Mumbai: An agitated Krishnamachari Srikkanth lost his cool on Wednesday when he was prodded about the decision to rest Virender Sehwag for the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, beginning March 12.
The chairman of selectors announced the squad for the series in Mumbai and said Sehwag and Zaheer Khan had been rested on medical grounds. He was asked if the decision was in fact based on form which was refuted. ” I assure you that no one has been dropped from the side. BCCI received a report from the team physiotherapist saying that Sehwag and Zaheer need proper rest,” he said. (Related: Squad in pics)
On being further probed by a reporter, Srikkanth lost his composure. “Boss you just Shut up.You dont’ talk like that now. Ok that’s enough. You keep quiet. Aap aise googly bol-bol ke baat karega toh mai bhi gussa ho jaega (If you talk in circles then even I will get angry),” he said.
“Asking the same question in different ways will not get you a different answer. It is the honest truth. I am not giving any other reason. The players have been rested on injury grounds. That is a promise. I cannot show you the medical reports because it is an internal matter,” he added.
Kolkata: Virender Sehwag had asked the selectors and the Board to rest him for the forthcoming Asia Cup, contrary to media reports that the opener was dropped. It is learnt that Team India physio Evan Speechly had submitted a fitness report to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) prior to the national selectors’ meeting at the Cricket Centre yesterday. The report deemed that Sehwag and Zaheer Khan should be rested for the Asia Cup that runs from March 11 to 22.
Even captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher told the selectors that Sehwag was seeking rest after a strenuous tour of Australia. Later, chairman of selectors Krishnamachari Srikkanth called up Sehwag to seek an update. Sehwag told Srikkanth he wanted rest, but would be willing to tour Bangladesh if the selectors insisted.
New Delhi: Elevated to the position of vice-captain in the Indian cricket team for the upcoming Asia Cup in Dhaka, Virat Kohli is excited about his new role and confident of carrying out the responsibility entrusted upon him, says his coach Raj Kumar Sharma.
The 23-year-old Delhi lad, who scored an unbeaten 133 against Sri Lanka in a do-or-die match on Tuesday, replaced Virender Sehwag as the deputy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the four-nation tournament, starting on March 11.
Sehwag, who is battling poor form, has been rested due to some injury concerns.
“I spoke to him over phone and informed him that he has been appointed as the vice-captain of the team. He was sleeping at that time, but on hearing his elevation in the team he was very excited,” the coach of the mercurial batsman, Raj Kumar Sharma told PTI Bhasha.
“Kohli likes to shoulder the responsibilities and he said the new role will inspire him to further excel his performance,” Sharma revealed.
Kohli is the only Indian cricketer to have scored a century in the ongoing ODI tri-series as well as in the preceding four-match Test series against Australia.
On Wednesday, selection committee chairman Krishnamachari Srikkanth said that the decision to appoint Kohli as the vice-captain was taken keeping India’s future in mind.
Sharma said Kohli was always up for challenges.
“He likes challenges. He has full faith in his abilities and is full of self-belief. I am confident that if he gets an opportunity to lead the Indian team he will do a great job,” he said.
Sharma also added that Kohli was very happy with his batting on Tuesday and was eager to know the reactions back home.
India have a head coach, a fielding coach, a bowling coach, and other support staff that includes an analyst, a trainer, a physio, and a masseur. Then there are 17 cricketers. Between them not one had bothered to check the playing conditions and inform the captain that India were still alive in the tournament – only just, but alive. After their third straight defeat in the triangular series – and third while conceding a bonus point to Australia – India’s captain MS Dhoni said his side couldn’t make it to the finals now because the margin of their losses was too big to make up for in the net-run-rate column.
This is not to jump at Dhoni’s throat, but a side desperate to make the finals would know every last backdoor entry and try to break it open. This is clearly a side looking forward to going home. At least that way they can catch a break of three to four days before being packed off for the Asia Cup and the IPL. Dhoni himself – perhaps the man who physically endures the most in this side – had the runs during Sunday’s game, and after it he hobbled out of the press conference.
