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'Kohli's passion to win for India is second to none'

By HARISH KOTIAN
Last updated on: May 21, 2020 10:43 IST
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'He doesn't leave any stone unturned in his preparations.'
'It is a treat to watch the way he pans and prepares for each format of the game.'
'The way he switches from one format to the other is simply unbelievable.'

Virat Kohli

IMAGE: Captaincy has not put any stress on Virat Kohli's personal performances, says M S K Prasad, former chief selector. Photograph: BCCI
 

M S K Prasad had a challenging four-year tenure as the chief selector of the Indian cricket team.

The national selection committee -- also including Devang Gandhi, Jatin Paranjpe, Sarandeep Singh and Gagan Khoda -- were credited for building an excellent bench strength.

The Indian fast bowling department has never looked so healthy, while a lot of young players came through in the limited overs format.

But Prasad's tenure was also marked by the Indian team's failure to win on the big stage when it mattered.

While the team consistently performed across all formats, it failed to win on the big stage -- namely the 2019 World Cup when it lost the semi-final and the 2017 Champions Trophy final against Pakistan.

The Test series defeats in New Zealand earlier this year and the Test series defeat in England in 2018 were also a big jolt for the Indian team.

Andhra Pradesh wicketkeeper-batsman Prasad, 45, played six Tests and 17 ODIs for India from 1998 to 2000. The then selectors never gave him a long rope, something which he tried to change during his stint as the chief selector by giving youngsters a lot of matches to prove themselves.

Prasad, whose tenure was extended in November last year, was replaced earlier this year as chief selector by former India spinner Sunil Joshi.

The first of a two-part interview with Harish Kotian/Rediff.com:

How do you look back at your four-year tenure from 2016 to 2020? Are you satisfied with how the Indian team progressed during that time?

If we look back at our tenure, I think we have quite a few positives.

We have reached No 1 status in ICC rankings across all formats.

We won the series in Australia after 71 years, reached the Champions Trophy final and also did well in the 2019 World Cup. Of course, it was so close yet so far in major tournaments.

We can also be happy with the bench strength that we have developed.

Your committee had to endure a fair share of criticism with many senior cricketers saying you didn't deserve to pick the team since you didn't have much experience of international cricket. Did that affect you at the start when you took up the job?

Everyone has the right to express their opinions. With regard to criticism we have always taken it in right earnest best if it was constructive, but when it was destructive we have ignored it.

Your committee also earned praise mainly for creating a good bench strength for Team India across all formats. In the last couple of years, you gave a lot of chance to top performers in domestic cricket and IPL which helped give the team management a lot of options in limited overs cricket.
As a selector, does that make you feel proud to have played a role?

Of course, when we look back at the bench strength that we developed we can feel happy about it.

It was one our key endeavours to develop substantial bench strength by a systematic process through India 'A' programmes.

We feel very happy to see the progress of youngsters Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal, (Hanuma) Vihari, Shreyas (Iyer), Navdeep (Saini) etc doing well for the Indian team.

You were not called up to the Indian team after the tour of Australia in 1999-2000. Did you draw upon that experience to give players more confidence by giving them a long run and not dropping them after a few games?

Ideally, youngsters needs to be given a long rope.

MSK Prasad

IMAGE: Former chairman of the selectors M S K Prasad. Photograph: PTI

In your views, how has Virat Kohli has grown as the captain in the last four years?

He is an excellent leader.

Leadership has not at all put any stress on his personal performances. In fact, he relishes leading from the front.

You must have spoken a lot to him on cricketing issues apart from selection matters. How passionate is he about this team and cricket in general?

His passion to win for India in particular and his passion for the game is second to none.

He doesn't leave any stone unturned in his preparations. It is a treat to watch the way he pans and prepares for each format of the game. The way he switches from one format to the other is simply unbelievable.

Given that the selectors and the team management had prepared for a few years for 2019 World Cup, how disappointing was that semi-final to New Zealand last year?

It was really heartbreaking.

We couldn't believe that a tough half an hour has cost us the World Cup. But hats off to the players they way they delivered for the team through the World Cup until that tough half an hour.

India's failure to win the Test series in New Zealand was shocking as we were the World No 1 in the team at that moment and had a good all-round team.
Where do you think it went wrong for India?

I agree this was the only one ordinary series we had in the last four years. I feel the timing of the series could have been well planned.

Going into the New Zealand series with absolutely no gap from the previous series had also not helped our cause.

Having said that, we all agree that though we did well in T20s we didn't live up to the expectations in both ODIs and Tests.

Do you believe that India has a good enough team, especially the bowling attack, to win overseas Test series in the future?

There is absolutely no doubt about that. Our bowers have down extremely well in the last two years while playing abroad.

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com
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