Finally, the same logic that prompted the selectors to ask Sachin Tendulkar if he would be Test captain had them opting instead for Anil Kumble, 37 years and 118 Tests old, over Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
They thought Dhoni too raw to be Test captain in tough series against Pakistan and Australia and, seeing him as India’s potential long-term skipper in all formats of the game, didn’t want him demoralised too early.
“Even till yesterday morning, we thought we would have to make Dhoni skipper despite our reservations,” a selector told HT on Friday.
“Then, while watching the Mohali one-dayer, we (the selectors) were chatting and realised we were all worried for similar reasons. The pressure a rookie skipper who has never played in Australia can be put under. In Australia, for instance, their media is invariably hostile and targets the rival captain. We thought that if India did not do well and Dhoni came under pressure and failed, it would damage him badly.”
So they thought they would opt for the experience of Kumble instead. But why did they then appoint him for only three Tests, when the plan is to have him as skipper in Australia too?
“Well, there was a worry about Kumble’s fitness,” said the selector. “He has been in and out of injury. We thought we would wait and see how he does both fitness and form-wise against Pakistan before announcing him as skipper for Australia during the third Test (in Bangalore). It’s a precautionary measure.”
While no vice-captain has been announced for the Tests against Pakistan, a message will be sent out that if Kumble is off the field, Dhoni will act as captain, not any other senior.
He will be formally appointed vice-captain for the Australia Tests though.
Asked why they took so long to announce the decision? leading to speculation over a heated debate on the issue? they said they wanted to see how the match went. If India had won, they would have announced the team for only Sunday’s Kanpur ODI, an unchanged one.
“Then, if India went up 3-0, we would have changed the team for the last two one-dayers, bringing in youngsters and fringe players,” said another selector.
He said Rahul Dravid’s name did not come up for discussion for inclusion in the ODI squad.