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March 12, 1999


The Rediff Interview /Dilip Doshi

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'I don't think Simpson should be with the side at all'

'You can't have two left arm spinners in a side' -- so ran selectorial wisdom of the time. It didn't seem to matter that during the same period, the same selectors felt comfortable with two off spinners playing in tandem -- it was double left arm spin that was taboo.

Tht thinking went unchallenged. And Dilip Doshi went unnoticed, thanks to the presence in the Indian ranks of Bishen Singh Bedi.

It is perhaps one of the ironies of Indian cricket, that today, when you have a paucity of genuine spinning talent, you tend to bump into a person who, not so long ago, couldn't make the grade because at that time, the problem was of plenty.

Even Bedi is on record as admitting that Doshi was his peer -- but such admissions don't go on the record books. What is there, in black and white, is that Doshi did manage to get to 100 Test wickets in just 28 Tests -- having entered the ranks late thanks to Bedi, and been forced out prematurely by the emergence of a Bedi-clone in Maninder Singh.

Currently managing director with Mont. Blanc Pens, the London-based Doshi was in India for a brief while the other day to open a boutique of crystalware. Faisal Shariff caught up with Indian cricket's nowhere man for an extended interview. Excerpts:

You have played a lot of your cricket in England, know the conditions better than most. So what is your assessment of the Indian shortlist of 19, can the side make the grade?

As far as I know, I am pretty happy with the squad with the exception of the new guys like Virender Sehwag, Nikhil Chopra and others. I have not seen these guys play, so it is improper for me to comment on their inclusion. I think our team is pretty balanced, but its only the consistency of the team that raises doubts in my mind. You know that our dismal overseas record is something that will have a bearing on the minds of the opposition, which will give them the upper hand -- especially since the World Cup will be played in the cold conditions in England.

You had expressed your disappointment on the exclusion of Sunil Joshi from the probables list...

No, that's not how I meant it. I was disappointed with the exclusion of Joshi but at the time, I was not aware that another left-handed bowler had been included. Now that you have told me about Gyanendra Pandey's inclusion, I am okay with it, though I have no idea if Pandey is of the same caliber as Joshi.

What aspect of our team do you think will give us our best shot at the Cup?

I would put my finger on the bowling, I think if we are to win the Cup, it will be because of the bowling. The onus is definitely on them, we have seen in reecent times that our bowling has developed inconsistencies. We need to weed out these inconsistencies, learn to bowl to a plan, have an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing batsman, have a clinical, planned approach to our play.

Don't you think the stress on inclusion of all-rounders in the side will boost our chances?

Which all-rounders are you talking about? The last all-rounder India had was Ravi Shastri. Essentially, an all-rounder is a player who has the capacity to bowl ten overs and bat at a higher number. Shastri was a spinner who could bat at any place in the order and carry it off, his bowling was an added bonus.

Frankly I feel that Saurav to some extent can be bracketed in the all rounders category, but that is it. He is one bowler who will get some purchase from the wicket. Under ideal conditions he can bowl his quota of ten overs tightly and open the batting. I think he and Sachin Tendulkar between them should be able to bowl 13-14 overs, and that would work well with the team plan. Barring Saurav, I don't think we have any all-rounders worth a mention.

What about Robin Singh? Or Kanitkar? They have been included as all rounders...

As far as I know, Robin is a batsman who gets going on tracks which suit him. So in him you have a batsman who can also bowl. But you see under conditions that don't suit him, he gets taken off the attack after 3-4 overs. So who fills in the other 6 overs? Another part-timer who might or might not finish his quota?

As for Kanitkar, I have not seen him play, so I am in no position to comment on him.

Do you think the current team depends too much on Sachin for results?

Sachin is a proven genius. There is no doubt about that. When you have a batsman of his stature, it becomes obvious that the batting should revolve around him. And that is a good thing, a player of his caliber could lift the spirit of the side, pushing his teammates to perform better. See, for example India won the Kotla Test without much of a contribution from Sachin. This proves that the team has it to win. It's only in the consistency department that we are lacking.

Talking of Test cricket, what do you think about the ATC?

I am all for the Test championships. Test matches should be first priority, though the sponsors and the boards will not be too happy with my point of view. I think that the ATC or for that matter the World Test Championships could do with a better format, though. Maybe the panel will alter the format, and I think with that, the championships could get more interesting.

Don't you think that the ATC was ill timed? This close to the World Cup, its more desirable to play one-dayers, don't you think?

No, I don't think so. LOIs should never be given preference over Test cricket. We are anyway playing too few Tests. If we were to do away with this also, we will end up playing only LOIs, and that would be a tragedy.

Don't you think that Bobby Simpson should have been with the team now, rather in late April?

Firstly, I believe that Bobby Simpson should not have been with the side at all. This whole exercise has been futile. Not doubting the caliber of Bobby as a world class coach, but then we have high class coaches in our country, we don't need to go out looking for coaches. If at all he was appointed, it had to be as a full time coach, instead of chipping in part time.

Whom would you place your bets on for this World Cup?

The World Cup always springs surprises. Everyone has a fair chance but yes I would think South Africa and Australia are the frontrunners for the Cup. India has won the Cup before, and has the team to do a repeat. I guess when you get right down to it, it is a question of which team gets its act together during the competition.

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