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'Lack of quality bowlers affecting India's performance abroad'

Last updated on: March 03, 2014 19:44 IST

'Lack of quality bowlers affecting India's performance abroad'

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'Give M S Dhoni a set of quality bowlers and he will win Tests for you in other countries too.'

Former India wicketkeeper-batsman Nayan Mongia tells Haresh Pandya that Mahendra Singh Dhoni must be retained as captain irrespective of the widespread criticism his Test captaincy has triggered in recent times.

Former India wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia, who played 44 Tests and 140 One-Day Internationals between January 1994 to March 2001, is known for his forthright views on cricket and its practitioners, including his former India teammates.

Recently appointed chairman of selectors in the new administrative set-up of the Baroda Cricket Association, he says he enjoys "thankless jobs", and reminds you that, as a player, he was a wicketkeeper.

Being a sharp cricket analyst, it is always a rewarding experience talking with him or hearing him air his comments on radio and television.

In a freewheeling interview, Mongia, who now runs a business of selling surgical instruments, talks about the many aspects of Indian cricket while emphasising that Mahendra Singh Dhoni must be retained as captain irrespective of the flak his Test captaincy is getting.

How do you look at the current scenario in Indian cricket, especially following Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement and our two successive Test series defeats overseas?

Team India is going through a transition period. All the senior players, the last being Sachin Tendulkar, have left one after the other.

You need to give time to youngsters to settle down. You should have patience with them. International cricket is quite different from domestic cricket and it is not easy for most youngsters to settle down so soon and so easily.

The current Indian team has so many younger, brighter players who need to be nurtured with care.

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Image: India's fielders celebrate a wicket
Photographs: Andrew Biraj/Reuters

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'We must continue with Dhoni in all the three formats of international cricket'

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Would you like to name some of these young players who you think have a bright future?

Why only some? All of them! Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami are exceptionally talented.

They have already proved what they are capable of and I am convinced a very bright future beckons them.

But India has not done well overseas in recent times despite having these players. Don’t you think so?

True. I do not deny that. But there are other reasons. These players may have failed to deliver collectively, but not often individually.

As I said, we are going through a transition period. More than the batsmen, I feel our lack of quality bowlers, who can be effective outside India, has more to do with our poor showing.

But do not forget that we came very close to winning a Test each in South Africa and New Zealand.

If we had managed to win at Wanderers in Johannesburg and Basin Reserve in Wellington, which were close Tests, people would have been talking in different terms today.

Many, including Ian Chappell, believe that Mahendra Singh Dhoni no longer deserves to be at the helm, at least in the heavyweight division of cricket. Are you in favour of splitting the captaincy of Team India -- different captains for Tests and limited-overs matches?

No, I think we must continue with Dhoni in all the three formats of international cricket.

True, India has lost the last four overseas Test series under him, but I do not think it is fair to blame him squarely for that. After all, a captain is as good as the team he gets to lead.

On the England and Australian tours we were going through a transition period with more and more senior players retiring. We are still going through a transition period.

Dhoni has done quite well given the limited resources at his command. He has had no other choice but to play within his limited resources.

Give him a set of quality bowlers and he will win Tests for you in other countries too. You need bowlers who can take 20 wickets.

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Image: Mohammed Shami of India celebrates his wicket of Tom Latham of New Zealand (left)
Photographs: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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'Jadeja has the potential to be a genuine, world-class all-rounder'

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Is the picture so gloomy as far as bowlers are concerned?

Hopefully, not! I am very impressed by [Mohammad] Shami and [Ravindra] Jadeja. Shami has pace, stamina and variation. It is after a long time that India has unearthed a class fast bowler; I am sure Shami will go places, just like Zaheer Khan.

One of the reasons behind Sourav Ganguly’s impressive record as a captain was that in Zaheer and Anil Kumble he had the bowlers who were taking wickets overseas as well.

Ultimately, it is the bowlers who win matches, home and away.

Unfortunately, most of our present-day bowlers have to really work hard to merit their place in the Indian team; also to learn the art of taking wickets abroad.

Ishant Sharma is still patchy after more than 50 Tests. We do not have spinners who can take wickets abroad, like Kumble used to. However, I am sure Jadeja has the potential to be a genuine, world-class all-rounder. And he will emerge as one with more experience, just as Shami will establish himself as a world-class fast bowler.

Don’t you think Jadeja should be promoted in the batting order?

No, I think it is good that we have a reliable batsman like him down the order. And even if you want to send him up the order, where is the room?

All the positions, from No. 1 to No. 6, have already been occupied. Till Jadeja starts scoring as heavily in Tests and ODIs, as he is known for in domestic cricket, he should be kept where he is, except on odd occasions.

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Image: Ravindra Jadeja bowls during Day 4 of the second Test
Photographs: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

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'Kohli is in good batting form and should not be burdened with captaincy'

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Doesn’t Dhoni tend to be defensive the moment the opposition starts dominating the proceedings?

I don’t think so. He is one of the most aggressive of captains who has led India.

Talk like defensive tactics begin only when a captain is not living up to expectations.

And India is such a large and cricket-crazy country that almost everybody has very high expectations of Dhoni and his team.

Nobody was raising a finger against Dhoni’s captaincy when he was winning matches almost hands down. Give him some time and I am sure India will begin to win under him again. I am sure it will not be long before this transition period is over.

Virat Kohli has replaced the ‘injured’ Dhoni in the ongoing Asia Cup in Bangladesh. How do you rate him as a captain?

He has all the qualities to be an excellent captain in all formats of cricket, just like he has the technique and temperament to succeed as a batsman in Test, One-Day International and Twenty20 cricket.

He is the answer to the question, ‘Who after Dhoni?’

But, right now, when he has been going through a purple patch as a batsman, he should not be burdened with the extra responsibility of captaincy. He is at the top of his batting prowess at the moment and I don’t think he can bat better.

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Image: Virat Kohli celebrates after reaching his century
Photographs: Andrew Biraj/Reuters

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'IPL has made both the game and the players sharper and more competitive'

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Another Indian Premier League season is round the corner. Do you think the IPL is good for the game and its players?

Yes, it is very good for cricket and cricketers. Money is obviously there, but, more than that, the IPL has made both the game and the players sharper and more competitive.

Look at the transformation that Mitchel Johnson has undergone in the last couple of years. Look how the IPL has turned someone like Dinesh Karthik into an explosive batsman.

Besides, it provides opportunities to so many young players to play with and against some of the world’s finest cricketers, to share the dressing room with them, to interact with them.

There may be some negative sides, but if you look at many positive aspects of the IPL, I think it is the best possible thing that could have happened to cricket and cricketers.

Would you like to be a part of an IPL franchise?

I would love to. I have a lot of experience of playing international cricket. I have travelled the world, and I can always share my knowledge and experience with an IPL team.


Image: Nayan Mongia


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