| Sachin Tendulkar plays an exhibition match at the Sunfeast Open in Calcutta on Tuesday. The star batsman and his doubles partner, Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Bhaichung Bhutia. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Sept.18: Nobody will go on record, but a lack of support from key Board of Control for Cricket in India officials — absolutely necessary for the captaincy — scuppered Sourav Ganguly’s chances of leading again, this time in the upcoming ODIs.
The selectors, as it turned out, took the least controversial step and promoted Twenty20 captain (and ODI vice-captain) Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
At 26, he has age on his side and is respected for facing challenges head-on (like when Shoaib Akhtar was hurling grenades in the January 2006 Faisalabad Test) and being positive.
Sourav came into the picture last evening after a couple of those involved with the selection process began having second thoughts over “burdening” Dhoni.
Their argument: If the team did not do well in the seven ODIs against Australia and five versus Pakistan, then Dhoni’s confidence would take a beating, affecting his long-term prospects.
According to well-placed sources, the officials let it be known to the selectors that Dhoni would be backed even if the team’s performance was found wanting. What was also conveyed, though not in as many words, is that the Sourav option should not be pursued.
It is pretty well established that some in the BCCI have strong Sourav-specific reservations. Moreover, having got used to Rahul Dravid, they would not feel comfortable entertaining somebody with such a strong presence.
| MS Dhoni
Seniormost pro Sachin Tendulkar ruled himself out once he told chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar that he would not be available for every ODI.
Strangely, Vengsarkar said: “We did not offer the captaincy to anyone….”
Even if it is true, the BCCI ought to have clarified at the weekend itself when word spread quicker than the last bushfire that Sachin had been sounded out.
Dhoni’s appointment confirms that the captaincy is to be split — this possibility was reported by The Telegraph last Saturday.
Today, Sachin is the favourite to lead in the sport’s oldest form and Dhoni is sure to be vice-captain.
Given the animosity towards Sourav, India’s most successful Test captain, he’s unlikely to be in the frame two months from now.
India’s first Test in the post-Dravid era is from November 22 against Pakistan in New Delhi.
Dhoni, incidentally, is India’s only specialist wicketkeeper to get the captaincy full-time. Back in 1983-84, Syed Kirmani had captained in the Guwahati ODI versus the West Indies. That was in a stand-in capacity.
“Look, Sourav is 35 and both Sachin and Rahul are 34… They aren’t getting any younger and have to be rotated… We need a captain who is available for all matches… That Dhoni had been vice-captain (for the ODIs) in Ireland, Scotland and England made him an automatic choice,” Vengsarkar explained this evening.
All three former captains are in the squad for the first three ODIs against Australia. They won’t, of course, be rested together.
The obvious on-field challenges apart, in the dressing room, Dhoni has to be sensitive about the one-time captains and deputy Yuvraj Singh who, till a year ago, was talked about as Dravid’s successor.
Given Dhoni’s mental make-up, only the very brave are going to bet he won’t beat the odds.