Indian selection committee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar made a strong statement after naming India's one-day side for the South Africa tour on Monday. He said that other than those already in the national squad, there was “no exceptional" talent in the country.
The former India captain maintains that and wants to be disproved. “The players should take it in a positive way,” Vengsarkar told the Hindustan Times in an interview on Thursday.
“What I said should work as a motivational tool and players should prove me wrong,” the 50-year-old said. “Exceptional talent, not just talent, never hides, anywhere in the country.”
Excerpts from the interview.
Having been a selector for the State and the Zone, is selecting an Indian team different?
It's the same. Basically, eight to ten players select themselves. Expertise is needed in naming players for the other slots. You have to pick the best talent available.
What's wrong with the present Indian team? It did not even qualify for the Champions Trophy semi-final.
I don't think there is anything wrong now. Winning and losing is part of the game. It is the way you win or lose that's important. I am sure, whatever problems there were have been addressed. The loss to the West Indies was bad. Had we won, we would have been in the semi-final. But past is past. We have to look ahead.
Is the bench strength really a concern now?
We have talent in the country. There is no question about that. But there is no exceptional talent, which you can introduce into international cricket straightaway. We have the kind of talent that has to gain experience and exposure to the first-class level and the India 'A' level. Once they gain experience, I am sure we will have three or four ready for the highest level in the next few months.
When you say the bench strength is not so good, does that mean players like Sourav Ganguly stand a good chance of coming back to the team?
Sourav is a fine cricketer and has an excellent record. The fact is he does not have a good domestic record of late. In domestic cricket, where the standards are not great, you have to dominate the bowlers if you have to come back to the international arena. Unfortunately, he has not done that.
Having been the chairman of the Talent Resource Development Wing (TRDW) of the BCCI until a while ago, how much talent have you seen?
A lot of players playing for India now have come through the National Cricket Academy (NCA) after having been spotted by Talent Resource Development Officers (TRDOs). Not all associations have great infrastructure. When these players are spotted by the TRDOs, they go through NCA and its specialised coaching. That's how they come up.
For the South Africa tour, you included two Mumbai players (Zaheer Khan and Wasim Jaffer) straightaway and dropped one (Ramesh Powar). Was it a tough decision?
Dropping someone is tough. And it was very very tough for me to see two players not featuring in the Indian team --- Ramesh Powar and Gautam Gambhir. Powar has done exceedingly well whenever he has got the opportunity.
But we (selectors) could send only two spinners to South Africa (Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh). Gambhir has scored consistently in domestic cricket but could not make it. I hope they continue to perform for their state sides and force their way into the Indian side again.
Why Wasim Jaffer ahead of Gambhir?
There is more pressure when you bat in Tests. Good Test players can succeed in One-dayers but maybe not vice-versa. Test players can adjust to ODIs easily. Jaffer has been in great form, scored a lot of runs in the West Indies. He has been doing well in the international circuit, has got solid technique and is a good back-foot player. Everybody felt that he will be more useful in South Africa.
What did you think of the experiments that Greg Chappell and Co have tried frequently?
Call it experiments, innovation or strategy, you have to play as per the situation of the game. If there are 20 overs of Powerplays, you have to take advantage of them.
With the experience of 116 Tests, what do you bring to the selection committee?
Having played that much helps. You have seen it all, gone through it all. But it is important to have an eye for talent. It does not mean that if you pick up 10 players, all 10 will come good. But at least nine will succeed.
What are the expectations from the South Africa tour?
It will be a tough tour. South Africa are a very good side. It will be good exposure for our players. The bouncy tracks there will throw equal opportunity to both spinners and fast bowlers. The standard of cricket will be high.
What will happen to the L Balajis and Ashish Nehras, who are recovering from injuries?
They will have to perform. Form and fitness is important. If you perform in a couple of games and break down in the third, that will not help the team or anybody.