Wish I were a 22-year-old in body and 30 in mind:
Kapil has a dig at Board, selectors
EB’s task cut out vs Mahindras
BSF, Hooghly keep crowns

Adelaide, Jan. 23 
He’s very much the pride of teammates and the envy of most other teams. The batsmen, of course, don’t get too enthused facing him. That’s Jawagal ‘Babu’ Srinath.

Clearly, with 164 victims in 44 Tests and 247 in 180 one-day Internationals, Srinath has already made his presence felt in a big way. But, at 30, he isn’t getting any younger. The urge to do better, though, is palpable.

Srinath, whose one-day debut was in October 1991 and his first Test appearance a month later, spoke to The Telegraph last evening.

He was refreshingly candid.

Following are excerpts

On his first major tour with the Indian team, to Australia, in 1991-92

Everything was different, even the smallest things... Quite frankly, crossing the ‘barrier’ hadn’t then been easy. It took me time to settle down... That entire trip was a learning process.

On his thoughts on the eve of landing in Australia for the second time, earlier this season

I personally had high expectations, wanted to do well on wickets that have so much bounce... (Pauses) However, I confess I only bowled well in patches, specially in the Test series... I don’t know why, but I’m not happy with the way I bowled.

On whether having to always get breakthroughs proved a burden

Oh, no... Pressure hasn’t ever affected me. It’s just that I took longer than I should have to hit the right length... Indeed, I don’t think one bowler alone can make all the difference. Cricket is a team sport and, where bowlers are concerned, ideally they should peak collectively. Only then can relentless pressure be applied.

On whether he finds himself short on support at the other end

I wouldn’t say that but, yes, everybody has only bowled well in patches.

On whether bowlers get carried away by the bounce in Australian wickets

Back in India, we generally bowl just short of a length and the ball doesn’t take off... In Australia, at that same length, the ball really lifts. So, more than getting carried away, one has to adjust to the length. Doing that isn’t difficult, but can take time. Incidentally, even in Australia, no two wickets are quite the same.

On just how different are the Australian batsmen

You see, the point is this: The length we bowl back in India doesn’t encourage the cut and pull. Here, that same length does. Batsmen are used to cutting and pulling... Being aggressive comes naturally.

On his preparation before each series

With so much cricket being played, one knows the strengths and weaknesses of most batsmen. Therefore, one does try to get at the weakness, but things may not work your way. After all, batsmen too keep studying bowlers.

On whether he still follows an extended rehab programme, nearly three years after the shoulder surgery

Not really, but gym work has now become part of my life. I have drawn up my own schedule, which I religiously follow... I’m happy that I’m back to throwing from the deep. So, there’s nothing that I’m not doing.

On whether, after the surgery (mid-1997), he had ever feared not being able to bowl again

Sometimes, yes... I would be lying if I said that thought never crossed my mind... However, I didn’t lose my resolve to stage a comeback and, also, left things to God. If it was willed I would bowl again, I would. That’s how I saw it then.

On the frustration when either edges don’t carry, catches are dropped or the umpire turns down a confident appeal

For me, it’s usually momentary. I generally don’t carry that disappointment around as excess baggage...

On his thoughts at the SCG (versus Australia), when he went all out, got wickets but could only bowl ten overs (four for 30)

Was terribly frustrating... And, yes, it wasn’t just momentary.

People may have found that to be a great spell, fair enough, but was I able to win that match for India? No... So, whether it’s four or eight wickets, the only bottomline of relevance is India winning. That’s how we should be judged.

On his appealing taking on a more dramatic touch

(Laughs) I haven’t noticed it.

On whether he has worked at getting his body-language to be more aggressive

Well, I’ve always been aggressive... It’s just that I prefer keeping the aggression within me. I’m not the sort to stare and swear at batsmen... Perhaps, nowadays, I look more intense. More than the aggression, it’s that intensity which could be coming through.

