Indian team leaves for back-to-back tournaments August 16, 2004

Ganguly - 'We can pick up the momentum'

At quarter past midnight, with only hours to go before the Indian team left on a 40-day tour, that encompasses three one-day tournaments, Sourav Ganguly took a few minutes off his busy schedule to speak to the media. Even at that late hour he was relaxed enough to smile at the silly questions, laugh at the outright absurd ones, and tackle the more sticky ones tactfully.

Sourav Ganguly kept the media waiting, but in the end had plenty to say © Getty Images

On playing three back-to-back tournaments
We'll just take one tournament at a time. I think it's good for us to have two tournaments before the Champions Trophy. That's a very important tournament. We came off an off-season and didn't play well at all in Sri Lanka [in the Asia Cup]. So it's good that we get six games before the Champions Trophy. We keep on playing and are together as a team for some time. It's good for us and we can pick up the momentum.

On the approach needed against tough teams like Australia and Pakistan especially after a disappointing showing in the Asia Cup
To be honest we didn't play well in Sri Lanka. As a team we would not like to think of the Asia Cup because we had a poor tournament. We need to pick ourselves up and play well. We've played well in competitions against tougher teams in the last few years. It's not so much about the other teams, but about picking ourselves up and about how we play.

When India went to the West Indies in 2002 it was decided that Rahul Dravid would keep wickets till the World Cup. But the World Cup has come and gone and he is still at it ...
That's the best combination we have. You need depth in batting in one-day cricket today. That's what has won us games many times in the past. Our batting has come a long way and with Ajit [Agarkar] back in the team that does help a bit. If you look at good one-day sides, whether it's Australia, us over the last two years, or South Africa under Bob Woolmer, teams have done well because they've batted right down the order. I understand the question of grooming a wicketkeeper, but there's no opportunity to groom when you're playing for the country.

On the seven-batsmen policy that the team has embraced over the last two years
If we get a specialist keeper who can deliver consistently with the bat I've got no hassles playing with six batsmen. But we've not been able to find one who can do that under pressure at the international level. At No.6 and 7 you need batsmen with quality because it's not an easy place to bat, and we have Yuvraj [Singh] and [Mohammad] Kaif doing it. They have won us games under pressure so many times. I can remember the NatWest final, the qualifier to the finals in the Champions Trophy, and even the fourth one-dayer against Pakistan at Lahore.

On whether the lack of quality wicketkeepers is the problem?
We have wicketkeepers. But the issue is not about wicketkeepers alone. The issue is about a keeper who can score runs. [Dinesh] Karthik has scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket, [MS] Dhoni has just made a hundred for India A against Pakistan A. We actually need someone who can deliver under pressure in international cricket. I still feel there is a big difference between domestic cricket, A-level cricket and playing against the best teams in the world. We've picked Karthik on this basis and if he can deliver we'll be able to solve that issue.

On whether Karthik will get a chance to play in the forthcoming tournaments
We'll have to wait and see what our position is because our first priority is to win. We have to play the best combination which will make us win, and then see where we can take a look at Karthik.

On Zaheer Khan's absence
We'll miss him but he has to get fit. The break is good for him. He's never bowled at his best when he hasn't been 100% fit, so we want him to get fit and come back strongly.

On Mohammad Kaif's form, and whether he is batting too low down the order
He has batted at No.7 for too long. He's done a job for the team, which is why he has been with us for so long. He has played some outstanding innings, but we all must remember that he does not get enough opportunities. Judging his form will not be fair because he doesn't get the opportunities up the order. But he's definitely a prospect for going up the order. At the end of the day we must look at what is good for the team. A hundred at the top of the order and a 30 of 30 balls at the end of the game, at the end of the order, are both of equal value to me.

On Sachin Tendulkar's cautious approach in recent times, and whether the team had asked him to bat that way
Sometimes we ask him to bat through the innings, as we had done against Sri Lanka in the final of the Asia Cup. We'll have to sit and work out our gameplans after looking at the conditions in Amsterdam. We don't know whether it is going to be dry or whether the ball is going to seam around. [Virender] Sehwag is doing the job of playing shots at will at the other end. You cannot have two batsmen doing that. That's probably one of the reasons Sachin looks to bat through.

On how difficult it is to pick a spinner if India were to play only one
It is difficult. It depends on who is bowling well in one-day cricket at the time. It has been a difficult job for me over the last two years because we have two high-quality spinners in Anil [Kumble] and Harbhajan [Singh]. I just try to do what is best for the team depending on the surface.

On the fact that India will be playing nine Test matches virtually on the trot immediately after returning from the Champions Trophy
We saw the Championship table, and in the last one-and-a-half years India has just played nine Tests while some other teams have played as many as 20. So we're happy to play nine in a row, and we're looking forward to that.