Mumbai: Mercurial former captain Dhanraj Pillay feels it is high time that Indian hockey players are paid match fees.
"The hockey players should be paid Rs 25,000 per international match. We used to subsist on a meagre allowance of USD 20 when we played for the country. We could not even invite our friends for a cup of coffee at the top hotels we stayed in or else go out of pocket," said Pillay at the India International Sports Summit here.
Taking part in a panel discussion along with former Pakistan cricket captain Wasim Akram, Pillay again took a pot shot at Hockey India for offering a meagre bonus of Rs 25,000 each to the playing members of the Indian team that won the Asian Champions Trophy in China recently.
"It hurt me a lot. They should have just invited them for a cup of tea and not offered this meagre amount," he said.
Pillay endorsed the view of Akram who said India-Pakistan sports encounters helped a sportsperson's mental toughness to take on any other team in the world.
"India-Pakistan matches are pressure situations. I agree with Wasimbhai that they should be started at the under 16 and under 19 levels too. We used to lie awake prior to a match against Pakistan. On the field we wanted to kill them and they too wanted to kill us," he said.
Akram, who represented his country in 104 Tests and 356 ODIs between 1985 and 2003, wanted India and Pakistan to engage in sports at all levels.
"We should have regular contests in all sports from the under 16, under 19 levels. India-Pakistan games are pressure games. Once a player knows to handle the pressure in these matches he can play against all other teams," said the 45-year-old Akram.
Akram, who has slammed his former teammate and fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar for his disparaging comments in his autobiography "Controversially Yours" against top Indian batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, praised the two batting stalwarts.
"Batsmen of the calibre of Tendulkar and Dravid are not afraid of fast bowlers. At times they may just block a bowler like me or eschew strokes to preserve their wickets," he said.
Asked about the most memorable moments in his cricket career, Akram, one of the best-ever left-arm fast bowlers in the history of the game singled out three instances.
"Our World Cup victory in 1992 (under Imran Khan), and the Test series victory over (hosts) India in 1987 (Pakistan's maiden one) and our wins in India in 1999," he said.
Pakistan defeated India at Chennai before the hosts avenged the defeat in Delhi in the two-Test rubber. In another Test immediately afterwards in Kolkata, part of the now defunct Asian Test Championship, the visitors vanquished the home team.
Akram singled out the overwhelming loss in the World Cup final of 1999 to Australia, in which he led his country, as his most forgettable moment.
Asked about the top batsmen he had bowled to, the Lahore-born Akram said there were quite a few.
"In the beginning there was (India's) Sunil Gavaskar. Later there were Allan Border, Mark Taylor, the Waugh brothers (all Australians) and then Brian Lara (West Indian), Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and England's Alec Stewart who I found difficult to bowl to," he said.
Akram also said that over the last four or five years the Pakistan cricket team lacked "a proper role model".
"They had Shoaib as one," he remarked in jocular vein.
Akram, a diabetic, said he was at first worried when he was diagnosed with the disease in 1987 but then after a two-month break to take treatment came back and took over 250 wickets each in both Tests and ODIs.