August 08, 2020
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My Best One-Day Knock

Relaxing in his hotel room, the Indian opener gave an exclusive interview to Outlook. Excerpts:

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My Best One-Day Knock

That morning, Saurav Ganguly almost certainly couldn't have imagined that he was going to overtake the highest score made by an Indian in one-day cricket. He was three runs short of Kapil's 175 when Azhar reminded him that a record was in the offing. The great Kapil himself called it a  better knock  than his own in '83.

Whom did you dedicate this 183 to?
No one. I don't believe in that sort of thing.

How did it feel?
I think this is my best one-day knock so far. It was against the world champions and in an important game. Obviously, it wasn't easy, it never is. I batted hard. In the first 7-8 overs the ball was seaming around, but their bowlers gave a lot of room. Dravid played some great shots initially, which put them under pressure. He was brilliant. One side of the ground did have a short boundary, but one still has to connect when the boundary's short. And the fours I hit off Muralitharan weren't on that side. In any case, I was going for my shots.

You scored slowly towards the latter half of your innings against South Africa. Some people - Imran Khan for instance - said you were playing for your century. Your comments?
Nothing of that sort. No other team has scored 250 against South Africa. They have the best team. The best bowlers. I held the side together.

India's matches so far have been played on batting tracks. Haven't we been lucky?
Batting tracks! In England! I don't think so. The ball has seamed around a lot. I thought we batted exceptionally well in all four matches. We got scores of 250- plus and 300-plus. England got just 100-odd against South Africa at the Oval, and that is supposed to be the best track here. Sri Lanka got just 200 against us. If it had been a batting track they would have scored more. If it is a good batting track, that holds good for both teams.

What went wrong in the first two matches?
We came here three weeks ago and tried to acclimatise. We had a close match against South Africa, and against Zimbabwe we should have won easily, but we made a mess of it. However, I really feel that we have played very well in this tournament. I did not think we would be able to play so well, particularly after the two bad series we had in India and Sharjah. But the lads stayed focused.

We seem to be losing a lot of close games. Is a pattern emerging?
Not quite. We have won quite a few close matches in the last two years. At Dhaka in the Coca Cola cup, in Karachi and at Colombo too. And these are just the matches that one can bring to mind offhand. It's just that in this World Cup, some tight finishes went against us, it just happened at the wrong time, or we would have been through to the Super Six by now. But we will still be there.

You are said to be the only one who approaches Sachin in batting talent. Does this make you ambitious to close the gap?
I have never thought along those lines. But obviously, if I could achieve that, there would be nothing like it.I really don't know what else to say.

Any predictions for the semi-finals?
None. But if we keep playing this way we have a fair chance.

Lots of problems with the extras?
Yes. The ball is swinging a lot, much more than normal. Sometimes you don't know which way it is going to go. In Bristol, I bowled an outswinger in the first over and it went the other way for four byes. In situations where the bowler doesn't know what will happen, the batsman cannot. Also, at the back of the bowler's mind is the fact that this is England and people expect them to take wickets here. So they put in that extra effort. And then the ball is slightly different and a lot harder.

Do you like batting first or do you prefer chasing?
I prefer chasing because the wicket becomes drier by then and it steadies out. Mentally, I think it doesn't make a difference. You still pace your innings the same way. Of course, if you are chasing 300 or more then there is more pressure. Against Lanka we played positive cricket. Wickremasinghe has been bowling well in the Cup, but when he came on to bowl, we hit him for three fours. He just didn't know what to do.

Notable performances so far...
I think if I had to pick an outstanding player it would have to be Wasim Akram. 40 odd runs and then 3 wickets at crucial times against Australia. Klusener is also a good cricketer.

You have parted ways with Kingfisher. Do you think they are regretting that now?
I have no idea. I am with Britannia now.

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