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‘The Board is going from bad to worse... Only God can save us’

Shameful when people cling on to their chairs: Dilip
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Dilip Vengsarkar, in the city, on Saturday. Picture by Gautam Bose

Calcutta: Former India captain and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar, an outstanding batsman of his era, spoke to The Telegraph at the Hyatt Regency here on Saturday evening.

To say the least, Vengsarkar was brutally frank, unlike contemporaries who steer clear of possibly antagonising the Board.

Excerpts...

Q India made the World T20 final, but the trophy went to Sri Lanka. Your thoughts?

A A lot depends on how you play on the day... Great T20 players aren’t great Test cricketers, but outstanding Test players could leave as big an impact on the shortest format. Look at Virat Kohli... So it is with teams... The West Indies and Pakistan do well in the shorter formats, but often get exposed in Test cricket... Getting back to your question, India’s loss was disappointing. The defeat came on my 58th birthday.

We last won overseas in Zimbabwe, eight months ago. When do we get back to winning away from home?

When we have bowlers who can take 20 wickets in a Test match. And, if we keep playing the Bhuvneshwar Kumars and the Mohammed Shamis in all formats, then they’ll end up losing form... Earlier, we saw that with Ishant Sharma. We need fast bowlers who’re fit... The likes of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron are, more often than not, unfit. We need bowlers capable of 20-25 overs in a day, not fit only for 10 overs (ODIs) or as few as four (in T20s). Cricketers must realise they’ll be remembered for what they do in Tests, not in ODIs or in T20 cricket.

So, you don’t think it’s either a mental or a technical issue?

No, it’s a matter of skill and being effective. We need wicket-taking fast bowlers. A good bowling unit is a must. All-rounders, too, are of great help.

Forget Test matches, we aren’t even winning an ODI series overseas. Why is that so?

Again, because we don’t have the bowlers, the ones who can bowl at the death. Look at the number of runs we’ve been conceding in the last 10 overs.

But we’ve been having bowling coaches for years... Venkatesh Prasad, Eric Simons, Joe Dawes for the past two years...

Does Dawes watch domestic cricket? Has (head) coach Duncan Fletcher done that? Is it mandatory for the coaches to watch domestic cricket? When they finish with the international commitments, they’re off home... If Fletcher and Dawes don’t watch domestic cricket, how will they know who has the potential and who needs to be with the Big Boys? That’s why, I’ve consistently favoured coaches from within the country.

What’s the way forward?

Giving priority to the National Cricket Academy (in Bangalore)... The Board isn’t serious about it... Then, the regional academies shouldn’t be a joke... Do we have a vision? Do we have a blueprint? Unfortunately, in the past four-five years, the Board’s focus has shifted from cricket to other things.

Will you elaborate?

I don’t have to, people understand. We have to be serious about the U-19 programme and be as serious about India A. There’s no point merely organising tours and handing out managerships. Our Board is the richest in terms of revenue, but what else?

Both Fletcher and Dawes are getting an extension. Given our pathetic record overseas, shouldn’t they be held accountable?

The Board checks with the senior players and if they’re happy, then the coach is retained. The Board should be calling the shots, being harsh if needed, but it has other interests.

What, then, about accountability?

Forget the Board, in India, there’s no accountability in any walk of life. That’s the sad reality. Every affiliate of the Board gets close to Rs 25 crore annually, but just how accountable are they? How serious is the Board about enforcing accountability? Can you and I have the answers?

As a former India captain, how do you view the present scenario (in the Board), with court cases being a feature?

The Board is going from bad to worse... If such people run the show, then only God can save us. What’s happening now is shameful. It’s shameful when people cling on to their chairs.

What’s the No.1 problem?

Politicians and industrialists heading almost all the sports bodies in the country... They’re not interested in sport, but in the chairs they occupy.

Should IPL VII have been put on hold?

No. Address the issues... Test cricket and ODIs weren’t put on hold because of scandals. Then, why the IPL?

Generally, what do you think of T20 as a format?

It provides entertainment and fetches money.

To go back in time... You gave Mahendra Singh Dhoni the India captaincy for the first time (inaugural World T20, in 2007). Seven years on, are you delighted with the choice you made?

I’ve always rated Dhoni highly... He’s been an outstanding captain. He has his own style.

Which is?

Basically, Dhoni goes by instinct. Some of his bowling changes and field placements defy logic, but they often click. He backs himself.

But, given the workload, should Dhoni either only captain in Tests or in the two shorter formats?

Why? If Dhoni is an automatic choice across formats, then why should he not remain the captain in Tests, ODIs and in T20s? Ideally, you should pick your best team and, then, choose the captain.

Vice-captain Virat Kohli has been in phenomenal form...

My colleagues and I selected Virat for the first time (ODIs in Sri Lanka, 2008-09) and we weren’t disappointed... He’s never been short on skill, but that hasn’t stopped him from improving... He’s smart and will go places. Today, he’s certainly the best batsman in the world.

Senior-most pro Yuvraj Singh got crucified for his 11 off 21 balls in the World T20 final. Were people too harsh on him?

One can have a bad day... It’s Yuvraj’s luck that he got stuck on such a big day when millions were watching the match. Bad timing.

Yuvraj’s house in Chandigarh got stoned...

But this has been happening for decades... Ajit Wadekar’s old house, I think, was stoned after the 1974 rout in England... More recently, India’s early exit in the 2007 World Cup led to unfortunate incidents. One can’t condone such acts. Sadly, we tend to behave in extremes.

Right now, Yuvraj doesn’t figure in the ODI line-up. Do you see a role for him in the 2015 World Cup?

There’s plenty of cricket between now and next February. Yuvraj is a fantastic player. If he’s fit and in form, I’d go for him.

Is it the end of the road for Zaheer Khan?

Zaheer’s 35 and not getting any younger. Taking him to England this summer will be a gamble. He’s still a fine bowler, though.

The last one... Do you have a message for those running the Board?

Don’t spoil the image of the country and the game. Please look beyond greed.