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No. 1 spot is our goal, says Srikkanth

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LEADING FROM THE FRONT: National selection committee chairman K. Srikkanth considers M.S Dhoni as an attacking captain and a good motivator.
LEADING FROM THE FRONT: National selection committee chairman K. Srikkanth considers M.S Dhoni as an attacking captain and a good motivator.

S. Dinakar

He feels Dravid is just one innings away from regaining form

Chennai: The selection of Sourav Ganguly for the Test series against Australia was a key factor in India’s famous triumph. The induction of leg-spinner Amit Mishra and opener M. Vijay into Test cricket during the series also produced the right results.

The National selection panel, led by Krishnamachari Srikkanth, got most things right during the high profile series. Taking time off from his hectic schedule, Srikkanth shared his views with The Hindu, here, on Tuesday.

Q: How challenging is it to pick the side during the days of transition in the Indian team?

A: We should, ideally, have a healthy blend of youth and experience. We now have the experienced Virender Sehwag as vice-captain to team up with a much younger (M.S.) Dhoni. Of course, any selection process requires judgment, luck and the grace of God. You cannot please all.

The transition has to be gradual but we have to get the timing absolutely right. Before the series, we felt that Ganguly with his experience could add to the middle order. We were criticised in some quarters but Ganguly delivered. Whenever there was an opportunity we gave the youngsters a run.

Both Mishra and Vijay appear to be good prospects…

Mishra is a genuine leg-spinner who is not afraid to flight the ball. As he gains in experience, he will develop greater variety.

Vijay is a correct batsman who can adapt to both forms of the game. He adds value with his fielding. How Vijay is used in the future would depend on the team management.

Does Rahul Dravid’s form worry you?

He is among the greats of the game. If you look at this series, he made a match-saving half-century in the first innings in Bangalore and looked good during his 39 in Mohali.

It’s unfortunate that he could not build on starts. I think he is just one innings away from regaining form. I am sure he will be back among the runs in the days to come.

What, according to you, was defining moment of the series?

It was the batting partnership between Harbhjajan Singh and Zaheer Khan in the Indian first innings of the Bangalore Test.

Australia had an opportunity to win but they missed out. They went downhill from there.

You were a very confident man after India saved the first Test…

I remember telling a surprised Garry Kirsten (India coach) after the fifth day in Bangalore that we would go on to win the series. Everything boils down to confidence.

You are also a very different selector in the manner you mix with the players. You are seen, here, there, everywhere…

At the beginning of my tenure, I asked the players – “Do you want me to behave like a selector or a friend?” They wanted me to be their friend. There is no point in holding a head against their head, looking at them with suspicion and behaving like a dictator.

Did Ricky Ponting’s post-tea tactics on the fourth day of the Nagpur Test surprise you?

It did because they had an opportunity to take control and possibly win the Test. It just shows how the mind stops working when a captain comes under intense pressure.

Australia was undone by India’s aggressive tactics…

The two attacking openers, Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, put the Aussie bowling on the back-foot. Their role was very important. The middle-order was in top form. We talked a lot about scoring quickly, hustling the opposition bowlers. The Aussies disintegrated mentally.

What are your impressions on Dhoni’s captaincy? Would you approve of his tactics – packing the off-side and asking his pacemen to bowl outside the off-stump – on the third morning of the final Test?

From outside it might have seemed defensive, but it was clever, hard-nosed cricket. Australia was seeking to level the series and needed to score briskly at that point. Dhoni is essentially an attacking captain but has his own methods. He is a good motivator, can take enormous physical and mental load.

The performance of the pacemen, Zaheer and Ishant Sharma, was exemplary on surfaces favouring batsmen.

No one can accuse us of winning on dustbowls now. Zaheer bowled with control and craft. Ishant was outstanding. When you bowl at that pace and consistently get the ball to dart in sharply and straighten the odd one, you are going to trouble the batsmen. Even on placid tracks, Ishant is getting the batsmen to hurry into their strokes. The spinners, Harbhajan and Mishra combined well.

India is now the second best team in Test cricket. Is the No.1 spot a possibility?

That’s our goal now. It is possible…God willing.

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