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Home > Cricket > The Cup > Report


Sehwag, Sourav should open: Kiran More

March 14, 2007 03:04 IST

Former India wicketkeeper and chairman of selectors Kiran More spoke exclusively to Rediff.com, analysing India's build-up to the 2007 World Cup.

He spells out the game plan India should follow in the first round match against Bangladesh.

'Sehwag should open with Ganguly,' he told Special Correspondent Harish Kotian.

Excerpts:

When you took over as the chairman of the selection committee, how difficult was the task and what was your vision then?

We sat down [with the other selectors] I was a part of the selection committee for the last four years so I had previous experience. First year was difficult for me as a selector because you come from a different job altogether. You try to do too many different things in that time, you get excited with your new job as a selector.

But I had two years prior experience as selector and then I became the chairman of the selection committee. In the 2003 World Cup, I was part of the selection committee so I had experience of the 2003 World Cup as to how the team did well and how they reached the final. I was in South Africa also and I knew what was happening there, so I had two years experience. So when I took over as the chairman I sat down with Rahul [Dravid], who became the captain of the team then and Greg [Chappell] was also there, the new coach of the team. So we noted down some points and how to go about it. My other colleagues, who were part of the selection committee, were there also. So it was not only my decisions but there were five guys who were sitting together.

We discussed a lot of things specially how to give young guys opportunities before the World Cup, that's how we ended up getting so many youngsters like Suresh Raina, M S Dhoni, Munaf Patel, R P Singh, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik and Vengopala Rao. We had to give lot of opportunities to all these youngsters, Sreesanth also, because if we wouldn't have given them chances then they would have gone for the World Cup now with just 4-5 games experience. We wanted to give them experience of atleast 25-30 games and whoever does well for the World Cup. That means everyone should have the opportunity to play for India and get that experience, which they will definitely take into the World Cup.

So that's what we did. We had some plans regarding the youngsters and that's how we dropped some of the players. It was totally on the performance-basis that we had to create opportunities for the youngsters and they proved themselves. Some of these young cricketers have come up outstandingly and that's how they are part of the World Cup team. I can give the example of Dinesh Karthik, we tried him about 2 years back and we carried him for most of the series and he is now the surprise packet for the World Cup. He has been picked as a batsman, wicketkeeper, fielder, basically as an all-rounder. That's how we ended up selecting [the team for the World Cup] and it was only 5-6 months that the new selection committee has taken over.

As you said the main focus was the youngsters. So are you happy with the way the team has shaped up for the World Cup?

Absolutely! There are a lot of young guys, who are part of the World Cup like Uthappa, Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Munaf, Sreesanth. And there are some guys, who missed out like Suresh Raina, Mohammad Kaif and R P Singh. They are the guys, who really did well last year, but this year they are not in the best of form and that is why they have missed out [on the World Cup].

Some of the guys have come back strongly like Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan, so that's what we wanted that they have to perform and they have to be fit. That's how Ganguly and Zaheer have come back and they have shown what is comeback all about. They are experienced cricketers and now part of the team. So I think no matter you have to perform well to be in the team and that's what we wanted. So if you look at the team now we have a fantastic balance.

Talking about Sourav Ganguly, you had admitted earlier that dropping the left-hander was the toughest decision of your tenure? Were you disappointed at the criticism you got from a section of the media and fans at that decision?

Not really. It was not only my decision but five people together made that decision. There was no bias regarding the decision to drop Ganguly. It was totally on the merit of performance that we decided to drop him since he was not in the best of form, he didn't look very solid. So we decided to give him a break and bring in some youngsters who could push some of the seniors in the team and give them a run for their money. And that's what we thought and then that was the best time to give the other guys the chance to prove themselves at the top level. It's not overnight that you become a top cricketer, it takes time to build a youngster; it is a process. You need to give them opportunities, so they get more experience of playing in matches. They are not going to be very successful cricketers straightaway. So that's what we did, we tried to create some space for some young cricketers and give them more opportunities.

