Winds of change
Dilip Vengsarkar, in a very eventful first year as chairman of the selection committee, has had much to do.
In the last selection committee meeting of his first year at the job, Vengsarkar had to pick up two teams last Thursday — Mumbai and Rest of India for the Irani Cup.
"I pick up the best teams," Vengsarkar says in a matter of fact manner, seemingly not harried by the demands of the job. "I have been selecting teams for a decade and a half. It is nothing new."
As he starts his second year in office, Vengsarkar says he believes India have a great chance to topple the Australians on their own soil later this season.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
How did your first year in office go?
Well, it was rather satisfactory because, apart from the early exit from the World Cup, the team did reasonably well, winning a Test for the first time in South Africa.
It was a great opportunity to win the series. At home before the World Cup, India won the ODIs against the West Indies and Sri Lanka. Then, of course, India beat South Africa in Ireland and won the Test series in England. The T20 World Cup win was the icing on the cake. There is, however, a tough series in the offing against Australia.
I strongly feel that this team has the best chance to beat Australia in Australia.
Your panel brought back Sourav Ganguly for South Africa. How tough was the decision?
There has to be a good blend of youth and experience in the team. In the Tests, temperament plays a major role. Though Sourav and Zaheer (Khan) were not in the best of forms when selected, as selectors, it was important for us to back our gut feeling.
Many advised me to look ahead, but we believed in Sourav and Zaheer and I'm glad they delivered, consistently.
Munaf Patel, with his recurring injuries, continues to be an enigma. How do you handle players like Munaf?
Munaf has the potential to become the front-line bowler for India. However, he must realise that to bowl consistently fast match after match, he must be extremely fit. He just cannot be a line and length bowler, not in Test cricket.
At the highest level, you are rated only for your consistency. Period. He has to put in a lot of hard work if he has to make a comeback.
However, all is not lost — he can make a comeback if he shows form and fitness.
What made you name MS Dhoni as Rahul Dravid's deputy for the ODIs in the UK? What gave the selectors the belief that he could be a future India captain?
I have been watching Dhoni from close quarters for quite some time now. I found him to be a very good student of the game.
He is extremely focussed, down to earth and very disciplined. He is modest about his achievements and possesses good man-management skills. He has all the qualities of a good captain.
You yourself have captained India. What sort of pressures play on a captain's mind?
There is always pressure on the captain. You have to think of so many things besides your own game. The captain has to perform all the time to call the shots with authority. He has to lead from the front, he has to lead by example.
If a captain is out of form, the pressure can be unbearable. With the media trying to sensationalise every issue these days, it can be very tough, for it's impossible to explain your side of the story every time.
There have been indications that Sachin Tendulkar has only to nod his head to become the Test captain. Who do you think is the ideal man to lead India in Tests?
It would not be fair of me to answer this as there are four other selectors in the panel.
India won in series in Bangladesh, England and the World T20 without a coach. Do you think we should continue with a cricket manager?
We have two coaches --- Venkatesh Prasad (bowling) and Robin Singh (fielding). They have done a good job. We also have Roger Binny, Chandrakant Pandit and Paras Mhambrey as top quality coaches.
Which selection committee meeting was the toughest in the last one year, and why?
To be honest, I was never in favour of a zonal selection panel. That's the reason I refused to be on panel twice before.
However, I have changed my mind as all the selectors on the panel at present are on the same wavelength. However, that may not be the case with every selection committee in the future.
You've got to have people with integrity, sincerity and honesty. Luckily for me, I have people with these virtues on the panel.
There have been promotions and relegations in the BCCI's player contracts list. What's the logic behind the changes?
The players have been graded as per their performance in the last 12 months. There is a criteria in place for the same.