Dubai: Former Indian batsman Vinod Kambli, who was recently in the eye of a storm following his controversial statements on match-fixing, said he will continue to speak his mind.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News during the Gulf Super Sixes tournament at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Kambli said: "I stand by whatever I have stated and I don't regret at all whatever I had stated."
Kambli racked up huge controversy recently by stating that the 1996 World Cup semi-final between India and Sri Lanka was fixed. Following his statement, many cricketers who played in the match, including former Indian captain Mohammad Azharrudin, hit out at Kambli.
"I am a very straight-forward guy and I speak the truth," said Kambli, who also admitted that speaking his mind has resulted in him having to face a lot of difficulties in his career.
Kambli, whose career began with a lot of promise and he was once hailed as more talented than his schoolmate Sachin Tendulkar, faded away after playing in only 17 Test matches and 104 One Day Internationals. But his average in Test matches is an impressive 54.20 and in one-dayers is 32.59.
Recalling his early days, Kambli said: "It was schools cricket that helped me a lot. It is schools cricket that got Sachin [Tendulkar] and me recognition. It was a building platform for Sachin and me as we both played together."
In fact, in the world record unbroken 664-run partnership in a school match in Mumbai, Kambli top scored with an unbeaten 349, while Tendulkar hit an unconquered 329 runs. Both of them were coached by Ramakant Achrekar.
When asked what made Achrekar such a special coach, Kambli said: "The free will he gave us made him very special. The amount of hard work he put on Sachin and me is amazing. His tips were always special and we used to wait for his valuable tips. He produced nearly 11 players for the country. His determination made us work hard. Moreover, he never changed our batting style."
Kambli was more flamboyant and daring than Tendulkar — he hit the first ball he received in the Ranji Trophy for a six. The start to his international career was also spectacular, as he hit two double-centuries and two centuries in his first seven Test matches.
When asked what was his secret behind his ability to hit double-centuries, he said: "I played my natural game. Never in any innings I went out to bat to get a double-century, but whenever I played my natural game, runs kept coming.
"Probably the way I applied myself after every 50 helped too. Many helped me with tips, especially Sunil Gavaskar."
Kambli's last One Day International match was in Sharjah in 2000 against Sri Lanka. Giving his advice to youngsters, he says: "Play hard, practice as much as you can. Sachin and I did that as youngsters to reach the top."