In The Saddle, Finally

The Paes Setter
August 14, 1996
“It’s Come At The Right Time”
August 21, 1996

In The Saddle, Finally

SACHIN Tendulkar has many gears in reserve. A day into his new role as captain of the Indian cricket team he slipped into a higher con-figuration, a superior vector flow that took into account that he no longer had just the ‘I’ to answer for but a certain holistic entity of which he was the spearhead. Tendulkar rarely came on the line to journalists, lesser mortals who eat up time disproportionate to their standing in life. But 24 hours have taught him that with elevation a new Zen came into play and accessibility, even if guarded, was an invariable he had to factor in his new routine.

His jaunty walk to the Eden Gardens clubhouse also ringed that he was comfortable in his new shoes. His composed confidence and tolerant smile at photographers and an attendant crowd kind of conveyed ‘guys I have been waiting for this. I know you too have been. But relax, I am here to stay. We are going to have much more of this chemistry. You and me and this willow game that has us all going nutty’.

The nation’s number one sport star, Tendulkar, was at last gripping the whip in the team and for now was enjoying his elevation. Enjoying his recall too was Vinod Kambli. At Pune, when the news came, a friend of his said the stylish lefthander was ecstatic. Another player with a buzz in his head was Karnataka bowler David Johnson, the only new face in the team. Missing out on the England tour due to injury, Johnson is at last being rewarded for a brilliant Ranji season which had him take more than 50 wickets and play a key role in his state’s Ranji trophy win.

Of the players whose retention might have raised an eyebrow or two were Vikram Rathore and Sunil Joshi. While Rathore came a cropper in England in the Tests, never managing to give the team a sound start, the selectors’ persistence might be interpreted as another chance for the Punjab opener to come good. Joshi, however, deserved another nod for his domestic performance in 1995, the first player in Ranji history to take 50 wickets and score 500 runs in one season.

But in the dropped players for the forthcoming Singer Cup in Sri Lanka and Sahara Cup in Canada there were no surprises in Narendra Hirwani, Paras Mhambrey and Venkatapathy Raju. And perhaps it would have been too much of an injustice to former skipper Mohammed Azharuddin if Sanjay Manjrekar had been preferred over him. Though how Azhar is going to merge in the team without his stripes only the tours will tell us. Says Maninder Singh, former Test player: “So many captains have played under Azhar. He should know what it’s like.” A piece of judgement by former BCCI president Madhav rao Scindia on what it takes to be a successful captain: “You need sobriety, commitment and maturity. Sachin has all three and some to spare for his colleagues.”

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