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'Just leave Sachin alone'
The Rediff Cricket Interview | Kiran More, Chairman of the selectors

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February 07, 2006

Kiran More, the chairman of the Indian selectors, is constantly travelling, watching matches, attending selection committee meetings, keeping a watch on his cricket academy in Baroda and its affiliated units in other parts of Gujarat and fulfilling social and other obligations.

India's tour of Pakistan

Yet, he finds time for his charming family regardless of his tight schedule, and also for his friends in the media, particularly those who have known him since he began playing for India. He spoke to Haresh Pandya during the Ranji Trophy Plate Group final between Saurashtra and Rajasthan in Rajkot.

How good, and also hard, is it to be the chairman of selectors in a country where almost nine out ten persons have an opinion or two on cricket and its practitioners?

All I can say is it's not an easy job being a selector, let alone the chairman of the committee. India is a vast country and so many people play cricket here. And many of them are noticeably talented. The problem is you can't pick more than 15 or 16 of them in a team and 11 in a playing XI.

It's a very challenging and highly responsible position being the chairman of selectors in a cricket-crazy country like India. The best part is you get to see a lot of promising youngsters in action.

Do you feel any sort of pressure as head of the selection committee?

No, not at all. I've played and watched enough cricket to handle the pressure that comes with my job. I know very well how to perform my duty.

The question here is pressure of a different kind altogether´┐Ż Pressure from some political big guns, from business magnates, from powerful and influential persons, from gangsters, including bookies, who take active interest in cricket.

My answer is still the same. Rest assured there has been no pressure whatsoever on me and my fellow selectors from anybody. We've been performing our duties to the best of our abilities and in the best interest of Indian cricket.

What are your views on the just-concluded Test series between India and Pakistan?

We did extremely well in the first two Tests and also on the opening day of the crucial third Test in Karachi. Of course, we didn't expect to lose after the way we played on the first day in the final Test. But that's cricket, a sport full of glorious uncertainties.

Didn't Sachin Tendulkar's [Images] form in the Test leave a lot to be desired? Would you like to make any comment?

No, I don't want to say anything. I think he is a great player. Just leave him alone. He has been an outstanding player for India over the years and I'm sure he'll continue to perform befitting his reputation of a champion batsman.

Beginning of the end of Sachin?

Are you happy with the bowling we have?

Yes. Why not? Our medium-pacers and spinners both have bowled very well in recent years. Even in the third and final Test against Pakistan, our new ball bowlers bowled exceptionally well in the first innings and had the hosts in all sorts of trouble when they lost their six frontline batsmen with only 39 runs on the scoreboard.

Then suddenly Kamran Akmal played a lovely innings and scored a brilliant hundred. I think we must give him full credit for the way he batted against the odds. I would say he played one of the best knocks of 2006. He brought Pakistan back into the game. All this, of course, is a part of the game.

Overall, we do have a balanced attack. If there are some problem areas, they can always be improved.

What are your objective views on Rahul Dravid [Images] opening the Indian innings in the Test series in spite of the presence of two specialist openers in Gautam Gambhir [Images] and Wasim Jaffer [Images] in the squad? Doesn't this discourage them, directly or indirectly?

I saw nothing wrong in Rahul Dravid opening the innings. Don't forget he did the job to perfection and scored two Test centuries. Why don't you appreciate that? We had discussed with the team management and agreed on the captain going in with Virender Sehwag [Images]. The strategy worked well, didn't it?

Of course, we the selectors don't say he is a regular opener now. But definitely we've thought on the issue.

Irfan Pathan [Images], whom you have seen since he was a kid, has been progressing by leaps and bounds. Do you think he has fulfilled to the full his early promise?

Very much. Not just Irfan Pathan but most of the young players in the side have been doing pretty well. Look at the way Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images] has been performing. Ajit Agarkar [Images] has come back strongly. Wasim Jaffer has got back into the team. Suresh Raina is there. Mohammad Kaif is there. Yuvraj Singh [Images] has been scoring plenty of runs.

