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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

‘Selectors must talk to players’: Virender Sehwag

Virender Sehwag believes it’s important for players like Dhoni to know clearly if they are still part of plans

cricket Updated: Aug 22, 2019 09:36 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
New Delhi: Former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag speaks during the launch of 'Selector' mobile application, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019.
New Delhi: Former Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag speaks during the launch of 'Selector' mobile application, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019.(PTI)

Virender Sehwag’s transition from a swashbuckling opener who believed in “see ball, hit ball” to an entertaining commentator who believes in “what I see, I speak” has been seamless. On Wednesday, the former India captain spoke to HT on various issues, including why he thinks MS Dhoni should have batted up the order in the World Cup semi-final and why he doesn’t like the idea of using a neck guard. Excerpts:

What, in your opinion, went wrong in the semi-final?

We were expecting to win the World Cup because this is India’s best team. New Zealand played better that day. I think the management’s fault was that they sent Dhoni way down. Had he come earlier, he could have arrested the collapse. He would have played till the end and made others (Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja) play around him. I think had Dhoni come earlier and Pandya, Pant and Jadeja batted later with old ball, they would have chased 8-9 an over easily. Sending them early and making them face the new ball, and then hoping that they would accelerate, was risky.

The middle-order, especially the No. 4, wasn’t settled.

It was going on for six months. Many players were available for No. 4. The management should have tried a set of players at No 4, each getting 10-12 games. They should have given them time to perform, as a player needs time to settle down and gain confidence. (Sehwag had earlier in the day cited an example. “When Kumble became captain he came to me and my opening partner’s room and told us: You play the way you want because you will play the next series. Nobody will drop you. The kind of confidence he gave us, it was enormous.”)

Also Read: India Predicted XI for 1st Test | Kohli to choose Rahane over Rohit?

Were you surprised at Rayudu’s exclusion?

Yes. A player plays all the series ahead of the World Cup and is suddenly dropped from the squad. I think it was wrong.

The batting order in your time looked more settled than now…

The slots were mostly settled. Changes used to take place only in bowling. Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Yuvraj, Laxman and I used to play ODIs and Tests. There used to be only one or two changes. Today, a lot of changes take place in the batting order in different formats. I remember, four-five top batsmen would play all formats, so that if they flopped in one, they’d get a chance to return to form in another format.

After Steve Smith’s injury, there’s been talk of neck guard...

Why do you have to show your neck to the bowler? You have a bat and a helmet; make sure you don’t get the ball on your neck. I never used a chest pad, so I don’t think I would have used a neck guard either.

Do you think the conflict of interest rules are too strict?

Yes. You have made such rules that top cricketers will never be able to contribute. You want big players to contribute, but they (those who have played 80-100 Tests) won’t be able to as there is a conflict of interest somewhere or the other. Big cricketers will be able to contribute better, as bigger the player, the bigger is his reputation. He won’t get involved in wrong things. He won’t give a wrong advice or select a wrong person.

Also Read: Virat Kohli sends out a message to Indian openers ahead of 1st Test

What is wrong with the rules?

If I am commentating and I am coaching an IPL or the India team, how is that a conflict? I am not selecting the team. I am only a coach or mentor. If I am giving my views on a channel, it’s my personal view. It’s my right. How is that a conflict? The ‘one-man-one-post’ rule is for the BCCI; either you are in the BCCI or you are in the state body. But you applied this rule on players too. You are telling a player representing a state that he can’t commentate. That is his earning. He is not commentating for his state/franchise. He is commentating on the India team or on a particular match. I can’t understand why if you are playing first-class cricket, you can’t commentate. I can understand conflict if I have an academy and I am a selector, I can (probably) pick boys from my academy.

Your views on the Kohli-Shastri combine?

The results are good. We won a Test series in Australia for the first time and also won the ODI series. We are No 1 in Tests and No 2 in ODIs. Results have improved. Overseas, we are winning regularly. We just have to win a series in England and South Africa.

On Prithvi Shaw...

Don’t know what happened with that doping incident. He is a prospect and should focus on cricket, fitness and mental aspects. We have a good, aggressive opener after a long time.

Do you want to get into coaching?

No. If I wanted to, I would have been coaching in IPL. Last time, I was asked by the (late) MV Sridhar (the then BCCI general manager), Kohli and the Board secretary to apply. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have applied. After playing for so many years, if you become coach, you have to travel with the team again. You miss your family. That is the only reason.

When is the right time to retire for a legend like Dhoni?

That is Dhoni’s personal call. If he thinks he is fit and can contribute like he used to, then why not continue. But if the selectors think that MSD can’t contribute, then they should tell him that we are giving you this last series. That should be communicated. That communication should always be there between the selectors and the player. Don’t know whether the selectors have (that communication) or not. We have only read MSK (Prasad) giving a statement about selectors conveying to MSD that he is not their first choice. So, that means they’ll pick Pant first and then if they have to pick a second keeper, they’ll pick Dhoni. That is not possible. After a time, Dhoni should decide and speak to selectors and ask for a retirement game. That is when he feels it is the right time to quit.

Has the Board’s lack of communication been a problem for retiring players?

Not the Board, but the selectors. I think the selectors should speak to players. Communication has been a problem. Nobody communicated with me. I feel there were others too like me.

BCCI recently agreed to come under NADA…

Earlier also there used to be dope tests in domestic, IPL, international matches and even when no cricket was being played. But one problem we Indian players have had is where we would be tomorrow. Suppose I say I am at home tomorrow at a particular hour and ask the officials to come. But assuming my plan changes, and I am called for an event by a sponsor, how will I convey it to them. It is also about privacy. We’d like to keep some of it. That is one clause players had objection to. Don’t have problem with anything else. Even today, no current player has spoken on whether they are willing to provide details of their whereabouts. Only NADA, BCCI and ICC are talking about it.

First Published: Aug 22, 2019 09:35 IST