To add to it there is Irfan Pathan, who might or might not experience trouble from his collision with Suresh Raina in the field. Zaheer Khan is already out with a calf injury, R Vinay Kumar has done his hamstring. The batting has been so abysmal the captain himself conceded the bowlers will have to keep sides down to 200 if they were to win in this current form.
Nobody likes losing, yet you can imagine the relief India must be feeling at the idea of home, away from the bouncing and seaming ball, away from the scrutiny, away from fans who line up at every training session expecting a better show, away from the pressure of that expectation even if for less than a week, away from the barracking, away from the losses, away from the same faces for close to three months, away from the media.
And then Dhoni is told his side is not out yet. That if they beat Sri Lanka by a bonus point, and Australia then beat Sri Lanka, India will play the final week of the Australian summer. Oh, the torture. Coming to terms with failure is hard enough, realising you have done it too soon is worse. Dhoni was expectedly sheepish, but then he smiled. He said it was good to know this was the case. In a second he was crushed too, possibly thinking of how hard it will be to attain a bonus point when he is struggling to find four fit bowlers.
“I am quite happy to hear that,” Dhoni said of the playing conditions. “Gives us another chance.”
A moment later he said, “That would be saying I am very optimistic, seeing that we have not consistently done well with the bat, which means whatever the opposition scores we will have to score in 40 overs, which will be a very difficult task, but I am happy that at least there is a chance subject to some other game, but I would love to take it.”
So it is down to one more evening now. An evening in the beautiful Hobart. The players can look at it as one last evening before riddance. Or they can look at it as one last evening where they can let themselves go, where they give it their all and hope for another week in Australia to show the country they are a better team than the one that turned up earlier. Arguably, though, to get themselves up for this last league game would have been much easier if they knew this was it, and there would be a break after the Australia tour. Here, on the other hand, if India make it to the final, they ensure they fly straight to Bangladesh.
They will also be looking back with regret at the Adelaide game against Sri Lanka, which they had almost wrapped up but could only just tie because of some nervous, reckless batting. Had they won it, they would have only needed to win the upcoming game and wait for the other result as opposed to winning this with a bonus point and then sitting back to await the outcome of Australia v Sri Lanka.
Some of the players will get one final chance to show why they should not be dropped from the squad that will be picked a day after the game. Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Virender Sehwag and Ravindra Jadeja find themselves on thin ice.
The bottom line won’t change, though. The much-acclaimed batting line-up, more a behemoth on this tour, will have to either put on a total their bowlers can defend 80% of or chase in 40 overs whatever the bowlers have allowed. This is being asked of a group that has been bowled out in four of the seven games, thrice for less than 200.
India look every bit an ordinary side right now. It will take some extraordinariness to stay alive for three more days. It will be breathtaking if they manage to do it. A year or so ago, you wouldn’t write India off because they had that intangible fight in them; now not many will be holding their breath.
The day before the squad for the Asia Cup was going to be picked, India’s selectors indicated that their meeting in Mumbai was going to be “pivotal,” one of their toughest.
About time, too. It was to be the meeting where serious decisions would be made following India’s nightmare tours of England and Australia and, before Virat Kohli’s century in Hobart, their below-average performance in the CB Series.
The selectors’ hard calls could even have been bolstered by the fact that a low-profile regional event in Bangladesh would have been the ideal “soft launch” for a fresh core of ODI players. The meeting took more than two hours, but far from being pivotal, the results of those confabulations were timid, pitiful even.
By trying to sugarcoat their decisions with sweeping statements, the selectors ceded their power and self-censored their voice. A cursory look at the team beggared belief, and the theatrical explanations given by Kris Srikkanth to the media scrum at BCCI headquarters belonged to the theatre of the absurd.
It is astonishing that more than two hours of meaningful discussion produced this: a team composition that is neither radical reform nor short-term gamble with long-term benefit in mind. The selectors brushed aside MS Dhoni’s incendiary speech about slow legs and the 2015 World Cup and gave Indian cricket some more same old, same old.
After a forgettable tour of Australia, players, we are told, have been “rested” because of injury and not dropped. “It is purely on injury grounds both (Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan) have been rested,” Srikkanth said. “I can assure you that nobody has been dropped.” It is a shame that an unfavourable fitness report made the decisions for the selectors, instead of them making it themselves. It is likely, though, that “rested” would have been the party line no matter what.
