Kolkata: If there is one factor about India’s sojourn in England which bothers Dilip Vengsarkar, the ‘Colonel’ of Indian cricket, is the way the itinerary has been planned for the World Test Championship final and the five-Test series against England.
Vengsarkar, the former Indian captain and the man with the highest number of centuries for an overseas batsman at the Lord’s (three), feels that there can be no substitute for acclimatising with the conditions with a few practice matches ahead of such a high profile game as the WTC Final. ‘‘See, in countries like England, Australia and New Zealand, you need time to settle down. We have a very balanced side but I feel they should have been better prepared for the first edition of such a big game with a few warm-up matches under their belt,’’ he said.
Virat Kohli & Co, who were supposed to have been occupied with the IPL if it had run it’s course till May 30, landed in the UK on June 3 and have been allowed to get down to practice at the Rose Bowl ground after a soft quarantine for three days. While they will be plunging headlong into the big game, New Zealand have arrived in England much before in the latter half of May and will have two Test matches under their belt against England before the marquee contest from June 18-22.
Speaking to Gulf News in an exclusive interview from Mumbai, Vengsarkar - who had also been a chairman of national selectors - said: ‘‘We have a very good team, it has some world class batsmen, good fast bowlers and spinners. It’s a balanced team which has been dominating in all formats for a while. However, the only worrying part is they will be going into a game with a world title at stake and no match practice. I hope they do well.’’
The choc-a-bloc calendar for international teams these days, along with the windows for the T20 franchise leagues, have somewhat undermined the importance of the tour games - such an integral part of England tours in the past - in recent times. Vengsarkar, however, is a firm believer in getting used to the conditions well and didn’t mince words in criticising the current BCCI President Sourav Ganguly for agreeing to such a tour plan.
‘‘It’s upto the BCCI to decide if they want match practice or net practice on such a tour. I feel there is nothing like spending time in the middle to assess the form and fitnes of a player. I am surprised the despite someone like Sourav Ganguly, who has played over 100 Test matches being the BCCI President now, it was not possible to organise a few warm-up games,’’ Vengsarkar said.
On a similar vein, he expressed surprise at the BCCI agreeing to a six-week gap between the WTC Final and the first Test in England, which gets under way on August 4. ‘‘I am astounded. I find this is too huge a gap without any competitive cricket. They couldn’t possibly going to practise every day,’’ he said.
Asked to assess the Kiwis as opponents, Vengsarkar said: ‘‘They have always been a low profile team, which reduces the expectations on them. However, they have been doing well in all formats and had almost won the ICC World Cup in 2019. They have a good team with a fine leader and batsman in Kane Williamson, a world class swing bowler like Trent Boult and will have the advantage of having played two Tests against the hosts as a preparation.’’
Both (Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal) are good openers and have sound technique. Gill has tremendous potential and did well in the last overseas tour of Australia, hence he should be ideally given the break
Looking ahead at both the assignments, who would be his his choice to partner Rohit Sharma as the opener - Shubman Gill or Mayank Agarwal? ‘‘Both are good openers and have sound technique. Gill has tremendous potential and did well in the last overseas tour of Australia, hence he should be ideally given the break,’’ he said.
While India’s Test batting line-up selects itself with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane batting from number three to five, there could be a question mark over six and seven - what with India lacking a seam bowling allrounder like Hardik Pandya. Asked whether someone like Shardul Thakur can fill in that role as he can act the fifth bowler, Vengsarkar felt it’s call left to the tour management.
‘‘It depends on the think tank. The presence of a seam bowling allrounder solves the problem of a fifth bowler who could bat at No.6 or 7. If they go in with an extra batsman and four bowlers, then there can be a problem if one the bowlers suffers an injury. It’s a tricky situation and the likes of Ravi (Shastri) and (Virat Kohli) will have to take a call,’’ he added.