Given that Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan are eyeing a return to the national squad, you would expect them to make a big statement. Scores of 11 and seven or figures of 1/66 are not going to help much, you may think. You would expect Gambhir and Sehwag to score a double hundred and Zaheer to take a five-for in order to keep the selectors interested.
On Day Two of the second ‘Test’ between India ‘A’ and the West Indies ‘A’ in Shimoga, the hosts were 191/3 in reply to the visitors’ first innings total of 406. Opener Gambhir fell for 11 and Sehwag, batting at No. 4, made seven. Zaheer ended with 1/66 in 20 overs.
The match is more a test for the trio of Gambhir, Sehwag and Zaheer. Form has deserted them in recent times, thereby forcing the selectors to wield the axe.
Former India batsman WV Raman, who recently helped Gambhir sort out certain aspects of his batting, said, “It is a difficult time for them. They know they have all done extremely well in international cricket. This is a difficult situation to deal with, for they know that even if they get the runs (and wickets in Zaheer’s case), they will have to wait as there are others who have done well in the Tests gone by. They have to keep performing and hope to get a call.”
Raman, who went through such phases during his playing days, said, “To play in a game where the quality of the bowling attack is not as good as it would be in an international fixture requires the player to make mental adjustments. Having proved himself at the highest level, it’s difficult for a player to perform in such games. It’s a tricky situation when you have to convince people that you are batting as well as the others.
“On the one side, there’s personal and professional pride involved. On the other side, you have to convince the selectors that you warrant a recall. Despite being fantastic performers, it is not easy to expect these players to score heavily match after match in their attempt to make a comeback. It is not about the kind of match you are playing; it’s not about the quality of the attack, but the kind of pressure you are in. You tend to be overeager to perform which, at times, isn’t helpful.”
Former India opener and coach Anshuman Gaekwad says “players do get into the period where they go through a bad phase.
The trio is currently going through that. One good season and they will come back strongly.”
Gaekwad was of the view that for the discarded senior players to come back to the side, “they have to score 1,800 or 2,000 runs in the season to convince the selectors that they are going to push out the youngsters and return to the side. They have to score heavily and consistently.”
Former India pacer Venkatesh Prasad says Zaheer Khan can play on for another year or two, “especially in the longer format”. “As far as Zak is concerned, it is not his performance or the number of wickets that matter,” Prasad said. “What matters is how he is running, how he is approaching the crease, how he is bowling and whether he is able to bowl his second and third spells the same way he bowls his first.
If the selectors are to go by the number of wickets Zak takes, they are mistaken. Zak has proved what sort of a bowler he is. He has not played cricket for some time and needs to get back into the rhythm. The selectors have to give him a lot of opportunities so that he gets back to rhythm. I strongly feel he has got a year or two left in him to serve India.”