Calcutta, May 24: “I’m excited, but tense as well… It’s quite like taking fresh guard and the butterflies are already there… I know it’s not going to be easy…”
Well, the debonair Sandeep Patil couldn’t have been more candid, when contacted by The Telegraph at a Matheran hotel, soon after being appointed India A coach for the June 22-August 3 tour of England.
Indeed, in time, today’s appointment could be recalled as significant. Incidentally, Patil recently finished a four-year stint with Kenya, the experience lending weight to his CV.
Patil, in fact, has got back the portfolio he held in the early Nineties before being (briefly) promoted as Team India coach. That he was among the pack of contenders, to succeed Ashok Malhotra, was reported in these columns Saturday.
Actually, it was through our columns that Patil announced (on March 5) he would return to India after the World Cup and “gladly” accept any assignment from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
As it turned out, Kenya created history by reaching the World Cup semi-finals (where they lost to Sourav Ganguly’s Team India), but Patil refused to be swayed by the euphoria. He was, after all, firm on returning to his roots after a long stay in Nairobi.
“As I told you during the World Cup, I wasn’t angling for any specific job and, today, I’m happy that the BCCI has again shown so much faith… I realise I’ve got to do better this time… I’m also aware that performance will be the sole yardstick,” Patil, who has been vacationing in the Matheran area --- his farm is a mere 15 minutes away --- for the past two months, acknowledged.
Patil, by the way, heard of the appointment from his mother (Sumitra, a top-notch shuttler in her time), who called from Mumbai. He then spoke to BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya.
That Patil is straightaway into overdrive came through when he sought “details” of the 16-strong A squad. “Look, I’m back after four years and, so, will require time to settle down…” He was, for example, specially keen for an update on Baroda’s left-arm quick Irfan Pathan and Haryana leggie Amit Mishra.
According to Patil, the June 1-18 preparatory camp at the Bangalore-located National Cricket Academy will be a “learning process.” As he put it: “It’s a fresh assignment and a new challenge… My homework, though, will have to be completed in those 18 days.”
Asked if he was already looking to getting back the Team India coach’s hat as well, Patil laughed: “I’m just looking to taking one step at a time. Nothing more, nothing less… But, yes, I’m hoping this appointment won’t be a one-off affair… I believe I should be judged over a period and, frankly, do realise the BCCI alone will determine what lies ahead.”
Patil, it may be recalled, was replaced by Madanlal (as Team India coach) after a furore over his ‘role’ in the dropping of Sourav during the inaugural Sahara Cup (1996) in Toronto. But, then, that’s something of the past.
For the record, current Team India coach John Wright’s appointment is till next March.