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The newly-appointed senior selection committee of the BCCI has already sprung a surprise by announcing an India ‘A’ team without even a single spinner in the lineup for the three-day warm-up match (starting October 30 at Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai) against the visiting English side. Chairman of selectors, Sandeep Patil, after much cajoling, agreed to talk to the Unreal Times about his strategy for the upcoming India-England series. Excerpts of the interview are as follows:
Unreal Times: Thank you for speaking to us, Sir. We are your huge fans! It’s such an honour to meet you in person.
Sandeep Patil (smiles patronizingly): Thank you
UT: Still remember your dashing batting, Sir. What panache! What aggression! You were truly the Suresh Raina of that era!
Sandeep’s smile disappears, and a glare takes its place
UT: Er.. that came out all wrong. Anyway, moving on to the interview.The India ‘A’ team you have announced has no spinner . . .
SP (glares for a few more seconds before speaking up): That precisely is the strategy. Deny the English batsmen the much-needed batting practice against Indian spinners in the warm-up match and then unleash Ashwin et al on them in the first Test match. The English batsmen wouldn’t know what hit them (chuckles).
UT: Is that in the spirit of the game?
SP (annoyed): All is fair in love and cricket.
UT: But the English side too has a couple of first-class spinners in Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. The English batsmen can rely on them for some extra practice against spin at the nets.
SP (triumphantly): Yes, we know. But practicing against your own spinners at the nets is not similar to practicing against Indian spinners on turning tracks. That brings us to our second tactic. We’ve asked the curator to prepare a pitch that offers pace and bounce for the India ‘A’ vs. England warm-up game. The Englishmen will be surprised when they enter Brabourne Stadium for their three-day match. A green top would be awaiting them.
UT: The point?
SP: The point is, the English batsmen don’t get to play our spinners, and their tweakers don’t get a chance to bowl on spin-friendly pitches before the first Test match.
UT: Is that all by way of preparation?
SP: We’ve also arranged a huge crowd at the Brabourne Stadium to support the English side.
SP: Yes, the arranged crowd would be rooting for the Englishmen in the three-day match and thus lull them into false expectation. And when the English cricketers turn up for the first Test match at Motera, Ahmedabad, starting November 15, they will see the ‘ulta’—turning pitch, Indian marquee spinners, and home crowd baying for English blood (laughs hysterically).
UT: There are two more scheduled warm-up matches before the commencement of the first Test. Are you going to follow the same strategy for those matches too?
SP: Of course. We’re just trying to milk the home advantage to the last ‘e’. We’re also trying to find out if Kevin Pietersen (KP) could be persuaded to covertly exchange text messages with our team members as to how to get their key batsmen out. He has done it once for South Africa, his former home, and he can do it for India, his IPL home. And given that KP shares great vibes with the IPL page-3 circuit, there shouldn’t much difficulty in getting KP to double-cross his adopted team one more time.
UT: Any other surprises, Sir?
SP: Yes, we will have Harsha Bhogle and ex-English players to do the toss, commentary and post-match presentation in the warm up matches, but come November 15th, we’ll unleash none other than Ravi Shastri on them (guffaws for a full minute before calming down)
UT: That sounds rather cruel, Sir. It appears that you’re out to prove a point or two to someone.
SP (gravely): Undoubtedly. There is a public perception that we are a bunch of jokers, thanks to the canard spread by a dumped-cricketer-turned-dumped-selector. We just want to prove that we are serious about this selecting business. Also, we expect that when the BCCI announces one-time benefit payment to ex-selectors in the future, as they did recently for ex-players, it would take all these services into consideration and reward us handsomely.
The interview came to an abrupt end when Sandeep Patil saw BCCI chief, N Srinivasan, emerge from a nearby building, and immediately broke off and ran toward him with folded arms.