August 4, 2003

Hemang Badani - Adapting to the conditions

Hemang Badani, who captained India A for the one-day part of their 11-match unbeaten tour of England, spoke to Wisden CricInfo shortly after he had returned home to Chennai. He told Anand Vasu why A tours are crucial in a player's development.

What were your main aims on this tour?
The first aim I set myself was to make some runs. After being selected for the Indian team and then being dropped, I knew that I had to make the most of my chance with the India A team. I had decided that this tour must make a difference to my career. In that sense I'm quite satisfied with what I've achieved. Sure, there's always scope for improvement, but I set myself some goals before the tour and in that sense I'm happy with what I've done.

Hemang Badani

What aspects of your game did you specifically use this tour to strengthen?
I decided that I would bat in a certain way. I've watched plenty of cricket in England and I knew how the flow of the game was likely to go. I knew what to expect in terms of assistance to seam bowlers. With this in mind, I had decided that I would not play certain shots - especially early on in my innings. I had a gameplan that involved taking more time to settle in than when I bat in India. It seems like a small thing, but I realised the importance of having a plan and following it carefully on this tour.

Specifically, what shots did you cut out?
Early in my innings I told myself I wouldn't play the cover-drive. As a left-hander, with the ball generally angling away, there was every chance that a nick would go to the slips if the ball swung late. Also, I made sure that I didn't try to work the ball to the on-side, playing across the line. Sometimes the ball grips the surface a bit, or seams in and then you become an lbw candidate. Anything short I made sure I went after, because that's a shot that pays off in England.

Another thing is the fact that I had to take more time to get my eye in. In India, once you've seen off the first twenty minutes or so, you have a fair idea about what the bowlers and the wicket are doing. In England this is hardly ever the case. Even if the ball is old, when the conditions get a bit overcast, it starts to do a bit in the air and off the wicket, so you have to get your eye in again.

For you though, the cover-drive and the flick are shots you make a lot of runs with ...
As a middle-order batsman the cover-drive is always a safe shot. But it's a question of adapting to the situation. It was the need of the hour. You can't say you will play a shot simply because it's your best shot. If you go to Australia, and driving is your strength, you might not get a single ball to drive at in a session because the bowlers are digging it in and the ball is at your chest all the time. You have to know what to expect and adapt to that.

Was the tour a rigorous one?
There was a lot of cricket being played. The maximum time off we got was two days. Even that we spent travelling most of the time. This means that you hardly got a chance to have a long net session or practice. The good thing about England though is that the drives give you a chance to spend some time together relaxing. You watch a movie or listen to some music, and before you know it people are playing pranks and having a laugh.

People say A tours are a great opportunity to see a few places and make some friends ...
Yeah certainly. You meet players day-in and day-out. I've played against some of these guys before. It's just like any other situation - you meet some great guys and others who are, well, not so nice. The thing about a tour like this is that you actually get to know people a lot better. At the end of the day, cricket is only a sport. Don't get me wrong - I fully realise how important it is - after all, it's my career. But you have to meet people after the game, have a chat, possibly have a drink with them and do those things. That's important as well.

Often, a one-day game was followed by a longer one, and the other way around. What was it like adjusting to different forms of the game?
That was one of the hard parts of the tour. The thing is, it's not ideal to play in this format. It's obviously easier for everyone if you can finish the one-dayers first and then go on to the longer games, or vice versa. But, as professional cricketers, you don't have much choice and you must simply make the adjustment.

At the end of the day you have to do it, and once you tell yourself that, you learn to make the adjustment. When you play the one-dayers, you're in one gear and then when it comes to a longer game you have to change. There are often days when you go into a three-day game in a one-day frame of mind. This is something you have to watch out for and focus. When one game is finished you have to leave it behind and get on with the next one.

For you it was probably one notch harder. You were leading the side in the one-dayers and playing under (Shiv Sunder) Das in the other ...
To be honest, this was not a problem at any time. Dassy and I go back a long way. We've played Under-19, zones and a lot of cricket together. Whenever he comes to Madras we meet up. He's stayed at my house once, we've spent many evenings together for dinner and that sort of thing. Dassy and me have no problems and from the beginning we were happy playing under each other. We were both just keen that the other should have a clean record of not losing any games on the tour!

How much have you improved on this tour?
I'm the kind of player who likes to play his shots. All my life I've not been afraid to go after the bowling and generally make a name for myself as a strokemaker. I had to try much harder in England to play in a disciplined manner. At all times I was thinking about being consistent and this I'd say is an improvement in my approach to the game.

Of the players who bowled under you, which ones do you think made the best of the chances?
It really wouldn't be fair on my part to single out any one player. If you look at the performances, everyone's taken around 15 wickets from similar number of games. That says a lot about how the bowlers worked together. There were many occasions when one bowler did well but didn't get the results. But that's how it goes in cricket and there's no point moaning about it.

You've been on A tours before, even before you played for India. What's it like re-visiting the experience?
To me it's a path to get back to the Indian side. That's one way to look at it. If I make runs in an A tour, I am going to be knocking on the doors of the selectors. You can't be saying: "I've played for India already, why should I be on an A tour?" You have to take these things in the right spirit. The bottom line is that everyone wants to play for his country. Every young cricketer must look at these tours as a way to work hard, improve and train his sights on the national team.