The judge (Justice David Bean) in the Chris Cairns vs Lalit Modi legal case on Wednesday reportedly rejected an application by the legal team of the former Indian Premier League commissioner to call former India swing bowler Balwinder Singh Sandhu as a witness. On Tuesday, Sandhu spoke to a television channel of his time with Cairns in the Indian Cricket League.
Modi is being sued by Cairns in London over a tweet that implicated the New Zealander in match fixing during his stint at the ICL. As coach of Chandigarh Lions, Sandhu said he did not see eye-to-eye with the star all-rounder, who was captain of the side. Sandhu spoke to Mid Day on what he experienced as coach in the now-defunct rebel league.
Excerpts from an interview:
What is your assessment of Chris Cairns?
I always admired him for his cricketing ability. I was excited when I started to coach Chandigarh Lions because I'd be working with a player I admire. But things started getting bad in the second season. His behaviour changed. He was not the same guy since the first time we met.
Can you elaborate on his change of behaviour?
He would pick his own team and not stick to the plan that was discussed. His strategy at times was vague. At times, he was not ready to share his strategy. He was supporting players, who were not required in a particular game. I thought since he was captain, I must go along because cricket is a captain's game.
What's the biggest fight you had with him?
We had issues on some players, who he backed. One player was out-and-out rubbish, so I had a problem with that. I wondered why he was being so supportive of that player, who was useless to the team and was in due to a back door entry.
Did you both have heated exchanges?
No. After a match there was always a vague answer. He would blame somebody for the failure.
You said in a television interview that some players were very scared of him...
Cairns projected himself as a very strong figure and players may have thought their careers are at stake if they displease him. You know how Indian players behave, they want to please the man in power all the time.
Does anything surprise you when you hear stories about cricket corruption?
It doesn't surprise me. When there is a lot of money involved, there's bound to be some bad elements in the game. The weak characters in the team will succumb. In that sense, nothing surprises me.
But you must have been taken aback when you got a call from a bookie during your tenure as coach of Chandigarh Lions?
Yes I was. At the same time, I was very assertive and told him straightaway that he should never again call me and I am not interested in this kind of money - stay away or I will report you to the police. After that, no one called.
Do you think our young players should be better educated to stay away from the bad forces?
Look, I cannot name this player, but it is an Indian player, who I was quite close to. I had coached him and promoted him in Mumbai cricket. When he was out of the Indian team, I told him, 'you are out of the team and you know why. It's time you do some introspection. You are young and I would like you to enjoy your life just like your other friends, but don't get caught in this web. No one should use you to do wrong for your team. I am telling you as an elder brother... next they will use a woman to fix a match so be careful. If something happens to you, I will feel guilty all my life for not alerting you.' To his credit, the player reformed and made his way back in the team. So, I'm sure young players are being advised by their seniors. When I was playing, I had people like Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath, Dilip Doshi and Ravi Shastri to
advise me. I was not a big player, but in their eyes, I never wanted to be viewed as a cheap player.
Do you reckon young players are very vulnerable?
Yes. There will always be weak characters. They will be vulnerable at that age because they cannot see the difference between good and bad.
Your views about Twenty20 cricket opening up match fixing possibilities...
The problem with this type of cricket is that a great player gets out the same way as an ordinary player. It is very difficult to determine whether someone is throwing away the game or is genuinely out. In Test cricket, it is not easy (to fix).