On what he has learnt in nearly a decade of top-class cricket

No. 1 is that one never stops learning. (Adds smiling) Today, I wish I had the body of a 22-year-old and the mind of 30. That would have been a wonderful combination... Only, it doesn’t work that way. When your body is young, it’s experience you want. As you mature, though, you long to have the body of your youth...

On Kapil Dev being the current Indian coach

There can’t be anybody better to interact with... I wish his appointment was made earlier, instead of just a few months ago.

On, over the years, what all he has fulfilled

Something will always remain unfulfilled and, I suppose, that’s how it should be... If satisfaction/fulfilment comes easy, then what motivation will remain? Today, honestly, I largely look back on the many lost opportunities... And, somewhere at the top, is the last World Cup... The planning could have been better... I should have bowled better, too.

Finally, on whether the selectors should utilise him selectively (particularly in the one-dayers), like Allan Donald in South Africa

I’ll have to think about it, talk to people... Yes, I suppose I’ll assess my future once this season ends.    

Adelaide, Jan. 23 
Not that he ever had a loose tongue, but Kapil Dev is nowadays even more careful with words. More so, when talk centres around Ajay Jadeja.

It would be the understatement of the century-just-begun to say Jadeja has been missed in the Carlton and United Series. Equally, by now, it’s fairly common knowledge that Kapil and captain Sachin Tendulkar ‘fought’ with the Board over his inclusion.

It’s also no state secret either that the Board actually directed the selectors not to pick Jadeja. He was supposed to be “unfit,” yet within days of the selection meeting for the ongoing tournament here, the same selectors gave the Wills XI captaincy to Jadeja!

This afternoon, while still being careful with words, Kapil said quite a bit: “For somebody supposed to be unfit, I was surprised he played the Wills Trophy (coinciding with the start of the ongoing tr-series)...”

But why didn’t the team management again ask for Jadeja — as was suggested by The Telegraph — after the SCG game (India’s third match) against Australia?

“Look, we had already asked for him... The decision had to be taken by the wise people at home... We followed what the wise people said,” Kapil responded, hitting the bull’s eye without much of an effort.

The Board’s stand on Jadeja — it wanted the team management to accept a ‘package’ which included Mohammed Azharuddin — has already proved costly. Hopefully, in the future, everybody involved will show some concern for national pride instead of pushing through a purely personal agenda.

India are still in the tournament, but to qualify for the finals, need to win all four remaining matches. They could get away with one defeat, but will have to then finish on a better nett run-rate than Pakistan.

For the record, after that Hobart loss to Pakistan, which has pushed India to the brink, Sachin himself went public with his thoughts on Jadeja: “Yes, he would have made a difference...”

Bottomline is that the captain and coach will be held accountable.

Yet, when they insist on a key player, the Board (and the selectors) more than look the other way. This isn’t cricket, is it?

Kapil, for his part, defended the request for a replacement for Ajit Agarkar. “You could argue what’s the point but, what if another medium-pacer got injured? We’ll then be left with only two new-ball bowlers...”

Amazingly, though the Board has thrown out the request, the team management had not been informed till this afternoon. So much for the lines of communication between the Board and the team.

Kapil, however, clarified the team management had only “suggested” T. Kumaran’’s name. “As he was in Australia for the Test series, he has had a feel of conditions. That’s why we suggested he could be sent.”

Agarkar, meanwhile, is “85 per cent fit.” He could be available for the last two games (in Perth), but not for the first set of back-to-back matches, in utterly charming Adelaide.

“I remember fielding Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar) in that Nagpur World Cup game (against New Zealand), even though he was 90 per cent fit. As it turned out, Sunny got his only one-day hundred there. It depends on the individual...

“For instance, I would ensure Sachin played even if he was 85 per cent fit. But, I can’t do that with Agarkar, as he is built differently... He’s like a Formula I car. Unless the tuning is perfect, I can’t put him on track,” Kapil pointed out.

The Indians had a three-hour workout this morning, and the focus was more on throws — underarm as well as the conventional ones. But Kapil didn’t completely ‘forget’ the batsmen: Rahul Dravid, for example, was given two stints.

