INTERVIEW: Richard Hadlee

Sir Richard Hadlee

Sir Richard Hadlee
Sir Richard Hadlee

By Radhika Bhirani  

 As corruption in cricket continues to come under scrutiny in India, legendary New Zealand cricketer Richard Hadlee says spot-fixing is the “greatest crisis” the game faces and it needs to be dealt with severe penalties.

The iconic sportsman, 63, met this visiting IANS correspondent at the newly-built Hadlee Pavilion of the Hagley Oval stadium – the venue of the official opening ceremony and match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 – during a sunny afternoon in his hometown.

Looking relaxed and smart as usual, Hadlee was quite forthcoming when asked about his views on controversies related to spot-fixing and match-fixing, which are dogging the sport.

“A very general comment on that would be that it’s the greatest crisis of cricket at the moment,” he said.

What could be done to curb the menace?

“If this sort of thing is going on, it needs to be stamped out. And for people who have proved to be involved in these things, the penalties need to be severe as a deterrent.

“All the players actually have to actually sign a contract that if there’s anything suspicious or if they’ve had anyone approach them, they have to report it. And once it’s reported, things get investigated. People are going to jail, but penalties need to be severe, and if it’s jail or suspensions or whatever, then subject to each individual case, players are going to be made an example of,” he said.

His comment comes just days after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided against sacking tainted Indian Premier League (IPL) boss Sundar Raman, whose name has come up in the Justice Mukul Mudgal report submitted to the Supreme Court in connection with the spot-fixing scandal during the 2013 edition of the Twenty20 tournament.

Hadlee feels the shorter version of the game has its own role to play in shaping up the sport – as long as it doesn’t overshadow the traditional longer version and the 50-over game.

“I accept it. There’s a part that T20 has to play in the game of cricket. And one has to agree that there’s room for all three formats – Test, 50-overs and T20. But I wouldn’t like to see T20 taking over the 50-over game,” said the handsome legend, who has been appointed as the New Zealand Ambassador of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

He believes T20 is generating “specialist players”, who only play in that format. Therefore, it is also giving a chance to more people to represent their country instead of the same players turning out in every format.

Hadlee – one among the celebrated quartet of the 1980s that included Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Ian Bothan – however feels the Test level is facing a lack of “genuine all-rounders”.

At the mention of Kapil Dev and Imran Khan, he said: “Jacques Kallis was a great all-rounder too, wasn’t he? He was one of the brightest players in the history of the game.”

“Throughout the 1980s, there were four of us all-rounders who were competing. But probably there’s not the same competition between the current all-rounders now because there aren’t too many around. Kallis was perhaps the last. There are some handy players who can bat and bowl, but there’s a lack of genuine all-rounders.”

Nevertheless, Hadlee finds a good example in India cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

“I enjoy watching Virat Kohli’s game, but Dhoni has been outstanding for India over the years. He’s one of the best things to have happened to Indian cricket….he’s a batsman, he wins the games, particularly in one-day cricket, and he captains his side generally well, he’s quite an all-rounder,” said the sports star, who is said to be one of the finest cricketers to come out of New Zealand.

So does India stand a good chance at the 2015 World Cup under his captaincy?

Pat came the reply: “Definitely.”

Will India do an encore by winning the trophy next year?

“Well, there will be people trying to stop them,” Hadlee laughed it away.

For the record, India have twice won the World Cup – in 1983 and 2011.