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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Brijesh Patel, Chairman of the Selectors
'Selection process pretty good'
June 11, 2003
Brijesh Patel, chairman of India's cricket selectors, is also involved with the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore as director. It has been nine months since he took over the reins of the selection committee and over a year-and-a-half since his appointment at the NCA. During this time the fortunes of the country's junior and senior teams has been more than encouraging.
In an exclusive interview with Special Contributing Correspondent M D Riti, Patel discusses his plans for the Academy and the selection process to the Indian team.
What is your blueprint for the NCA?
The blueprint is basically to get a good back-up team. We need to make the reserve bench bigger, and that's what the efforts of the NCA will be towards.
Does the fact that 11 NCA boys have been chosen for the 'A' team signify that the Academy has finally arrived?
The Academy has certainly arrived. The youngsters are now also aware of physical fitness, which is very important. Their fielding has improved a lot. These are areas that the Indian team actually lacked -- fielding and physical fitness. Right from the under-15 age group the boys are more and more aware of this.
Is the emphasis on physical fitness making the difference now?
The Indian team is bearing the fruits of this. See youngsters like Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh; their fielding levels have improved. Seeing them, even the seniors throw themselves about. The fitness level overall has improved, and that's why the performance of the Indian team has improved.
Any boys from the Academy you see headed for the Indian eleven?
We have a lot of these boys already: Kaif, Yuvraj, Gautam Gambhir, Murali Karthik, Laxmipathy Balaji. Also, we have the younger crop: Parthiv Patel, Ambati Rayudu. Now the under-19s, under-17 and under-15 are coming up. We have shortlisted 30, 40 boys from these. The under-19 tournaments are going on too. All the academies are participating. The top 120 boys in this age group are all playing in this.
Why did Dav Whatmore's appointment as India's coach not come about?
John Wright was available. The Indian team's next appointment is only from September, and the Academy actually works from April to August. So the Board thought, why not make use of John in this period?
Are you are doing anything different with the boys? You seem to have a varied schedule...
The programs are well-made and the boys should not get bored doing the same routine stuff. There is also a lot of flexibility in the programme; apart from that, the boys need to enjoy the whole programme. The physical fitness part is very strenuous, and we want them to enjoy it so they don't feel the hard work.
Why, after all that effort, did India not win the World Cup?
Australia is ahead of all the teams. India has done well; they beat all the good sides: England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand on the way to the final. The performance overall was very good. Every team is now doing a catch-up with Australia. Australia has this academy. They work with the sports science department closely... and for the last 15 years. We have just started now, over the past 2, 3 years. As far as talent is concerned, we have no problem; we just need to make our players stronger, physically and mentally. Those are the areas we need to work on.
Do all these experiences make you feel any need to rethink the selection process?
I think the selection process has been pretty good. There is now a lot more stability; not much changing and chopping. We have given enough opportunities to all our players to prove their worth.
What exactly are you doing that is new in sports science?
We are making use now of video analysis of all the players. Apart from that, we are trying to get psychologist Sandy Gordon to work out a programme for Indian cricket. This is how, mentally, and in the area of biomechanics, we hope to do some good work. Apart from that we will have seminars, for physios and trainers, taken by Andrew Leipus. Each state will send a physio and a trainer, so that a boy can be looked after when he goes back to Chandigarh or wherever.
We also have seminars for coaches and Level 2 exams as well for all the coaches who are going to be contracted by each association for the under-15, under-17, under-19 and senior team. Four coaches from each association will be giving the Level 2 exams. Frank Tyson is coming for that; he is a very experienced person in this. The training methods should then be uniform throughout India. We will try to get more and more coaches to do Level 1 and 2 exams. Everyone will then talk the same language.