Written by Sandeep Dwivedi | | February 15, 2015 6:52:52 pm
Virender Sehwag, member of 2011 WC-winning team, spoke to Sandeep Dwivedi about the problems and prospects of the current squad, what went right during 2011 and about how it was between the players during an Indo-Pak WC game
You have had two great World Cups and a forgettable one. How did you use to prepare for the big tournaments?
I am always little worried about the practice games because some players score in the practice matches. Like Dinesh Karthik, he scored two hundreds and a fifty before the Champions Trophy and when the tournament started he was not able to score runs. So I preferred to avoid playing in them. So I used to enjoy serving drinks during the practice games and getting ready for the World Cup match.
Don’t miss: India vs Pakistan!
You didn’t want the runs to be wasted..
Sometimes, it happens with some players like me.
Gary Kirsten might have had a similar philosophy in this regard.
I don’t know. I played a lot of practice games and missed couple of practice games as well. When I feel confident and that I’m ready for the tournament, I stop practicing and playing the matches. I was just focusing on mind-set. Because I was getting out more with my negative thoughts rather than my batting techniques. Before the World Cup…individual preparation matters rather than team preparation. Yes, they can plan, especially the bowling department can plan where to bowl and how to bowl to individual batsmen. But for batsmen, there is an individual thinking, individual preparation. I was preparing myself and I was never a part of all the general team meetings, I was sitting there and giving my views but after that I was preparing by myself.
So, before the tournament opener against Bangladesh in the 2011 World Cup, you had a plan?
Yeah, I gave a statement that it was a revenge game for us and it was enough to motivate myself to go out and score against Bangladesh.
First ball of the World Cup you hit for four…
That was in my half and I just hit and it went for four.
How big was that game in front of a big crowd. You had to win it because it would have been tough otherwise.
I knew it. When I was batting, I was telling myself and even Tendulkar also, that we have to give a good start because in last World Cup they beat us and because of that, we were out of the World Cup. Let’s give a good start and score big.
How was the journey throughout the 2011 World Cup?
There was only once that I had a concern. That was the quarterfinal against Australia. I thought that if we can win this game, we will win the World Cup. That was the only concern. We knew we can beat Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and any other team in India because we had been playing so well over the last couple of years. Our team was gelling well. The kind of batting and bowling we had, we knew we could beat any side. Everybody was contributing in that World Cup. Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Suresh Raina and Yusuf Pathan and the top 5-6 batsmen. I knew it. That’s why I was calling my friends and asking them to come watch the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. I told them. I have tickets for you. If you want to come, just send me an SMS.
Was there a moment when you thought this is slipping and a moment where you thought it is in our grasp?
No, there was never a moment like that. Even in final when we lost two early wickets, Sachin got out and I got out. But I wasn’t concerned. I was sure that till the time Gautam is batting, he will maintain the required run-rate and he will win the game for us. The kind of form Yuvraj Singh was in, and we knew MS had not been scoring. So we knew he will score in some game and he did that. I was confident. I wasn’t bothered.
Do you remember any instance of a wicket that you had planned falling into place?
You guys say that I have a short memory and now you are asking me things from 2011(laughs). Whatever we planned for the 2011 WC, everything clicked. We executed our plans really well. Like we tried Yusuf Pathan for a couple of games and then Suresh Raina came in for the knockouts. Then Yuvraj bowled well in a fifth-bowler role. We knew when he could bowl and when he couldn’t. MS used him very well. Our third fast bowler, Munaf, did a great job for us.
Do you guys laugh about pressure on the eve of a India-Pakistan match?
We did that in Mohali as well. We cracked jokes. I remember I was going down in the lift and I was with a couple of Pakistani fans, they asked me for photographs and I posed for a couple with them. Then they said please let us win today. Our World Cup record is already very poor (laughs). I told them let’s see what happens. Whoever plays better will win.
Players were cool too after the game?
They were also cool. We met them after the game. They congratulated us and told us that even they thought India will win the World Cup.
How was MS Dhoni’s captaincy throughout the 2011 World Cup?
Whatever we discussed in the meetings he just executed those plans. He applied his instinct too at times. Overall he handed it really well. He made some crucial changes in the bowling, like he brought Yuvraj at right times. He knew when to use Raina and Pathan. Sometimes they didn’t work as well. We sent Yusuf in the powerplay but he didn’t score runs. MS used his players really well.
Was he open to suggestions?
Oh yeah. Always. Everybody was giving suggestions to him. He was clever enough to know which ones to implement. He was a very good listener.
There has been a pattern of World Cup winners having experienced batting line-ups and an experienced core who come up with suggestions. This time he is with a team who haven’t played much.
Yes, but if you look at their numbers, Raina has played more than 200 matches. Kohli has played 150 games. Even Rohit Sharma has more than 100 games, and Rahane has more than 50 games. Ashwin has almost 100 games.
Let’s be honest, you guys are students of the game. These guys are still learning.
At some stage, they have to take responsibility. The learning part is over for Kohli, Rohit, Rahane and Raina. They need to start playing like senior players. I think they will do that in the World Cup, because is an important tournament for every player.
The Indian team you were a part of was very good at chasing. MS Dhoni is a firm believer of leaving it late and feels that you can get 100 odd runs in the last 10 overs. Do you agree with that in a place like Australia with their big grounds?
If you look at this young India, they are the same guys who chased around 360 twice against Australia in India. In Australia you will get wickets like India. Adelaide is very much an Indian track. We’re playing one game against West Indies in Perth. And the UAE, too, but that doesn’t matter. Our only problem is South Africa.
Our bowlers haven’t really done well though.
They’re still learning. They are young boys. We need to give them some time. If a batsman flops in four innings he is not dropped but if a bowler bowls badly in four games he is dropped.
They will miss someone like Zaheer, Munaf or Nehra.
I know they lack experience but this is the time for the youngsters to grab the opportunity. Do something for the team and win it. It’s unfortunate that Ishant is not part of the World Cup squad because of injury. He was the right choice for the Australia tour because of the pace and bounce he has. He would easily have given a hard time to the batsmen.
There is a suggestion that with Ishant not there they could open with Jadeja or Axar?
I don’t know how the spinners will bowl in Australia. They are not attacking options.
Do you think India have a realistic chance this time?
If you look at the pool, India will play the quarterfinal. If we finish on top of the group we might get to face England or Sri Lanka, who we can manage to beat. It depends who we are playing and where we are playing the quarterfinal. I am sure India will easily make it to the semifinals.
Is that one big factor that you fear is missing?
No. The only factor that is missing is the kind of role that Yuvraj played in 2011. We need that kind of player. I don’t know who can fill that spot this time. Because there are six batsmen and four bowlers and the one man who is missing is an all-rounder or a bowler. ‘it’s important how we fill that spot.