| Mahendra Singh Dhoni during his visit to the shooting range at the 4th Assam Police Battalion, Kahilipara, in Guwahati on Tuesday. Dhoni and teammates Rudra Pratap Singh, Murali Kartik and Robin Uthappa went to the range for some shooting practice. (PTI)
Calcutta: Fairly early in his innings as Team India captain (March 2000-September 2005), Sourav Ganguly had described the job as the “most difficult” after the Prime Minister’s.
He was right, for the past seven weeks or so have seen two stunning decisions: Rahul Dravid’s of not continuing in cricket’s hottest seat and Sachin Tendulkar deciding not to accept the Test captaincy.
Clearly, the India captaincy doesn’t appear to be the most coveted position around. Pressure, obviously, has much to do with this change.
On Tuesday, hours after The Telegraph reported that Sachin wasn’t keen on a third innings, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) confirmed he’d conveyed his unwillingness to the president, Sharad Pawar.
Later, in the evening, chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar (who was contacted in Chandigarh) said Sachin had also spoken to him “some days ago.”
“The two of us had a long chat in Mumbai and Sachin felt he wasn’t up to it... In other words, he didn’t want the (Test) captaincy... We can’t have somebody who is reluctant...”
The offer, it would seem, was made as soon as Dravid decided he’d had enough.
While a BCCI press release mentioned Sachin was for a “younger captain,” Vengsarkar didn’t recall that bit featuring in his one-on-one with the senior-most pro.
Sachin is 34 and new frontrunner Mahendra Singh Dhoni is 26. Indeed, with the selectors (and the most influential in the BCCI) appearing sold on Dhoni, the captaincy isn’t set to be split.
Dhoni is already the ODI and Twenty20 captain, but with the Ravi Shastris opposed to his immediate elevation, the selectors could look at Anil Kumble as a stop-gap arrangement.
Kumble is, then, the dark horse.
There’s talk that one reason for Sachin’s decision may be his “disenchantment” with the selectors’ functioning. While that can be debated, it’s a fact that Sachin has been upset with the seniors regularly being put on notice, directly and indirectly.
Actually, the biggest reason may well be that Sachin just doesn’t want additional pressure in the home series versus Pakistan and the big tour —to Australia — which follows within days of Shoaib Malik and his team’s return home.
It’s significant that Sachin had initially been reluctant when the captaincy was offered to him for a second time, in August 1999. He didn’t stay for long and stepped down eight months later.
The bigger question today, perhaps, is who will be the vice-captain'
The ODI and Twenty20 No.2, Yuvraj Singh, is ruled out as he’s not a certainty in the Test XI. The selectors, therefore, could go back to V.V.S.Laxman. He’d been Dravid’s deputy during the three-Test series in South Africa last winter.
Speculation should end on Thursday, when the selectors meet in Mohali.
The oFFIcial line
Hours after The Telegraph broke the story that Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t keen on the Test captaincy, Board secretary Niranjan Shah issued a press release.
“Mr Sachin Tendulkar has conveyed to Shri Sharad Pawar that he was not in a position to accept the captaincy of the Indian team for Tests.
“He was of the view that, presently, the Indian team was doing extremely well and the Board must think of appointing a younger person as captain, looking to the future of the team.
“We wish to clarify that Sachin has not written any letter nor has he expressed anguish about anything, as is being projected i n the media.”