Should Pakistan have recalled Sachin Tendulkar?
We discussed calling him back, but agreed it would be a very bad precedent. Sometimes bowlers take wickets off no-balls; the umpire doesn't pick it up, but TV does. Will you recall all those batsmen? It would mean the crowd will decide who's out and who's not. Sachin didn't run well. Earlier Ganguly took a catch that bounced a foot in front of him but he claimed it. Newspapers didn't write about it. In England, once Salim Yousuf took a catch that bounced in front of him and all the papers there called us cheats.
What about the Calcutta crowd?
I am very sad. I witnessed the ugly World Cup '96 incident at Eden on TV. Now I have seen it live. The crowds should have realised responsible people are giving decisions and not get emotional. I feel particularly sad as the Eden crowd is usually top class. Ultimately they hurt themselves. After the disruption on the fourth day, Dravid lost his concentration and got out. From a crowd that knows its cricket, this is unexpected. They don't even walk above the sightscreen when play is on. Anyway, I'm happy the administrators proved a point by finishing the match.
What about the Qayyum report?
I've always maintained that if players are innocent they have nothing to worry. I'd like to say nothing more at this moment as the inquiry is still going on.
How was victory like here?
It was sweeter because it came after we were 26 for 6. I would like to know if the crowd would have disrupted the match if India was close to victory. Everybody doubted our decision to bat first on this wicket, but we took into account that chasing a total in the fourth innings can be very difficult, especially under pressure.
At 26 for 6, did you think you would survive two days?
We thought all was finished. But thanks to Moin, Malik and Wasim, we got to a fighting 185. Malik didn't score as much as he expected though. At one stage I thought we were on the way to our lowest score in Test cricket. India didn't grab the opportunity. Credit goes to Akram and Akhtar. For Shoaib to bowl like that after not having played recently was amazing. Azhar Mahmood did a good job of blocking one end up for runs. When we batted second we thought we would be in a position to set a big target, but that didn't happen. The turning point in that innings was Youhana's wicket. I think it would have been Srinath's last over but he got his wicket and then another and continued. The Indians were tired, and had almost given up. They had even brought on Laxman and were looking to buy a wicket. But I haven't seen such a low-scoring series in a long time.
Why was it such a low-scoring series?
Today, pitches are different. Cricket is very competetive these days. The main reason however is the 90-over stipulation of a single day. Earlier, that figure used to hover around 70-odd overs. Even lesser. 90 is a lot. Now games are showing results in 3-4 days. Facing 360 overs in just four days is a lot. Earlier, these overs used to take five days. These days 270-280 runs have become the norm. The one-day attitude has also crept in.
Is Shoaib another Waqar in the making?
No, Waqar was as fast when he first came. Waqar was then sometimes simply unplayable in spells. He has many five-wicket hauls. He used to be like that even in the nets. At the moment we can't compare them.Waqar is proven. Shoaib has yet to make the journey. But Shoaib's main weapon can be the yorker. He's fast.
What was your brief as coach?
I was under a lot of pressure from the public and spectators to return as coach. People wanted me back. Newspaper polls proved that. I wanted to give back something to cricket and Pakistan. The team was also lagging behind. I had an advantage because I had played with the senior players and held their respect. Besides, my input could be valuable technically. Cricketers should always move around with an L sign behind them.
Do you favour the points system?
Yes, it's exciting for the public. But I feel the points should remain with a team even if it loses. Now you get zero. If the losing team keeps its points the series remains open. Also, in case of a draw whoever takes the first innings lead should get two points.
If you had to pick one player from each team for their performances, who'd you pick?
Saqlain for Pakistan and Srinath for India. They have performed everywhere. Srinath specially. On pitches where the ball is not rising above the knee he has performed.
What do you think of Ramesh?
You can't judge so early. Now the ball is in his court. But he's got a good start and that means he will get many opportunities to prove himself.
Any special moments?
The Chennai victory. Also the security I got when we first landed. I haven't got security like that in my life. Of course, the whole thing diluted gradually. Thackeray saheb is like a friend. If he invites me to his place I'll go. I've heard him on TV. He sounds like a good, large-hearted man. One can't understand why he says these other things. He speaks straight, also jokes. He should have called the team, taking into account public feeling. After all, these very people bring politicians to power. Also, professionals have a very short lifespan. Like musicians. They have a hunar (talent). God has given them that. We shouldn't suppress that. I'd like to understand his viewpoint. Really. Mohabbat se jayenge. Jada se jada marenge hi to aur to kuch nahin karenge.