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Isa Guha: India’s cricket has been pretty faultless

- EXCLUSIVE

- ‘Dhoni thinks out of the box... is instinctive’

Isa Guha, on her visit to Calcutta a few years ago

Dhaka: Petite Isa Guha, the former England all-rounder, spoke to The Telegraph at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon on Wednesday.

The interview was interrupted a few times as Isa exchanged “helloooos” and “hiiiis” with one-time teammates, who’ve made the World T20 semi-final.

Isa, 28, is in Bangladesh on a media assignment. She’s based in London.

Excerpts...

 

Q Well, do you actually speak Bengali?

A (Laughs) Ektu, ektu boli. I’d like to speak more, though. At home, it’s mainly English, with ektu, ektu Bengali thrown in.

The business end of the World T20 has been reached. In the men’s section, did you expect the line-up to be any different?

There’s no doubt that the four strongest teams are in the last-four... I expect the India-South Africa semi-final to be very interesting... India’s cricket has been pretty faultless and, in these conditions, they’re very strong... At the back of South African minds would surely be the bit about not having won a World trophy... To talk of the first semi-final... The West Indies’ top-order could do more, but they have such strong finishers and superb spinners... Sri Lanka have an excellent record in World events and they finished No.2 both in the last World T20 and in the last World Cup. There’s history to their challenge.

Your thoughts on each team individually...

WEST INDIES: They’re the defending champions and play such a positive brand of cricket... They’ve got attacking batsmen and bat rather deep. Then, as I’ve said, they have such unbelievable spinners... Chris Gayle should play his natural game, not look to bat out the 20 overs... With Chris in form, the West Indies were ruthless against Australia. I expect them to be fired up once again.

Key player: Sunil Narine.

SRI LANKA: Bowling is their strength and Rangana Herath has made a point... They also have bowlers like Angelo Mathews, who could be very useful in these conditions... For Sri Lanka to do well, the batsmen must not come under pressure... Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are retiring from T20s, so they’d be looking for the perfect finish. For the team, too, it’s something to get excited about.

Key player: Tough... One of the spinners or one of the all-rounders.

INDIA: They’ve got a captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who thinks out of the box. He’s quite instinctive, which is particularly useful in T20s... In this format, you have to go with the situation and Dhoni reads them well... Virat Kohli’s such a key player... The batting has a mix of players capable of a long innings and those who could act as finishers... Seems an unflappable line-up... As important, India have spinners who can tie the batsmen down... I honestly don’t see a weakness.

Key player: Virat Kohli.

SOUTH AFRICA: The fact that they’ve come through some close matches should give them confidence... They’ve had the will to fight. AB de Villiers, captain Faf du Plessis, Dale Steyn... South Africa do have quality players. That they haven’t won a World event could come into play, mentally. Equally, that could spur them on... Could they repeat their group-stage performances if it comes down to the wire? A World T20 semi-final is big.

Key player: Dale Steyn.

What’s your gut feeling?

An India-West Indies final.

England had a disastrous tournament, losing even to The Netherlands...

That was a bad loss, no two ways there... It was a shame... However, the win over Sri Lanka was phenomenal, with Alex Hales producing one of the best T20 innings of all time... Actually, England didn’t start well... They were unlucky in the first match, against New Zealand... Bowling at the death remains an issue.

The revelation of this World Cup, on the men’s side...

Clearly, The Netherlands... They beat Ireland to qualify for the tournament proper and, then, embarrassed England. In between, they almost upset South Africa. They showed they could mix with the Big Boys.

Talking of the women, did you expect the four semi-finalists (Australia, England, the West Indies, South Africa) to get there?

I’d thought New Zealand would be there, not South Africa. But good luck to them.

As a format, then, T20 is ideal to promote cricket...

It is. T20 is the vehicle to make cricket a truly global game.

You’ve played for England in all three formats... What does it take to succeed in the shortest one?

The ability to adapt is at the top of the list. You’ve got to be versatile... Flexible... Instinctive as well. If you’re a bowler, you’ve got to anticipate what the batsman could do. And vice-versa. Batsmen have to be fearless, must have the courage to take risks. It’s such a short format, after all.

Where do you stand on the Kevin Pietersen issue?

I’m not the best person to answer your question, for I wasn’t in the dressing room. Both sides have their point of view. This is a hard one to comment on.

Why did Alastair Cook and his men disintegrate in the last Ashes?

The simple answer is that England didn’t prepare for Mitchell Johnson.

Some questions exclusively on you... Who did you idolise?

The earliest influence was that of my elder brother, Kaushik... Among Internationals, I quite admired Darren Gough... My father (Barun) used to talk a lot about Kapil Dev and, later, Sachin Tendulkar.

[Father Barun has his roots in Calcutta, while mother Rama’s family hails from Khulna.]

You’re pursuing higher studies. Is that why you retired from international cricket?

I’m doing my MPhil (in neuroscience) at the University College London, and it’s hard to find time for international cricket... I do, however, play in the premier division, for Berkshire.

Interests beyond cricket...

I used to play badminton in winter... I’m a big one for music.

Advice for the younger lot?

If you work towards goals, everything is achievable. Don’t give up.

The last one... Do you have mixed emotions when England plays India? Do you pass or fail the (Norman) Tebbit test?

(Laughs) I have to be diplomatic! Well, I’ve been born and brought up in England, so I have to support the country of my birth. I do pass the Tebbit test, you know.