New Delhi, Jan 2: Delhi coach Sanjeev Sharma defended discarded India internationals Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag after his team failed to make the Ranji Trophy quarter-finals for the fourth year in a row. Sehwag has scored 234 runs in the season, averaging less than tail-ender Ashish Nehra.
Sehwag averaged 19.50 from 13 innings while Nehra made 182 in eight innings at 22.75. The statistics sum up the season the explosive opener, who was dropped from the Indian team in March 2013, has had.
Coach Sharma tried his best to defend the "Nawab of Najafgarh".
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"He is Viru, a very big player. People expect big scores from him everytime he comes out to bat. I feel he is just a bit out of form," Sharma, himself a former India player, told IANS after Delhi lost to Karnataka by eight wickets in their final league game here Thursday.
Asked what is going wrong with one of India's most successful openers, Sharma said: "I think his preparation is still very good. He gives his hundred percent and is always advising the youngsters. He comes to training on time. I don't know why he is not scoring runs. I guess it's only a matter of time."
Sehwag's form certainly hit Delhi hard but it would be a bit unfair to make Gambhir the scapegoat.
The southpaw, who could not find a place in the India squad for New Zealand tour, was Delhi's highest scorer with 578 runs at an avergae of 48.16, including three fifties and a hundred.
"Considering the wickets we played on, I am satisfied with my performance," Gambhir told IANS.
Gambhir, however, made a controversial decision of preferring to play at nondescript Roshanara stadium and not at the Ferozeshah Kotla. Only the match against Karnataka was played at Kotla, and Roshanara hosted the other three league matches.
"I would commend Gambhir for opting to play on green tops at Roshanara when he is trying to make a national comeback. He could have scored more runs by asking for flat decks. He didn't do that as it didn't suit the team," Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) official Sunil Dev said on the team's move to play outside Kotla.
The fast bowlers did a reasonable job, with Nehra turning out to be the pick of the lot, bagging 28 wickets at 19.92.
Sharma said it was the batting and fielding which let the team down, especially in the defeats against Punjab and Karnataka.
"The last two matches cost us dear," he said.
What is the way forward for the seven-time Ranji champions?
"I think we need to have quality spinners which can do well in away games. The fielding also needs big improvement. Batting is okay but we could not build many partnerships this season," Sharma conceded.