Chairman of the National selection panel Krishnamachari Srikkanth believes the nature of the surfaces could play a decisive role in determining the future of One Day International (ODI) cricket.
Speaking to The Hindu here on Monday, he said: “We need to have wickets that offer more to the bowlers. There should be bounce — that will help both the pacemen and the spinners, and movement off the seam. We should have balance between the bat and the ball.”
Srikkanth said he felt ODIs with the Power Plays was a good test of skills. “In the ODIs, you can have attacking fields, particularly at the start, and there is a lot of strategy involved when it comes to the flexible Power Play overs. The middle-overs phase is a battle of wits.”
Needed: sporting pitches
He admitted that more sporting pitches needed to be produced in India to unearth genuine talent. “At the domestic level, we should have lively pitches. On a flat track everybody gets runs and the numbers can be disproportionate to the ability of a batsman. Our young batsmen have to be groomed on tracks that encourage pacemen. This will also enable more fast bowlers to come through.”
Some of the young Indian batsmen had problems coping with precise short-pitched bowling from the pacemen during the ICC World Twenty20. Says Srikkanth: “You should be prepared to get hit on the body. You should not be scared of getting injured. Playing the short ball well has a lot to do with your reflexes. Ideally, you have to attack the short ball.
“Some of the finest players of short-pitched bowling such as Vivian Richards, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and Kumar Sangakkara, are good cutters and pullers. Otherwise, you have to be technically as sound as Sunil Gavaskar was to sway away from the line. Our young batsmen will learn with experience.”
Looking back at the season gone by, he says, “We had an outstanding year. We beat Australia and England in the Test series at home and won the away Test series in New Zealand. And we won just about everything in the ODIs. The International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 series was an aberration. We are very close to becoming the No. 1 team in the ODIs. This will be a tremendous achievement, and we have the chance to accomplish the same in Test cricket as well.”
Yet, the side misses a genuine all-rounder. “Agreed, someone like Kapil Dev comes once in a lifetime. But we don’t even have a lesser all-rounder like Manoj Prabhakar. This is an area of concern for the selectors and we are scanning the country.”
India, Australia and South Africa are his favourites for the ICC Champions Trophy. “This is the early part of the season in South Africa and there will be a fair measure of assistance to the pacemen. The stronger teams will survive,” he points out.
Hectic schedule, a test
On the issue of player-workload, Srikkanth opines, “The schedules these days will test your levels of fitness and mental strength. I don’t think you can complain. Most of the countries are playing a similar amount of cricket.”
With the stakes so high, will there be a tendency in the players to hide injuries? Srikkanth answers, “Given the number of matches, the cricketers are bound to play with niggles. We did that in our playing days too. But, if there is a more serious injury, a player will have to be more honest to himself and the country. At the same time we are working on creating more depth, particularly in the area of pace bowling.”
The former India captain talks about transparency in selection. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra edged out left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha in the Indian team for the triangular series in Sri Lanka and the Champions Trophy.
During the recent Buchi Babu tournament in Chennai, Srikkanth was seen having a quiet word with Ojha at Chepauk. “You got to make a player feel wanted. Keep him in the loop,” Srikkanth says.