Four warriors, fighting back age, reflexes, exclusion and the inevitable but relentless march of a new generation, will provide a fascinating glimpse into their character in the next four weeks. They have been very successful but that was in the past and such is the fight for places that their challengers have already emerged. Even though they may not want to see it that way, it is a good sign for Indian cricket.
But each of the four — Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh — has pedigree in abundance and you only wave that a final goodbye once you are convinced that it has finished everything it has to offer. By leaving them out, the selectors said they expected more but by picking them for the India ‘A’ games, they have shown they can be fair. It is a fine selection by a group that is showing both intent and faith.
You could of course argue that the Champions League took away a lot of the younger challengers and that otherwise there might have been no rehabilitation. But it doesn’t matter where the opportunity comes from and if I was a young, fringe player for India, I would be keeping a very close eye on how these stars are doing. When you have the deeds that these four have behind them, you no longer test their ability; you test fitness, form and things like those that are carriers of ability. And so, in one of those delightful twists in life, not qualifying for the Champions League might be a blessing in disguise. As would be the strange sequence of events that has led to a delayed tour of South Africa. I wonder if there is another part of the cricket world where the landscape changes as rapidly!
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
Without trivialising the efforts of the other three, I believe more eyes will need to be on Zaheer Khan than on them. I suspect, in his last ten matches where his returns have done his ability a disservice, his body has been a limitation. Fast bowling is an unnatural activity for the human body and needs everything to be synchronised to propel you to the crease. Clearly that wasn’t the case with Zaheer and that is why fans should be delighted at the effort to regain fitness first.
At 35, he is unlikely to be looking beyond the next eighteen months