SACHIN BACK FOR SECOND STINT IN SILENCE 

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By BY LOKENDRA PRATAP SAHI in Calcutta
  • Published 28.07.99
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Calcutta, July 28 :     The choice is perfect. As for the timing, well, better late than never. Indeed, absolutely nobody can ever have too much of Sachin Tendulkar. Handing the captaincy back after 18 months is definitely in the best interests of Indian cricket. No arguments there. Yet, considering Sachin?s own ?reservations? about taking up the job, right now, the thought lingers: Should he have been accorded the luxury of picking-and-choosing? The selectors, who met in Nagpur today, didn?t favour that: They?ve appointed Sachin captain for the first two engagements of the 1999-2000 season ? the tri-series in Sri Lanka (August 22-31) and the three-nation meet in Singapore (September 2-7). It is understood chief selector Ajit Wadekar, assigned the task of ?persuading? Sachin by the Board, merely informed the powers-that-be that the maestro ?should not say no (to captaincy).? Sources said Wadekar did not elaborate. But whatever Wadekar said was obviously good enough for the Board to give him and his colleagues (Madanlal, Shivlal Yadav, Ashok Malhotra and Anil Deshpande) a free hand. In other words, no ?directive? was issued. With even Azhar?s mentors distancing themselves from him, going for Sachin was only logical. ?The mood was for a change and we, too, were convinced Sachin should return. By picking the best man, we?ve done our bit. Now, if Sachin actually has reservations, he should publicly decline the captaincy,? pointed out one of the selectors, echoing his colleagues? views. For Sachin, though, that is easier said than done. He has been presented with a fait accompli. It is one thing to make a verbal request (?I?ll be happy if, at this point in time, I?m not considered for the captaincy?) during a one-to-one with not one but two senior Board mandarins, quite another to behave in a manner that will be seen as putting self before country. Even an icon can?t risk that. Still, it?s significant that Sachin hadn?t reacted till more than 10 hours after his appointment. If that?s been one way of making a point about reluctance, it?s been well made. Usually, first-time appointees and those staging a captaincy-comeback, react within hours if not minutes. Another selector insisted that even if the Board allowed Sachin to ?choose? the time of his return (as captain), there would have been problems galore if the stop-gap appointee (Ajay Jadeja) struck gold between now and later this year, a time Sachin probably would have preferred. This argument makes sense. ?Look, we haven?t chosen the captain of a school team. Rather, somebody who will lead India into the 21st century. Sachin is a stayer and, if all goes well, he will be around (as captain) for years,? the selector added. According to sources, Sachin received the equivalent of a perfect-10 from coach Aunshuman Gaekwad in his report on the World Cup. The report was placed before the selectors, in Nagpur. Not that it made a difference ? Azhar?s fate was already sealed ? but he got what would have been five on ten. And, that?s probably being generous. In fact, in parts, Gaekwad minced no words. So, even if Azhar is fit, there?s a good chance he won?t make the XIV for the opening engagements of a fresh season. The selectors, however, may not themselves do all the dirty work. Most would be happy to drop Azhar without batting an eyelid, but will perhaps wait for Sachin to set the ?pace? at the August 6 selection meeting. Sachin?s innings No.2 in the ?hot seat? could begin amid much dhamaka.