. A businessman invited us to dinner on the day we won and said, "We'll give you Rs 1000 each as a gift." We were paid just Rs 250 per Test in those days, and the fifth day's allowance was cut if the game ended on the fourth day. That Rs 1000 is still to come.

Roy Gilchrist's bouncers were very dangerous. They used to come up gradually, so they were difficult to avoid. Whereas with Wes Hall's bouncers, one could duck and go away.

After we beat England at home in 1961, we wanted to play against anybody. Before that, whenever we played a Test, the tension was different.

We had a lot of backing from the crowd in Trinidad because there are a lot of Indians there. They love their game in the West Indies. They used to have a good drink and sometimes some of them used to be just lying there after the game.

"Rohan Kanhai said, 'Chandu, I want to celebrate this century.' He then asked, 'Do you know why?' I asked, 'Why?' He said, 'It's because you are alive, that's why.'"

It was in a warm-up game in Barbados [1961-62 tour] that Nari Contractor was hit [on the head, by Charlie Griffith]. I took him to the hospital, with Ghulam Ahmed, the manager of the team. Myself, Bapu Nadkarni, Polly Umrigar and Frank Worrell gave blood. Charlie Griffith was also there, feeling sorry. The lights went off as the operation was going on. We thought that was a bad omen. It took three to four hours. That was miserable.

We had no helmet, no elbow guard, no chest guard. The thigh pad was just a small thing. Sometimes we used to put gloves in our pockets for protection.

Against Australia at the CCI [1964], there was so much pressure on me in the fourth innings. Tom Veivers was bowling round the wicket and he bowled one outside the leg stump. We got four byes there. Then he bowled leg stump again and I hit a nice on-drive with the turn and got the four runs needed. I scored some 30-odd runs and we won. It was Dussera. They lifted me up after the win. Raj Kapoor [actor] was there at the game, and some other people. They took my bat away. I never got it back. It was a brand new bat.

We were playing against Madhya Pradesh in Indore once. I didn't know what to do against Mushtaq Ali. I would bowl and he would hit me out of the ground. In the evening, after the game, we were just sitting in the Yeshwantrao Club. I went to him and asked him, "Sir, can you tell me what I was doing wrong?" He said, "Chandu, whenever you bowled, you looked down and not at the batsman. The moment you looked down, I used to come forward and hit you." He said, "Look at the batsman and bowl." And that helped me.

When I was on 96 in Chennai [1967], Griffith bowled a bouncer, similar to the ball that hit Nari. When you are batting on 96, you are seeing the ball nicely, but against that bouncer, what happened, I didn't know. The ball just kissed my hair and went for four. In the evening, Rohan [Kanhai], who had been watching from the slips, came to my room. He said, "Chandu, I want to celebrate this century." He then asked, "Do you know why?" I asked, "Why?" He said, "It's because you are alive, that's why." That ball could have killed me.

English people, they have respect for their captains' instructions. If they are not followed, you may get any number of runs, but you are out of the side. They give more preference to the team than individual performance. In India, after anybody gets 246, I don't think a selection committee will have the guts to drop him.

"I ask people, 'How many people do you know who have got a century in each innings?' They can't answer. I say, 'It's because I missed it that you remember' © PA Photos

In New Zealand in 1967, we had a good bunch of boys. We had spinners and medium-pacers, the captain managed them beautifully, and because of that we were successful. Back then we didn't have these man-management things, or trainers, or physiotherapists. We didn't have many meetings or discussions either. Very rarely. That's because everybody knew his responsibility.

Gilchrist was a different sort of a character. We were sitting and chit-chatting once and he said, "My first objective is to hit the batsman. The moment I hit them, I know I've got them. Then they'll run away from my bowling and it's an easy thing for me."

In my only Test as captain, in Adelaide, I was 60-something and was given out lbw for no rhyme or reason to John Gleeson in the first innings. I went down the wicket, well forward, and was given out lbw. The umpiring was the worst in Australia that year. In another Test, we lost by 30-odd runs. The person who gave me out, his name was Egar [Col Egar]. He was eager to give me out.

