‘Hope we become number one again’

R. ASHOK

“It is going to be a tough season. We have had a tough time last year against England and Australia. But since we are playing them at home this time, I expect the Indian team to do well,” says K. Srikkanth to Rajeev Viswanathan.

During the re-launch of Sportstar in Madurai, K. Srikkanth, Chairman of the BCCI Selection Committee, spoke candidly on various issues ranging from Rahul Dravid's retirement, to the upcoming season and his four-year tenure which is coming to an end in September.

Excerpts:

Question: With this season having a lot of Test matches, how difficult is it to replace a legend like Rahul Dravid?

Answer: It is definitely not easy to replace a world class player like Rahul Dravid. He has been a pillar of the Indian batting line-up for the last 15 years. But a time comes when everyone has to go. Everybody can't be a Rahul Dravid. Someone will come and establish his own identity and serve the country in the coming years.

With Sachin and Laxman in the twilight of their careers a new look middle-order will soon be seen. As far as replacements are concerned who are the youngsters ready to take their spots?

It will not be fair on my part to name people. We have a good bench strength. There are a lot of young and talented players who are vying for places in the team. It is a cycle which every team needs to come to terms with. Sachin and Laxman, like Rahul, have done yeoman service for Indian cricket. One needs to be patient with these youngsters. They will deliver in the months to come.

Do you see India’s one-day series in Sri Lanka as a good preparation for the T20 World Cup and how positive are you about Yuvraj's return for the premier competition?

It is a good preparation as the T20 World Cup is being held in Sri Lanka. I am very happy that Yuvraj is back after his fight with cancer. You must have seen him practising in the nets at the NCA. I hope he makes a comeback for the T20 World Cup. Don't forget he was one of the architects of our T20 World Cup win in South Africa.

Yuvraj has gone through a really tough time. Do you see him playing Test match cricket as it is over five days and hence more strenuous?

Yuvraj is a born fighter. He will definetly want to fight his way back into the Test team. He is desperate to make a comeback into Test cricket and play all three formats of the game consistently. And I don’t see any reason why he can’t do it.

It is a difficult season with Australia and England touring India. How do you see the season ahead?

It is going to be a tough season. We have had a tough time last year against them. But since we are playing at home I expect the team to do well. The conditions are totally different as the pitches are going to be spinner-friendly. India plays well at home and I expect a competitive series this time around. Hopefully, we can come out with flying colours and become the number one team in the world once again.

There has been a constant breakdown as far as the fast bowlers are concerned. Most of them are at the NCA. What do you think is the reason for these frequent occurrences?

Fitness is a personal issue. The BCCI has a good rehabiltation centre in the NCA. The fast bowlers have a good place to train and keep themselves fit for the entire season. We have a good bench strength. I expect the new crop to come and perform whenever they get the opportunity.

How do you look at the new, revamped Ranji Trophy format?

It looks good. With 27 teams in the fray in three groups, I expect good competition as it allows all teams to enter the knockout stage. Also with the two bouncers per over rule coming into play it will be a good contest between bat and ball. A lot of games will be played by each team because of this new format and this is good. There was a desperate need to tweak the format as the old one was getting predictable. Let’s hope this will come out as a stronger format and help improve the standard of domestic cricket. But at the end of the day the pitches will hold the key.

S. SUBRAMANIUM

Recently Kevin Pietersen had announced his retirement from ODI cricket. Do you see players picking one format over the other considering the fact that there are big bucks in the IPL?

Kevin Pietersen’s retirement is his personal decision. I would not want to comment on it. It is also about players’ comfort level. He, I guess, always wanted to play Test cricket. There are players who feel they will only be able to contribute in the ODI’s. I always am a firm believer that Test cricket is where the real test is. I expect the top players in the world to give importance to it. How much ever money you get in the IPL, playing for the country gives a totally different sense of satisfaction.

You are coming to the end of your tenure as the Chairman of the Selection Commitee. How has the journey been and what has been your best moment?

It is definitely a very challenging job. And with it comes a lot of responsibilties. We started out wanting India to become the number one Test team in the world. We became the number one team and were there for 22 months. Our goal was wanting India to win the World Cup which we did, thus giving joy to millions of Indians all over the world. That has been my best moment as I had won it as a player too which was even bigger for me personally. Yes, there have been downs as well. It has been like a cycle. We had a very bad last year. The last four years have been like a roller coaster ride for me. But no regrets as I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

Lastly, what does Sportstar mean to you?

Sportstar is a world class sports magazine. International players of repute have respected it. As a youngster I would always stick my favourite players’ posters on the walls of my bedroom. That gave me great motivation to do well and be on the cover as well as on the centre page of the magazine. Top writers’ columns are something I follow regularly. I always, as a sportsman, will continue to follow this magazine.