Regardless of injuries, the selectors also needed to send out a strong message. Not dropping underperforming players is telling every man on the team that, in some cases, poor performance and brittle fitness levels need not have any consequences. Umesh Yadav will wonder if his progress in Australia is to be bracketed with Sehwag and Suresh Raina’s scores, and Zaheer’s up-and-down fitness levels. Six months of “rest” from the Indian team are unlikely to dent pride or change habits. Players will coast if selectors let them coast.
So much for tough and pivotal decisions.
The most glaring selection or un-selection, however, is Sachin Tendulkar going to Dhaka. Tendulkar’s future in one-day internationals has gone from being the elephant in the room to the whole zoo. The selectors, though, chose to look the other way.
Over the last three years Tendulkar scaled down his involvement in ODIs: after the 2007 World Cup he played 12 matches in 2008, 21 in 2009, two in 2010, and 11 in 2011, of which nine were in the World Cup. This CB Series is his first one-day appearance since that tournament.
Until 2011, Tendulkar seemed to be pacing himself for the World Cup, a mission that was inspirational – in how he found a higher gear again – and moving. If he was choosing when and where he wanted to play until February 2011, it was both understood and accepted.
After the Cup was finally won, however, things have gone woozy. The facts, though, are clear. Tendulkar seems to have set out his plan – he will play ODIs when he thinks he can and wants to. He did not play in four series – away and at home against England and West Indies – but is playing in Australia, and now in Bangladesh. In the contest between seeking lost form and trying to ensure his late-career struggle does not end up Kapil Dev-esque, it is easy to see which side is winning. The time was ripe for the selectors to step in: they are empowered to simplify the maze Tendulkar finds himself in. Instead, they responded as though their hands were tied. A board official even described the Tendulkar situation as “an uncontrollable”.
Despite Tendulkar’s stature, and in the midst of grumblings about the Hundred and India’s failure to “do a Ponting”, it must be remembered that he is a reasonable man, not an ogre. He has always been more hungry and proud competitor rather than tantrum-throwing diva. His persona may seem intimidating, his personality is not.
We do not know if Tendulkar has been spoken to by any of the selectors beyond his “availability” for the Asia Cup. For instance, has Srikkanth asked Tendulkar what his long-term plans are for one-day cricket? Whether the Asia Cup is actually the stage he seeks? Can the chairman of selectors not pick up the phone or set up a meeting to ask Tendulkar those questions?
When Ricky Ponting was dropped from Australia’s one-day team, their selection chief, John Inverarity, said, “In elite sport, there’s no place for sentiment.” Indian cricket is often beaten up for being overly sentimental, and rightly so, but India is also a country of non-stop conversationalists. Surely dialogue is not alien to the culture? Srikkanth, for God’s sake, was Tendulkar’s first captain. That has to count for something.
Tendulkar’s selection for the Asia Cup diverted attention from Suresh Raina being given another chance, when his average in Australia this season is 24.50 in ten matches. Or that Dhoni will be travelling to Dhaka as well, when his captaincy has actually lost its moorings after three tough months. Given that four of five selectors were batsmen, let’s give them some benefit of doubt here. Which actually makes things worse.
One possible explanation for why Dhoni, who could do with a rest, and Tendulkar, whose greatness won’t be affected by a sixth Asia Cup, are in the team to Bangladesh is that the BCCI wants to keep its slate clean in its litigation with Nimbus, which owns the broadcast rights for the tournament. One of Nimbus’ arguments is that, despite a contractual obligation, the BCCI does not always send its “best team” to events whose broadcast rights Nimbus owns. If that is the real reason behind some of the selections, no wonder there were half-measures all around.
In the middle of this lack of direction came the surprise appointment of Virat Kohli as vice-captain, instead of Gautam Gambhir. Had the selectors been seen as men of great foresight, it would have been a message to both Kohli and Gambhir as to where they stand with regard to the 2015 World Cup, what one man must to do push ahead and the other must do to recover. There is a good chance, however, that this will be seen as just a trinket tossed at Kohli after his inspirational performance in Hobart and his conduct during and after the game. Kohli, though, looks the kind of fellow who could turn a trinket into a trophy.
