Virender Sehwag: Small leagues like TNPL make way for big stars for tomorrow

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Virender Sehwag is the brand ambassador of Madurai Super Giants team in the inaugural edition of TNPL. Picture Courtesy: TNPL Media Team

By TNPL Media

Former India opener Virender Sehwag was in the Chennai on Wednesday to promote the Madurai Super Giants team in the inaugural edition of Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL). The Nawab of Najafgarh was at his witty best, as he took questions from journalists in a candid media session. The only triple centurion for India in Tests (two in fact), spoke about the opportunities available for youngsters in the TNPL, coaching youngsters and the demands of playing in all three formats.

Here are the excerpts from the interaction:

On TNPL:

Q: You come from the outskirts of Delhi. What do you feel about players from districts in Tamil Nadu getting an opportunity in the TN Premier League?

Virender Sehwag (VS): I think it is a great opportunity for kids who are playing in district teams. People will watch them since it is going to be telecast live on Star Sports which makes it a big platform. A talented kid picked by one of the teams (in TNPL) can show his skills. He can then play for Tamil Nadu Cricket Association as an U-19 player, U-23 player or in the Ranji Trophy. After that, an Indian Premier League team can pick him and then he might get a chance to play for India as well.

It is a big platform and is an opportunity for young players to show their talent. I remember during my days businessmen provided these platforms and now the associations are providing platforms to organize leagues. It has happened in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and will happen in North India also. These small leagues make way for big stars for tomorrow.

Q. How does it feel being associated with Madurai, which is a very famous temple city in India?

VS: I got the call and I immediately said ‘yes’ because if someone calls me for cricket, I am ready to be a part of that association.

Q:. Do you see a difference in youngsters’ approach nowadays, when compared to the time when you started playing?

VS: Cricket is the same, but the thinking has changed. Nowadays in Tests, openers are playing over the covers or over the slip cordon or upper cuts and celebrating their centuries with sixes. It is a good thing that Test cricket has remained the same, but the approach of the batsmen has changed with the advent of Twenty20 cricket. Now, they take more risks in Tests.

Q: Youngsters are more attracted to batting than bowling in T20 leagues. Do you think it will affect the game in the long run?

VS: Not really, because we have seen bowlers who have made their careers through the IPL. (Ravichandran) Ashwin, (Jasprit) Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar are a few names I can think of. So, the leagues give opportunity to everybody and not just the batsmen. Maybe it gives such a feel because batsmen are seven and bowlers are four, but bowlers are also given an opportunity to showcase their talent. At the end of the day, performance matters and not if you are a batsman or a bowler. If you perform well, you’ll get through any team.

Q:. Do you think a consistent T20 player who scores runs in domestic leagues like the TNPL will excel in Test cricket as well?

VS: Yes, definitely. At the end of the day, if you know how to score runs, you can score in any format of the game.

Q: Which quality is more vital to do well in T20 cricket? Power or technique?

VS: Both are equally important. If you have power and use good technique, then you can score more runs. Virat Kohli is the perfect example and he is the combination of both.

Q: What do you think is an important factor for such T20 leagues (Like TNPL) to sustain for a longer time?

VS: We need good franchises and owners who believe in the sport. If they (owners) think that this is a business, then they are in the wrong place.

Q: Would you have been happier had outstation players be permitted to play in the TNPL?

VS: It is TN Premier League, so players from Tamil Nadu must get chances. If I play in the TNPL, then one youngster from here (Tamil Nadu) will have to sit out. Players playing the district-level matches don’t get selected to play Under-16, Under-19. So, now is their opportunity to shine.

Q: A lot of foreign coaches and mentors have been roped in for TNPL. How much do you think that will help the district cricketers?

VS: It will definitely help them in a long way, only if they understand English! When players like Michael Bevan, Haydos (Matthew Hayden) spend time with youngsters and share what they were doing when they were young, what they did for Australia, what they felt when they were out of form etc, it is a big boost for youngsters.

For example, when I spend time with students in my Sehwag International School and teach them how to score runs, it helps them. I am lucky that kids understand what I say and implement whatever I tell them about their batting.

Q: Why do you think Tamil Nadu players do not succeed that well in T20 domestic tournaments?

