The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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One-dayer rest for 30-plus

Mumbai, April 20: Former captains Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, seen as centres of player-power, have been “rested” for the three ODIs in Bangladesh next month. Both, however, have made the squad for the two-Test series there.

Three others who were part of Team India’s disastrous World Cup campaign — Harbhajan Singh, Ajit Agarkar and Irfan Pathan — have been dropped from both, while Virender Sehwag has kept his place in ODIs.

According to The Telegraph’s sources, captain Rahul Dravid again fought for Sehwag. He didn’t, incidentally, oppose the decision to leave out the Big Two.

“I’ve spoken to both Sachin and Sourav and they’re fine with our decision. We’ll be playing around 45 ODIs and 15 Tests over the next 12 months and it’s going to be impossible for somebody to play all matches,” explained chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar.

The former captain called them up before the selection meeting, confirming that he and his colleagues (Venkatapathi Raju, Bhupinder Singh, Sanjay Jagdale and Ranjib Biswal) had taken the decision informally some five hours before the official meeting.

Apparently, Vengsarkar initiated that closed-door “exchange of ideas” to eliminate the possibility of a “confrontation” with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over a working committee directive to “pick a young team”.

As the World Cup squad included only four 30-plus players, it was assumed Sachin and Sourav were targeted. Of the other two, Dravid got an extension, while Anil Kumble chose to quit ODIs.

In fact, the two-hour selection meeting began with convenor (and BCCI secretary) Niranjan Shah briefing everybody about the directive.

Vengsarkar wasn’t exactly convincing with answers during a media conference and it seemed he wasn’t too happy having to implement the somewhat unprecedented directive.

Yet, he dismissed speculation that, in the lead-up to today’s meeting, he’d offered to step down.

While there are good reasons for giving exposure to somebody as gifted as Bengal’s Manoj Tewari, many feel that the BCCI has actually made an example of Sachin and Sourav.

Former coach Greg Chappell probably didn’t have many kind words for Sourav and (to a lesser extent) Sachin during his last interaction with the BCCI and that probably got accepted as the truth.

It’s not insignificant that Sourav, who was kept out of ODIs for 16 months, has averaged exactly 60 in his last 10 innings. Moreover, having made a comeback just months ago, it’s laughable that he needs rest.

Sehwag’s average on the same scale stands at a mediocre 33.50. More than anybody else, he required a break.

It’s not confirmed but, at the selection meeting proper, the move to rest the Big Two was jointly scripted by interim cricket manager Ravi Shastri and Vengsarkar.

It’s a double blow to Sachin as, in a departure from tradition, the selectors haven’t named a vice-captain for either the ODIs or the Tests. He’d been Dravid’s deputy for the past four months.

“The captain and coach (Shastri) will decide as and when required,” Shah said as Vengsarkar nodded in agreement.

Shastri’s choice Dinesh Mongia as also Gautam Gambhir, Ramesh Powar and Rudra Pratap Singh have been recalled for the ODIs, while leggie Piyush Chawla is back in a big way 13 months after his Test debut.

In the ODI squad, 21-year-old Tewari is the absolute rookie.

“I’m thrilled, but don’t want to be remembered as somebody who played one or two matches only... I’m eager to make the most of every opportunity, for this is a dream come true,” he said moments before boarding an Ahmedabad-Calcutta flight.

Speaking of the Test squad, Baroda’s left-arm spinner Rajesh Pawar is the sole newcomer. In the XV is Powar, who has been given the chance to score a point or two over the out-of-favour Harbhajan.

“Yes, we feel Harbhajan has stagnated. He didn’t play any of the Tests in South Africa and was disappointing in the World Cup,” Vengsarkar pointed out.

Strangely, there’s just one specialist opener --- Wasim Jaffer. It’s understood that Dinesh Karthik is to be his partner.

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