Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra/Rediff.com Bikash Mohapatra
Bikash Mohapatra catches up with former English captain Ted Dexter on his visit to Kolkata.
A chat with Rediff.com about his career, his memories of India, the England team and, of course, Sachin Tendulkar.
Ted Dexter has had an extraordinary career as a player and an administrator.
A highly successful Test career -- he scored 4,502 runs in 62 Tests (@47.89) -- saw him being recognised as the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1961.
As an administrator he presided over the Marleyborne Cricket Club besides coming up with the idea of rankings. What we know as the ICC Rankings today is Dexter's brainchild.
Handed the captaincy early on in his career, during the tour of India in 1961-1962, Dexter impressed with the bat, scoring 409 runs in five Tests (@58.43), but could not prevent a depleted England squad from losing 2-0 against Nari Contractor's India. It was India's first-ever series win over England.
Dexter and Contractor were honoured by the Cricket Association of Bengal on the occasion of its 80th anniversary and to remember the memorable fourth Test of the 1961-1962 series at Eden Gardens, when Dexter made 57 and 62, but the home side won.
Bikash Mohapatra caught up with the 77-year-old Dexter in Kolkata.
'Though we lost that series, most of those players did well for themselves'
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra/Rediff.com
What was your reaction when CAB announced it would honour you and Nari Contractor?
It's a wonderful surprise.
We got to know just a few weeks ago.
I hadn't seen Nari for 50 years now. In that series I kept telling Nari how I got the runs and he kept telling me how he got me out.
Can you take us back to your first tour of India?
I was selected to captain the MCC and England team on the tour of India in 1961. It was a wonderful opportunity. We played almost everywhere during that tour, which happened to be a long one.
Almost all the major Test players -- big names like Brian Statham, Colin Cowdrey, Fred Trueman and Peter May skipped the tour -- were not available. I don't remember why. So we came with virtually an 'A' side. It was half a team so to speak.
The series was a well contested one. But their bowling attack was more suited to the conditions and so they beat us, in Calcutta and Madras as well.
Though we lost that series, most of those players did well for themselves and went on to have long and successful careers.
'ODIs and T20s are good, but none of them have the appeal of Test cricket'
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You have had a long and illustrious career...
Even after I finished my playing career I remained involved with cricket.
I was always on some committee or the other and I did that for many years. I was president of the MCC as well.
There have been some very wonderful moments as far as I am concerned.
How much has the game changed since your playing days?
The wonderful thing about cricket is all the basics remain exactly the same.
The shorter versions -- ODIs and T20s -- are good, but none of them have the appeal of Test cricket.
'The Wankhede Test will be a major turning point'
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What do you think about this England side?
The current England team has attained high standards by playing some very good cricket.
I particularly liked when they beat Australia in Australia in the 2010-2011 series.
We had regained the Ashes in 2005 and I thought that was a very good side under Michael Vaughan. But that team broke up and so they couldn't defend the urn in 2006-2007.
Some of the cricket that they have played in recent times is the finest I have ever seen.
They have had a bad year in 2012 until the last match (the Wankhede Test), in which I thought they excelled as a team.
Overall, I feel the fielding has let the team down this year more than anything else. We set very high standards on the field not long back.
I believe the Wankhede Test will be a major turning point. It finally made them believe that they could actually play some very good cricket on Indian wickets.
'I don't think Australia have got their team together'
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Do you think England will retain the Ashes, win it a third straight time?
(England never won the Ashes during Dexter's playing career. He played against Australia in five series, but England won only three of the 19 Tests played during his time.)
I think England will beat Australia next year.
I don't think the Australian team has changed much. They have been talking a lot about 'changes' and 'playing good cricket' though.
They beat India very comprehensively. But most of the matches they have won recently are because of the fact that played in friendly conditions.
I don't think they have really got their team together.
They are confused about their bowling. Yes, Mitchell Starc is promising. But why suddenly bring back Mitchell Johnson and rest Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle when both of them have done well in recent times (against South Africa in the recent Perth Test, which Australia lost)?
With (Ricky) Ponting retiring, their batting also needs some stability.
'I would like to see Tendulkar finish sooner'
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Sachin Tendulkar has come in for a lot of criticism in recent times.
You have been no stranger to criticism yourself. Your views on Tendulkar's decision to continue playing.
It must be very hard for him. But on present evidence he is coming to the end of his career.
I don't see at almost 40, how long you can play a day-and-a-half on the field and then come out to bat.
I think even Ponting went on for too long. Also, he made a bad decision by announcing his retirement ahead of the match (Perth). It affected Australia's performance.
Tendulkar will have to retire sooner or later. I would like to see him finish sooner. Hopefully, he retires on a right note.
'I have had some wonderful moments in this country'
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra/Rediff.com
You do have an Indian connection (his wife Susan was born in India and her father led Bengal to its first Ranji Trophy title in 1938-1939). Some personal memories about your time in the country?
My wife was born here in Calcutta and has some very good memories.
She lived the first eight years of her life here and then returned for holidays twice, when she was 12, and again when she was 15.
Her parents were very kind to me and I am fortunate to have had such nice in-laws.
I have had some wonderful moments in this country.
We celebrated our 50th anniversary in India and planned to watch the Test in Wankhede (2008). But then the terrorist attacks happened (26/11) and we had to return.