In a chat with The Indian Express former India skipper Sourav Ganguly speaks about Yuvraj Singhs comeback,the state of Indian batting after Sachin Tendulkars impending retirement,why it is important to back senior players Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan and what makes medium-pacer Mohammed Shami a prospect for Test cricket. Excerpts:
How do you rate Indias performance in the on-going ODI series against Australia?
The win in Jaipur by chasing down 359 was sensational. Both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli were fantastic. MS Dhoni played a great innings in Mohali and though India lost the match. India have been the most consistent ODI team in the past few months.They bat with a lot of confidence. As far as bowling is concerned,the first three matches were played on flat pitches and it was difficult for the bowlers to make an impact. The bowling unit,however,has to learn quickly from their mistakes. It was very encouraging to see Shamis first spell in Ranchi. I think he bowled really well.
Did you expect the Australians to be this competitive in this series,especially,after they lost the Tests series in India 0-4 earlier this year?
Australia are a very good limited-overs side. They have specific players for specific roles and are very professional in their approach. Their batsmen have handled the Indian spinners well,while Mitchell Johnsons return to form has made their bowling a lot more potent. India are World No.1 in ODIs and Australia are No.2 You expect a tough contest when the top two sides play.
You welcomed Yuvraj Singhs return to the ODI team. With Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane waiting in the wings,do you think it would be wise to back Yuvraj with an eye on the 2015 World Cup?
India need Yuvraj in the next World Cup. Hes a match-winner,so dont write him off after just a couple of failures. He got two good deliveries. Yuvraj must be persisted with.
But bounce continues to trouble him and the next World Cup is in Australia.
If you judge precisely on that scale,a lot of players will be caught out. Lets not get into that. Yuvraj should play the next World Cup. He will perform.
What about Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan?
They must immediately be brought back into the Test side. Dont forget India will be playing 13 Tests overseas in the next one year or so. And you need players with pedigree and experience in those conditions. And Sehwag and Zaheer have those qualities.
But Sehwag has done virtually nothing since being dropped from the Test side. And theres always a concern over Zaheers fitness.
A player of Sehwags class shouldnt be judged on his performance in domestic cricket and List A games. He should be judged by his Test record. Zaheer still is the best pace bowler India have. He can do so many things with the ball. And I assure you that both Sehwag and Zaheer are not yet finished.
Sachin Tendulkars retirement will create a void at No. 4. Whom do you see as his possible replacement?
A couple of places would be up for grabs,No. 4 and No. 6. You need a specialist batsman at No.6 in overseas conditions. And my choices are Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina respectively. Theyve the game and are the best options available.
You must be pleased to see Shami,bowling so well a player whom you mentored as Bengal captain in the season before the last?
Not only in limited-overs cricket,Shami is ready for Tests as well. He should be there in the Test side. Hes got the pace,has the ability to move the ball,can bowl yorkers and has a deceptive bouncer,which troubles batsmen.
Coming back to Australia,whats your assessment of George Baileys captaincy and batting?
Hes leading by example and Australia look very cohesive under him. Hes got a good cricketing brain as well. But Michael Clarke still is the best choice as Test captain. As far as Baileys batting is concerned,Im really very impressed,especially the way he paces his innings.
Should Bailey be picked for the Ashes?
He will be picked for the Ashes. He will probably bat at No. 6.
Who start as favourites in the return Ashes series?
England will start as favourites for the return Ashes series. Theyve got the experience and quality top-down. For Australia to upset England,many things need to fall into place.