As an opening batsman, Kris Srikkanth understands the importance of good starts better than most. It’s not a surprise then that the chairman of selectors believes that Virender Sehwag’s batting has made a difference to India’s fortunes. “If we win consistently, the dream of becoming the No. 1 team will come true,” he told the Hindustan Times soon after India’s win at Kanpur.
Sehwag’s batting must bring you a lot of satisfaction?
When you have a guy like him in the team, a genuine impact player, it makes it that much easier to win games. The effect he has on bowlers is like Viv Richards in the good old days. When he bats the bowlers are half on the defensive. When you can help the team score 400 on the first day, it takes the game away from the opposition. Viru demolishes bowlers in such a way that they find it hard to come back into the game. Lanka lost the Kanpur Test on the first day itself.
But it’s not enough to just have starts …
Last year against England in Chennai, we were chasing a huge total. Sehwag smashed a quick 80 and the bowling was thrown open. There, Tendulkar and Yuvraj finished the job; here Gambhir and Dravid built on Sehwag’s platform.
So, it’s the combination that has turned games?
When you have starts like the one Sehwag gives, it helps win Tests from no-win situations. If you look at it, India has the best top-order combination — Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid and Tendulkar — in the world. Other teams have great batsmen, like Ricky Ponting for Australia, but no one has a 1, 2, 3, 4 combination like us.
How important has Gambhir’s progression been?
His consistency has been a cornerstone of the team’s recent success. For an opener, he plays spin very well. He has the ability to apply his mind to the situation at hand and switch gears at will. He’s one of those batsmen who can score at a run-a-ball and also bat 10 hours to save a game if required. And then there’s Dravid. At 31 for 4 on the first day in Ahmedabad, we could have been put out of the game. To score 177 from that situation is no joke. In Kanpur, he was overshadowed by Sehwag, but his contribution kept the tempo going.
The one question everyone was asking, is why Sreesanth. But his performance has justified your selection …
Nobody expected such a brilliant comeback. The fact was that he had bowled well in the Irani Cup and the Challengers. It’s good to have a guy who bowls late outswingers. Ask any batsman and he will tell you it’s the most dangerous kind of delivery. When Sreesanth gets his line, length and rhythm going, he is a genuine wicket-taker. The question is, how often he can do that? At the moment his energies are focussed in the right direction and when all things are working for him, he is as dangerous as anyone. His return gives the captain penetration even on lifeless tracks.