After India's emphatic victory over England in the 'quarter-final' of the Champions Trophy on Sunday night, Hindustan Times caught up with Indian captain Sourav Ganguly on Monday morning.
Despite feisty celebrations that went on till 3.00 a.m, Ganguly was back in the coffee shop of the team hotel at 11.00 a.m. Over breakfast, Ganguly shared his feelings at the moment. Excerpts.
Q: With the way India dominated proceedings on Sunday evening, it appeared that even a target of 350 would have been easy. What is the secret behind such dominance over England?
A: We won a great match, but I honestly felt that Nasser Hussain's aggressive captaincy made it a lot easier for us. I simply could not understand his field placements. He kept on the slips even though Virender Sehwag was belting the ball all over the place, hitting one boundary, if not more, in an over.
I thought that was absurd. I also feel he puts too much pressure on his bowlers and does not give them the field they want. He just presses for his own field. But it's fine with us. Because of such field placements, we won the match with 10 overs to spare. So I'm not complaining. It's just a thought.
Q: So now do you think the Indian team is absolutely ready for the World Cup or are there any areas where you still want to improve?
A: There are still places up for grabs in this team. Number Three in the batting order is still open. And I will love to have one more all-rounder in this team. Dinesh Mongia has not done too badly at Number Three and VVS Laxman is much too classy a player to be kept out for long.
But the spot is still not finalised. Sanjay Bangar is a good all-rounder but I want somebody with that extra bit of pace, which he does not have. At this level if you do not have pace the batsmen will just step out and clout you all over the place. So one more all-rounder with extra pace is required.
Q: Sehwag played a magnificent knock but what were you trying to tell him during that marathon partnership you both had?
A: Sehwag is a wonderful player. All I kept saying to him was that he should keep playing along the ground. That is what coach John Wright and I have been trying to tell him for the last six months.
He is so talented that he simply does not have to take the aerial route. Without playing in the air, he is still able to hit one boundary in an over. He has so many shots. But he has this constant urge to hit the ball in the air and clear the field. That is what we want to correct. If he can overcome that, he will be an even more dangerous batsman.
Q: What about Srinath? Do you see any role for him in the team for the World Cup?
A: I have been trying to talk to him for the last three months. Of course, there is place for him in the World Cup because we will need three fast bowlers in the XI in South Africa. Ajit Agarkar is someone else who can be used in a somewhat different role as he has the ability to bat as well. He could be used as an all-rounder by coming up the batting order. But Srinath should agree to play the Tests. The team needs him in the Tests.
Q: About Anil Kumble? He had a bad day in the field on Sunday?
A: Yes, we should not have allowed them to score 269 after having them on the mat initially. That is what I'm saying. We need five regular bowlers in the World Cup. Kumble will surely have a role there because the pitches in South Africa have bounce. Agarkar can come up the order and perhaps we can then adjust one more bowler down the order.
Q: Rahul Dravid has done very well as a keeper so far. Do you think it is putting extra pressure on him?
A: Rahul is a great team man. He agreed to take up the challenge and this move has allowed us to play Mohd Kaif in the XI. And you can see what a difference this has made. Rahul had an indifferent time behind the stumps in this match, but it was so hot and humid and one can have one off-day. But otherwise, he is doing a tremendous job for the team.
Q: The Indian team has played so much cricket over the past year. Do you think fast bowlers like Zaheer Khan need a break to keep them fit for the World Cup?
A: Personally, I would love to give Zaheer a break during the West Indies series at home. The problem is my bench strength. If I rest Zaheer and given that Srinath does not want to play Tests, which wicket-taking fast bowlers will I have?
Q: The move to hire a trainer like Adrian le Roux has helped?
A: It should have happened at least 10 years ago, but it's good at least that it's finally happening. Adrian and Andrew Leipus are doing a great job in keeping the team trim and fit. John Wright is also doing a tremendous job. Now we really have a solid team.
Q: Your move to have Sachin Tendulkar down the order has proved to be very successful. It has given so much more depth to the batting order.
A: Now our batting order is really deep. I constantly keep thinking about ways to improve the team. Touch wood, all the moves have proved successful so far. I'm not saying that we want to chase totals now. There is still pressure on the team while chasing. And personally I still prefer batting first. But now even if we have to chase, we have the confidence that we can do that as well.