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‘Blessed’ Sourav now focussing on post-break demands
- We need to consistently get the basics right… other things will fall in place, says Team India captain who turns 31 today
Sourav Ganguly

Sourav Ganguly is making the most of a rare break from international cricket. Indeed, after years, he will actually be at home on his birthday (Tuesday). Gradually, of course, the Team India captain — who spoke to The Telegraph for around half-an-hour at his residence — will be ‘peaking’ (mentally and physically) for yet another demanding season.

The following are excerpts:

Q Unusually, Team India has already had a break for close to three months. Moreover, nothing is scheduled till early October. Will this make you and your team hungry or will the rust-factor take centrestage'

A We will definitely be a bit rusty at the start of 2003-2004… Can’t be avoided. The pre-season conditioning camp, though, should go a long way towards reducing that… At the same time, yes, that hunger will be there.

After years of continuous cricket, are you ‘lost’ somewhat'

(Laughs) In fact, I’ve enjoyed this break… For two months after the Dhaka tri-series, I didn’t even lift a bat… Didn’t go to the gym either… Now, I’ve resumed the gym-workouts and will slowly shift gear. By the end of this break, I’ll be stronger and fitter… The increased strength will help me over the next couple of years of non-stop cricket.

You must be happy that the next season will have a soft start — a home series versus New Zealand…

But New Zealand are tough… (After a pause) Of course, we don’t know whether Shane Bond will be available.

One assumes you would like the curators to prepare a turner at both Test venues (Kanpur, Mohali)…

Nowadays, where do we get turners' Last season, for instance, the wickets were relaid and I didn’t have any say… Generally, the wickets should be hard and fair. Obviously, they will turn on the fourth and fifth day.

To what extent will we miss Adrian le Roux'

The new trainer (Gregory Allen King) will require time to settle… Having said that, King will be starting with an advantage: Thanks to Adrian, the players are already fit. It wasn’t so when Adrian himself took up his assignment (April 2002). The base, therefore, is in place for King to work on.

Did Adrian’s decision (to work with his national side) disappoint you'

We lost somebody outstanding, but it would have been wrong to make an issue of his decision. After all, everybody would like to be associated with his national team. Country does come first.

What are the lessons from last season'

That we need to consistently get the basics right. Once that’s done, as I’ve said in the past, other things will fall in place.

Do we need to be different in any way'

No… The next couple of months, however, are important… The boys have to remain fit and must make themselves stronger.

Is the World Cup final now a thing of the past'

Keeps coming back to mind, but life has to go on… Today, while being happy with the way we played in the tournament, we can only wait for the 2007 edition. (After a pause) A lot of people would insist we can’t play in South Africa and Australia — well, by making the final, we at least proved a few things.

You must be delighted with what Steve Waugh had to say about the toss (“if every captain who wins the toss wins the game, then why play'”) the other day…

Absolutely, and I hope people who keep harping about the toss and the World Cup final have read that (in these columns, last Friday)…

Is there a personal goal for 2003-2004'

I wish to consistently do well in both forms… There’s no other agenda.

As captain, are you worried that surgery may affect Harbhajan Singh’s bowling'

When bowlers have come back after a shoulder operation, I don’t think we need to be apprehensive about the surgery to Bhajji’s spinning finger.

Any area (s) of concern'

Not concern, but we must identify the third seamer (after Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan) if Jawagal Srinath decides to quit. (Avishkar) Salvi is promising, but will require time to get into Srinath’s shoes… Besides, both in Tests and ODIs, we need a wicketkeeper who can make a significant contribution with the bat. All good sides have this advantage and, so, we must be on a par.

While you’ve suggested that Rahul Dravid’s dual role (in the ODIs) is over, coach John Wright is of the opinion we should be practical…

Essentially, I agree with John… If required, Rahul will continue to ’keep. In the long run, though, we need somebody who can bat and ’keep — somebody who adds value to the XI and gives the captain options.

Looking to the tour of Australia, aren’t you worried about the opening slots' Will Virender Sehwag, who is suspect against the ones pitched short, be the right candidate for an opening position'

Whether Sehwag is at No.1 or No.6, he will have to handle those… There won’t be any getting away… At the same time, don’t forget that except the tour of New Zealand, where all of us failed, Sehwag has done well as opener. (After a pause) Actually, I’m following our A tour of England with interest… I hope (opener) Wasim Jaffer comes good… He plays off the back foot and could be useful in Australia.

Jaffer apart, are you keeping a ‘tab’ on anybody'

Salvi’s there… Then, (Hemang) Badani and (Ambati Tirupati) Rayudu… I’ve always regarded Badani a very fine cricketer, while Rayudu has loads of potential. He seems the one to watch out for.

During your England trip, did you get to watch any of the Team India players doing County duty'

(Grins) Yuvraj Singh flopped when I went to see Yorkshire and Sehwag failed when I went for a Leicestershire game… Both, by the way, were National League matches.

Incidentally, are you happy with the itinerary in Australia — the first of four Tests will be beginning just 10 days after the start of the tour'

It’s tough… I would have liked a bigger break (than five days) from the end of the tri-series and our departure for Australia. Also, I would have preferred more days of acclimatisation prior to the Test series there… But, then, that’s how it goes… Mentally, we will have to be very tough.

The last question: Tuesday will see you turning 31. Given a chance to start ‘afresh’, would you do anything differently'

(Smiles) I’m happy with what I’ve got… I’m happy with the way I’ve got to where I am. I’ve been blessed.

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