India’s Asia Cup performance will answer a lot of questions on WC prep

BCCI joint secretary Devajit Lon Saikia (photo:Twitter)

As the Indian cricket team prepares to take on arch-rivals Pakistan for the high-octane Asia Cup opener in Pallakelle on Saturday, albeit under a cloud cover, BCCI joint secretary Devajit Lon Saikia feels a lot of questions regarding the men-in-blue’s preparations for next month’s ICC World Cup will be answered in the prestigious continental tournament, which is being played in a hybrid mode.

The lack of a stable No. 4 batter in the Indian team’s line-up has been a major talking point going into the World Cup and while Saikia feels the technical team is better equipped with an answer, he however, is confident that the Rohit Sharma-led side has the potential to repeat the 2011 World Cup glory on home soil, when the tournament kicks off on October 5.

In a detailed conversation with The Statesman, Saikia spoke on a wide range of issues, ranging from the World Cup preparations, the development of women’s cricket, and the prospects of hosting Test cricket in Guwahati.



Q: The team has blown hot and cold in the ODI format, and tried quite a number of players, do you think given the current strength of teams like England, Australia, and Pakistan, India has a realistic chance of repeating the 2011 WC feat?

A: Definitely. Our team is in preparation mode and losing one or two matches here and there doesn’t make much of a difference, or affect the tempo or morale of the side. Cricket, as we all know, is a game of glorious uncertainties and therefore losing one match doesn’t matter. I believe consistency is the key and let’s hope for the best. I’m expecting our team to put up a fine show in the World Cup and eventually end up winning the tournament on November 19.

Q: We have tried many players in the crucial No.4 position, which was also the case during the 2019 World Cup. With hardly a month to go, we are yet to have a stable No 4. Your thoughts on that?

A: I’m not supposed to speak on the team composition and performance. For that, we have a technical team, and they are doing their best to find a stable middle-order batter for the No.4 spot. We are going to the Asia Cup with a full-strength side and I’m sure that the team will answer all those questions with their performance, which will boost their morale going into the World Cup.

Q: In all, 48 matches will be played during the ICC World Cup across the 12 venues and even though Guwahati was one of the shortlisted ones by the BCCI, the ICC eventually snubbed it. In hindsight do you feel the NorthEast missed a chance to host a WC game?

A: This is an ICC event, the final call is taken by them. As far as the BCCI is concerned, the Barsapara Stadium was one of the 12 selected venues. But as I said, the ICC takes the final call. Although Guwahati won’t be hosting the main draw matches, we are very happy to get four very important warm-up games, including one between India and England on September 30. So I am sure people (of the North East region) will get the full opportunity to watch the teams in action before the main tournament. This is a great opportunity for the Assam Cricket Association and cricket fans to get to watch the high-profile teams in action just on the eve of the tournament.

Also since it will be the final preparations for the World Cup, all the teams will be playing with their full-strength squads, I believe the matches will be very competitive. So, I don’t think we missed a chance, we got four big matches with the top five teams in world cricket competing. In fact, it is more than the one or two main round matches that would otherwise been allotted to Guwahati, had the city been selected as one of the venues.

Q: Could you elaborate on the arrangements made for the World Cup games across the venues as you are also a part of the inspection teams?

A: The comfort level of the general public has been kept in mind while undertaking the changes across all venues. That is one of the priority areas of the BCCI for all the venues, where the ICC World Cup main round and warm-up games will be held. The work on all the 12 stadiums is expected to be completed by September 15. The BCCI with Secretary Jay Shah at the helm of affairs is leaving no stone unturned to make the ICC World Cup a huge success.

Q: It has been more than two years since Guwahati has been projected as a Test venue. What are the chances?

A: We are in the process, and very soon there will be an inspection team travelling to Guwahati to assess whether Guwahati is capable of hosting a Test match. The final call will be taken by the General Body of the BCCI, so we’re in the process. We are hopeful of Guwahati hosting Test cricket in the coming days.

Q: Coming to women’s cricket, the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League hardly had a team from the eastern part of the country, not even a powerhouse like Kolkata. Are there any plans to expand the number of teams?

A: There was a scope for five teams in the inaugural WPL, and 10 places were selected, among which Guwahati was also selected. But the bigger thing is that players from all states and zones were part of the WPL. Whether Guwahati or Kolkata has a team or got to host the matches doesn’t matter, there are a lot of players in WPL coming from Bengal and the eastern part of the country.

With the success of the inaugural WPL in 2022, I’m sure the number of teams will definitely grow from five in the coming years, just like the IPL where the number of teams has gone up to 10 from the earlier 8. And accordingly, these cities will also hopefully get their own teams in the coming years.