Azhar, Jadeja can play if proved innocent: Pandit

Written by: Nivedita Aluri
Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2002, 15:05 [IST]
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Hyderabad: From donning the gloves for India to shaping the fortunes of Mumbai team, Chandrakant Pandit has now taken up an onerous task. Once invincible Mumbai team has off late found the going tough in the domestic arena and it's up to Pandit as the new coach to revive the fortunes of this Western state.

Thatscricket.com spoke to Pandit on his new role and Indian cricket per se.

"The two-tier domestic format is a very good concept. All the teams will be on their toes since there will be relegation and promotion in this format. This will improve the quality of the game, players and the teams," he said.

"There is no reason why they (Azhar and Jadeja) shouldn't play if they are proved innocent. Yes - they should be allowed to play," he added.

Excerpts of the exclusive interview:

How do you enjoy your role as a coach?

It's a big responsibility. Mumbai is a reputed team. I was the coach for Mumbai under-19 team, which did very well to win the nationals after four years. That's why probably I was chosen for this job. There are high expectations and it's a big challenge for me. I enjoy challenges and I suppose I will enjoy this challenge too.

What are your views about the new two-tier domestic format?

It's a very good concept. All the teams will be on toes since there will be relegation and promotion in this format. This will improve the quality of the game, players and the teams. It'll do a world of good to the game, as it'll become more competitive. There will be a constant of pressure on the players to perform well.

How do you rate the current Mumbai team?

Though lot of people have been rating Mumbai team as a good team, I would say it is a strong team. It is a blend of youth and experience. We are rebuilding the team and it should be on top in one or two years. In the absence of Sameer Dighe (who announced his retirement) and Vinod Kambli (who is currently busy with Bollywood assignments) as well as Sachin and Agarkar on duty for India, Mumbai is trying its best to rebuild its team with the youngsters. There are experienced players like Paras Mambhrey, Sairaj Bahutlule, Nillesh Kulkarni and Wasim Jaffer to guide the juniors.

Do you think Bahutule should have been given more chances to prove himself?

What happened to Sairaj is really unfortunate. Too much of pressure and expectations at higher level at times don't let the player to blossom at the higher echelons. Though I feel he should've been given few more chances I still feel he has a good chance to make a come back. He is doing well and is one of the main Mumbai bowlers.

May be some day he would do some justice to his talent. I think even Amul Muzumdar should have been given more chances. They should be allowed to play without any pressure. They are quite young and I think they will do their best to make a come back.

What about Wasim Jaffer's axing?

He is one of the good opener's in the domestic scene right now. Players at higher level should be encouraged more. More opportunities should be given to them to adjust to the pressures and expectations at the international levels.

He has good potential and should be encouraged. He is a good prospect for the future of India and I am sure he'll definitely prove good given a little more time to settle the at international level. He is doing well and hope will be considered for the New Zealand Tour.

What are your views about Indian Cricket Players Association

It might work if they are serious. Basically there should be good communication between the players and the players association. Domestic players should be given importance, apart form the Indian players.

Though BCCI is doing well now to improve the domestic scene, ICPA could take up the cause for the players at domestic level. Infrastructure, ground facilities, training facilities still need to develop a lot when compared to Australia, South Africa and few other countries. Hope it does not turn up to be a flop show as it was previously.

Do you think age matters for a player's selection?

No, not at all, I am totally against the age criteria. If a 35 or 36 year old is doing much better than a 17-year-old then there is no reason why he should not continue serving the team. In fact, experience also counts. Experience of a senior player is definitely worthy for the team.

Do you think if proved innocent Jadeja and Azhar should be given a chance to play?

There is no reason why they shouldn't play if they are proved innocent. Yes - they should be allowed to play. Jadeja has always been a good motivator in the team and has always given his best to the team and has played many match winning games. Personally I feel he is innocent.

Azhar is one of the fittest and to my knowledge he still maintains his fitness and playing for some clubs at Hyderabad and doing well. He has been one of the greatest players India has ever produced, and as I said age shouldn't matter at all as long as the player performs.

Do you think Agarkar is getting a raw deal in Test matches?

Actually the team management has no choice. Both Zaheer and Nehra are doing quite well because of which there is very little chance for another pacer to get in. unfortunately, he doesn't find a place in the Test team. Otherwise I feel he can do well in the Tests also, there is nothing like he is only best suited for One-dayers only. I am sure he can do well in both formats of the game.

Being a former Indian wicket-keeper, do you think Rahul Dravid should keep wickets or should India opt for a regular wicket-keeper even in One-dayers?

I feel India should look for a batsman/wicket-keeper. After Sadanand Vishwanath, Kiran More, me and Mongia India hasn't had a consistent wicket-keeper. There have been a lot coming in and going out frequently.

Wicket-keeping is a very important job. Dravid is a key batsman for India. If a keeper is injured you can replace him but if a top class batsman like Dravid is injured you cannot find a replacement. Though he is doing well I would still prefer a regular wicket-keeper. I wouldn't risk a top class batsman. Selectors should choose a wicket-keeper/batsman and let him settle down in international arena.

What do you have say about young Parthiv Patel?

He definitely has tremendous potential and is very talented. I have watched him during under-19 matches. I feel the selectors must continue with him. He is a long- term prospect so he should be nurtured carefully and helped to improve.

A lot can be expected from this young mlad. He should remember that there is no hurry for him and learn from his experience. As he gets more experience he'll definitely learn a lot of things. The more matches he plays, more confidence he would gain.

As he is still young, he'll learn things faster and will improve match by match. But selectors should continue with him and give some time for him settle down. I feel the longer a wicket-keeper plays the better he gets...the best example for that is England's Alec Stewart.

Do you think India has a chance of winning the World Cup?

Why not? At this juncture India is doing extremely well. I think if they continue this way it definitely has a good chance to win the World Cup. The team spirit is high and so is the morale. I feel India will win the World Cup.

Your words of wisdom for the young aspiring wicket-keepers...

Wicket-keeping is a very responsible and important job. A wicket-keeper is the back- bone of the team. Every ball is important. If a bowler gives away four boundaries it may be forgotten, but if a keeper does a good job the whole day and drops a catch at the end of the day his entire day's good work will be ruined. He is a big motivator for the team and he needs to concentrate and be focused all the time.

It's a tough job. So youngsters need to work hard and be focused all the time.


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