Chairman of selectors optimistic about India's chances in England May 28, 2007

Fitness of fast bowlers a serious concern - Vengsarkar

SS Ramaswamy

Dilip Vengsarkar was concerned about the fitness of some India's players but is optimistic about their chances in England © AFP

Expressing deep concern over the frequent breakdown of Indian bowlers, Dilip Vengsarkar, chairman of the selection committee, put the onus on John Gloster, the team's physio, and Greg King, the trainer, to keep the players in good condition. Vengsarkar, in an interview to the Press Trust of India said it was for Gloster and King to find out the reasons for the injuries as the team could ill-afford to lose the services of its strike bowlers after having played only a few games.

"It is a matter of great concern for all of us. There are a lot of matches to be played during the season and the frequent breakdown of bowlers is definitely not a good sign," he said. "I feel the physio and the trainer have to play a big role in keeping all the players, especially the fast bowlers, in prime condition all the time. We just can't afford to see our main strike bowlers nursing injuries just after one or two games," he said. "Both Gloster and King will have to call the shots on whether the bowlers are working out too much or less than what is required," said Vengsarkar, referring to the recent injuries to pace bowlers S Sreesanth and Munaf Patel both prior and during the tour of Bangladesh from where they returned home early.

Looking back on the Bangladesh visit which ended triumphantly for India after their shock first-round exit in the World Cup, Vengsarkar said that he was quite impressed with the margin of victory in both the one-day and Test series. "Whether it is Bangladesh, New Zealand or Australia, winning is what matters. There is no doubt that India was expected to beat Bangladesh, but I am really impressed with the margin of wins both in ODIs as well as in Tests."

India, whose surprise defeat to Bangladesh led to their exit in the first round of the World Cup in the West Indies, avenged the loss with a convincing 2-0 margin of victory in the one-day series after their hopes of a 3-0 rout was spoilt by weather with last one-dayer washed out. India took a winning 2-0 lead by winning the first two ODIs at Mirpur by five wickets and 46 runs respectively.

India then crushed Bangladesh 1-0 in the Test rubber by clinching the second and last Test in Mirpur by an innings inside three days after the rain-marred, drawn opener at Chittagong which hosted the washed-out final ODI too.

On the continued poor form exhibited by Virender Sehwag, who was chosen only for the ODIs in Bangladesh, Vengsarkar felt that the Sehwag looked to be in great touch as long as he was in the middle but needed to carry that forward and build up partnerships. "Sehwag looked in great touch as long as he was at the crease. However, I feel it is more important to play long innings for the team and try and build up partnerships. The experienced players have to show the way to the juniors."

Asked whether Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, who were rested for the preceding ODI series, are in the running for the one-day squad for the forthcoming off-shore series in Ireland and Scotland after their run of big scores in Bangladesh, Vengsarkar said he cannot comment as there were four other selectors in the panel. "Both are great players and have performed consistently for many year at the highest level. As a matter of fact I can't talk on behalf of selection committee as there are four other selectors who form he panel," he said. While Tendulkar scored hundreds in each of the two Tests to emerge as the man of the series, Ganguly notched up a ton in the drawn opener at Chittagong.

The Lord of Lord's is hoping someone will come to the party like he did © Getty Images

Vengsarkar, however, hinted that the best possible team would be chosen for the three one-dayers against South Africa in Ireland and the one-off ODI, for Prince Charles Charity Trust, in Scotland against Pakistan. "Well, it is not possible to send the strongest team for all the off-shore matches. We will have to select the team which not only has a good combination but also we will have to make sure the key players are kept fresh all the time, which is bound to be an Herculean task. For, we will have to ensure that the team keeps winning as well as the players are physically and mentally fresh.

"Now, India will be pitted against the strong South African and Pakistani outfit. Hence we will have to send the best possible team," he said. The selectors will meet in Bangalore on June 12 to choose separate squads for the four off-shore one-dayers and the subsequent three-Test series against England in July-August.

"I guess we will be selecting separate teams for the one-dayers in Ireland and for the Test matchers in England. As far as the seven one-dayers in England and the Twenty20 World Cup (in South Africa in September) are concerned, we will be selecting the team during or just before the last Test match in England," Vengsarkar said. The off-shore one-dayers against South Africa are slated for June 26, 29 and July 1 while the one-off tie against Pakistan is to be held on July 3.

India would move over to England thereafter to engage the hosts in three Tests at Lord's (July 19-23), Trent Bridge, Nottingham (July 27-31) and The Oval (August 9-13). A seven-match one-day series will follow at the conclusion of the Test rubber from August 21-September 8.

Vengsarkar insisted that the third opener's role would be played by make-shift Test opener Dinesh Kaarthik over the next few tours. "Yes, on a longer tour like England, a third opener is a necessity," he said. On Kaarthik, who scored his maiden Test century in Bangladesh in the second Test after a half-century in the opener, Vengsarkar felt that the youngster had to potential and attitude to succeed at the highest level. "Dinesh has the potential and the attitude to succeed at the highest level. He has showed it in South Africa as well as in Bangladesh. His innings in the first ODI (58 not out) when the match was precariously placed was out of the top drawer."

Vengsarkar felt five pace bowlers would be needed for the England tour and was pleased with the performance of youngsters Rudra Pratap Singh and Ishant Sharma, a late replacement for the injured Munaf Patel, in Bangladesh. "I guess five would be ideal number of fast bowlers on a tour like England. Both RP (Singh) and Ishant (Sharma) bowled very well. Mind you, the wickets at Bangladesh did not have the bounce at all and the bowlers had to beat the batsmen in air by sheer pace or depend on the reverse swing to be effective."

Sharma made his international debut in the second Test and picked up his maiden wicket in the second innings while RP Singh grabbed six wickets in two Tests.

Vengsarkar, who achieved a unique distinction of scoring three hundreds in successive tours at the hallowed Lord's cricket ground, said that playing side-on and not squaring up would be a key to succeeding as a batsman in England. "The ball moves in the air and off the wicket more in England than anywhere else. The batsman is never set, for the old ball too does enough to get wickets," he said. "I feel while batting concentration is the key and staying side-on and not squaring up is vital for success. Every batsman has a different technique. The key is to adapt quickly to the conditions."

The selection committee chairman also held high hopes for the Indian team in England when asked to rate its chances. "(The chances are) very good. We have a very good team that consists of players with loads of experience as well as potentially high-class players. I am sure we will do extremely well."