And now Ganguly and Zaheer have made a great comeback. So it's a question of cricket only and not that anybody has helped them to get back into the team or something like that. Zaheer had a fantastic season in county cricket and he came back strong -- fitness wise and in terms of attitude. So that's what we wanted and it's up to the cricketers to do their job professionally, perform and win matches for India.

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  • So if you say your decision to sack senior players like Ganguly was fair, then weren't the criticisms you received unfair? Since you were the chairman you were singled out? How did you react to the same?

    I think whenever you make a call; the chairman always gets the blame. I was also leading a team, so the blame definitely came to me. But I took it in a very positive way. Selection is not an easy job. In India whenever you drop a cricketer or a top cricketer, a big scene is made of it because Indian people have a lot of sentiments regarding each and every player. A lot of people talk about players dropped from their own region like in South, North, West or other regions. So the supporters are everywhere. And especially the media always makes a story out of it so there are advantages and disadvantages of the media.

    So the media has played their part in it because any cricketer who has been dropped and then comes back it's great for the team. Look at Sehwag, who was not doing well and was dropped, but he made it back to the team. We know Sourav is a good cricketer, Zaheer is a good cricketer and they have done very well for India. But if you don't perform you have to go home, get your things [basics] right and come back into the Indian team and nobody is going to stop you. You have to perform and win matches for India and that is important.

    You invested in youngsters like Suresh Raina, Mohammad Kaif and R P Singh and you must have had high hopes on these players making it to the World Cup. But they haven't, so what do you think went wrong for them?

    I don't think anything has gone wrong. I don't think if a cricketer does not perform for two months, he becomes a bad cricketer. It is just a bad patch, they have to improve their performance and come back into the team. They are talented cricketers and they are the future of the Indian team.

    If they are not performing [in few matches], it does not make them bad cricketers. We are looking at the future and it is not just the World Cup, we are looking ahead. RP Singh, Suresh Raina and Ramesh Powar are unfortunate to miss their berth for the World Cup. It's just a question of one or two innings. Tomorrow if someone does not do well in the World Cup team, it doesn't mean they are not bad cricketers. They are good cricketers it is just a couple of matches that they did not do well and the team lost the matches, so they take all the blame. So I think it's just a matter of time before Raina, RP Singh, Kaif will be there in the team. They were all part of discussion of the World Cup team. Even Powar was discussed, but it was unfortunate because there were two experienced spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. It was a tough decision for the selectors also to make on Powar and also you cannot take two off-spinners in your team.

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  • You had said that when you took over as the chairman, you had a long chat with Dravid and Chappell regarding the vision for the 2007 World Cup? Do you think that has realised?

    Of course. There are cricketers in this team like M S Dhoni, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, Munaf, Uthappa, Karthik [whom we identified]. I think the percentage is quite high of those players in this team and they are doing very well. It is a very good thing regarding what we thought about it, the opportunities we gave them. I think it is reward for the confidence we showed in them and they part of the team now and doing well.

    We discussed about it. Otherwise if we wouldn't have given them opportunities and if the team would have done badly in South Africa and all the seniors who had gone there and we would have continued with the same players. We didn't do well in South African series. So I think if they [youngsters] wouldn't have performed well, the seniors would have come into the team without any experience of the matches and they would have gone to the World Cup. So that would have been quite difficult for the youngsters also. Now they have played enough games. Sreesanth has played around 25-30 matches, Powar, Munaf, Karthik, Uthappa, Dhoni and Pathan -- all these guys have played enough international matches and that experience will count them in the World Cup.

    Our bowling attack comprising the likes of Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, S Sreesanth seems a bit on the inexperienced side. How would rate this attack?

    I think we have one of the best bowling attacks if you look around in world cricket. If you look at the Indian attack it is fantastic, we have a good balance. They just need to bowl well, they are talented.

