The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Veeru, thank Dravid’s long innings
- Captain bats for shaky mate as selectors retain 15 for World Cup

Mumbai, Feb.12: Virender Sehwag has to thank captain Rahul Dravid for ensuring he boards Team India’s West Indies-bound flight in the early hours of March 1.

According to top sources of The Telegraph, Sehwag made the World Cup XV only because Dravid fought for him tooth and nail in the nearly 100-minute selection committee meeting this morning.

As was first tipped by The Telegraph on February 4, Dilip Vengsarkar and his colleagues kept faith in the XV which did duty in the first two ODIs versus Sri Lanka.

Sehwag, incidentally, wasn’t the only one close to being dropped. One understands veteran Anil Kumble, too, just about made it and questions were raised over Irfan Pathan’s hunger to be performing in the middle.

“The Sehwag issue took up half the meeting.... Some were looking at the possibility of bringing back Suresh Raina, more so after the coach (Greg Chappell) expressed reservations over Sehwag’s attitude.... Among other things, it seems he’s just not serious at nets,” informed one of the sources.

Dravid, however, was very clear that he needed Sehwag’s experience in the World Cup.

At an interaction with the media, the captain was actually asked to comment on whether his one-time deputy had his “blessings”.

Unflustered, he replied: “Sehwag doesn’t only have my blessings... But, he has to perform... He’s a hot topic and, so, I’m being asked about him.... I speak about all players (at selection meetings)... It’s not that I’m against someone or support somebody, I look for the best combination.”

Dravid, of course, is “excited” about this combination. He added, though: “It’s not about selection, but performance.... It will be about how our 6-7 key players perform and how they’re supported.... If the key players perform well, we’re going to have a good World Cup... I’m pretty confident with the group I've got.”

Getting back to the selection meeting, Dravid’s backing helped Kumble as well.

Some had begun thinking of Ramesh Powar, for he gets wickets in the all-important middle overs and can contribute with the bat, too. Then, he’s not the worst fielder on the park.

Kumble made the cut after Dravid was able to convince with two points: (a) That he’d bowled “very well” during the ODIs in South Africa and (b) Most teams wouldn’t find it easy reading his leg-breaks. Also, both specialist spinners (Harbhajan Singh being the other) would then be offies.

For the record, the above-board Vengsarkar described Powar’s fate as “very unfortunate”.

Pathan, who has been moving around with a sore bowling shoulder, survived after Dravid and Chappell highlighted his “utility” value. Both, apparently, said he would be “useful” at No.6/7 and be able to bowl at least five-six overs.

According to another source, questions were still raised over Pathan’s injury. It seems everybody wasn’t convinced that it was bad enough to have kept him out of the two ODIs versus Sri Lanka.

Clearly, Pathan must quickly get his act right. Moreover, Dravid and Chappell have got the message that nobody should be ‘protected’ in even the slightest manner.

The squad has nine survivors from the last edition (2003, in Africa) — Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Kumble, Harbhajan, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan — when Team India made the final. The first-timers are (seniority-wise): Pathan, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel and Robin Uthappa.

Sourav and Uthappa are the first-choice openers. In changed circumstances, either Sachin or Sehwag could also do the job.

Clubbed with Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and rookies Bermuda in Group B, our first match (against Bangladesh) is on March 17.

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