No place for old men in India's T20 team

Since India’s World Cup triumph last year, the older brigade has clearly been on the wane.

Selectors need to take a long, hard look at Sehwag and Zaheer's roles in the national T20 team.


Virender Sehwag played just three matches in the World Twenty20, scored 54 runs at a strike rate of 112.50, and celebrated a South African wicket so hard that he ended up straining a ligament in his left ankle and putting himself out of action for at least two weeks, according to a team statement.

Just before that, AB de Villiers had knocked the ball backward of square leg, and Sehwag, who was to the left of the umpire, had given chase for about 10-15 yards. In that time, the batsmen had crossed for two.

These are but two examples of why Sehwag seems to have outlived his utility as a Twenty20 player. He has, by-and-large, flopped as a T20 batsman, and by the next World T20 in Bangladesh two years hence, Sehwag will be pushing 36. His conditioning, never a strong point, won’t be getting any better.

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The same is true for Zaheer Khan. In four matches, he bowled 13 overs, took three wickets and his economy rate was 7.23. He was a liability in the field too, and even in the practice sessions, could be seen walking around gingerly.

That means India were virtually down to a seven-man fielding unit at times, which in the shortest format, can prove detrimental in shifting the momentum of the game.

Harbhajan Singh was picked for the World T20 on reputation alone. After bamboozling the England batsman, the Punjab off-spinner was brought down to earth when Aussie batsman David Warner took to him in the next game.

Figures of 2-0-20-0 meant he was discarded for the remaining two matches of India’s campaign.

Yuvraj Singh was brought back on sentiment after the left- hander won his battle with cancer.

But it was clear he was not in shape for top-level cricket. His batting looked rusty and he pulled his weight with his bowling alone, which found assistance from Lankan pitches.

Gautam Gambhir has been short of runs and confidence for so long that it is not funny. He also has found favourite ways of getting out — either inside-edging on to the stumps or hanging his bat out to dry and giving catching practice to the wicketkeeper and the slip cordon. His fielding, too, is not much to write home about.

MS Dhoni was defensive when asked about a possible overhaul.

“This question is always asked when we don’t do well. When we lost in Australia and England, similar questions were asked. Let’s get real. We performed well in the tournament and we lost just one match,” he said.

But with the turnaround time between world events being just two years instead of four for the ODI World Cup, and the limited number of international games, now is the time to blood youngsters and let them find their feet before they face the acid test.

There is no dearth of claimants for opening slots, even if Ajinkya Rahane isn’t considered because of strike rate issues.

There are attacking openers like Delhi pair Shikhar Dhawan and Unmukt Chand, to just name two, who could be useful as replacements.

In Zaheer’s case, the obvious replacement would be Umesh Yadav, who will only grow as a bowler the more he plays. Currently, he doesn’t enjoy the captain’s confidence, given his knack for spraying the ball at his express pace, but the fast bowling cupboard is largely bare.

Ever since India’s World Cup triumph, the older brigade has clearly been on the wane across all formats, but such is their aura that nobody seems to be able to summon up the courage and give them the golden handshake.

Still, it won’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that this could be the last outing in a T20 International for some of them.

Matches

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