'Talk about Sachin's retirement is crap'

It was yet another disappointing day for India in the series against England. Surely, the Sandeep Patil-headed national selection committee would not have been impressed by the spineless bowling performance dished out by Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s bowlers on Day Two of the third Test here at EdenGardens.

Firstly, the selectors alongwith the captain decided to retain the same squad which figured in the previous Test at Mumbai – extraordinary selection considering India lost by 10 wickets in Mumbai.

Sachin Tendulkar cools off at the end of Day Two at the Eden Gardens yesterday. Pic/Ajay Roy

The selectors will surely be under pressure to make some changes for the fourth and final Test at Nagpur no matter what happens in the Eden game.

Raja Venkat, who was part of the previous selection panel headed by Krishnamachari Srikkanth knows all about selectorial headaches.  MiD DAY caught up with the former Bengal stalwart, who chose not be at the stadium for the first two days of the Test.

Raja Venkat

Excerpts from a chat:

On talk about Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement:
People have been talking about Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, which is crap. We don’t have apt replacements. Recently two senior cricketers — Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman — quit the game, but we don’t have their replacements. Even if you look at the Test squad, we took three years to find a replacement for Sourav Ganguly, who retired in 2008. Eventually, Virat Kohli filled the spot to some extent. Now, if Sachin retires, do you have a substitute? All said and done, he may not be the same batsman as he was five years ago but Team India still needs Sachin to hold fort. However, I would say Cheteshwar Pujara is best of the younger lot in terms of playing big innings.

On India’s struggle in this home series:
Basically, there’s nothing much that can be done. But I feel there is a need of a leg-spinner in the side. Secondly, the fact is that the two English spinners (Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar) are bowling better than our spinners on turning tracks. You cannot blame anybody. Unfortunately, if you see Ranji Trophy matches, there isn’t any spinner to write home about.  The same old faces are there. Amit Mishra is doing well and unfortunately we pushed him out. I don’t mean the selectors, but the team management. He was selected several times, but wasn’t played.

On whether there is a lack of talent:
Yes. Even 10 years ago, we had one Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh at their best. Now, these bowlers are not in the same class as Anil or Bhajji at that point in time.

On the team he is expecting to be picked for Nagpur:
Frankly speaking, there isn’t much on offer. Who will you select? A bowler like S Sreesanth vanished, Varun Aaron came and disappeared. Umesh Yadav unfortunately is injured.  So Zak (Zaheer Khan) was our best bet seven years back and he is still the best.

On what’s wrong with off-spinner R Ashwin:
The problem with him is, he uses his surprise weapon too often. For any bowler, surprise deliveries should be bowled once in three or five overs. He had developed the carrom ball, but he uses it too often and has become predictable now. He should have used it sparingly to remain effective even on a docile surface. Similarly, Harbhajan lost his rhythm by bowling too many doosras.

On MS Dhoni’s captaincy:
I don’t want to comment much on that, but I would say that few things he does are absolutely strange. In the Mumbai Test, Zaheer was the only medium-pacer we had in the XI, but he didn’t get a chance to bowl with the new ball. In the second innings, he didn’t bowl at all. I don’t find any logic to this.

On why he is not at the Eden Gardens:
(Laughs). I don’t like to go to CAB (Cricket Association of Bengal). I have never approved the way Jagmohan Dalmiya (CAB president) functions, so I stay away from the association that he heads. But I met the players at a function on Monday. I exchanged pleasantries, that’s all.  

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