The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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I erred in overlooking Souravís talent: Patil
- Kenya coach wants ICC to take note of win over Sri Lanka

Cape Town: As a cricketer, Sandeep Patil was flamboyant. As coach, though, he didnít have a long run with India. For the past four years, however, he has been with Kenya. Remembered as much for his stylish strokeplay as for banning cellphones in the team bus and dressing room (when he was the India coach), Patil spoke to The Telegraph at The Cullinan Thursday morning.

The following are excerpts

On the difference between coaching India (for six months in 1996) and Kenya (from after the 1999 World Cup till now)

(Grins) In India, it was trying to help players who were already established... With Kenya, itís been trying to help players establish themselves... Obviously, thereís more freedom working with a team like Kenya... Your views are accepted in a bigger way, besides more respect for your experience. Iíve had a very happy four years.

On Kenyan cricket being dogged by controversies... From a crisis over the playersí pay to selection issues...

Which team doesnít have problems' Things have been sorted out and, now that Kenya is in the Super Six, things should get better. Personally, Iíve learnt to stay away from controversies... I took the job because I saw it as a challenge and, clearly, I donít have regrets. Whatever I do, though, Iím sure I wonít stop learning.

On wanting to return to India

Itís not because Iíve got complaints... Iíve been away from the family and the time came for me to take a decision... In any case, my contract is till this World Cup... Irrespective of the level, Iíll be happy to serve the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

On whether, having once been the India coach, a lesser assignment will actually satisfy him

It will, yes... Iím not going to demand a particular role. After all, a coach should be happy with any job which gives him the opportunity to play a part in carrying cricket forward. However, I do believe I couldnít complete what I wanted to (in 1996).

On the furore caused by the dropping of Sourav Ganguly in the inaugural Sahara Cup, an act which cost him the coachís seat

Look, seven years on, itís not proper for me to open my mouth... All Iíll say is that the tour selection committee ó of which the coach is a part ó decides on who will play and who will be rested... No coach ever takes decisions on his own... At that point in time, the committee felt Vinod Kambli was more suited for the No. 6 slot... While I canít take any credit, nobody remembers that I was coach when Sourav got hundreds in each of his first two Tests (in England)...

On his equation with Sourav

Thereís no problem. In fact, when the occasion arose, I even explained my so-called Toronto role to Sourav... Of course, I accept I didnít see his potential when he was with the India A side and I was its coach... Itís a mistake that I overlooked his talent... Today, Iím happy that Sourav has proved me and so many others wrong. Like the rest of India, I take pride in his achievements.

On whether that Sourav-related controversy was a good enough reason to remove him

Look, the BCCI has the right to appoint and remove coaches... I canít complain. I also appreciate that this is a result-oriented industry. (After a pause) If I may add, John Wright deserves to be complimented for the hard work he has been putting in. He has been criticised, but the critics must understand the coach canít do a thing once the boundary rope is reached... The players alone must faithfully execute strategy.

On whether he regards somebody as a role model coach

Ashok ĎKakaí Mankad has been my mentor... Though he has turned to coaching, I interacted with him when he was my Ranji captain... Iíve learnt everything from him... Devising a gameplan, the manner of studying the opposition and getting the best out of the players... Iím also indebted to Sunil Gavaskar.

On his approach to coaching

Essentially, identifying the strengths of my team and getting the players to focus on just that. Enjoyment remains a key element, as nothing should be a chore for the boys. Basically, I see myself as a guide.

On Kenya always being considered pushovers

Well, even in this World Cup, a commentator-friend (Navjyot Sidhu) ó who himself struggled and made so many comebacks ó announced that the bigger teams would lick sides like Kenya as they would candies... Weíre carrying some (candies) and would love to present them to him... Weíve proved him wrong and weíve proved so many others wrong... Mr Sidhu couldnít stop us from making the Super Six. Agreed that we gained by New Zealand not playing in Nairobi. Agreed we gained from rain affecting the West Indies-Bangladesh game... But, then, should Kenya be faulted' Criticism must always be constructive and, in time, this team will grow stronger.

On Kenyaís lack of exposure

Itís so critical... When we landed in Johannesburg, before the tournament, we had only played 12 ODIs since the last World Cup... Amazing, yes, but thatís the harsh reality. So, unless Kenya consistently gets opportunities, how will matters improve' Can any team win the World Cup by playing 12 ODIs over four years' I hope our victory over Sri Lanka will be the proverbial turning point and the International Cricket Council will take note.

On Bangladesh doing nothing to justify their status as a Test-playing nation

(After a pause) I wouldnít like to make a specific comment... But, itís a fact that many countries took a number of years to find their feet at the highest level. If not tomorrow, Bangladesh will surely learn the day after.

On the present Indian team

I wouldnít like to compare it with earlier sides... All Iíll say is that it has lots and lots of potential.

Finally, on being the No.1 star in the Kenyan contingent

(Laughs) The No. 1 star is Steve Tikolo, who is well supported by the remaining 14 members in the squad.

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