Unfair criticism is disguised praise
Vengsarkar's comment on Sehwag's inclusion is a compliment for Rahul Dravid, writes Atul Sondhi.Updated:
First of all, congratulations to Rahul Dravid. The much amiable skipper, who often seems trifle worried on the field, though he does not chew nails like Sourav, seems to be a man of great resolve after all.
The Indian captain has nailed all the lies that Team India is selectors' team or the Chappell's team. Today, it is clear that what he has taken to the Caribbean in quest for glory is the Dravid's Eleven.
The proof has come from the horse's mouth. Chairman of Selectors Dilip Vengsarkar has said that an out-of-form Virender Sehwag was selected for the World Cup only because Rahul Dravid had insisted on his inclusion.
Truly Cosmopolitan Captain
If Indeed Dravid got Sehwag into the team (As also happened in the final test of the South African Series at Cape Town), it shows that Dravid is a strong-willed captain without any regional or local considerations. Rather, he has a healthy Pan-Indian outlook.
With three potential openers already in the side, Sourav, Sachin and Uthappa, by going along with the selectors on Sehwag's exclusion, Dravid could have easily ensured that his state mate Robin Uthappa gets to play all, or most of the matches.
But Dravid's bigger concern now is winning the World Cup. So what if he says that ''one can not stake one career on winning the Cup.'' Keeping in mind Sehwag's capacity to play blazing knocks, Dravid ensured that Delhi batsman remains in the team even if it could result in excluding Uthappa from some of the matches.
The Indian Captain has been accused of, often unfairly, preferring a ''has been'' Kumble instead of what many perceive as more potent Harbhajan in the ODIs.
Considering Harbhajan was the pick of the Indian bowlers in the ODIs in West Indies with an economy of just 3.91 from five matches, there was a smear campaign that his Karnataka team mate Kumble was getting the favoured treatment only because Dravid was in charge.
It will no longer be the case now.
Quite a few World Cups have been won by the captains who had imagination and resolve, and a determination to have their own teams.
If underdogs in four consecutive World Cups - 1983 (Kapil Dev), 1987 (Allan Border), 1992 (Imran Khan) and 1996 (Arjuna Ranatunga) could win the World Cups despite not having the greatest of teams, it was because they themselves decided on the playing eleven, with selectors taking the back seat.
If indeed Dravid has pitched in for Sehwag, he has taken the first step forward. Odds in his favour have indeed increased. The cup will go to determined captains willing to take risks, and go by their convictions, in pursuit of glory.
What one can interpret from Vengsarkar's statement is the selectors' instinct for self-preservation anticipating a possible failure by Sehwag. And that, even before the first ball has been bowled in the World Cup! Something sure to put lots of pressure on both Sehwag and Dravid.
The Indian Board is right in taking Vengsarkar to task by stating that unnecessary controversies need to be avoided. Its time selectors must take some blame for 'forced selections' and not just put the onus on the captain. Nothing can be more counterproductive for the whole team.
If a team has been chosen, one has to stick by it through thick and thin. If winning the Cup is the most important thing, then in last five Cups, we have failed to do so while reaching at least semifinal thrice. This time too, the squad is good enough to be among the semifinalists. Then why these skin saving exercises? Allow Sehwag to play his natural game.
Lesson from Ponting's Trophies
Australia have won the World Cup thrice. But the two trophies that Pointing was recently pictured with, were the ones won in 1999 and 2003. Australia first World Cup, won in 1987, was nowhere in the picture.
This display was a clear indication that Australia was less concerned with past history, but more with an endeavor to set a record by making it three in a row. Ponting probably also wanted to say that this team has won two, and was desperate to get another one.
It is time India should take lessons. Selectors should show desperation for glory, and not for face-saving techniques. If selectors do not feel Sehwag's selection is justified, then they can ask Dravid to play him only in case of emergency.
But for team's sake, please do not make it public. Just because you wish to say after the event, Look I said so.''