Sensational headlines on TV notwithstanding, India’s list of 30 probables for the 2015 World Cup is not surprising. There was never going to be room for Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh.
That much is obvious from the make-up of the Indian ODI team in 2014. Only Yuvraj has played a game for his country this year over the last 12 months and that was in December last year. None of the five have set domestic cricket alight. Quite the opposite in the case of Sehwag and Yuvraj while Zaheer has struggled just to be fit enough to play. It would have been foolish and absurd to have picked them when so many others have stronger claims.
None of that is to denigrate any of them. All five played an integral part of India’s 2011 World Cup win and that will never be forgotten. But the time has come for India to move on from them and start fresh. This is the way of sports.
Australia won the World Cup in 1999 under Steve Waugh. Four years later, Australia was led by Ricky Ponting and Steve and his brother Mark had wandered off into the sunset. Only five Australia players who played the final in 1999 against Pakistan were in the playing XI against India in 2003. This is normal. Teams don’t stand still, especially over four year cycles. Form ebbs and flows and time takes its toll. All players, however great, eventually lose the ability to perform at the highest level.
It also becomes harder as you get older to keep up in the field. Ranji Trophy legend Amol Mazumdar who retired earlier this year said he could have kept on playing if batting was all he had to do. It was the thought of fielding all day that he couldn’t take anymore. It is no secret MS Dhoni wants a sharp, athletic side and it would be a brave man or woman to argue that these five are what they were in the field, especially Yuvraj.
The harder question is where do these five go from here? It is likely that perhaps Gambir aside, their international careers of are over. Sehwag, Gambhir and Harbhajan have been vocal in wanting to play in the 2015 World Cup. That’s been a motivating factor for them. Without that potential prize, will they still have the zest and desire to keep going? Or will this drive them to work even harder to prove that contrary to pubic opinion, they are not, in fact, done?
It will ultimately come down to how much they love cricket and what their bodies will let them do. In the days before big-money T20 leagues and 365-day cricket calendars, plenty of international cricketers continued to play first-class cricket. Former England captain Graham Gooch played his last Test in 1995 but was still playing County Cricket until 2000.
That is harder to do these days because the players have more miles on them when they retire. Ricky Ponting managed just one season of Sheffield Shield cricket after hanging up his Australia cap. There are also plenty of other opportunities available to cricketers after they retire. Sehwag has already built a school and appears committed to making it the best possible school it can be.
Not making the list of probables would have hurt each of these proud cricketers. But deep down they would have known their chances of making it were slim or none, and slim has left town. As professional sportsmen, they know the drill. Our job is not to weep for them but to make sure their deeds are not forgotten.
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Updated Date: Dec 05, 2014 12:31:48 IST