Quality fast bowlers the key

In this interview to The Sportstar at Adelaide, the Indian captain speaks on a few aspects of his batting and the team.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

SOURAV GANGULY is firmly in control, with a century in the first Test and a drawn result to boost the morale of the team.

Having played a significant part in this fine show by India in not allowing Australia to dominate from the world `go', Ganguly was looking forward to better times on the current tour of Australia.

In this interview to The Sportstar at Adelaide, the Indian captain speaks on a few aspects of his batting and the team.

Question: How do you view the start to this important series?

Answer: I thought we played well in the first Test. Getting used to the conditions for people like us coming from the sub-continent takes a bit of time. It's good we started well.

Now we have to grab the chance and make the most of this good start. We need to learn from the good start. From our ability point of view I think we're in a better position.

I was told that the Brisbane pitch was the quickest in Australia and we fared well. We stand a good chance in the coming matches and this actually gives the boys some very good opportunities to make a mark in Australia.

Sourav Ganguly on the banks of the Torrens river in Adelaide. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

India was written off by critics both in Australia and back home even before a ball was bowled. How did you take the criticism?

To tell you the truth, I don't read much of what appears in newspapers. I don't know who all wrote us off. At the end of the day, it all depends on what you believe in yourself and in the team.

We didn't come to Australia with any fixed ideas. For all 16 of us it is a big test. We all know we need to do well.

From a personal point of view, I took it up as a challenge. I knew if I score runs in this part of the world and if I lead the team well, I'll feel good about my abilities. It's very difficult for any touring team to do well in Australia but we want to change that trend.

Don't you think it is as important to win in England, South Africa and the West Indies as in Australia?

Yes, it is. Winning overseas is significant. Winning in the West Indies, England, South Africa is equally important. It is just that Australia is the best team in the world and you look forward to winning here. I was a little surprised by the hype, but things have fallen in place now.

How do you look at the current state of Indian cricket?

We've started to play well overseas. That's one aspect of our cricket that's gone forward. We have won a few one-day series away from home, reached the World Cup final and have started winning Test matches, if not series.

It's the mindset that counts a lot. The boys are enjoying touring and we've taken up this series as a great challenge.

How much have you enjoyed your captaincy?

Captaincy is very hard work. It becomes more demanding when you tour. The World Cup was my biggest test and I think I did well as a captain. That was a good feeling. But now I don't feel the pressure on this tour.

I've set a few goals and want to do well without worrying about the future. We just need to play good cricket and not worry about the result and the attitude.

Do you believe there has been a change in the attitude?

There's a change in the attitude. The boys know we are an unbeatable side at home, but they also know that it's important to win overseas, too. But to be called a very good side we've to start doing well overseas.

The boys know where the real test lies. We have to play well. We need to bat well, bowl well and take our chances. Against a team like Australia, you can't afford to allow the chances to go waste.

What changes have you brought about in your batting approach on this tour?

I've always tried to be positive. When you play quality bowlers, you've to wait for the bad balls and put them away when you get them. You can't just expect the bowlers to keep giving you bad balls. It's the ultimate test actually. I was happy the way I played at Brisbane.

Where will you rank this century (144 at Brisbane)?

I won't rate this as my best century. I still feel the century I got at Headingley was my best because that wicket did quite a bit, and we won the Test match. So that makes it special. But this one was special too but the Headingley one was better.

How do you look at things after the drawn Test at Brisbane?

Indian cricket is on the way up. I'm convinced that we're going to produce batters and spinners. That's where our strength lies. But we've to look at developing a system where we produce fast bowlers consistently.

Why so?

Believe me, if we have to win matches overseas we'll have to have fast bowlers. There's no doubt about it. I know the spinners can do it once in a while, but the job will have to be done by the fast bowlers in the first two or three days of a match.

When we tour overseas the home teams know our bowling strength lies in spinners and they just won't give us pitches which would help our bowlers. They always leave extra bit of moisture so that our spinners don't get that extra bit of assistance from the pitch. That's why I'm convinced that we need to have quality fast bowlers consistently to do well away from home.

What is the solution then?

The solution lies in some sort of an academy. We must have some process to identify fast bowlers and train them. We have to hire good coaches, good fitness trainers and good gymnasiums where the boys can go and train better. The involvement has to be complete and honest. We need to produce quality fast bowlers.

Ganguly at the Adelaide Art Centre. — Pic. V.V. KRISHNAN-

What do you have to say about this support team that travels with you?

You need them. John (Wright) has so much to handle. And we keep playing non-stop the whole year. It's not possible for John alone to handle the situation. We need these professional trainers who keep the team fit. You can see the difference in how our seamers have bowled in the last one year or so. Maintaining fitness is a tough job. It helps you keep the injuries away. These trainers know what the fast bowlers need and how they can be kept fit for a battle. The key lies in keeping them fresh and focussed on the job.

What about the bowling coach? Can't the team do without the bowling coach?

You definitely need a bowling coach. The fast bowlers don't get much help from coaches in India. There are minor defects that creep into your game and only a professional bowling coach can see them. Like your wrist position, your leg position, your follow-through. It helps when you get professional guidance. There are certain things even I wouldn't get to know. I'm not a perfectionist in judging the bowling techniques. So I think it's important to have a bowling coach.

Will you give yourself a bigger role as a bowler?

I know I should bowl more. In fact I had prepared myself for the series against New Zealand but then I got injured. I know I can contribute as a bowler but then I need strength in my body.

I'm trying to work on that. Maybe I can bowl 10 overs in a Test match and give the main bowlers some rest.