Chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar is well placed to give advice on what to do in England. After all, he averages 48 there — nearly six more than his career average of 42.13. He said he has told Rahul Dravid and his men to “go for the big one once the batsman is in the crease” in the forthcoming Tests.
Vengsarkar will be rooting for the players he and his committee have picked from the Lord’s balcony during the first Test against England beginning on July 19. The 51-year-old former India captain boasts an average of 72.57 in four Tests at the Lord’s and three centuries. He hit 103 in 1979, 157 in 1982 and 126 n.o. in 1986 on successive visits.
In this interview with the Hindustan Times on Tuesday, a day on which three Test players — VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble and Wasim Jaffer — were preparing to leave for England to join the team there, Vengsarkar seemed confident that India would have the wherewithal to beat the current England side and repeat the series victory of 1986.
Excerpts from an interview:
Coming back from 0-1 down to win 2-1 against the Number 2 ranked team in the world was not easy…
Every touring team, especially from the sub-continent, takes time to get acclimatised to the conditions. At home, we play not only in hot and humid conditions but also on slow and low wickets. Hence, the batsmen get used to playing on the front foot to be effective.
When we go abroad, we need to make slight changes in our style of play and adapt to the conditions quickly. The wickets in Ireland were seamers’ tracks but the Indian batsmen played superbly. Sachin Tendulkar played a vital role. He showed the others how to play on bowler-friendly wickets.
I am glad the younger players took a leaf out of Tendulkar’s book and applied themselves splendidly. Yuvraj Singh played a mature innings. He is a terrific striker the ball and has great potential. There is no doubt that he is at the peak of his career now.
What do you make of the two 90-plus knocks from Tendulkar in the first two matches and the failure in the third?
I guess he must have done a lot of practice in front of the mirror! I think we tend to expect too much from him all the time. When he got out in the 90s, it was said that he failed to score hundreds, which I feel is most unfair.
How much would the win in Belfast help India in England?
It’s a good sign that almost all the players look in very good form. The bowlers too did very well. A win is a win and when that is against a strong South African outfit, it is all the more creditable. It definitely helps in boosting the team’s morale. I hope they continue their winning spree over the rest of the tour.
Is there not too much pressure on Tendulkar to perform on what could be his last series in England?
As you play more, the expectations increase too. The pressure to perform is always there and all great players take pride in their performances.
Piyush Chawla has been shaping up well in ODIs. For someone young, would not a full series in England help in his education? Also Rohit Sharma would do well to learn being with the team. What is the reason behind not having such youngsters for a full tour?
Well, we could only select 16 players and unfortunately they are not part of the team for the Test series. Both are talented cricketers and if they work hard, they have a bright future. Surely they would have benefitted had they been picked, for there is no better place to learn a thing or two than in England.
The team could not fit Laxman in the Tests in Dhaka as they went with five bowlers. How do you look at the situation where one of your most experienced batsmen does not figure in the playing XI? Do you see this kind of a situation in England?
It’s not fair for me to comment on this, for there is a tour selection committee who would take the call on this. The selection of the playing XI would depend on the kind of wickets we play on, conditions etc.
Are the Indians fully prepared to face the moving ball in the English conditions?
There are many in the squad with the experience of playing in England.
You have had great success as a batsman in England, your three centuries in a row at Lord’s come to mind. What would your advice be to the current Indian batsmen?
Once you are at the crease, go for the big one. They have already adapted to the conditions in Ireland similar to those in England.
What kind of feelings do memories of the Lord’s evoke?
Well, India haven’t won a Test at Lord’s since 1986. I hope this time around they break the jinx, for they have the potential to beat this England side. Yes, I will be there in the Lord’s balcony cheering Rahul and boys.
Has the concept of India ‘A’ changed? From what used to be a team that comprises players on the verge of playing for India, India ‘A’ could now have people who have already played for India.
I feel India ‘A’ tours are very important and the BCCI must organise them on a war footing. It is the ideal platform to unearth talent for international cricket. I feel the right age group would be the under-25s but it’s my personal opinion.
Do you think India have the right kind of players to succeed at the Twenty20 World Cup?
It’s a new concept and the players will take some time to get used to it. Surely, we have the players who would do well in Twenty20. However, we will have to wait and see.
Was just one tournament (in April) enough to judge the players and pick them on the basis of those performances?
There was hardly any time to organise the tournament due to the packed domestic calendar. Though England and Australia have been playing Twenty20 for the last three years, we have stared the concept only this year.