Berely five months into his tenure as chief selector, Dilip Vengsarkar has built a reputation for making tough decisions, like stripping Virender Sehwag of the vice-captaincy, followed by his axing from the team. Irfan Pathan too suffered due to his non-performances in South Africa and was sent home midway.
In this exclusive chat with the Hindustan Times on the eve of the team’s departure for the West Indies, Vengsarkar shares his thoughts.
You picked three teams (for the series against South Africa, West Indies and Sri Lanka) with an eye on the World Cup. Have things gone as expected?
Yes, more or less. We have seen some good cricket leading to the big event, and the last eight matches have helped us since we were up against two of the best teams in the world (West Indies and Sri Lanka).
Is the team confident after two series wins?
Winning is important as it gives you confidence and momentum. It is a habit and I hope the team takes the habit to the World Cup.
Are there any worries over form or fitness? Sehwag has been struggling, Pathan is not fully fit…
How they raise their game in the West Indies will be critical. Everyone in the team has played enough international cricket to know what is expected of them. They have to deliver.
Are they in the right frame of mind going into the World Cup?
They still have three weeks to get into their groove and work on their game.
What would you tell Pathan?
That is something Greg Chappell has to do. I am sure he is already working on it.
Both Ganguly and Zaheer have made remarkable comebacks…
Zaheer and Sourav did really well throughout the South African tour, and continued that form. They showed hunger, which is very important at this level. Even if you have experience, you need that hunger and motivation.
Is the lack of a left-arm spinner a concern?
Not at all. We have two good spinners in Kumble and Harbhajan.
Where does that leave Murali Kartik?
Kartik is only 30 and spinners often mature late. He is bowling well in the Deodhar Trophy. There is time for him.
Do you think our batting is strong enough to make up for runs given away on the field?
With Dhoni coming in at No. 6 and Pathan at 7, ours is one of the best line-ups. I don’t see any reason why we can’t.
Is there a possibility of experienced first-class cricketers playing at the international level (say, someone like Amol Muzumdar)? Mike Hussey is a great example.
For that to happen, we first have to improve the level of domestic cricket. A player who has made tons of runs or taken many wickets in a season is not necessarily ready for international cricket. There is a big gap between first-class and international cricket and we have to bridge that.
After selecting a team, you often say you hope a certain player does well. Isn’t there a difference between hoping and believing?
Nobody can be sure of doing well. If someone has exceptional talent and has potential, you give him a long run. Then, you can only hope he clicks.