Noel David would be remembered as one of the finest fielders in Indian Cricket. An all rounder who used to bat in the middle order and bowl off breaks, Noel got his break in International Cricket when he was picked following the famous rotator cuff injury to Javagal Srinath just after he landed in the Caribbean in the 1996/97 tour. Although Noel David has played just 35 first class games along with 4 ODIs, he had his moments on and off the field which are quite interesting. Presently he is the Director of the M.L.Jaisimha Cricket 365 Indoor Cricket Academy in Hyderabad. He is a Level II Coach. Noel sums up his cricketing career as a short and sweet one. In this interview with B.V.Swagath, he answers about what he is upto nowadays and most importantly tells us about the ‘Who Noel is’ episode along with other aspects. Here we go…
Well Noel, it has been more than six years since you last played for Hyderabad. So what have you been to all these years?
Well you are right it has been six years since I had played any first class game and it’s been an year since I had announced my retirement. I had left for USA in 1999 when I knew I had no chance to get back to the Hyderabad side. I was playing cricket and coaching there in USA. After my contract was over, I was back home to make a comeback to the Hyderabad One Day Squad. Even after my good performances, I was ignored by the Selectors for the Ranji Team who said that I was not fit to play the longer version. So I was dropped, then I got an opportunity to go to Dubai to work as sports coach. I had done so knowing that the end of my career had come.
So are you trying to do the Level III Coaching as well and aim to become the Coach of a first class side?
Well every cricketer loves to give back something to the game and I want to do so by becoming the Coach of the Hyderabad team in the future and my aim is do get there. Yes I need to complete my Level III Coaching to make strides towards my goal.
Also you have been a professional coach in the UK, UAE. Could you tell us all about that?
Well I was not a Professional Coach in UAE or in the UK but I did coach some schools and younger cricketers for a club. I use to work for club called INSPORTZ in UAE, which also plays Indoor Cricket, and I was one of the Cricket Coaches and employee.
Well so much about you as a Coach post retirement, now lets focus on Noel Arthur David, the useful Hyderabad all rounder who was a live wire on the field. So was fielding that came natural to you or was it something you worked hard at and started to enjoy?
I used to be an athlete doing the 100 and 200 mts, so I had the natural speed in me and my hand eye co-ordination was very good. My anticipation towards the ball was much quicker to any one in the side and thus how I went on to become a good fielder. Yes I did work out on the basic style of fielding with my coach, late SAMPATH KUMAR sir who use make me run from one end to other as a demo boy to show others how one should field, even that used to give me an extra boost.
Do you remember the way Tony Cozier, a well known commentator from the Caribbean was getting excited whenever the ball was coming anywhere near you? Of course you did run quicker than the ball at times…
When people came to know about me as a fielder who was quick across the turf, my reputation as one of the best in that department of the game started to grow. Well I still remember Tony Cozier saying I was next to Jonty on the field and that was a great gesture for a young lad making a debut in international cricket. Even Sunny Bhai (Sunil Gavaskar) praised me saying ‘he is the Indian Jonty Rhodes’ during his commentary stints. I still remember running out Kapil Dev in one of the games in Chennai, wow it was a nice gesture he gave me, saying ‘baapre baap’. Even Azhar Bhai used to praise me a lot saying he is the best. For me fielding was the most enjoyable thing and I still love it. I thank the late Sampat Kumar Sir for this; he is the one who helped me to become one of the finest fielders in India. And I feel proud sometimes when people say “Noel David was one of India’s best fielders”. I hope I can give back something in fielding to the young lads in our country. Yes I knew I was sometimes faster then the ball for which I had misfielded on some occasions.
You had played just 21 Ranji Trophy matches and had scored a hundred and 3 fifties with a healthy average of 40+ along with 18 wickets before getting a call to join the Indian team. Did you ever imagine that you were going to play for India so soon?
I never knew when I could make it to the Indian team but I always thought I had a chance when I played for India “A”, I bowled well against all teams in the SAARC Tournament in Bangladesh.
What was the feeling when you had heard the news that you have replaced Javagal Srinath, the fastest bowler in India those days?
I was playing for Syndicate Bank in one of the matches when I had first heard the call about my selection. As Sachin had asked for an off spinner to replace Srinath, I could make it to the side ahead of Rajesh Chauhan and Aashish Kapoor. It was a dream come true for me and for all my well wishers who backed me right from my early days.
And most importantly, what was your reaction when you had come to know about the then Indian Skipper, Sachin Tendulkar asking “Who is Noel?”?
I did well in the West Indies; I bowled well and was not out on the two innings I got to play. Well everyone asked me this question about why Sachin had made such a statement. But for me, I did clarify with him in Bermuda and he said he never made any such statement. So it was the media who made that story. Well I have played with Sachin before and he knew me well. I can say that it was Mr. Ajit Wadekar who had asked ‘Who Noel is’ and not Sachin. To be honest me and Sachin are good friends.
Now a test of your memory, you did play your first game for the touring Indian side which was a warm-up game against Barbados. We are not going to talk about that but we will about a test match that had started at the Kensington Oval three days later which was played under nasty pitch conditions. Could you recall those moments for all the fans worldwide?
