Prasad: ‘To succeed, you need to be humble’

“A major disappointment this year has been the fact that neither the bowlers nor the batsmen could deliver. When you falter in both the departments, expecting a good result is too much,” says Venkatesh Prasad of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s dismal performance this season.

Venkatesh Prasad is averse to taking the performance in the Indian Premier League as the criteria for selection at the national level.   -  R. ASHOK

Venkatesh Prasad is all praise for Bhuvneshwar Kumar (in pic, with Sunrisers Hyderabad coach V.V.S. Laxman). “Even if you are slow, you should be consistent, and that should be enough. That’s what makes Bhuvneshwar Kumar stand out,” says the former India fast bowler.   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

“Virat Kohli is obviously someone who leads from the front. That is outstanding. Yes, he is aggressive, he expresses his emotions. But at the same time, he scores runs too. So, he is a captain who leads by example,” says Venkatesh Prasad.   -  Sandeep Saxena

It’s not often that Venkatesh Prasad speaks his mind. But when he does, floodgates open! The former India medium-pacer, who is now the chairman of the National junior selection committee, is not too happy with the way his city team, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), has performed in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season.

What has gone wrong with the star-studded side? According to Prasad, it’s all about lack of planning. As a struggling RCB ended its campaign at home (M. Chinnaswamy Stadium) with another defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders, Sportstar caught up with Prasad, RCB’s head coach in the first season of the IPL, in Bengaluru to talk on issues that have mostly been avoided so far.

Excerpts:

Question: It’s been 10 years since the IPL began and RCB still hasn’t managed to win a title. Having been the head coach of the team in the first season, how do you see this?

Answer: It was not this bad during my period, my friend. Even after the first season, I returned as RCB coaching staff in the fourth and sixth seasons, and then we reached the final of the IPL. We even went to the final of the Champions League T20. But yes, in the first season, the combination of the team was pathetic.

You really think so?

Yes. There was quality, there was talent but the aggression was missing. The players were not apt for this format. You can imagine... we had Rahul Dravid in our ranks. The other day, Rahul was telling his boys at Delhi Daredevils that it’s good that they have not watched him bat. That was an honest confession. There was Dravid, Wasim Jaffer, Jacques Kallis among others. They were not suited for this format. Also, they couldn’t adapt to this format immediately. They are great players, but not suited for this format.

In the very first game of the IPL in 2008, RCB was sent to the cleaners by Brendon McCullum. I still remember that match. Chasing 200-odd runs, we were busy judging the ball and blocking it. You can’t do that. The quality of players was not ideal for this format.

What do you think has gone wrong for RCB this year?

Firstly, the strategy was not right. For a team’s success, strategy plays an important role. There is another thing that I think has played a role (in RCB’s poor performance), and that is planning. RCB lacked planning. You need to understand that just having somebody, who has played 100 Tests as the coach, may not be the best of decisions. It’s not necessary that a good player can be a great coach. It doesn’t happen that way.

Are you hinting at Daniel Vettori? Do you think that he failed to motivate the boys?

(Laughs) Well, I am not taking names here. Look, you may be a very good Test cricketer but that doesn’t mean you will be able to deliver as a coach. That is one area the RCB team management needs to look into. We need to realise that you need coaches who would be able to mix around with players and understand the things. For that, one need not be a star cricketer. That’s what I am trying to say.

A major disappointment this year has been the fact that neither the bowlers nor the batsmen could deliver. When you falter in both the departments, expecting a good result is too much. This time, none of the players has been able to show grit and steel.

So, even you admit that it has been a collective failure?

Of course, RCB failed as a team. They did not plan as per the situation, nor did they address the conditions. The opponents could exploit them. I think it’s time RCB learns how to be humble. That is something I have never seen in its approach.

Do you mean that the team should stop being aggressive? Is that what you are trying to say?

You may put it in whatever way you want to. Arrogance or aggression — I am not using those words. All I am saying is, it has to be humble. As players, as a team, it is important to be on guard. Whether in success or failure, you have to be humble in your approach. Over a period of time I have seen too much of arrogance. That humbleness is missing from the side. You need to understand that being humble is very important for a team’s success.