VS: Simply because other teams are good! I do not know how the league systems work in Tamil Nadu, but in Delhi we have T20s, T30s, then forty-over games and then the leagues. So there we play a lot of league cricket and that is why players coming from North India are better in the shorter versions compared to Test matches.

On Indian team and various aspects of the game:

Q: Recently, you tweeted about the poor turnout during the West Indies-India Test match. What do you think will attract more crowds to the longest format of the game?

VS: I think crowd is less in India also, but since we have a better population when compared to the West Indies, we have a few thousands watching Test cricket. Also, Tests are not popular in the West Indies as they were when big stars played for them during 1970s and 1980s. If big stars are involved in Test matches in the West Indies, I think more people will come and watch the game. But their big stars are not playing.

Q. The Indian team has three openers in Tests now. Do you think it is a good headache to have?

VS: We always have three openers when we tour abroad. You need competition. You need all the three openers to be among the runs. It is good to have this kind of a challenging environment, This way the best performer will play. It is up to the captain and coach to decide who the best performer is.

Q: Presently, the role of the batting coach for the Indian team is vacant (Sanjay Bangar’s position will be up for review at the end of the West Indies tour). Would you like to take that post?

VS: No, I don’t have time. I don’t think the Indian team needs a batting coach since they have a lot of good batsmen. They need a bowling coach.

Q:. How do you look at Anil Kumble as the Indian coach?

VS: I think he is the perfect man to coach India. He has scored a Test hundred as well as picked 600 wickets in Test matches. He is the most positive person I have met; he never gives up and that is the reason why the young team can learn a lot from him.

Q: What do you think will be Kumble’s biggest task as the team’s coach?

VS: The biggest task is defeating sides like England, South Africa and Australia when they tour India and how he copes up with pressure (remains to be seen). England, at the moment, are playing their best cricket and I hope India does well against them, just like they did well against South Africa in Test matches, last year.

Q: You were a part of an Indian team that has played seven batsmen and four bowlers for a long time. How do you think the current 6-5 theory will work in overseas conditions? Will there be any pressure on the top order?

VS: I think it is the captain’s call altogether. When I was playing, Sourav Ganguly wanted to play with seven batsmen and Rahul Dravid wanted to play with five bowlers. I’d be worried about how many runs I will score and not about who will come and score at positions no.6 or no.7. I think the players know to deal with pressure since they are all professionals.

Q: How much did your coaches influence you?

VS: A coach should be more of a friend than a coach since at international level you don’t need coaching. You just need a friend who can motivate you.

Q: What did you tell to Axar Patel (when you mentored Kings XI Punjab), after he got hit by MS Dhoni for 23 runs, in the match between KXIP and Rising Pune Supergiants during the IPL this year?

VS: I just told him that he is not the only bowler to be hit by Dhoni. There are international bowlers who have been punished by Dhoni and Axar was one of the victims. They have to learn to move on. If a batsman gets out on zero, doesn’t mean he will get out again on the same score. Same logic applies for the bowler as well. That is the beauty of the sport.

Q: Are you going to continue to play first-class cricket?

VS: I have retired from cricket (official tournaments conducted by or involving the BCCI). But I would like to play against Shoaib Akhtar in the Master Champions League, if it happens.

Rapid Fire

Q: What is more exciting? Scoring 300s in Tests or quickfire 100s in the shorter versions?

VS: Getting 1000 retweets on Twitter. We were not allowed to tweet when we played cricket since we had signed the contract with BCCI.

Q: Do you think David Warner has taken the Virender Sehwag approach of playing the same way in all the three formats?

VS: Yes. There are other players like Chris Gayle as well, who follow that approach.

Q:  What do you have to say about Kohli, Joe Root and Kane Williamson comparison?

VS: I don’t believe in comparisons since all three are playing in different conditions.

Q: Do you think pink ball will attract more audience to Test cricket?

VS: I don’t think so. The game will bring more people, not a cricket ball.

Q: Your advise to Cheteshwar Pujara, who is struggling for runs.

VS: Every cricketer faces a bad patch. Players like Sachin (Tendulkar), Rahul Dravid to name a few, went through struggling phases.

Q: You are the only player to score a triple hundred on Indian soil. You see anybody breaking that record?

VS: Yes, there are so many players who can do that. You just need one and a half days.

Q: Which one is your favorite triple hundred?

VS: The first one (The one in Multan).

Information Courtesy: TNPL Media Team

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