Putting his weight behind the embattled Virender Sehwag, senior opener and Delhi captain Gautam Gambhir said it is unfair to solely blame the swashbuckler’s poor form for the team’s early ouster from the Ranji Trophy.

Sehwag’s poor form

Sehwag’s wretched form with the bat has been a talking point this Ranji season in which he has scored 234 runs at an average of less than 20 in 13 innings.

“Look, had each and everyone of us were performing at the same time, then Delhi would have been in contention for winning the Ranji Trophy,” Gambhir told PTI in an interview in New Delhi.

“While Viru didn’t exactly have a great season but then it can happen in sport. That’s the beauty of the game. It was Mithun (Manhas) and my responsibility to carry the team forward. Actually what cost us is one bad innings (first innings) against Punjab when we didn’t get a big lead. Just to blame Viru for Delhi’s failure to qualify for knock-outs is not right,” the seasoned opener explained.

Young blood in Ranji team

Gambhir also defended his decision to blood young Haryana boy Navdeep Saini in Ranji Trophy as he believes that while selecting a squad of XI, a player’s domicile is of little significance if the particular cricketer is talented.

“Those who have questioned my decision to play Navdeep should check how many players in the past have played for Delhi not belonging to the state,” Gambhir said on the criticism he faced for selecting a non-Delhi boy like Saini.

“I don’t wish to comment about what some individuals had to say. For me, it is important whether the player is valuable for the team or not,” he added.

Former India captain Bishan Singh Bedi had led the chorus against the selection of Navdeep, who got a total of five wickets in two low-scoring Ranji Trophy matches, by signing a protest letter to erstwhile DDCA president Arun Jaitley.

“I don’t know what Bishan paaji had said and would rather not get into it. I only know that I saw the kid (Navdeep), who till two years back used to play tennis-ball cricket, bowling well at the nets”, he said.

“I found that the boy is talented and needed a chance. It didn’t matter to me if he was from Delhi or not. Only thing mattered was that I felt that he can add value to the side.

Also, I don’t wish to name but there were former players who played for other states and had nothing to do with Delhi cricket. But later they came and played for Delhi and no one found anything wrong,” a peeved Gambhir said.

On his county performance

Gambhir said he loves his white flannels and that’s the reason he decided to play for Essex in the last county season.

“It was a good time to play county when I went there. Most of the teams were either fighting a battle to win the championship or fighting to save relegation.

“The wickets were result-oriented and it helped playing 96 overs of competitive cricket. I love my whites and it was great learning experience. That helped me score a century against West Indies A,” Gambhir said.

On Jacques Kallis

On a different topic, Gambhir paid rich tributes to legendary South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis with whom he shared the Kolkata Knight Riders dressing room for three years including the victorious campaign in 2012.

“I have shared some unbelievable time with Jacques (Kallis) in the KKR dressing room. I mean records are there today and tomorrow someone might surpass them. But he is not only a legend because he has scored more than 13,000 runs, taken close to 300 wickets and taken 200 catches.

“Those are his on-field achievements but what remains is the selfless attitude that he had played the game. A player who was always willing to do anything that the team wanted him to do,” Gambhir said waxing eloquent.

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