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Ravi: India comeback may not be far off for Uthappa

EXCLUSIVE
Ravi Shastri

Calcutta: Former India captain Ravi Shastri spoke to The Telegraph on Wednesday evening.

Excerpts...

Thoughts on this year’s IPL...

Many feel that this has been the most competitive edition and I tend to agree. Overall, it has been fabulous.

Scandals having rocked IPL VI...

Sadly, something done by one or two or three individuals gets magnified... That’s highlighted, not what the remaining dozens do. But, this year, no one is talking of what happened in 2013... Are people talking of Sreesanth? When unfortunate things happen, they get addressed. We understand that the integrity of the game has to be maintained. We respect that.

Franchise to have stood out this year...

(Appreciatively) Clearly, Kings XI Punjab (KXIP)... Their fearless, attacking brand of cricket symbolises what T20 is all about. Some give the impression that cricket is a chore, not so Kings XI... Their players have been enjoying themselves and, in the process, providing entertainment.

What has made the difference for KXIP...

Two reasons straightaway... One, KXIP made smart buys at the auction... Then, they made Sanjay Bangar the head coach... Bangar has excellent knowledge of the domestic players and that worked to KXIP’s advantage when they built their team. Just look at Sandeep Sharma and Akshar Patel.

If other franchises can learn from KXIP...

They can learn to be smart at the auction table... That a harmonious relationship between the captain (George Bailey) and the head coach is important... Also, that it pays to be flexible with the batting order.

Strong comeback...

By the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)... From four losses in a row to five wins in succession!

The Mumbai Indians’ largely disappointing run...

They could’ve done better at the auction... Obviously, the fear factor when they take the field has been missing in this IPL.

If surprised by very impressive performances from both under-the-scanner franchises, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and the Rajasthan Royals (RR)...

No. Both CSK and RR have a strong work ethic... As for the controversies, the truth will come out. The jury, as they say, is out.

Those in IPL VII who’re on the road to stardom...

I’ll pick six players, not the really established ones like a Sunil Narine or AB de Villiers or a Dwayne Smith.

GEORGE BAILEY (KXIP): Well, he’s quite like Dhoni, happy being somewhat under the radar and putting the team first. He’s ensured excellent camaraderie between the domestic and the overseas players. As captain, he’s looked in total control.

JAMES FAULKNER (RR): Extremely dangerous lower down the order and, with the ball, can bowl the slower deliveries and the yorkers at will. An asset.

GLENN MAXWELL (KXIP): For sheer audacity and absolute daring, he’s right at the top. He’s lit up this IPL, propelling it into fast-forward mode.

AKSHAR PATEL (KXIP): Tremendous... He’s been consistent with his left-arm spin and can be brought on at any stage. He’s good with the bat as well, as we saw on Monday.

SANDEEP SHARMA (KXIP): That swing has a place in T20 has been reinforced by him. He’s shown great control and has the knack of picking up wickets.

ROBIN UTHAPPA (KKR): It’s been such a strong performance. He’s not only put his franchise in such a strong position to make the play-offs, but they could even finish in the top two. An India comeback may not be far off.

Pravin Tambe still going strong at 42...

(Laughs) I call him Mr Tambe... His has been a extraordinary story and credit to RR for helping put him in the headlines in successive seasons.

No.1 move...

Off the cuff, this is a tough one... But the one which comes to mind is KXIP’s batting order in their match against the Sunrisers Hyderabad when the target was 206. The 91-run partnership between Manan Vohra and Wriddhiman Saha, for the second wicket, was exhilarating... It was a fearless exhibition.

Most abiding memory...

Two, in fact... The unbroken 85-run partnership between Steve Smith and Faulkner, when RR had a target of 191 against the Royal Challengers Bangalore... No.2 would be Chris Lynn’s catch of AB in the last over (in Sharjah)... Out of this world, it helped KKR beat the Royal Challengers.

Finally... T20 is about...

Being fearless, being on the toes at all times, adapting and playing as a team... Eleven men with one agenda.