When Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetri and Steven Dias go through the paces under the watchful eyes of national coach Bob Houghton, one is bound to talk football.
But discussions changed direction on Friday when Houghton was quizzed on the possibility of an Indian Premier League in football. "I love cricket and there is no doubt about that," said Houghton. "But not IPL."
"Having an IPL is unlikely in Indian football," the Briton said on the sidelines of the national camp at the Ambedkar Stadium.
One may be fooled into believing that Houghton is a serious man with a pinch of attitude, but once he opens up, the coach is a contradiction to the stern exterior. His preference for the traditional format of the gentleman's game came to the fore when Houghton threw his weight behind Test cricket.
"I would love to watch Sachin (Tendulkar), Rahul (Dravid), Sourav (Ganguly) and V.V.S. (Laxman) bat for three days at Lord's instead of watching the IPL." The widely travelled coach is appreciative of the sport and his association with cricket goes back a long way when he was a once-in-a-while visitor to the Newlands in Cape Town.
Then came a chance encounter with the late Bob Woolmer more than a decade ago when Houghton was introduced to the former South Africa and Pakistan coach at the Newlands by an acquaintance.
The news of Woolmer's death shocked Houghton, "He was a friendly person and deeply involved in cricket. How could anyone kill such a person?" Houghton had told a leading daily after Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room during the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.