SPORT

Beyond argument Tendulkar must be chosen

CERTAIN SELECTION: While Sachin Tendulkar's selection is certain, his entry will force the selectors to choose between Yuvraj and Kaif.

CERTAIN SELECTION: While Sachin Tendulkar's selection is certain, his entry will force the selectors to choose between Yuvraj and Kaif.   | Photo Credit: Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash



Tendulkar must play until he has been reduced to a pale shadow of his former self, writes Peter Roebuck

Sachin Tendulkar's return to fitness and consequent reappearance in the Indian side puts the spotlight back on the selectors. Beyond argument Tendulkar must be chosen as soon as he declares himself ready for action. Obviously he will need to play some significant matches before taking that step but he has been around long enough to appreciate the irrelevance of nets and charity matches.

After all a musician does not prove himself whilst preparing his instrument. Admittedly Pandit Ravi Shankar was once prematurely applauded by westerners and remarked that since the crowd liked the turning up so much they were bound to enjoy the music!

Tendulkar must play until he has beyond argument been reduced to a pale shadow of his former self. Everything else is madness. It is much too early to say that the current deterioration is irreversible. Recapturing former glories may be beyond him but that is not to say he cannot continue to offer stout service for some time. Just put him in the team, and then start thinking about the rest. It is not as if the replacements have built an overwhelming case for retention.

Inevitably the question arises as to which batsman must give way when Tendulkar returns. In the past the selectors have been inclined to avoid awkward issues. When they found themselves with five strong and illustrious candidates for the middle-order they took the easy option and dropped an opener. Matters were complicated by the romantic desire to say allow Sourav Ganguly to linger. Nevertheless it was a weak decision and like most of its kind serves as a poor precedent.

India's selectors must not repeat the mistake. They can start by naming their best opening pair. Finding regular openers counts amongst the most important tasks facing any group of head-scratchers. More often than not a strong pair will take the sting out on an attack thereby making life easier for the stroke-players.

Persevere

India must persevere with Virender Sehwag and Wasim Jaffer. Sehwag has always been a buccaneer but ought to relish his role as senior partner. No sense lies in picking him to pieces like a corpse in the desert. Doubtless he does cause palpitations in the rooms, and especially amongst those waiting their turn. However, he can cause even more mayhem in the opposing camp.

For his part, Jaffer has suffered more than any of his contemporaries from selectorial whim and deserves a chance to establish himself. His recent performances suggest that he is resourceful enough to make a go of it.

Rahul Dravid follows the openers to the crease, a sight as reassuring as the gleam detected in Sehwag's eye is disconcerting. Tendulkar is next. It is not complicated. V.V.S. Laxman may prefer to bat at first drop but must take his place further down the list. His ability to bat high in the order confirms that he has the game needed to score runs in most circumstances. It is a powerful batting order and no reason arises to meddle with it.

Yuvraj or Kaif

Only now is there any need for the selectors to put on their thinking caps. Yuvraj or Kaif for the last position? Both have considerable merit and both have many times served with distinction. Neither, though, has taken that last step. Neither has taken command.

Yuvraj is a superb striker of the ball burdened with heavy footwork. Kaif is an admirable stroke-player who seems to lose his wicket a little too easily. Both are fine cricketers. May the best man win. But the issue cannot, for the time being, be avoided.

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