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The vice captaincy curse

As things stand, Sehwag is in the mix because he has seniority, experience and performance to back his claim. His career suffered a hiccup last season but his recent form has put him in the frame once again., writes Amrit mathur.

india Updated: Sep 08, 2008 23:41 IST
Amrit Mathur

When India coach Gary Kirsten opened his mouth to state the obvious about Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s likely future career path, he received a prompt rebuke from the BCCI. Later this month, new selectors are to be appointed who, in all probability, will reappoint Kumble to lead India against Australia. What happens beyond that is a guess — no less uncertain than predicting the fate of a fresh Friday release.

With the exception of Ravi Shastri, throughout Indian cricket history, players who should have captained India have had a fair crack at the job. Shastri is the one who missed out big time and his example is linked to the strange curse of the Indian vice-captaincy: players carefully groomed for the top job don't quite make it, someone else jumps the queue.

Will this curse also impact Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh, the two present day seconds-in-command?

As things stand, Sehwag is in the mix because he has seniority, experience and performance to back his claim. Sehwag's career suffered a hiccup last season but his astonishing recent form has put him in the frame once again.

He has never articulated his ambitions about captaining India, but, then, is there any player who does not want to wear the India blazer and go out for the toss?

Yuvraj, the ODI king, is not shy of announcing his strong desire to lead India, characteristic of someone forever on the front foot.

However, these ambitions sound wishful considering he, eight years on in international cricket, is a limited limited-overs specialist, unable to either displace the stalwarts in the Indian middle order, or stay ahead of the youthful challenge of Rohit Sharma.

This career bottleneck, possibly, is a result of the bad kismat connection, and the curse of the Indian vice-captaincy.

To take the next big step forward, both Sehwag and Yuvraj need to overcome the vice-captaincy jinx that seems as difficult as unravelling the mystery of Ajanta Mendis.

Our cricket history is marked by a strange tradition of 'parachute captains' where players are picked up suddenly and appointed captain against the run of play. Kapil Dev was raw when made captain, Azharuddin even more innocent of the requirements of the job. Sourav Ganguly, though regal, had little experience when he was pitchforked into the top job.

Captains SMG and SRT — men now famous enough to be known by their initials — were exceptions to this trend but they were destined to be leaders, and so preparing for the task was never an issue for them. They had a right to captain India it seemed, much in the manner an heir apparent aspires to ascend the throne.

Players who go through the conventional route and an extended apprenticeship as vice- captain have had a rough ride. Rahul Dravid led India after dutifully serving out an extended probation period but, when finally given the responsibility, chucked the job in a sulk, in circumstances which remain mysterious to this day. Of late, vice captains have been tossed around, changed from series to series. Apparently, for the selectors, naming a vice-captain is a gift that can both be handed out and then reclaimed, according to their convenience.