After the defeats in England and Australia, it was said the selectors would be the most important people in Indian cricket. They obviously do not think so.
10. Ishant Sharma, Inability to Pick Wickets: Ishant is talented, bowls long spells well and sincerely and still does not manage to pick up wickets regularly. In the recently concluded Australia Test series, he picked up 5 wickets in 4 matches at 90. Pacers in England, Australia and South Africa would be promptly retired after such a performance.
11. Duncan Fletcher, Zero Impact: True Fletcher’s task was tough. What do you do with a world No. 1 team in ODIs and Tests? Maintaining it is a tough task. But this crash in Indian cricket is unfathomable. To make Fletcher’s case even weaker, England crashed in Tests under him too.
Will the BCCI explain what Fletcher’s role in Indian cricket is?
6. Gautam Gambhir, Foreign Pitches: The Sehwag-Gambhir duo was India’s greatest opening pair ever: Till they became unstuck. One half-century across 16 innings in India’s 0-8 debacle is a stark picture for Gambhir. His last great Test innings on foreign soil was his 167 in New Zealand in 2009 that helped us draw the match and win the series.
At that time everyone said that he had finally come of age, but he promptly went into Test decline after that.
7. Yuvraj Singh, Health: This is the most tragic of all. A fine all-round man-of-the-series in the 2011 WC might have served as a launch pad and given him the confidence for him finally becoming a complete Test batsman. But a lung tumour put him out of the game and India is sorely missing Yuvi in ODIs.
8. Harbhajan Singh, Retirement Threat: Bhajji has been a key member of India’s finest victories. A fighter to the core, he was blossoming into a fine all-rounder. But after 98 matches and 406 wickets, he is looking at retirement.
The last time Sehwag scored an international century on Australian soil is 2008.
England: 2002. South Africa: 2001.
That itself tells the tale.
2. Sachin Tendulkar, 100th 100: Sachin was in the form of his life in the run-up to his 99th century. After that if statistics tell a story, then here they are: Zero centuries in 20 international matches with an average in just the mundane 30s since his 99th. His last nine innings have yielded zero half-centuries with an average of about 17.
For the record, he’s turning 39 in April. Not a nice feeling to walk into the sunset with two Test whitewashes on foreign soil.
3. Rahul Dravid, Age: In England, The Wall came out with a stellar performance. But in Australia he averaged a mere 25 and managed just one half-century across eight innings. The worst tour of his life came after his 39th birthday. The next Test tour is a good eight months away! Even more worrying is the fact that he has been bowled a whopping 9 times in his last 12 innings.
4. VVS Laxman, Foreign Pitches: Of the lot, Laxman has looked the shakiest. It’s been almost four years since Laxman has scored a century outside the sub-continent against a Top 5 team. Yes, that long! His highest score in the 0-8 foreign Test debacle has been 66 and he averaged 21 in the two 0-4 series.
Indian cricket is facing one of its very toughest phases for its cricketers where it appears that almost every player is facing a decline in some form or the other.
A look at the prominent cricketers and their woes…
1. MS Dhoni, Fatigue: Dhoni captained India to World Cup glory and had to play in the IPL within a matter of days. After that he showed interest in skipping the entire West Indies tour but his request was declined and he was forced to play at least the Test series.
Sachin Tendulkar on the other hand was given rest. Why? In what way was Tendulkar more deserving than Dhoni for choosing when to be rested? This is the kind of superstar favouritism that does India no good and it’s time the BCCI treated every player equally. Why does Tendulkar get to pick whatever matches he pleases? Surely no-one is above the game!
While Dhoni may be doing well as an ODI batsman, he is in decline as a Test batsman. As far as captaincy is concerned, he is looking more and more jaded and fatigued by the day. Before he used to be behind the over rate by minutes and that was cause for concern.
Now if you add the last couple of series, then he is behind by hours and has already been banned for a couple of matches. The only thing that is keeping his captaincy alive is the TINA (There is No Alternative) factor.
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