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Kirmani comfortable with Karthik as No.2 ’keeper

Wonderful group, barring one surprise: Former chief selector

By Lokendra Pratap Sahi in Calcutta
  • Published 16.04.19, 3:53 AM
  • Updated 16.04.19, 3:53 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Syed Kirmani The Telegraph picture

Syed Mujtaba Hussain Kirmani, a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning XI and a former chairman of the national selection committee, spoke to The Telegraph on Monday evening.

A world-class wicketkeeper, Bangalorean Kirmani is now 69.

Excerpts...

Q As a former chief selector, are you convinced MSK Prasad and his colleagues have picked a squad which can win the World Cup?

A Yes... My compliments to this selection committee. They have chosen a balanced squad. I’d say it’s a wonderful group, barring one surprise.

Q Which one?

A Vijay Shankar... I would have recalled Ravichandran Ashwin and headed to the World Cup with an off-spinner who easily qualifies to be an all-rounder. Ashwin is rich in experience and, in a big tournament, experience makes the difference in crunch situations. Even if you put together ODIs and T20Is, Shankar hasn’t appeared in 20 of them... It’s not that I’m carrying an agenda, it’s just that I talk straight.

Q But Ashwin has been overlooked for white-ball cricket from July 2017, close to two years now...

A I don’t know the reasons, but he plays white-ball cricket and has been captaining the Kings XI Punjab in the IPL... Speaking generally, nobody should ever be vindictive and I hope it’s not an issue of somebody being a blue-eyed boy.

Q Your point about Ashwin and experience is not being contested. However, the squad already has three spinners — Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav...

A I know, but you have Hardik Pandya as an all-rounder even though three specialist quicks are there — Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah. So, why not four spinners, including Ashwin?

Q Happy with the choice of Dinesh Karthik as the No.2 wicketkeeper?

A Of course. Karthik is a proven customer and can handle situations of pressure very well... I know Rishabh Pant has fans, but he’s young (21) and, at this stage, hasn’t got into the cradle of wicketkeeping. Rishabh needs to first graduate from there. I’m absolutely comfortable with Karthik going as the one after first-choice Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Q You were probably the chief selector when Karthik made his maiden India appearance, way back in the latter half of 2004... Any advice for him?

A Karthik is vastly experienced, I don’t have to suggest anything at all.

Q Shouldn’t the selectors have picked four specialist new-ball bowlers?

A But Pandya is there, so it’s not as if only three are going. Shankar can also be pressed into service.

Q Surely, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to gamble with a rookie quick, an unknown package, like Navdeep Saini...

A My friend, the World Cup is no place for experiments. It’s an emphatic ‘no’ from me.

Q Ideally, what’s the combination you’d like Virat Kohli to play?

A Five batsmen, including Dhoni, Pandya and five bowlers.

Q Wouldn’t that be one batsman short?

A If the first five, with Dhoni at No.5, can’t get you runs, then please don’t expect Bumrah and Kuldeep to get them.

Q No.4?

A Kedar Jadhav.

Q So, no Shankar in your first-choice XI?

A No.

Q You’re a World Cup winner... What must Virat and his men do to bring back the World Cup?

A Have loads of self-belief, for belief works like magic... Virat will have to be at his inspirational best, will need to constantly motivate, something he is very good at. I love his aggression, by the way.

Q Self-belief is what carried India past Zimbabwe in a must-win match, at Tunbridge Wells, in 1983...

A Aap ne theek kaha... We were 17 for five at one stage, when our captain extraordinary, Kapil Dev, began taking charge. I went to bat at 140 for eight, with a nervous Ballu (Balwinder Singh Sandhu) all padded up to go in as the last man... Kapil said there were 30-odd overs left... I replied ‘humme marna hai to pehle mar ke phir hi marrenge’. I added I’d face one ball in every over and allow him five opportunities to just go for it... Kapil played the finest one-day innings I’ve seen anywhere. We ended on 266 for eight, with Kapil unbeaten on 175... What an iconic innings... I was unbeaten on 24... Sheer self-belief got us out of that deep hole.

Q A message, perhaps, for Virat?

A Nothing beyond extending my good wishes. Virat, I must say, has India’s best captain — Dhoni — to guide him in times of crisis.

Q Finally, as of today, the four teams that could make the semi-finals?

A India, England, Australia and New Zealand... The Black Caps too have made a very balanced selection... The two dark horses would be the West Indies and Pakistan, while I expect bold Afghanistan to surprise a few teams.