What is your take on Virat Kohli’s captaincy this season? Do you think RCB’s embarrassing performance this season will have an impact on captain Kohli in the future?

I hope not. Virat is obviously someone who leads from the front. That is outstanding. Yes, he is aggressive, he expresses his emotions. But at the same time, he scores runs too. So, he is a captain who leads by example. No matter what, he compensates for other lows with his batting and by scoring runs. The loss doesn’t affect him.

It has been 10 years since the IPL started. Do you think it has changed the face of Indian cricket?

Let’s make it clear. IPL, generally, is not the best of competitions. It may be outstanding for entertaining people, as the legends of cricket play here and it also provides a chance to the young guns. But from a cricketing perspective, if you look at the teams, you would see each side has only five-six very good players, while the rest are just okay or average.

It is not on the same level as international cricket. In international cricket, most teams have players who are all outstanding. After all, you need that balance to match up to other international teams. In an IPL franchise, you don’t even have a good playing XI.

So, where is it going wrong?

There are four-five good players while the rest are average. In that sense, we shouldn’t take this as the criteria for selection at the national level. Yes, I agree that this helps you get a couple of players, but it can’t be the only benchmark. As selectors, what happens is that you need to closely monitor players across all formats in terms of performance and then take a call.

If there is an open auction next season, should all the franchises think differently when it comes to selecting the players?

No matter what, you do come up with more or less the same team because the local talent is not all that great.

Are you saying this as the chairman of India’s junior selection committee?

Look, there are players like Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant and a couple of other guys who are really good. Even Nitish Rana is a good talent, but then the IPL is not the parameter for selection to the Indian team. That’s what I am trying to say.

In T20, you just need to go out there and hit. If you hit it well you are a hero, if you don’t they slam you. Challenge is for the bowler in T20, so that should be kept in mind while going for the auctions.

Which bowler has impressed you this season?

Bhuvneshwar Kumar. People need to understand that everybody can’t be bowling at 145. There could be someone bowling at 135 kmph but would be very disciplined. You need bowlers like that. What’s the point in having a bowler who bowls at 145 but is all over the place? Even if you are slow, you should be consistent, and that should be enough. That’s what makes Bhuvneshwar Kumar stand out. I hope he plays to his strength and does not try to do something else to impress others.

This season, most of the big foreign recruits have failed to deliver. Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum… none lived up to his reputation. Is it time to look beyond?

This is exactly what I am saying. The franchises should not just go by big names. They need to understand that if somebody has retired from international cricket and is not fully associated with the game, he would find it very difficult to sustain himself in this format. The best example is Brendon McCullum.

But what are the franchises doing about it? Are they thinking about all this at the player auction? I am sorry to take a few names, but it is important to understand this. If you have to come to this format, you need to be playing. Chris Gayle only plays T20 these days, but he has been a big disappointment, there’s no doubt about that. Dropping him from the playing XI shows that the team has no confidence in him. On the other hand, Kedar Jadhav was the only guy who was doing very well. He is an amazing player, but is under-rated. He can be very effective. Even the franchise management needs to look at this. I guess, this time the RCB didn’t have the right combination and they didn’t make the right choices. The result is disappointing. But as a ’keeper, Kedar missed quite a few catches and stumpings, but the team carried on with him. These days, every franchise talks about rotation of players. So, what happened to getting the right combination?

You seem to be quite vocal about the combination. Do you think that from next season, the franchises should take some tough decisions?

Yes. When Pune dropped Dhoni as the skipper, there was a hue and cry. But one has to ask the question, why? Why did the Supergiant suddenly change Dhoni as the skipper? It’s not just about the brand. Dhoni is a far bigger brand than Steve Smith. But Smith is captaining Australia in all formats. He will grow probably, and that will help him in IPL too.

Dhoni being Dhoni, who is a downright team player, accepted it, and went on supporting the skipper. Well, that’s being humble. I hope you got what I meant. To succeed, you need to be humble first!