Basseterre (St Kitts): It was around 6.30 am, locally, when The Telegraph called a member of the team management to check whether the Board had informed him of Sachin Tendulkar’s non-availability for the four-Test series. He was, to say the least, stunned.
“Not a word till now (4.00 pm back in India)... Is it true that Sachin won’t be coming' We’d received enough indications over the past couple of days that he’d become fit... We (the team management) now need to talk afresh,” was his response.
The Test squad is to be picked, via a tele-conference, on Wednesday.
Well-placed sources, in fact, had conveyed as late as Monday (some hours before the fitness test which never took place) that Sachin would be available. He has been off competitive cricket, following surgery on his right shoulder, after the Mumbai Test against England two months ago.
Nobody will doubt Sachin, but his 11th-hour withdrawal is bound to upset Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid’s plans. Both, one understands, had been looking ahead keeping his presence in mind. On May 7, Sachin had himself told the Media in Mangalore that he was “fit” and “looking forward” to the Test series.
On Tuesday morning, at the MCA’s Bandra-Kurla Complex, he said something very different: “We have been trying hard... (former Team India physio) Andrew Leipus has been with me all the time and all my sessions were monitored... There is still weakness in my arm and I’m not ready to compete at the international level...”
Sachin was non-committal about when he would be fit. “It’s a difficult question... I don’t know... I leave it to the doctors to guide me...” He confirmed he would head for London to consult his surgeon ' Dr Andrew Wallace.
The August-September tri-series in Sri Lanka is the earliest that Sachin can make a big-league comeback.
Reacting exclusively, just before leaving the Marriott for the Warner Park, Chappell stated: “It’s disappointing... We would have loved to have Sachin with us... However, if he isn’t fit, then it’s in his and the team’s best interests that he returns only when he is...”
The Sachin development suggests both Mohammed Kaif and Suresh Raina are going to be retained. Had the iconic record-breaker been available, one would have had to return with Yalaka Venugopal Rao, Robin Uthappa and either Rudra Pratap Singh or Ramesh Powar.
After Kaif’s 61 in the third ODI, it would almost surely have been young Raina.
According to sources, Dravid and Chappell are “seriously considering” keeping ODI specialist Powar back for the Tests. It’s a move influenced by the slowness of the wickets in the Caribbean.
“Till the other day, it was assumed Anil Kumble would join Harbhajan Singh and Powar would return... Not so now... It appears Powar may be retained and, if that does happen, then RP will have to go back,” revealed one of the sources.
Kumble, V.V.S.Laxman and Wasim Jaffer are expected to come for the Tests. Despite his experience, former captain Sourav Ganguly isn’t in the frame and something dramatic isn’t on the cards.
For the most influential, he’s history.