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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Nayan Mongia
'How can you ignore someone like Anil Kumble?'
March 28, 2007
Nayan Mongia, the stylish wicketkeeper and reliable batsman of the 1990s, represented India in the 1996 and 1999 World Cups in the subcontinent and in England respectively. He also played alongside many members of the Indian team that has been sent packing from the ongoing World Cup in the West Indies.
Haresh Pandya spoke with Mongia minutes after Bangladesh defeated Bermuda and dashed any glimmer of hope Team India may have entertained of still making it to the Super Eight round, after being routed by Sri Lanka in its last league match.
Now that India has been thrown out of the World Cup even before the Super Eight round, what are your objective views on our players' performance in the tournament?
It was a pathetic performance. It will be very hard for every Indian cricket lover to forget the bad memories of this World Cup. Even the players themselves will find it difficult to overcome the shock. What was most unfortunate was that we were humiliated by the teams we should have defeated convincingly. And to think we were in the easiest and the most comfortable group imaginable.
Our batsmen did not click when needed the most. None of them appeared confident or convincing. When you have such a strong batting line-up you should bat first on winning the toss and put pressure on the opposition by posting a huge total. Instead, the think tank of Team India seems to be asking for the pressure by inviting the opponents to bat first. I strongly feel we should have batted first against Sri Lanka.
Don't you think there has been so much media hype around Team India? Haven't the players proved to be paper tigers by playing like chumps when it came to the crunch?
Yes, I think so, unfortunately. How can you surrender meekly to a team like Bangladesh? Why can't you show some fighting spirit against a not-so-strong opponent like Sri Lanka? We have a bunch of match-winning batsmen and yet we are losing at regular intervals. We have a couple of match-winning bowlers, too. I have played with most of these players and I know what they are capable of. They are highly talented, believe me.
Did the team management err in selection of the batsmen or bowlers?
The selection of batsmen was perfectly all right. But, keeping in mind the West Indian attack and the weak points of our opponents, I think the ideal bowling combination should have been two medium-pacers and two spinners.
Do you mean to say Team India did not field the right eleven?
Yes. I mean how can you ignore someone like Anil Kumble, who is so enormously talented and has such vast experience of playing international cricket in every part of the world. He is a genuine match-winner, too. When you carry him with the team, you must play him. They did not make the most of Irfan Pathan's presence either. Pathan is a promising all-rounder. But because of his alleged poor bowling of late, the team management has begun to overlook his all-round skills. On the one hand we keep lamenting the lack of quality all-rounders and on the other we keep neglecting someone like Pathan. This is really baffling.
Don't you think Sachin Tendulkar is a spent force? He gives the impression of playing on his past reputation�
There is no doubt abut his greatness, nor about his commitment. Yes, everyone was expecting him to play a couple of outstanding innings and pave the way for India's entry to the Super Eight round. But it happens. You can have a bad day or two. You can never be sure in a sport like cricket. Do not forget there were other batsmen, too. So it is not fair to single out only Tendulkar for India's shoddy performance.
He was made vice-captain to succeed Rahul Dravid to the national captaincy. But considering Tendulkar's own lack of consistency with the bat now, don't you think it would not be a right move to appoint him captain again in the event of Dravid putting in his papers or the selectors making him a scapegoat?
I think captaincy is not an issue right now. First of all you have to think of selecting the best team. Once you have the best possible team, it should not be difficult to select the right candidate for the captaincy.
But in the event of Dravid not leading the side in future, who do you think should replace him at the helm? Tendulkar? Sourav Ganguly? Or a youngster like Yuvraj Singh?
It is a difficult question to answer. Do not forget that inscrutable are the ways of Indian selectors. They may spring a surprise with regard to the Indian captaincy. But it is not a bad idea to appoint a young player at the helm. However, he has to be a regular member of the team first of all.
Who do you think should be the next coach of Team India? Are you in favour of an Indian or a foreigner?
We really do not require a foreign coach. John Wright was fine to an extent, but Greg Chappell was almost a disaster, to say the least. Frankly, we have too many great players to look beyond Indian shores for a foreign coach. I am sure an Indian coach will always be better than a foreign one.
In what way it is better to have an Indian coach than a foreign one?
The benefit of having a former Indian player as the national team coach is that he knows the way cricket is being played and followed in this country; he knows the language, the culture, the atmosphere, the mood, the mind-set, the emotions and many other things about his wards to take them into confidence and encourage them to give their best to the team.
Do you have any particular former Indian cricketer in mind who you think is an ideal candidate to coach the national side?
Well, there are simply too many to single out any one in particular and say he is the best or will prove to be the best. The best way is that the BCCI should shortlist a certain number of former Indian players and make selection of the right man from them.
Nayan, you yourself are still young. You have played with many members of Team India. If the BCCI offers you to be the Indian team's coach, would you accept it?
Yes, of course. Why not? It would be a privilege to coach the Indian team which I still believe is a strong side. It is just that luck deserted it in the World Cup. I have played a fair amount of international cricket and I think I should be able to prove my credentials as a coach, too. But do you think the BCCI will make such an offer to me?
It may. Why not? Your plus points are that you are young, fit, experienced and, as you yourself say, you have played with many of these players.
Thanks for the compliments.
Not at all. Coming back to the World Cup. Which four teams do you think will be in the semi-finals?
It seems to me that Australia, South Africa, West Indies and New Zealand could be those four sides, although it may be a mistake to ignore England now. But, remember, we are talking about the likely semi-finalists just on the eve of the commencement of the Super Eight round. Anything can still happen. We may still have something startling in the offing in this World Cup of shocks and surprises. Who had imagined that two Asian giants, Pakistan and India, will be blown away in the preliminary round itself?
The Cup: Complete Coverage