Anil Kumble and Jawagal Srinath, though, who got out rather embarrassingly in Hobart, were only asked to “knock around.” Kapil later explained: “The tail has had enough of batting (at nets) throughout the tour, but if the contribution won’t be there, let the frontline batsmen get two rounds.”

By the way, Sachin chose to co-supervise the nets, opting not to have a bat. Having hit form (in the one-dayers) with that superb 93 in Hobart, Sachin doesn’t need a workout.

“The captain is king, he’ll do what he likes,” Kapil quipped, adding he was perfectly happy with Sachin’s own arrangement. And, yes, he complimented the captain for that memorable 93.

“I just asked him to play what comes naturally... In the worst scenario, he could only have got out for a duck. I’m happy he listened to what was suggested... Sachin’s already got 24 (one-day) hundreds, all under intense pressure. Imagine where he would be now, if he was playing for a team where the pressure was less.”

That really is much food for thought.

Incidentally, with Adelaide hosting the climax of the tour Down Under, quite a few roads were closed to traffic for the benefit of the cyclists this morning. It meant the Indians had to walk to and from the Adelaide Oval — no one minded the 15-minute exercise.

In fact, on the return trip, Kapil and the players were besieged for autographs. And, most thrilled appeared to be one Ms Pat Smith, who first met Kapil in the mid-Eighties.

Kapil, flashing that endorsements-grabbing smile, obliged with yet another autograph and the grandmotherly Ms Smith responded by hugging and then kissing him.

Well, she outdid even Kapil in spontaneity.    

Calcutta, Jan. 23 
Injuries and card problems plague East Bengal as they take on Mahindra and Mahindra tomorrow at the Salt Lake Stadium. With only 10 points from nine matches, the local giants would aim to garner vital points to stay in the reckoning.

Subhas Bhowmick’s team will take the field without Ranjan Dey — out with two yellow cards. Also, they may miss Carlton Chapman, who is indisposed, and the injured Renedy Singh. Bijen Singh, too, is not fully fit, but the coach said he will play tomorrow.

Having lost to Churchill Brothers 0-3 and drawn with lowly SBT 2-2 in their last two matches, it is time for the red-and-yellow brigade to make a more positive statement. For coach Bhowmick too, who is still in charge of the team, it will be a tough test.

For Mahindras, Jordanian Bassam Khatib and Hussain will sit out with two yellow cards each. Moreover, Samir Jamil, the other Jordanian, is injured as are Abhay Kumar and Satish Minz.

Their manager-cum-coach Harish Rao said that they will have to play a cautious game.    

Calcutta, Jan. 23 
BSF South Bengal and Hooghly A retained the men’s and women’s team titles respectively in state gymnastics today, at the Narayanpur United Club ground, Kankinara.

For the BSF team it was their third consecutive title, while the Hooghly women won it for the 13th time in a row.

The BSF team — comprising Abhijit Baxi, Joydev Manna, Bijoy Kumar Baidya, Nitai Charan Karar, Rajesh Prosad, Dilip Seal and Joydeb Das — notched up 210.900 points. Hooghly A (193.60 points) came second, while Bardhaman (159.15) came third.

In the women’s section, Hooghly A — represented by Amrita Sinha, Jhuma Pal, Mithu Das, Alo Bagchi and Shila Dutta — scored 144.75 points to win the crown. Friends of the Stadium (143.300) came second and Srirampore Kalyan Samity (135.30) were third.

The individual titles were won by Sanjib Patra (44.15 points) and Tumpa Debnath (34.60 points) in the men’s and women’s sections respectively.

Junior basketball

Hooghly defeated South 24-Parganas 37-12 in the 17th junior state basketball championships at the Rakhi Sangha courts today. In other encounters, Burdwan thrashed Chhatra Samity 57-28, YMCA beat Barisha AC 33-28, Chetla Park got the better of BBYS 60-41 and BTA edged Barisha AC 40-38.    


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