Ahmedabad: Picking the Indian team for the ICC World Cup in the West Indies was no mean task for Dilip Vengsarkar and his fellow committee members Sanjay Jagdale, Venkatapathy Raju, Bhupinder Singh and Ranjib Biswal.
Vengsarkar and his committee had to deal with specific fitness and form related issues of some key players like Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, S. Sreesanth and Munaf Patel.
In this interview to The Hindu, Vengsarkar offered his frank views concerning the fitness and form of Pathan, Munaf and Sehwag.
Was the selection committee upset by Irfan's inability to play in the four match series against Sri Lanka?
The problem is Irfan has not got into the groove and that's because he has not played one-day cricket continuously for a long time.
I was keen that he bowl 10 overs for West Zone in the Deodhar Trophy match and hence he was selected for the first match.
One may bowl for hours in the nets, but match pressure is altogether different. It was definitely disappointing to see him out of action for the series against Sri Lanka. The team physio John Gloster declared that Irfan was fit and hence his selection in the West Zone team.
We picked him in the World Cup squad on the basis of his past records. He has the ability and is an important member of the squad, coming in to bat at No. 7 and giving sufficient depth to the batting line-up. There's no doubt that he's a very talented all-rounder.
Irfan's case is similar to Munaf's. Probably the BCCI and the selection committee did not want a repetition of the Munaf episode that happened in South Africa?
Surely. Munaf was declared fit for the second Test at Durban, but since V.R.V. Singh had bowled well in the first Test we did not bring Munaf into the playing XI. But when he played in the third Test at Cape Town, in reality he was not 100 per cent fit at all. One could make it from his movements.
He let the team down by saying he was fit. He bowled only one over in the second innings. But Munaf came back strongly in the one-dayers against Sri Lanka at Kolkata and Rajkot.
You must have been concerned with Virender Sehwag's inability to score right through the series in South Africa?
I was surprised he failed right through the series because he has tremendous ability and has won a lot of matches for India. Actually it was not his failure to get runs that caused concern, but the manner of his dismissals, the way he got out on most occasions.
He can play explosive knocks and win matches. We kept hoping that he would come off, but that did not happen. That's the reason we gave him a break so that he could come back refreshed after taking his mind off the rigours of international cricket.
Rahul Dravid has said that India will have to be smart in the field with key players manning critical positions. The other day Nari Contractor said India would be the worst fielding side?
Fielding is an important department of cricket. We have a fairly decent fielding side, but it's not extraordinary, but our batting line-up is the best.
Are you planning to spend some time with the captain and coach before the team's departure to the West Indies?
No. The team has enormous experience. Dravid and Sachin (Tendulkar) have played over 300 matches, Sourav (Ganguly) has played close to 300 matches.
All have been on the international scene for more than 10 years. Greg Chappell was a great cricketer. So they all know how to go about it.