Dilip Balwant Vengsarkar, a former captain of India, chief selector when India won the inaugural World T20 (2007) and a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning squad under Kapil Dev, spoke to The Telegraph on Monday evening.
The 63-year-old Vengsarkar’s CV also includes three hundreds in consecutive Test appearances at Lord’s, the revered Home of Cricket. Awesome that.
Q The World Cup is just days away. Thoughts as it gets closer by the hour...
A This will be the first World Cup in what is truly the age of social media. Social media was, of course, there in 2015, but has grown manifold in the last four years. More eyeballs will be watching this one too... England, Australia and India look the strongest and should make the semi-finals. I’ve placed England at No.1 as, being the hosts, they will have in-depth knowledge of the conditions... The wickets, the bounce... It would matter in cricket’s biggest tournament.
Q Semi-finalist No. 4?
A Hard to pick... Could be New Zealand or the West Indies or Pakistan. I’m not sticking my neck out on this one. Tough to call.
Q Basically, then, you’re placing England as the favourites...
A Only nerves could deprive England of their first World Cup.
Q You’re a member of a World Cup-winning squad. What does it take to claim the trophy?
A Contributions from everyone. You can’t rely on one or two players to help you win a World Cup. Look at what happened in 1983.
Q Dos and don’ts for India...
A Well, don’t depend on one or two players and do ensure good starts. It’s a cliche, but so true: Well begun is half the job done. I’d like the first four batsmen to be out in the middle for at least 35-37 overs... I have faith in our bowling, but I’m a bit sceptical about the batting... India have played one practice match, but after so much of the IPL, I’m not sure if they are already fully in the 50-over mode.
Q Your choice for the No. 4 position?
A The World Cup is a matter of days away, so I won’t comment on the selection part. It won’t look good... Look, I’m not privy to what the captain (Virat Kohli) and (head coach) Ravi Shastri are thinking, but a KL Rahul could be sent at No. 4. Rahul, in fact, may be slotted at any position from No.1 to No. 4... I’m not sure if Virat will come at No. 3 if a wicket falls rather early.
Q Expectations from senior-most pro Mahendra Singh Dhoni...
A Dhoni has a critical role to play. Very critical, I’d emphasise. Rohit Sharma is the vice-captain, but I expect Dhoni’s experience to be used by Virat. The think tank, I’m certain, will bank on him.
Q Who’re the players you’ll probably be following with more interest than the others?
A There are many quality players around... England, Australia, the West Indies, New Zealand... Each one of those teams has top-class performers, but I wouldn’t single them out as cricket is a team sport... Among Indians, I’ll certainly be interested to see how Virat, Rohit, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya fare... The spinners (Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav) as well.
Q Captains to watch out for...
A Virat for sure, Eoin Morgan, Aaron Finch. A big test awaits all 10 captains.
Q When you began playing ODIs, back in 1976, around 225 would often be regarded as a winning total. Today, what’s a safe one?
A Not sure about safe, but with the modern-day bats and flat wickets, in excess of 280 must be on the board. If not, how will you stand a chance?
Q Had you not been hit on the chin by Malcolm Marshall, who is no more, you could have featured in a World Cup-winning XI...
A I did recover in time for the June 25 final, but it was decided to retain the combination which beat England in the semi-final. I was disappointed, but it was an understandable decision. No issue there.
Q Who is acting as Dilip Balwant Vengsarkar in ’83, the film to honour Kapil’s Devils?
A A fairly young Marathi actor, Adinath Kothare... I’ve spent some time with him, briefed him... It would help Kothare play me better in the film.
Q Finally... Will you be in England during the World Cup?
A For the eighth year in a row, I’ll be taking my Academy team to England and will be in Manchester from June 22 to July 6. After that, I’ll be in London and, if India make the July 14 final, I’ll be in one of the queues for a ticket!