Yes I did play my first game against Barbados and it was before the Test Match. Coming to the Test Match, I can still remember it was a match in hand for us when we needed just 120 runs to win with I think 8 wickets in hand or so. Sachin, Jadu (Ajay Jadeja), myself and the family were at the beach just to relax from the pressure, so we went up to the beach resorts bar not for drinking but for just chilling out. And that’s where one of the ladies from there said “well Sachin mon, tomorrow Ambo and others will get you out man, and we will win the test” and it did become true. When Sachin got out we thought we had lost, also thought that we had some bad decisions. I think Franklyn Rose bowled well in that match. It was a dreadful wicket to play cricket on with the batsmen getting hit all over their bodies with the parts of the pitch exploding whenever the ball hit the turf.
And April 27 was a big day in your life, fabulous start it was to your international career, taking a neat 3 for 21 in 8 overs along with some amazing speed display across the outfield. You did answer most people ‘Who Noel is’. You were helped by the fact that Windies were struggling after a loss of early wickets, but Noel how was ODI Cricket compared to all the league games or Ranji Trophy matches you had played before?
After my performance in the side game leading upto the One Dayers, I knew I had a chance of making my ODI Debut. With Sunil Joshi and Robin Singh dropped for the second ODI, I got my big opportunity. To my good luck, Venkatesh Prasad and Abey Kuruvilla ran through the first half and when I had come to bowl I had Bishop, Ambrose, Rose to blow away. So when Sachin gave the ball to me, I was excited. Kumble gave me lot of confidence by asking me to bowl like I do in any Ranji matches, he just asked me to bowl my stuff and not to go after wickets. I knew Bishop was a decent bat, for my luck, I just flighted the ball and he tried to hit me and it was good catch taken by Prasad at mid off.
Well Noel, I see that you have hardly done anything wrong in the other three ODIs you have played. Yes one match you got clobbered for 38 in 6 overs, that’s just over 6 runs per over, but why do you think your international career lasted for just the four ODIs? And then your Hyderabad career also faded out quickly was that loss of focus or anything else?
Well I think every one thought I had my feet up in the air after I played for India. Yes I do agree that I was doing badly with the bat but I never got a chance to bowl as much as what I used to do before playing for India. And it was frustration and anger following that and I eventually lost out. Everyone used to talk about me and my behaviour but I think it was their talking that had let me down. I used to feel bad when I used to hear people talking nonsense about me. As I said in my previous interviews, people couldn’t digest seeing a boy riding a Kinetic Honda to a Maruti Zen. All eyes were on me, they thought I was showing off. I was not! It’s the people who don’t play cricket talk all these kinds of nonsense and that was bad.
So what are the fond memories that you remember life long in those four days you had played for India?
I have great memories; I never knew I would play under the great Sachin, and that I will be his close pal. Next is that I got to meet great players like Lara, Arjun Rantunga, Carl Hooper who were all great players of spin. Bowling to them was a great experience and also to Shivnarine Chanderpaul who looks a bit like me. And I did meet the maestro of off spin – Muttiah Muralitharan and also Saqlain Mushtaq during the Asia Cup.
What do you have to say about the serious allegations made by Vanka Pratap during the Abhijit Kale Scandal; Vanka Pratap had cited you as an example…
Well whatever he (Vanka Pratap) said was utter nonsense. And I think we got over it now. Some people do such things to get highlighted in the media and gain some publicity…
Now back to the tall moments of your career, a double century in just your second game and what’s more Hyderabad plundering a record 944, anything interesting you would like to share with us regarding that match?
It was one of the greatest moments in my career; a double in my second game followed by the then quickest hundred in the Ranji One Day game, man what more could I have asked at that stage? I had scored my century in 74 balls, a record which was broken by Sachin Tendulkar who scored his century in 71 balls. We never knew it would be a world record, as for us we knew we needed more than 1000 odd runs to pass the record set by Victoria. But it was a world record for two double hundreds from myself and Vivek Jaisimha and one triple hundred from MV Sridhar. We all felt sad when we couldn’t get past the 1000 runs mark thanks to Arshad Ayub, the Captain who had to declare to gain some bowling points.
One final question, how did cricket start with you. If I am not mistaken you were from the same school in Hyderabad that had produced a few test players like Abid Ali, Syed Kirmani, Azhar, Raju…So how important was your stay in your Alma Mater – All Saints High School. And how good or bad a student you were?
As I said I was an athlete from the 4th class onwards. I was a bad student in Hindi, never couldn’t get it in my brain. But I always thank BRO. KM Joseph who was the god father for all of us – Azhar, Raju and me. We took studies very easy and always use to get canning from the Principal for failing. I still could remember an incident when I was in 7th standard when I had failed in Hindi, and during that time I was playing for my school in a tournament. So my mom went to Bro. KM and told him “my son failed and I want him to stop playing cricket”. Then KM said no way, you are his mother in your house and I am his father in my school so whatever I do with him, don’t question me and that’s what made me continue to play cricket.