For the past one and half years or so the Sharad Pawar regime has been performing a notch above their predecessors. Even when part of the country and fans were crying ‘foul’ against Greg Chappell’s experiments and exclusion of Saurav Ganguly from the squad, I thought BCCI stood tall and did a professional job. Most of the governance aspects as well as future planning made sense – so did their good acts towards suffering sports bodies and retired sportsmen.
Though experiments were part of the long term plans – even beyond World Cup 2007 – the selection process and the selectors seems to have come under the media/fans pressure yet again. The sending back act of Irfan Pathan (Sehwag somehow missed the flight that day!) during the SA tour made sense – so did their bold decisions to exclude Mohammed Kaif and Suresh Raina from the scheme of things for the WC. What is not convincing though is the final team selection for the World Cup 2007. Since other major cricketing nations have more injury worries, India had their best chances to pick a championship winning team, instead the selectors opted to make couple of unconvincing decisions.
Irfan Pathan and Virender Sehwag were once dropped on the basis of their pathetic form and recent performances. From the domestic performances since then, I have not seen anything so great about the duo that they need to be picked for this World cup. It is true that an allrounder brings a lot of balance to any one-day side but that is when he’s in form and exudes confidence. I personally feel that Pathan should not have figured in the WC squad this year – for the sake of his own career as well as for the present and future of Indian cricket. The last test match that we lost in South Africa earlier this year has to be attributed to the team management decision to make Sehwag open the second innings! We had just discovered an in form and confident stand-in opening batsman in Dinesh Karthick and that advantage was goofed by Sehwag’s inclusion as the opener. India spoilt the chances of winning their first ever test series victory in South Africa with that foolish act. It seemed that Rahul Dravid was behind that decision. According to what our chairman of selectors have just spilled out, the captain is again behind the selection of Virender Sehwag as a dashing opener. This sends wrong signals to the set and condident youngsters like Robin Uthappa.
I thought this is the first time that India is sending 5 specialist seam bowlers to the World Cup. This is again a very stupid decision. One should remember that the current Indian squad has got only two specialist spinners and they are not touring South Africa or Australia but West Indies. The West Indian pitches right now are pancake-flat and cannot do any good to the pacemen. I would have expected Ramesh Powar included in this squad instead of Irfan Pathan. He’s a good offspinner as well as a confident lower order batsman. The argument could be that Sehwag or Yuvaraj may be able to bowl five or six overs along with Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar to complete the fifth bowlers role. But in the flat pitches in West Indies, I am sure that they will be hammered all around the park.
Since we have already picked Robin Uthappa, Sourav Ganguly and possibly Sachin Tendulkar as openers, I would have expected the selectors to pick another strong middle order batsman than Sehwag. I still wonder why VVS Laxman cannot figure in this World Cup squad. The only argument against Laxman is his poor ground Fielding but anyhow the current squad is not a great fielding side. It is a shame for India that players like VVS Laxman will never get a chance to play a World Cup match unless some of our batsmen gets injured as the event progresses. If Laxman is not the right choice, I would still rate somebody like Dinesh Mongia higher than Sehwag in his current form. Mongia had an excellent 2006 season during his county stint and I thought he has been treated quite unfairly – not forgetting the fact that he got undeserved berth in the last World Cup.
A lot of people these days talk about Sachin Tendulkar’s assignment as the Vice Captain of the team – that he is being humiliated by this second role etc. I don’t read too much into it. In fact, it is a strong statement from the management that only those who perform and sure to be in the final eleven gets this post. That way Sehwag cannot be the vice captain so cannot be injury prone Yuvaraj Singh. It also emphasizes the fact that Sachin has more of a senior mentor’s role to play in his final World cup appearance. I think this is a very good move.
Lastly, the comments made by our chairman of selectors during his chat with the press was quite bad-timed. It was really stupid of a gentleman like him to talk about internal selection matters in the press – that too when team India was just about to start their World Cup campaign. Probably he was a bit too frustrated with the regional politics or was it an outburst because of his own lads (Powar and Jaffer) not finding a place there?