Doug Walters was among the finest and the last symbols of cricket’s glorious amateur spirit. Indeed, this dazzling former Australian batsman was a cult figure in his country.
In an international career stretching from 1965 to 1981, Walters played 74 Tests, notching up 5357 runs at 48.26. Now, 67, this charismatic New South Welshman spoke exclusively to The Hindu in a telephone conversation from his Sydney home on contemporary cricket and the alleged spot-fixing.
What is the biggest difference from the days you played and the present-day cricket?
We played as a team. In the Australian team, I cared for my mates. We took great joy in each other’s success. It was a lot about passion and pride and less about money. Now, cricketers play as individuals than being a part of a side. They market themselves first and it has become an individual game. This is the key difference. When that team-spirit is missing, they become vulnerable.
How would you look at the present crisis in cricket following the arrest of three cricketers for alleged spot-fixing in the IPL?
What we are seeing is greed. You can have any amount of policing, but whether to cross the line and indulge in corrupt practices is a call the cricketer has to take. Ultimately, it boils down to one’s integrity. And all the cricketers, even the smallest ones, should be made aware of the consequences when they decide to play ball with the bookies.
What do you think is the solution?
If found guilty, they should be locked up. There should be strong deterrents. You require strong laws.
What bothers you the most about present-day cricket?
There is far too much money in the game. It’s ridiculous the amount of money that the youngsters receive for 45 to 50 days of cricket. Somewhere down the line, it could hurt their motivation and could be terribly distracting. Look at someone like Glenn Maxwell. He has been paid a million dollars, but how many matches has he played?
The youngsters, at least, should be made to work hard and sweat for the money. Even that is not happening, and they can so easily lose focus.
You have any suggestions vis-à-vis money in the game?
In international cricket, for all forms of the game, the ICC should step in and ensure that all teams are paid an equal amount. For instance, a cricketer playing for Pakistan should not receive far less than someone representing Australia or India. Parity in pay is important and is among the first steps to clean up the game.
Coming to the IPL, we should do away with auctions where players are bought and sold like cattle in a cart. This adversely impacts the heart of the game.
Any regrets about playing the game when there was so little money in it? If you had played today, you would have been one of the highest paid stars…
Absolutely no regrets! Those were the glory days for the game. And cricket was clean. The satisfaction of an honest day’s work on the field is worth more than millions of dollars.