    Look at Munaf, he has come back from injury and he has bowled one of the best spells. He is going to be a key bowler for us. Zaheer Khan has made a big comeback and he is bowling very well. He is experienced and he has increased his speed.

    The only concern is Irfan Pathan, who has to bowl consistently. If Pathan bowls well, it will give a fantastic balance to the team. That's where the fourth fast bowler will come into play and he will give the batting depth too. He can come in to bat after Dhoni at number 7 or 8 and then we will not need to worry about our batting line-up then. So I think Irfan will be the key.

    Then we have Sreesanth, who I think is the best find of our Indian season last year. He has just picked up 12 wickets in domestic cricket and we picked him. He has been doing well in Test matches. He has won Test matches for India, not only in South Africa but also in the Caribbean when we won the Test series he bowled magnificently along with Munaf. I think they have learned a lot and they have experience of 30-35 matches and that experience will definitely count in the World Cup.

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  • The batting line-up seems more or less settled except for the opening slot, the only area of concern. So do you get Robin Uthappa to open with Sourav Ganguly or do you go with Virender Sehwag, who has not been in good form lately? Or would you revert to the old formula of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly?

    I think I will give a try to Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly because Sehwag is a very experienced player. We played these two warm-up matches and I think those two wickets were not the best for one-day cricket. I will still give a chance to Sehwag because he is a match-winner and he is one of the most dangerous players in the world. He is not in the best of form but that does not mean he is a bad cricketer. The captain trusts him, the team management and the selectors also trust him and that's why I think he is a part of this World Cup squad. I would still go with Sehwag and if something happens then Robin Uthappa is always there waiting -- hungry to get into the team as an opener and play a great knock. If Virender Sehwag clicks we have a great chance of qualifying for the semi-finals straightaway.

    So it means that you want Robin Uthappa to just wait?

    Yes, Sehwag and Sourav have to open the innings. Sachin is also shaping well [in the middle order] and the middle order is quite crucial for us. Sachin can rotate the one's and two's and you got to look at this strike rate when he has batted at number four in the last six or seven innings. He has been outstanding because his strike rate has been plus 90. He can take the ones and two's and he can hit the odd boundary. I think he is a capable player and with his experience he can carry the innings and that is what we want in the middle order. And that is why we have Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Dhoni to finish it off. So I think the batting has a fantastic balance and if something goes wrong, Uthappa will definitely get an opportunity.

    Considering Sehwag's current form he has not been scoring runs lately. How long do you think we can persist with him?

    I think we can give him a go in the first match and also the second match since it will not be difficult for us to advance to the second round. So I will give him an opportunity in these first two matches and then wait and see how he does.

    If he does well it will be a big warning to the opposition and they will be scared of Sehwag because of the way he can hit the ball and get those runs quickly. The unfortunate part is that Uthappa will have to wait probably to get his opportunity because he has been doing very well and is pushing hard. It is a healthy sign that there is a tough competition for the opening slot that Uthappa is waiting if something goes wrong. And you never know if the team management trusts Uthappa, he might open the innings with Sourav Ganguly.

    Looking at the first match of the World Cup that has kicked off and also the warm-up games, what is your take on the pitches. Many people are already saying the pitches are on the slower side, what is your assessment?

    I think the wickets will definitely play well in all the one-day matches [in the World Cup]. The last couple of games that is the warm-up matches, the wickets were not up to the mark. But if you look at the Barbados, Jamaica, Antigua or St Kitts wickets, they are outstanding good batting wickets and it is going to be high scoring matches. But it is not the question of wickets, you have to play good quality cricket and give opportunities to the bowlers also. I think in world cricket right now there are too many matches being dominated by batsmen, so the team which is looking to win the World Cup have to do well in all sort of wickets. You just can't wait to see how the wicket behaves and then play your matches. You have to play quality cricket and that is what happened in the ICC Champions Trophy last year. The two teams [Australia and West Indies] that played quality cricket qualified for the finals in India. People were grumbling about the wickets but the team which managed to score around 220 and defending that score did well in that tournament.

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