In Delhi [1959, v West Indies], on the last day, Vijay [Manjrekar] alerted me when the last over was being bowled. Gilchrist bowled a bouncer and I hooked it. It went for four and the crowds barged in, but I had touched the bails and was given out hit-wicket. That's how I missed a century in each innings. But it's a good thing. Whenever people meet me, they say, "Oh, you should have got that." Then I ask them, "How many people do you know who have got a century in each innings?" They can't answer. I say, "It's because I missed it that you remember."

There was nothing between [Mansur Ali Khan] Pataudi and me, absolutely nothing. We had very good relations. The only thing is, Pat never used to speak a lot - he was a reserved kind of guy. Spending so much time in England, those things showed in his attitude. He used to call me, "Hey maestro." Unfortunately the media took the wrong impression - maybe they didn't like me or they didn't like him.

When you play for the country, your aim should be to do something good for the team, and if the opportunity comes, you can lead the side also. To lead your country is a great honour and everybody should aspire to that.

When I was dropped, I was shocked, but what can you do? The Aussies were very happy. They said, "Congratulations, Chandu." I asked why. "Because you are dropped." I believe it was three and two, that's how the selectors were divided.

"We had no helmet, no elbow guard, no chest guard. The thigh pad was just a small thing. Sometimes we used to put gloves in our pockets for protection"

In my final Ranji Trophy game, I fractured a bone in my face. I was at short leg, it was the last over before tea or something, and it must have been Venky [S Venkatraghavan] who hit the ball. In the fourth innings I just went out there. I couldn't bat properly. We should have won that one.

We go to church regularly. In cricket there is always a chance for you to come back. In the first innings you don't do well, in the second innings you get to perform. It helps you take victory and defeat in the same manner.

I can say this confidently, that whenever we have needed something, or desired something, God has provided it. For instance, we were staying in a one-room place. Then, after my marriage, I got a separate house. Then we had children and we got a bigger flat, in the same area. Whenever we prayed for or wanted something, we didn't get it immediately, but we got it in time. That's why my family, we are never worried.

After Kapil was dropped following the Delhi Test in 1984-85, the entire country was not very happy, particularly north India. So when my flight reached there and I went to [NKP] Salve Sir's house, as I got down from the car, I saw these two going back - Gavaskar and Kapil. I went in and was told everything was sorted out. But in Calcutta again there was a problem. Some people said Kapil should apologise in writing. I said that once a person has admitted that he regrets making a mistake, there is no point, he is such a great cricketer. But there was a difference of opinion between us. I was not very happy that he was asked to sit out.

I am part of a social organisation called Tridal, which includes participation from the army, navy and air force. I am one of the committee members there. We do a lot of social work with Deepagriha, which is concerned with children's education. Ladies are given training, sewing machines are given to them, medical facilities are also provided.

When we used to play, eight or nine players were from Bombay. The three of us were from outside: Pankaj Roy, Nari Contractor and myself. They were getting a lot of publicity. Now there is so much competition and so many good cricketers are coming. After Sachin [Tendulkar], you tell me who has been a certainty from Mumbai? Mumbai will have to do something about it.

My selection philosophy is simple and straightforward. The first thing is, the person has to be 100% fit. Secondly, his attitude: he must play for the team. Another thing is his contribution to the team. When we won the World Cup in 1983, there were so many allrounders. It was because of their contribution. Each one gave something - if they fail in bowling they can compensate and give in batting. I still believe in that theory.

I gave an opportunity to that fellow Azharuddin. Sunil was the captain. We were walking onto the ground. Sunil said, "Sir, Azhar has never played, it will be better if we have an experienced person." I said, "You are absolutely right, you need an experienced person to play in front of such a big crowd." But then I told him, "Listen, I watched this boy in Hyderabad, and his fielding, his contribution to the team will be better than [Chandrakant] Pandit." He can compensate in fielding and batting. He made a century.

It's very difficult to change everything overnight. If you tell a player to change a little bit, that helps quite a lot. To do that is easy. To change his overall game is difficult.

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo