Sehwag: ‘A coach should be a friend’

"Test cricket has always remained the same, but the batsmen’s thinking has changed because of a lot of Twenty20 cricket. Now they take more risks in Test matches," says Virender Sehwag.

Virat Kohli in action during a One-Day International match against Sri Lanka in Hambantota. Kohli, according to Sehwag, is a perfect example of a batsman who has both power and good technique.   -  REUTERS

He is a lot more relaxed and witty now. When asked what is more exciting, playing a quick-fire innings in limited-overs cricket or scoring a triple hundred in Tests, Virender Sehwag answers, “Getting 1,000 re-tweets.”

 

At a time when world cricket is busy comparing the qualities of batsmen such as Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Virat Kohli, the former India opener is entertaining fans on Twitter with his one-liners.

Speaking to Sportstar during his recent trip to Chennai, Sehwag touches upon a variety of subjects like the role of a coach in cricket, Anil Kumble as India’s coach, pink-ball cricket and much more.

Question: You come across many young cricketers today. Do you see any difference in their approach from the time you started playing cricket?

Answer: Cricket is the same as it was then, only the thinking has changed. Nowadays, in Test cricket, we see openers playing over the covers, or over slips, playing upper cuts and getting to their centuries with sixes. It is a good thing that they are changing their thinking and not the game of cricket. Test cricket has always remained the same, but the batsmen’s thinking has changed because of a lot of Twenty20 cricket. Now they take more risks in Test matches.

Now there are plenty of T20 leagues creating opportunities for the youngsters. However, most of the leagues are creating batsmen rather than bowlers. Is it affecting cricket overall?

Not really. We have seen bowlers who have made their careers through the Indian Premier League. (Ravichandran) Ashwin, (Jasprit) Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar are some of them. So, the leagues give opportunities to everyone, not just the batsmen. We perhaps get such an impression (that the leagues provide more opportunities to batsmen) because batsmen are seven and bowlers are four. However, bowlers are also given the opportunity to display their talent. At the end of the day, performance matters, not that you are a batsman or a bowler. If you perform well, you will get into any team.

At the moment, the position for India’s batting coach is vacant. Are you interested?

No, I don’t have the time. I don’t think the Indian team needs a batting coach since they have a lot of good batsmen. They need a bowling coach.

Anil Kumble as India coach — how do you see it?

I think he is the perfect man to coach India. He has scored a century and picked up 600 wickets in Test cricket. He is the most positive person I have ever met; he never gives up and that is the reason why the young team can learn a lot from him.

What do you think will be Kumble’s biggest challenge?

When India plays against better teams like England, Australia and South Africa, how Kumble helps his team handle the pressure — that will be his biggest challenge. England, at the moment, is playing the best cricket. It will be a big task for us when England tour India. I hope India will do well, the way they did against South Africa last year when they won 3-0. This time India will, hopefully, beat England 4-0.

How much did coaches influence your career?

A coach should be a friend, because at the international level you don’t need a coach. You need a friend who can motivate you.

 

What is needed to excel in T20 cricket — power or technique?

Both are equally important. If you have power and use good technique, then you can score more runs. Virat Kohli is a perfect example and he is the combination of both.

The Indian team has three openers now, three good openers. How do you leave out one of them?

India always had three openers for overseas tours. You need a competition like that, where all the three openers are amongst runs. It is good to have a challenge in your team, where the best performer will play. It is up to the captain and the coach to decide who the best performer is.

What do you think will make the crowds come back to watch Test matches?

If the big stars are there in the Test team, then people will come and watch.

Do you think pink ball will attract crowds?

I don’t think so. It’s the game that will bring in more crowds, not the ball.

You have been part of a team that played seven batsmen and four bowlers for a long time. Do you think the six batsmen option puts a lot of pressure on the top order, or on the batsmen coming in at No. 4, 5, or 6?

It is the captain’s call. If he wants to play with five bowlers, it is his choice. When I was playing, Sourav Ganguly wanted to play with seven batsmen. Rahul Dravid wanted to play with five bowlers. Why should I worry about sixth or seventh? I should worry about myself. It is my job to give a good start to the team. I should worry about my play and scoring runs, not who will come and bat at four, five or six. I don’t think there is any pressure on any of the batsmen; they are all professionals. They go out to play well, score runs — hundreds if they can. They are giving their best. What is important is they understand their roles and give off their best.

Do you see anyone breaking your record of triple-hundreds?

Yes, there are so many players (who can do that). You just need a day and a half.

Which of the two triple-hundreds is close to your heart?

The one that I scored in Multan.

What is your view on cricket coming up in the districts in Tamil Nadu and players from the districts getting opportunities to play in the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL)?

I think it is a great opportunity for the kids from the districts. Now people will watch them playing in the TNPL because it will be telecast live on Star Sports, which is big. So, if a kid playing for his district is picked by one of the teams in the TNPL and he lives up to his talent, maybe he will be selected for the Tamil Nadu team to play in the under-19 or under-23 tournaments, or in the Ranji Trophy. And then, maybe some IPL team will pick him and he will get a chance to play for India. It is a big platform, great opportunity for young cricketers to show their talent.

I was remembering my playing days when there were a lot of businessmen, who provided the platform. Now, associations are organising these leagues; it is happening in Rajasthan, Karnataka and will soon happen in other places too. It is a great opportunity. These small leagues will produce tomorrow’s big stars.

Do you think the TNPL will be as exciting as the IPL?

It should be, because the format is like that and it is going to be telecast live. The entire country will be able to watch it. It is a good opportunity for the youngsters.

Would it have been better if outstation players were allowed to play in the TNPL by the BCCI?

It is Tamil Nadu Premier League, so players from Tamil Nadu should get the opportunity to play in it. If I play the TNPL, then one youngster from here (Tamil Nadu) will have to sit out. Players playing the district matches usually don’t get selected to play in the under-16 and under-19 tournaments, so now they have the opportunity to display their skills. If you are a good player, you will be selected to play in the TNPL.

What in your opinion is important to sustain such leagues for a long time?

Good franchises and good owners, who believe in the sport. If they think this is a business, then they are in the wrong place.

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