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'Our Selection Committee Created Bench Strength, Results Are Showing Now' - MSK Prasad



MSK Prasad, along with Sarandeep Singh, Gagan Khoda, Devang Gandhi and Jatin Paranjpe, were key in India developing the bench strength that they have today.

India’s incredible series win in Australia was as much a victory of the backroom staff as it was of the players. While the young and inexperienced cricketers stood up and punched above their weight, it was made possible by the processes set up by the backroom staff and BCCI. Even as the likes of Ravi Shastri, Bharat Arun and Rahul Dravid get lauded – rightly – for their contributions, one set of former cricketers too would silently be feeling proud: the selection committee headed by MSK Prasad.

Prasad, along with Sarandeep Singh, Gagan Khoda, Devang Gandhi and Jatin Paranjpe, were key in India developing the bench strength that they have today. Prasad’s tenure saw the Indian team developing a strong India A set up which acted as a feeder system to the national team, bridging the gap between domestic and international cricket. India A ‘shadow tours’ before major series abroad became the norm, the rewards of which are being seen now.

Prasad speaks to Cricketnext about the processes that led to India winning in Australia for the second successive tour. Excerpts:

India’s bench strength has come to the fore now. How does that make you feel?

When our committee had taken up our roles, our thought process was was very very clear that we cannot do much about the current Indian lot. Our strength lies in developing a succession chart, in developing a good bench strength across all formats and departments of the game. For that, we’ve extensively traveled across the country, followed the neutral policy and without bias developed a healthy bench strength.

Fortunately, we had a wonderful combination with Rahul Dravid in India A and Ravi bhai in the senior team. Quite a few times we all sat together and created a pathway where the process is very smooth from domestic to India A to the senior level.

We had a very clear plan. What we’re looking at today’s series, except Natarajan, rest all were groomed through a systematic process of India A. The entire credit should go to my colleagues, our team, and also Rahul Dravid and his support staff and Ravi bhai and his support staff. The healthy environment that we could create for the smooth transition of the players is what helped.

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A simple example – the way Mayank Agarwal played in his Test debut in Melbourne two years ago speaks volumes about the effort that has gone in. He was playing as if he’s playing his 50th Test, because we’ve clearly prepared a shadow tour for the senior team. Whenever an Indian team travels abroad, the India A team travels a few months before so they get acclimatised. Test specialists will also be a part of the India A set up so that they also get ready by the time senior team arrives. This was the process, and that’s how we could create a substantial bench strength.

If you look at the last three years, whenever a senior cricketer got injured, we never worried or went ‘arrey who is the next successor’. Because there were many instances, apart from the 15 standbys, we would buy visas for another 10 guys. As and when somebody gets injured, the next guy is ready. You can clearly see the way they’ve played this series, I have a feeling we’ve backed the right guys.

How did the process start?

Simple theory. I’m a management student, I know what it is to develop a bench strength and a succession to the current regiment. I’m an MBA, and I know what happens to organisations that don’t have succession plans. Plenty of organisations were ruined because of a lack of this kind of planning. The first day when I took over as chairman, in my first press conference, I said our strength lies in developing substantial bench strength.

If you compare it to other committees, nobody has traveled as much as we have traveled. We would travel 180 to 200 days and none of us at any point in time were sitting in the house while matches were going on. Credit should go to the entire committee – Sarandeep Singh, Gagan Khoda, Devang Gandhi, or a Jatin Paranjpe.

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And we followed a neutral policy; none of us will be watching our own state games. In the four years’ time, I have hardly seen any Andhra games. Because I don’t want to be biased to my state. I’ve always watched other zones’ matches.

This is the kind of system we developed, earlier people would talk about bias, but we saw a Shahbaz Nadeem coming from Jharkhand… where are these guys coming from. This is what we’ve followed and I hope we’ve passed on the baton to the new committee on a good note. It’s up to them to take it to the next level.

You’ve faced your fair share of criticism in your tenure. Do you now feel vindicated?

In spite of criticism that usually gets attached due to the volume of cricket that’s played…we don’t mind somebody criticising us. If it’s constructive, we should take it in the right sense. But if it’s destructive, we would ignore it.

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God has always been kind. I’ve always felt your efforts are genuine, result are bound to happen. In 2018 we won for the first time in Australia. And within two years we have won again, and that too without all the superstars in the side. That says it all.

You were a part of the Australian tour in 2000 when India lost 0-3. Now you’ve seen back-to-back wins. How would you sum it up?

It’s phenomenal growth. Hats off to BCCI, we have to give credit where due. They were also very cooperative when we started the India A set up. They’ve also put the right people at the right place. Also credit to the IPL, the way our players are playing against the best of the business with confidence, the pressure, and the fighting spirit. Success or failure is a result of the efforts of the entire system, the selectors of the team management alone cannot just take the credit. It’s the entire system.

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