So it's really a good, interesting sign for Indian cricket that its young brigade has lived up to expectations more or less. They aren't just performing consistently well but also trying to establish themselves in the team. There is a competition for each place in the side and it's a healthy sign.

Being a wicket-keeper yourself, you are in a better position than most to shed some light on Mahendra Singh Dhoni's ability with the gloves. How do you rate him as a stumper?

He has been doing a wonderful job. His performance is there for all to see. Even in front of the stumps he has been quite impressive, isn't he? There has been no complaint regarding his wicketkeeping. He has been outstanding with the gloves so far.

Of course, you miss some catches and stumpings but it doesn't mean you are bad or lacking in class and calibre. The kind of talent that he has for wicket-keeping and the way he has done his glove work so far, I think he must be regarded as one of the best finds of 2005.

Where do you see scope for improvement, if any, in his wicket-keeping?

As I said, he has been very, very impressive. There is nothing wrong with his wicket- keeping or batting. He has been playing constantly and getting a lot of international exposure and gaining in experience.

You can learn more when you play more cricket. If at all there is room for improvement in his wicket-keeping, or if he is facing any other technical problem, Greg Chappell [Images] and his supporting staff are always there to help him out.

Dhoni is a good student of the game. He is a good learner. He listens to advice and keeps watching videos of his wicket-keeping. Every young cricketer has to go through this learning process year by year.

Wicket-keepers in particular always take some time to settle down but Dhoni has established himself in a short time. I'm sure he'll be an even better player with more experience. I think he'll finally establish himself as one of the best wicket-keepers India has ever produced.

We tend to devalue left-arm spinners in recent times. In fact, it seems as if the days are long behind us when a left-arm spinner used to be a permanent member of the Indian team. Why is it so?

It's hard to agree with you on this point. Where do you put a left-arm spinner in the side when Anil Kumble [Images] and Harbhajan Singh [Images] are not only around but also performing consistently well? Where is the question of playing an extra spinner, and that also a left-arm spinner, in such a scenario? You can't include five spinners in the team.

It's a 15-member team and you can't carry three spinners on the tour. Rather you prefer to opt for four or five fast bowlers.

Is it because of lack of quality left-arm spinners?

No. We've enough spinners, including left-arm spinners. I don't want to name them but there are many talented spinners who have been doing quite well in domestic cricket. The selectors have seen them. We'll definitely give them opportunities when the time comes.

Do you think Indian cricket is in a much better state today than it was during your playing days?

Most certainly. Good and positive things are happening in Indian cricket. All this is very heartening. The BCCI has been doing a tremendous job to promote cricket at every level. The best part is that most of the districts have developed a lot of quality cricket and infrastructure in their own regions.

This is best exemplified by many top cricketers who actually hail from district levels. So these are interesting, encouraging times in Indian cricket. And I hope good things will continue to happen in Indian cricket.

The next World Cup is exactly a year from now. Do you think the Indian team is fully prepared to enter the fray and compete with the best in the game that will assemble on the stunningly beautiful Caribbean islands?

I think we'll have a very strong team for the next World Cup. But it's still too early to talk about winning the World Cup straightway. You enter the World Cup competition with a positive attitude. You plan all the right moves and strategies. You try to win every match. You try to win the semifinal and eventually the final.

Yes, the plans are already there for the forthcoming World Cup in the Caribbean. We've a lot of things in our mind. And we've been working on them.

Here is an inevitable question, it couldn't be helped! After all, you are the chairman of selectors. Well, what do you have to say about Sourav Ganguly [Images], his inclusion and omission from the team and all the controversies surrounding him?

No comment, please. In fact, I'd like to tell all the mediapersons to just leave him alone and allow him to concentrate on his cricket. He is a truly outstanding cricketer. Just leave him alone. I think people are creating unnecessary stories about him.

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