“Spot the right talent and groom them”

As a stylish top-order batsman, he scored three Test centuries at the hallowed Lord’s. As the chief selector, he presided over one of India’s tough periods following the 2007 World Cup debacle, steering the careers of the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan. Anil Kumble was chosen Test captain and Mahendra Singh Dhoni handed the reins of the Twenty20 side to start with under his gaze. Here Dilip Vengsarkar talks to Hindustan Times about the current crisis in Indian cricket.

Why did things go so horribly wrong in England?
More than anything else, England turned out to be a superior and better prepared side.
Their batsmen piled up huge totals without fail, and that brought our batsmen under tremendous pressure. Unfortunately, our famed batting line-up couldn’t take the pressure and succumbed.  Besides, injury to the main bowler made the matters worse, and from there the things went downhill.

How much blame should the BCCI take for the debacle?
It was definitely a case of bad scheduling. Whenever a team travels outside Asia, especially for an important tour like this, there must be at least three warmup games to help players get used to the alien conditions. Our team went straight to England from a tough West Indies tour and had just no time to prepare and acclimatise to the conditions.

What about poor injury monitoring of players?
We have a support staff to assess the fitness of the players and manage and monitor their injuries. If the players break too often and/or play with injuries, they are answerable for it.

What are the immediate remedial steps?
We have to unearth fresh talent immediately. We need to have more international exposure for our Under-19 and India A sides. India, for instance, are scheduled to tour Australia in December. So we should ideally have an India ‘A’ team going there in September, and those doing well should be part of our bench. What this will do is, in case someone breaks down in Australia or runs out of form, we will have a player who is match-ready and used to the Australian conditions.

How do you see things panning out once Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman leave?
We must have options in place for that scenario. For that we need to  start a programme, put a process in place as options can’t be produced overnight. It’s easy to pick the first eleven, but we must have right options for each one of them. Unfortunately, right now I don’t see that happening.  We have a good age group and first class structure, but we need to spot the right talent and groom it.

Do you believe we have the benchstrength to step up and excel in Tests?
The way forward is that once you have identified the players for the future, you have to give them a long rope and believe in their skills and potential. It’s going to do no good if the same players are rubbished after a few failures.
Once we have picked them, we have got to believe in their abilities.


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