The Telegraph
Saturday , February 1 , 2014
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It can’t be a club: Gavaskar

Calcutta: Sunil Gavaskar, on Friday, lashed out at the Indian players, saying that they should not take their place for granted.

India’s overseas form, of late, has been pathetic. After losing the ODI and Test series in South Africa, they have conceded a 0-4 defeat in the ODI series in New Zealand.

The former India captain said Mahendra Singh Dhoni should not stick to the ‘core group’ of players. In fact, Dhoni should try out young players and, if necessary, bring back discarded seniors.

“Of course, you have to look at talents coming through. You cannot rule out everybody else, overlook other emerging players and say that this is my core group… That will send out a wrong message. It will mean that you are telling the players in the squad that you can do whatever you want over the next 12 months. You can score very few runs or take very wickets, but you will still be selected. I don’t think that is the right path to take if you want to defend the World Cup.

“I think there should be a healthy competition in the side. Never mind what the age of a player is, they should fight for a spot in the XI… We have seen Australia selecting Brad Hodge for a T20 game… Hodge is 39 years old…

“But Australia have given him the chance because the man is in great form. So age should not be a factor. You should have a horses for courses policy. And by that I mean that guys who are in form should be encouraged. When a player is out of form, you cannot wait for him to hit form because by the time he starts scoring runs or taking wickets, it might be too late,” Gavaskar told a television channel.

“I agree partly with the notion that the tried and tested should be given a few more opportunities. But then, if they are not delivering, you need to look at others.

“You need to look at others who are available and will deliver at crucial junctures. If you say that the man doesn’t have enough experience behind him, then that argument is not valid…

“I will tell you why. If you look at the 2007 World T20, you would see India didn’t have a lot of experienced players in their ranks… Still they won the Cup.

“So I don’t think experience should be the only criteria here to retain players. If you have young and fresh players coming in, their energy and enthusiasm can rub off on the others in a positive manner.”

“So therefore, you need to have an open mind about it… It can’t be a club… You cannot have a club here that unless you have played 50 to 60 matches, you cannot come in the World Cup squad. That is absolutely wrong.”

Gavaskar also came down heavily on openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. He said India should try out different combinations and settle down on a pair before the 2015 World Cup starts.

“We are not getting off to a good start… That’s what is hurting us most. One of the openers is going on to score a few runs, but they are not firing in unison. They have failed to give a good start in South Africa as well as here in New Zealand,” said Gavaskar.

“When your openers fail regularly, the middle-order batsmen automatically come under pressure.

“The task of the openers is to see off the new ball and lay the foundation for a big score for your side. But they are not making life easier for the middle-order batsmen. So it is one area which India need to look at again. May be they need to try out new combinations, give new batsmen a chance…

“Especially when you have only a year before the World Cup, you need to sort this issue as soon as possible. In fact, this should be your top priority if you are looking to defend the World Cup,” he added.

Gavaskar was surprised that India didn’t give a chance to leg-spinner Amit Mishra and pacer Ishwar Pandey.

“I was surprised that Amit Mishra and Ishwar Pandey weren’t picked. I was even surprised that Mohammed Shami wasn’t given a break today. He has been by far our best bowler. In the last three-four months, he has bowled in every single match.”