Rediff Logo Cricket
May 8, 1999


send this report to a friend

"I think this Indian team is better suited to play in England than in India"

Real Audio Editorial note: In a bid to procure as much detail from England as possible, Prem Panicker spoke to Harsha Bhogle, now in Leicestershire, England, with the Indian team. The conversation took place after India's practise match against Leicestershire on Friday.

We had recorded the conversation, and realised that rather than provide a structured report, it might be interesting to just replay the conversation as is. So that is what we are giving you here -- an unedited audio clip, and transcript, of the conversation we had.

From here on in, we will be doing these on a regular basis, and in a more structured fashion (this one, being a casual chat, is more loose and free-flowing). Hopefully, this feature gives you an insider's eye view of doings within the Indian camp at Grace Road. Watch for the next update on Monday, after the game at Harrowgate, against Yorkshire.

Over to Harsha Bhogle in Leicestershire, England...

Harsha, hi, how was the match?

Prem, pretty good from an Indian point of view, because though they started shakily, two or three of the leading batsmen got their eye in, I thought Rahul Dravid played a very very good innings, he scored 60-odd, started off a little slowly... he told me afterwards that the ball was moving around a little too much early on and that he believed this was the way to pace it at the World Cup when the wickets are a little fresh, he certainly paced it very well, played some great shots after that, Azharuddin got in, Jadeja played some... hit three sixes, from that point, pretty good...

Is this the kind of conditions that we will be looking at from here on, or at least in the early part of the World Cup?

I had a very close look at the pitch, and there was a lot of grass on it, which was actually good for India, because it would have given them conditions of the kind that they would find in Hove for example, where it tends to be a bit green, it was a bit cloudy and as you know it rained later and the second half of the game was washed out, so from that point of view yes, they did get conditions... decent seam bowlers... though Leicestershire were without Mullaly and Wells and Lewis and Kasprowicz, though they had some decent bowlers, but people like Mills and Ormond, so a decent work out for India.

Oh, okay, and apparently the early batsmen had a bit of a problem with the moving ball, both Ganguly and Sachin had what, very low scores?

Rahul Dravid in flowing action
Pic: Adrian Murrell/Allsport
Yes, Prem, huge disappointment for the local crowd, some of whom had come with their beer inside and got drunk pretty early in the morning to enjoy Sachin Tendulkar's batting. One good boundary early on, but he got one that came back very late and Peter Willey gave him LBW pretty quickly and then Saurav Ganguly also seemed to struggle a little bit and from that point of view, it was a very good performance from Rahul Dravid because India were 18/2 and really had to pick up from there, but... Just a little worry, initially, you're right, about the ball moving at the start of the innings.

One of the things people are going to be looking at is what kind of touch Mohammad Azharuddin is in, because that's pretty much the key to the whole thing; I mean after Dravid, Azhar will have to either accelerate or consolidate, what was his batting like, today?

Slightly shaky to start off with, couple of mishits, no catches, but slightly shaky to start off, but once he got past fifteen or twenty, he was batting like he could score a hundred...


He was not taking chances, he was getting those ones and twos quite easily, he was talking Dravid into batting well, in fact Dravid said after the match in an interview with me for ESPN-Star Sports that he enjoys batting with Azharuddin because there's that bit of give and take, there's their similarity in style, and he looked in really good touch and that must be a pretty good sign, and what that suggests to me is that instead of coming in with the score 18-19 for two in the fifth or sixth or seventh over, whatever it was, if he can come in in the 20th over, then it would be far easier for him and he'd look a lot better.

So are you talking of having a buffer between say Dravid at three and say Azhar dropping down to five or something?

Azhar with manager Brijesh Patel
Pic: Laurence Griffiths/Allsport
Only if you lose early wickets, though being a top order batsman Azharuddin may not take kindly to the idea, but he looked a lot better when he was in, and I just get the feeling that he might bat a lot better when the ball has stopped moving around a little bit, and in this form, he will be just the person India wants, making 40-50 in about 60-70 balls, and getting India to a total of 220 or thereabouts.

