On the cricket field he always punched above his weight but when it comes to food Kiran More is happy with his khakras

Remember how he irritated Javed Miandad in a World Cup match at Sydney. Kiran More’s banter from behind the stumps left Miandad fuming and ultimately triggered his dismissal. More was good at this, doing his job silently, the blank expression on his face giving nothing away. 49 Tests and 94 ODIs marked his international career and he is a mellowed veteran now, enjoying his association with cricket, as coach on the field and media expert off it.

We meet at The Great Kabab Factory in Noida Sector 16, a bustling suburb of the Capital. More, cursing the traffic that brings him an hour late, eases into his chair with a lemon juice to calm his nerves. “Driving these days is like negotiating a Michael Holding spell. Not a moment of comfort,” he complains. He lets off his steam and smiles, “Let’s talk cricket.”

Does it help being short? “Wicketkeepers used to be short but the trend is different, guys are taller now. In my time, keepers were short. It helps when the ball keeps low. Take Dilip (Vengarkar). He used to keep wickets but developed back problems because he was tall.” Faroukh Engineer and Rusi Jeejeebhoy were tall. Bob Taylor, Rodney Marsh, Allan Knott were short. “If you’re short, you can bend quickly. It’s all in the mind. But tall keepers have the advantage of reach when diving.”

‘Not a thankless job’

It is generally observed that wicket-keeping, like goal-keeping, is a thankless job. More disagrees. “It is tough, competitive and challenging. You’re part of the team and you have to do it. If you succeed you become great. I loved it because it helped me grow overall. It is certainly not a thankless job.”

‘Where the Kabab is King!’ is the signature refrain of the restaurant even as we warm up to the delectable stuff that Chef Radhey Shyam offers. He has been in the business of making kababs for 17 years now and proudly claims Kapil Dev and Kareena Kapoor among his regular visitors. And now More on a warm afternoon! The menu of the day includes galouti kabab, murgh khadamasala, macchi sarson and murg tikka makhana. “That’s a feast,” More surveys the plate.

What was his diet during playing days? “Normal. We ate lot of junk food and heavy gravies. Now things have changed. Today you have dieticians to guide the players. Your eating is monitored. If we had this guidance we would have played more and our performances would have improved too. Sunil Gavaskar would have scored 20,000 runs because he would have played more. We went on tours without physios. Injuries were treated with ice and turmeric.”

More narrates an incident from the 1990 tour to New Zealand. “I dislocated my index finger in a match. It rested on the palm as I removed my gloves. Kapil put it back. The Kiwi physio said I can’t play but I put the tape on and kept wickets for the match and the rest of the tour.”

The seekh kababs are just superb. More digs into one and reminisces, “The first Test I saw was on the first tour I went on (to the West Indies in 1983). Oh! that was frightening, the hostile bowling I saw in the West Indies. There I realised what Test cricket was, the short ball, speed…That experience made me strong and helped me in my career.”

Born and brought up in Baroda, the 50-year-old More is a huge fan of Gujarati farsaan (snacks). “I love Gujarati food. The traditional Gujarati food is so delicious. I love the khakras. I am more a Gujarati than a Maharashtrian. I speak better Gujarati than Marathi,” he smiles. The gosht biryani is “good” too and More tells us his philosophy of a good wicketkeeper. “He has to be consistent in taking catches, stumping and making run outs. A keeper is always helping the captain and the bowler, reading the pitch, conditions and batsmen. It’s not just standing behind the stumps. A keeper is like a captain, involved with every ball.”

His experience as National selector, when Greg Chappell was the coach, was eventful. “The first year as a selector was difficult, knowing the system, how to plan, psychology of the player, how to drop a player and how to handle him. You had to look at the game from his mind. I would always feel bad when I dropped some player but then someone would have done well and deserved the place, all part of game, part of life.”

At home, More claims he is the least important member. “If you hold an election at home, I will lose heavily. My wife (Raavi) and daughters (Ruhi and Zaahi) are united. Even my dogs will not vote for me,” he laughs, doing justice to phirni and gulab jamun. He proudly reveals, “Ruhi is making films. She is an assistant director (in the remaking of Zanjeer).” Raavi, by the way, is a trained singer and has an album with Anup Jalota to her credit.

One more helping of gulab jamun and More concludes with a message to young cricketers. “Look at Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni. They have been great ambassadors of the game, meeting expectations with dignity. Keep your cricket simple, don’t make it complicated. The game has not changed. You can still get boundaries with a cover drive, a six with a good swing. If you play four-day cricket well you can play any form of the game…..”