Saba Karim, Former National Selector & Cricketer joined NewsX India A-List for an exclusive conversation. Saba has been very vocal about his views on various cricketing aspects and shared many of his insights and expertise regarding the sport with us. Talking about how the year 2020 and pandemic has been for him and how things were for the cricketing world, Saba said “2020 for me personally as well as for cricketers and cricket in general, was a tough year because of so much uncertainty. Initially, if you recall last year in March. We were going through our domestic season when it all happened, and we had to in fact cancel, two or three of the tournaments and everyone felt really sorry for the girls who were all prepped up to play these tournaments, but that’s the way it turned out happily, the Women’s World Cup took place in Australia, then the Indian Team managed to play the Test series in New Zealand. And all this happened after they came back to India, so we didn’t have any problems whatsoever in terms of, managing their safety regulations. But the entire summer that included the IPL had to be postponed. It was eventually played in October. So cricket has had a tough time.”

“We somehow tried to engage them through our online discussions and online monitoring, in terms of their fitness, nutrition and growth. is India is a large country, hence there were different regulations for different states. One had to be very specific so that the players can understand and whenever they get an opportunity to go out and practice they were able to do so, but fortunately, players also could figure it out that these are challenging times, and they did have loads of patience to work on this. But thankfully things have changed now it’s good to see cricket being played, not only in India but, but all over the world. So it is opening up,” Saba added.

Saba Karim wears many hats from playing cricket for India at the highest level, managing cricket, being an expert on cricket and talking about it on television. Opening upon which is the stint that he has enjoyed the most, Saba said “Nothing can be great than playing for India. I think everybody would say the same. Because it’s a crazy feeling when you play for your country and step onto the field with so many of your colleagues. You want to do well whenever you want to go out and play for your country. You know the entire dressing room atmosphere and the team spirit. The kind of high win experiences you possibly cannot compare that with any other activity you do during the rest of your life. But yes, the other experiences also have been quite rewarding. My stint with BCCI was an exciting phase. For three years I was there as a General Manager Cricket Operations. There are some new systems and processes we brought in to spur the growth of Cricket in India, and it was beneficial not only for cricketers but also for some of the remote parts of the country where we were able to build infrastructure. This has been a very pleasant and a very happy experience for me as well.”

Saba shared some of his memorable moments while playing cricket with us and said “The first game I played when I made my debut for India and South Africa was way back in 1997 when I played my first One Day International for India. The second biggest moment one can say came when I played for India’s test match. It happened to be Bangladesh’s inaugural Test match but for me, it was a memorable experience. In all those moments one tends to be nostalgic but those are cherishable moments.”

Talking about the game and has wicketkeeping changed now keeping in mind how the level of athleticism, level of fitness has evolved, and more specifically, after the advent of the IPL and whether the competition is cutthroat now Saba said “The basics haven’t changed and remains the same. The role of a wicketkeeper, if I can put it that way has evolved. One expects a wicketkeeper to score some handy runs, which is all good for the game, good for the team, and good for the individual because you need to develop your game in terms of wicketkeeping skills but also batting skill. I’ve always maintained wicketkeeper is more or less an all-rounder now so you complement each other’s skills. If you happen to be very good wicketkeeper that will rub onto your batting skills and vice versa. If you’re scoring runs in your batting that confidence will help to improve your wicketkeeping. That is the chain with which one has noticed which is very important for the progress of the game.”

Coming to fitness levels, Saba said “It has gone off to a different dimension altogether. But it’s also about how quickly you recover. I think that is the biggest game which I’ve noticed in modern-day cricketers. It is not about your fitness level, but fitness level more or less is judged upon how quickly you recover after playing a game, after having a very intense session, after playing a T20 game or a one day game or a test match. That has become very crucial and the new essences are the Fitness Trainers that are attached to all the national teams now. They are very clear on this front. Now fitness levels are judged as I said, more on recovery and less on the number of 100 meters you run or the number of of your test you do, it’s more important to recover quickly and all these tests are designed to help you to recover, as soon as possible.”

The Indian team on the backfoot has been portrayed as an underdog and then they come out with mammoth victories and that’s exactly what happened in Australia as well and India was perhaps pivoted in the same space in 1983 as well. Nobody gave us a chance against the mighty West Indies in 2007 but India eventually went on to win it. Responding to a couple of questions and his thoughts on the current Indian team as a whole, Saba said “The game has changed, immensely now and I think, India has grown as a cricketing nation. But what I would like to say here is that this kind of a win was expected, and I’ve said this on so many occasions that India over the past maybe decade or so has run the performing side, and I say this why because the kind of talent and potential we have, the kind of cricketers and the individual cricketers India has produced. It was high time we would register wins regularly on a regular basis, not only at home but also overseas, we’d have one-day series, Test series, for instance for India to win only two One-day World Cups post-independence is something which I possibly cannot digest, because I feel we have loads of talent, due to which we could have already been. We should have won at least three or four World Cup. This is good to see the India team has done very well in Australia at this time. But if you asked me seriously I would say this was expected. We had to win because there is this much talent and potential coming through. The time is right now for India to progress on these lines on a regular basis. If you play England, Australia, South Africa at home or away, we are in a far better position to be on these cricketers from all these nations, because we are such a throbbing cricketing culture that runs across the nation and the kind of talent that is coming through right from the 90s.”