File image of Dilip Vengsarkar(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)
File image of Dilip Vengsarkar(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)

I don't believe in red-ball, white-ball concept. When it's India, you have to play all 3 formats: Vengsarkar - EXCLUSIVE

A former BCCI chairman of selectors, Vengsarkar was the mastermind behind appointing MS Dhoni as India's captain in 2007. The rest, as they say, is history.
By Aditya Bhattacharya
PUBLISHED ON JUL 20, 2021 08:45 AM IST

On Sunday, India handed debuts to Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav in the first ODI against Sri Lanka, and the general consensus is that by the time the six-match series is over, those who haven't received their India Cap would have at least one ODI or T20I under their belt. With one match down, India have only a handful of limited-overs games before the T20 World Cup comes knocking on the door three months from now.

Dilip Vengsarkar knows a talent when he sees one. In 1988, he had pushed for a young Sachin Tendulkar's selection in the Indian team. Guess how that turned out? A former BCCI chairman of selectors, Vengsarkar was the mastermind behind appointing MS Dhoni as India's captain in 2007. The rest, as they say, is history. Hence, you wouldn't want to turn away when he talks about India's current lot of youngsters.

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For those in Sri Lanka – especially the stars of the IPL – it would require a herculean effort to present a case for themselves for the global event, given that some of the bigger, more established names that are currently in England preparing for a five-Test series would be automatic picks for the ICC tournament. But what happens to let's say, captain Shikhar Dhawan, or spin twins Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav? Where do they stand?

Dhawan, who is already out of reckoning for the Test squad, has scored piles of runs in ODIs and T20Is, but promises to face competition from KL Rahul. Whereas, the famous pair of 'Kul-Cha', which, not too long ago, were the backbone of India's spin bowling, have endured struggles of their own. For Kuldeep, the last 12 months have been rough, with most of his bowling being confined in the nets, while Chahal has performed in patches, having picked 11 and 14 wickets in his last 11 T20Is and 10 ODIs respectively.

"I want everybody to perform. Cricket is all about opportunities and all these youngsters must grab it themselves. Not only Shikhar, but also guys like Ruturaj Gaikwad, Prithvi Shaw and all the guys that have been picked in the squad because there is going to be a lot of competition not only for the opening slot but all the positions in the team. It's always good to have options and whoever does well, I'm sure will get his due," Vengsarkar told Hindustan Times in an exclusive chat.

Besides Dhawan, Kuldeep and Chahal, another player who promises to generate interest for the T20 World Cup is young Prithvi Shaw. With the touch he is in, the debacle of Adelaide seems light years ago. The way he batted on Sunday, those fantasy-filled comparisons with Virender Sehwag looked legit. Shaw may have begun his India career in Tests but he appears a different kettle of fish in limited-overs. With Rohit Sharma being the team's first-choice opener in Tests, in the presence of Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal, could this be an appropriate time for the team management to perhaps look at Shaw as an out-and-out a white-ball candidate?

"I don't believe in this red-ball and white-ball concept. Whatever is there, you just have to play. I don't think anybody is good in red-ball cricket and bad in white-ball or vice-versa. When it comes to India, every player must and needs to play all three formats," Vengsarkar added. "You can't say I'm good only in one format and that's what I'll be playing. No cricketer would like to have a stamp on him that he is good only in one format. Also, the longer format is the ultimate form of the game. And of course, ODIs and T20Is are equally important but it's important that the ICC or the BCCI must see to it that the longer format is healthy."

And who is to argue with that statement? With someone as capable and credible as Rahul Dravid coaching the team, why would anyone, let alone Shaw, feel they are a one-format wonder? After all, it was the Dravid-Shaw combination which landed India the Under-19 World Cup title in 2018, the same year, the youngster played his first Test for India and became the 10th batsman to peel off a century on debut.

Whether Dravid will go on to succeed Ravi Shastri as the next coach of the Indian team – a topic that has stretched for far too long now – is a discussion for another day, but for now, Vengsarkar couldn't be happier seeing the former India captain monitor the progress of some of the players whose career he's helped shape.

"Rahul has been part of the NCA for a long time and he knows all the players because so many players have trained under him. He's well-versed with the players who have gone through the NCA. It's a good thing that he is on the Sri Lanka tour with the boys and he can see and witness their performance first-hand," he pointed out.

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Vengsarkar analysed one of the biggest positives for India in the opening ODI in Colombo. It wasn't Shaw's cracking start, nor Kuldeep's return to the wickets column. But the fact that Hardik Pandya bowled five overs and looked at ease. Ever since Pandya's return to the team following his back surgery in 2019, this was only the fourth time he's rolled his arms over in ODIs, and he did a pretty decent job picking up 1/34. Hardik's return to bowling augurs well for India, whose lack of a sixth-bowling option has hurt them dearly – most evident during the England series – and Vengsarkar couldn't agree more.

"When any team that has a very good all-rounder at No. 6, what happens is that they can play an additional batsman, and also be a third or fourth bowling change. Hardik is a good all-rounder, and if he can hold on to his place in the team, it'll be beneficial because they can afford to play two spinners and two fast bowlers and have him as a medium-pacer option. Effectively three fast bowlers, which would add so much balance to the team," he said.

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