| SIMPSON: ‘Sourav has matured as a captain’
Six-and-half years after he left big-time coaching, Australian Bobby Simpson continues to be most sought after. Hardly surprising, given his credentials. Simpson, also a former captain, was in Mumbai for a few days last week and, in the midst of multiple commitments, took some time off to speak to The Telegraph.
The following are excerpts
On the present Indian team
Looks settled, looks happy and, most important, plays as a unit. I’m sure continuity in selection has helped and, as coach, John Wright has obviously been doing a good job… At this moment, India is among the favourites for the World Cup.
On the emergence of a clutch of hot-shot youngsters
(Smiles) Aren’t they such marvellous fielders' For a change, when we talk of some of the Indians, what instantly comes to mind is their fielding. It’s a huge change, thanks to the Mohammed Kaifs and Yuvraj Singhs… Then, there’s (Virender) Sehwag, who is making such an impression in both forms. His real test, though, will be on the bouncier tracks and the bowlers must have begun swapping notes… The ‘honeymoon period’ for rank newcomers, or the ones establishing themselves, is never an extended one.
On Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy
He has matured, plus the team is playing well… It’s easier for a captain when his boys are on the ball, so to say. Remember, a captain doesn’t make the team, it’s the team which makes a captain.
On Sourav the batsman
His shot-selection has improved and he’s handling the faster bowlers better… Initially, he was exclusively an off-side player and, when I was consultant, I especially worked on getting him to play on the leg-side. Now, he’s a different batsman… But, yes, he could look at running harder and getting more singles.
[Incidentally, Simpson was Lancashire’s coach in 2000, when Sourav spent the summer at Old Trafford.]
On the consistency factor
Is driven by the ability to play the appropriate shots… Also, irrespective of the conditions, batsmen should be willing to concentrate for long periods… Technique comes into play in a big way.
On what goes into the making of a successful team
Compatibility… A unit where individuals actually want to work hard and are hungry for success… Then, given the impact of fielding in contemporary cricket, it’s important for the players to be more than just enthusiastic about it… It’s a mix.
On Australia’s build-up to the World Cup
Hasn’t been very exciting… In any case, you can’t have a succession of strokemakers… You do require people who can bat through the innings… Their need will surely be felt in South Africa.
On whether Steve Waugh should be recalled
Depends on what he does between now and January… He has to win back his place. Ditto for Mark.
On whether he’s happy with the (technology-aided) third umpire getting to play a bigger role
(Grins) The developments have made me restless and we’ve got to be careful about where we are heading… For all the changes, the third umpire can only answer what he is asked… He can’t volunteer ‘information’, can’t ‘guide’ the on-field umpire. Personally, I don’t think technology can conclusively prove whether a batsman is or isn’t out leg-before… The angles can get distorted… Really, the question to be asked is: Just how good are the cameras' So, hasten with care.
On what keeps him busy
As you know, I don’t wish to be tied down as a full-time coach… As consultant, I’m currently with The Netherlands. I was with the team in Colombo (Champions Trophy) and could be around during the World Cup as well. Media commitments also take up some time… (Adds laughing) I’m enjoying myself.
[The ICC Trophy winners have been clubbed with Australia, England, India, Namibia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe in Pool A.]
On the widespread belief that Bangladesh, Kenya and The Netherlands don’t deserve to be in the World Cup
That’s unfair… It’s also being very short-sighted… Having neglected them for decades, the time has come to extend the fullest support. Indeed, there’s a lesson to be learnt from Sri Lanka. Look at what they have achieved in the last two decades… At times, it’s nice to get away from the cynicism of the top cricketers.
Finally, on how he looks back on his stint as the Indian team’s consultant (1998-99)
With reasonable happiness… The emphasis on fielding and running between wickets has been taken forward… There’s a change in attitude… Of course, you always feel you could have done more.