You're right, 219/7 in 50 sounds just about the kind of score you are going to get in the first phase of the tournament, but one thing is, what was the idea of batting first? I believe Azhar won the toss, was that deliberate or...?

Yes the general feeling is, and Anshuman Gaekwad said that to me yesterday, that they are quite happy with the way their bowlers have done, he was especially happy with Venkatesh Prasad, they think he is brilliant, he said he's never seen him bowl as well before, and Srinath looking good as well, and I think they are working very very hard on Ajit Agarkar, in trying to get him to bowl closer to the body, more line and length kind of stuff, trying to see that he doesn't go for more than 50, 55, but Anshuman Gaekwad said that, Bob Simpson said that as well, that the bowling is at the moment the stronger arm of the side, and they are more confident of the bowling than the batting, and that is why they wanted to go out first, even on a fresh green track, get the batsmen in, so that the batsmen get used to the conditions as much as possible and from that point of view, the fact that India batted and then it rained is actually a blessing in disguise, the other way round, India may not have been as happy.

Okay, yeah, right. What was the composition like of the bowling side, are they playing four seamers or just the three of them?

No, they played three seamers, Kumble, they decided to go in with the first eleven.


So no place for Ramesh, no place for Khurasia, no place for Chopra. It's just that yesterday, at practise, and we were there when it happened, Venkatesh Prasad was feeling just a little sore in his back, and they didn't want to take a chance, they left him out for Mohanty today. As it happened, it didn't make much of a difference, because Mohanty neither batted nor bowled, but otherwise they've decided that they're going to play the first eleven in the first two games, see what kind of workout they get and then try and give the others a chance.

Okay, Harsha, you've been there what, two three days now. What is the practise going like, are the guys getting enough time out in the middle or is it mostly indoor nets and...

Well, I've attended, Prem, I've attended one practise session, and it was really only, they did a bit of workout but really it was only batting and bowling. Unlike the Pakistanis -- I stopped over in Derby for a day on my way here and the Pakistanis are approaching it completely differently, because their coach, their new assistant coach, they seem to change coaches every day don't they?, their assistant coach, Richard Pybus, has worked out a completely new set of drills for them, and they're really working physically hard. Wasim Akram said look, even at my age I'm working so hard, and he told us in an interview afterwards that the reason they got Richard Pybus is that they want to work out new fielding drills, because they've identified that as their weakness area... They're really physically going flat out, in Derby. Waqar Younis actually walked off with a sprained ankle while we were there, they hope he'll be better in a couple of days, but they are approaching it differently, India I think are concentrating on batting and bowling, to be fair I only saw one practise session apiece, a peak fitness session by Pakistan and one batting-bowling session by India.

And there was one other thing Harsha, you know, before the team went from here, the general feeling seemed to be that these guys wouldn't get into the Super Six, and now suddenly the word out of England is that India is one of the hot contenders for a semifinal place, if not higher. In fact, Wisden has rated them as one of the sides that could possibly take the Cup, so what is it that the English press or the bookmakers are seeing that we weren't aware of?

I think Michael Atherton is the one who said that he believes India is the hot outsider to take the Cup. I think they are reacting to the team composition, and not to the consistency that they've shown, that India has displayed in recent times, to which we are reacting.


If you look at it purely from the composition point of view, Sachin Tendulkar is big in this country, and when they asked a few players here who they thought would be the star of the World Cup, quite a few of them said without hesitation it would be Tendulkar, so I think they are banking heavily on the Tendulkar factor, they are looking at Dravid, Azharuddin, Ganguly as a very solid top half, and they are looking at a very good seam bowling attack. So if you look at it in terms of composition, which the English are doing, because they are going by the team squad, India is really a very very good side. We in India are reacting to the consistency and that's why we are writing them off.

And possibly also to the recent results in conditions very different from what these guys are going to be getting out there...

I am convinced Prem that India, that this Indian team is better suited to play in England than in India at the moment.

 Name: Email:
 Post a message:

Prem Panicker