Allow visiting captain to bat first, says Farokh Engineer at BCCI awards

Former India wicket-keeper Farokh Engineer believes the debate on the quality of pitches could be ended if the visiting team skipper was given the option of batting first. (BCCI Awards Highlights)

Delivering the MAK Pataudi lecture at the BCCI awards function on Wednesday, Engineer reminisced about the former India skipper, who led the country to their first overseas Test victory and was the architect behind the rise of the famed spin quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekar and S Venkatraghavan.

Turning to the focus on pitches in the India-Australia Test series, after the Pune pitch was rated ‘poor’ by the ICC match referee, Engineer said: “The Pune pitch was sub-standard. There is talk about having a neutral curator. I would say the visiting captain should be allowed to bat first.”

India suffered a 333-run defeat after being bowled out for 105 and 107, their lowest combined in a home Test at Pune but bounced back to win in Bangalore by 75 runs to level the four-Test series.

India skipper Virat Kohli received the Polly Umrigar award for the best international cricketer for the third time while off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin got the Dilip Sardesai award for his Man-of-the-Series performance in last year’s West Indies series, where he took 17 wickets in the 2-0 win.

India, under Virat Kohli, have been on a roll, winning series against Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh.

Virat, who led a great comeback win in Bangalore on Tuesday, said: “It has been an unbelievable 12 months, it has been a breakthrough year. I thank my team mates for our being the world’s top side. It’s an honour to get this award for the third time.

Virat said he wasn’t bothered about any critic. “From the beginning, I wanted to become one of the top players and knew what it would take to do that. I wanted to be the best in all formats. I saw everything as an opportunity, and wanted to follow a path the whole team believed in.

“I’m not bothered who thinks what, it is the attitude within the dressing room that matters. We want to win together, and learn to lose together.

“There were people who were critical of, and there are still some out there, but it doesn’t matter who thinks what.”

Ashwin, who took a match-winning haul of eight wickets in the second Test, recalled the team meeting in mid-2016 after Anil Kumble took over as coach. “We met at this same hotel before the West Indies tour last year and said if we can achieve something good as a group, we can create good memories.”

Rajinder Goel, who received the BCCI special award with fellow left-arm spinner, Padmakar Shivalkar – who both didn’t get to play for India despite their massive success, said: “The recognition has come late, but it is good the BCCI thought about us. Players purana hote hain, lekin bhooda nahin (players become old, but never aged).”

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