Who called the tune?

Though Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, `rested' for the one-dayers, have been selected for the two-Test series against Bangladesh, pertinent questions remained unanswered, writes G. Viswanath.

Dilip Vengsarkar and his fellow selectors, nudged by a provoked establishment, have managed to engineer changes in the Indian team for the three-match one-day series against Bangladesh. In the process, they have ruffled the feathers of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. The two prodigious performers, who delighted millions for the best part of their careers, have been asked to take a short summer vacation.

Vengsarkar's subterfuge that both Tendulkar and Ganguly have been "rested" is an old hat. The Indians, in fact, have had a long break of one and a half months between their last World Cup match against Sri Lanka and the departure to Dhaka. Though Tendulkar and Ganguly have been selected for the two-Test series, pertinent questions remained unanswered.

Following Tendulkar's poor performances in recent times, the discerning critics have shown restraint, as they were loath to seeing the writing on the wall for the modern colossus of cricket. India's celebrated hero Sunil Gavaskar even spurred him on to play until the 2011 World Cup in India. A far cry from the cussed ones who called him `End-dulkar' after Pakistan's seamer Muhammad Asif outwitted him in the Karachi Test in January 2006.

With 14,847 runs, including 41 centuries and 77 half centuries, from 384 one-day internationals, Tendulkar should be annoyed with the selectors' decision to not pick him. Plagued by a variety of injuries that forced him to miss several matches, Tendulkar has maintained his batting average close to 45. It declined only by a fraction after the 10 matches that he has played this year.

Falling to Abdur Razzak, the left-armer from Bangladesh, and being bowled for a duck by Sri Lanka's Dilhara Fernando in the World Cup are the events that had happened too quickly. Naturally the outcome of India's early exit from the competition shattered Tendulkar's composure. But for a player, who as a schoolboy prodigy has played more than one match in a day on the Mumbai maidans, the selectors' decision to rest him would have hurt him.

Tendulkar has himself often said that he would quit the scene once and for all the moment he felt that he was not able to focus 100 per cent on his game and his contribution to the team was well short of his own expectations.

After an inordinately long meeting at the BCCI headquarters at the Cricket Centre in Mumbai, Vengsarkar explained that the one-day careers of both Tendulkar and Ganguly were far from over. "We have rested them because India is scheduled to play close to 45 one-day internationals in the next 12 months, but they will be considered for future one-day series,'' said the Chairman of the selection committee.

The signs that Ganguly would not be picked for the Indian team were evident following some whispers that the top officials of the BCCI and the selectors would penalise the former India captain for his alleged `self-before-team' attitude against Bangladesh and Bermuda in the World Cup. The BCCI swung into action, calling for an emergency Working Committee meeting after India's defeat against Sri Lanka and its subsequent elimination from the World Cup. The Board also heard a blow-by-blow account of what exactly happened in the West Indies from coach Greg Chappell and manager Sanjay Jagdale, who is also the national selector from Central Zone.

Everyone in the BCCI was talking of Ganguly's 129-ball 66 against Bangladesh and the unsympathetic reception he received in the dressing room. His team-mates too did their bit by passing information to the BCCI officials, who were not willing to point fingers at Ganguly for the India's poor showing. However, the Board faulted him for his negative approach during his near three-hour tenure in the middle against Bangladesh.

As the first step, the BCCI Working Committee adopted a resolution directing the national selectors to choose a young team for the short series in Bangladesh. The BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah also articulated the Board's intentions of revamping the Indian team. There have been instances in the past of BCCI intervening and directing the selection committee to pick certain individuals. Two years ago, the selection committee chaired by Kiran More was clearly told to pick Ganguly for the Test series against Sri Lanka after the one-day series.

The official word from the Board is that it did not direct the selectors to `rest' or `drop' Tendulkar and Ganguly, but it found a way out to keep both out of the squad for the one-day series. As a result, the selectors chose Bengal's Manoj Tiwary, who was in good form in the Ranji Trophy and other tournaments, for the one-day squad.

Tiwary has scored over 1000 runs in first class, limited overs and Twenty20 tournaments. Rajesh Pawar, who had to compete with Nilesh Kulkarni for the left-arm spinner's slot in the Mumbai side, moved to Baroda many years ago. He has been rewarded for his bag of 213 wickets in 59 first class matches. While Pawar has been chosen for the Test series, leg-spinner Piyush Chawla has been picked for the one-day series.

The selectors also dropped Harbhajan Singh and chose Ramesh Powar, whose crafty bowling is yet to be tested in international arena. Delhi's left-handed batsman Gautam Gambhir, Uttar Pradesh's left-arm spinner Rudra Pratap Singh, Punjab's Dinesh Mongia and Vikram Raj Vir Singh are all back in the side either for the one-day or the Test series.

The selection committee did not name the vice-captain, leaving it to the discretion of the tour selectors.

THE CHOSEN ONES FOR ONE-DAYERS Rahul Dravid (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik, Manoj Tiwary, S. Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh, Piyush Chawla, Ramesh Powar, Dinesh Mongia.

FOR TESTS Rahul Dravid (captain), Wasim Jaffer, Sachin Tendulkar, V. V. S Laxman, M. S. Dhoni, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, S. Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, V. R. V. Singh, Munaf Patel, Anil Kumble, Ramesh Powar, Rajesh Pawar.