DINDIGUL: Another Ranji Trophy season and another horrendous start for Tamil Nadu. The 71-run defeat against Himachal Pradesh was their second in as many games in Elite Group B. Batting was again the problem as they lost seven wickets for 42 runs in a chase of 217.R Ashwin, who ended the match with 9/110, spoke on various aspects, from cultural shift to reviving the MJ Gopalan Trophy to grooming youngsters for red-ball cricket. Excerpts:
103/3 to 145 all out. Was the pitch unplayable?
Definitely not. Exerting pressure on the bowlers is important. But first comes defence. If you can dominate a bowler, then you can move on. That understanding comes only with experience. There is too much inexperience and it’s unfair to say this is the way it should be done. I’ve spoken to the selectors. In the next couple of years, we need to pick 15-20 and play them come what may. That’s the only way forward.
Batsmen struggled against swing and spin. Technically, are they not equipped for first-class cricket?
It’s a rebuilding phase. I don’t think we are ready. It cannot start and stop with individuals. It runs deeper. Exposure to playing swing bowling is lacking. We need to go to events like the KSCA tournament. That was a major part of my growth as a cricketer.
I also feel it’s time to revive MJ Gopalan Trophy. It’s not like you send back two players tomorrow and get somebody else. That’s not going to change things. We need to understand this is not going to change overnight. Red-ball cricket is a different kettle of fish. In white ball, all the seniors were there after the group league. That made things look hunky-dory. But we need to be honest with ourselves.
What about the feeder system? The first division?
The pace of first division cricket is so slow. Shot making is almost impossible. It starts with the kind of wickets. For starters, we play in summer and Ranji Trophy is a winter event. We don’t make efforts to curtail all that. Our fast bowlers need some fillip. You can’t play on slower wickets and ask them to bend their back day in and day out. In age-group cricket, everybody plays in Group B or C.
If that’s where your junior cricket is, you can’t expect the feeder system to be any different. Today we saw K Mukunth play well (146-ball 48). That is surprising and pleasing. He is not a product of age-group cricket. He is a product of league cricket. Our last Test batsman, Murali Vijay also didn’t come from age-group cricket. We need to focus on what we need to do for cricketers. This ‘we’ includes administration, team management and senior players.
What about expectations from the senior players?
We can’t allow them to be the way they want. We need to make them inclusive and also need to take into account what they feel on board and get the maximum out of them. The last time when somebody like Badri (S Badrinath) left, it was not the right time for him to go. He went to Vidarbha. And Vidarbha actually grew. Somebody with such experience should be here, guiding our youngsters. We need to make use of their experience. It’s never going to be easy handling senior players. But you need to be able to manage them and get the best out of them.
Do you think there needs to be a cultural shift?
Yes, in terms of honesty. We need to be honest in saying I didn’t do this, I couldn’t do this and I want to do this. That will only come if individuals know they are backed rightly.