Selectors' unambiguous message to non-performing stars
by Partab Ramchand

Player:DB Vengsarkar, V Sehwag, IK Pathan, SC Ganguly, Z Khan, M Kaif
Event:West Indies in India 2006/07

DateLine: 17th January 2007


The Dilip Vengsarkar led selection committee has sent out an unambiguous message to the Indian players, irrespective of their status – perform or be prepared to face the axe. The dropping of Virender Sehwag is the foremost example of this refreshingly new approach which is to be applauded. The swashbuckling opening batsman was given a long rope but finally the selectors’ patience ran out. Sehwag one is sure is too good a player to be left out for long and he will no doubt fight his way back. After all as the sporting adage goes ``form is temporary, class is permanent.’’ Indeed, he could in the long run benefit from a break and he can take heart from the examples of Sourav Ganguly and Zaheer Khan who made a strong comeback after being dropped.


Sehwag is the biggest name to be axed but he is not the only star to suffer this fate. Irfan Pathan was not too long ago the spearhead of the pace attack, the pin up glamour boy who was hailed as the first genuine all rounder in Indian cricket for a decade. In his case he alone is perhaps not to blame for non performance and subsequent axing. The team management is also responsible for the decline in his bowling powers. Whatever the reason there is no doubt that Pathan’s confidence has taken a beating and this has not been helped by the decision to send him back midway through the tour of South Africa. Whatever the supporters of this decision might say, it does no good for a player’s morale to be treated in this way. Pathan however is a level headed and ambitious young man and like Sehwag one can be confident that he too will be back the intense competition from a number of pace bowlers notwithstanding.


One cannot be that sure about the future of Md Kaif another regular member of the one day squad who has also been shown the door. In his case it is clear that he was given too long a rope. A tally of 398 runs in his last 24 innings at an average of fractionally less than 20 is wholly unacceptable for a specialist middle order batsman. After all even a brilliant fielder has to contribute substantially with the bat.


The interesting aspect about the decision to drop the three cricketers is that the selectors have finally decided to take action against non performing stars. Hitherto only the fringe players faced the axe while the senior players or cricketers enjoying an exalted status continued to be in the team living on past glory. The selection committee has sent out a clear message that in future performance and not reputation will be the main criteria for selection.


Even more striking is the fact that Cricket Board officials too have expressed displeasure at the way some of the big names continue to remain in the team despite performing below their level. In the past the officials have concentrated on administration and raising funds leaving the decisions involving bat and ball to the selectors, coach and captain. But now the BCCI officials have come out in the open with candid views on the non performing players. They are firmly of the view that no player should be spared, no matter how big he is.


Perhaps the first salvo was fired by Greg Chappell. At the end of the Test series in South Africa the Indian coach when asked specifically about Sehwag who understandably was the player most under the microscope replied ``Sehwag’s certainly a concern but I don't think he is our only batting concern at the moment. There will be a few guys under a bit of pressure, there's no doubt.’’


In a way it is good to have the prima donnas on their toes. No one should be allowed to take his place for granted. And this welcome policy could have interesting developments in the season ahead. More players could be axed if the team performs disappointingly in the build up to the World Cup in the matches against West Indies and Sri Lanka. And in the mega event itself if the Indian team does not progress beyond the Super Eight further heads could roll. Oh yes, it certainly makes for an interesting scenario and developments over the next couple of months will be watched with more than usual interest.

(Article: Copyright © 2007 CricketArchive)


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