‘At my seniority, why would I think of captaincy?’

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If asked in confidence, Virender Sehwag will say he wants an innings similar to the one that earned him the sobriquet ‘Sultan of Multan’. That was in 2004. Five years later, the Delhi master blaster – whom the legendary Sachin Tendulkar calls his alter ego in the national selection – sincerely wants to avoid ribbon-cutting ceremonies and questions on his fitness. He’s actually tired of both. The soft-spoken opener, who recently sparked a rebellion by threatening to leave the Delhi state team if administrators didn’t stop pushing their candidates into the side, is confident of being fully fit for the Australia series this fall. Set to lead Rest of India in the Irani Trophy against Mumbai in October, Sehwag told Shantanu Guha Ray that all he now wants are some big scores and a permanent place in the national team. He knows skipper Dhoni is missing him and his blitzy knocks. Excerpts from the interview.

Photo:  Shailendra Pandey

What prompted your decision to stay away from the Delhi Daredevils captaincy?
I don’t know why the media created such a ruckus because of this decision. There have been many cases of players stepping down from captaincy to give themselves some space, so that they can perform better. There are countless such examples, so why point a finger at me? In fact, there are people who have asked me whether I would never consider myself for the captain’s slot for the national team. Now this is strange and absolutely ridiculous. I would be happy to be the skipper, but the team is performing brilliantly under Dhoni. So why would someone consider me, and why would I jump into the race? At my seniority, why would I think of succeeding Dhoni? For me, the most important thing is not the desire to be captain. In fact, that – for me – mars the larger picture of being a part of a world-beating team. For that matter, even the role of vice-captain of the Indian team should actually be given to someone who is being groomed for the job, so that he can sustain himself in that slot for long. It should not go to another senior player.

Isn’t your fear that captaincy pressures might affect a batsman’s class a bit peculiar? By that criterion, wouldn’t all captains be horrible batsmen?
No, let me counter this with an example. Look at my resignation from the Delhi Daredevils. It is all about taking responsibility for choking after coming so far in the Indian Premier League. I had to stem the rot. I had tried for two years and we didn’t qualify for the finals, so I told the owners to try someone else’s luck since mine wasn’t working. And I’m pretty cool about my decision. The idea is to score timely runs and help the team achieve the desired target and win the day. I am not thinking out of the box. There is no smart play in this. I am thinking in a very natural way.

Why have you stayed away from the race to be the Indian cricket captain? |
You are again harping on this. I have not stayed away. Consider the context. When Rahul Dravid resigned, where was I? I was, in fact, struggling for my place in the side. So where was the question of being the captain of the side? After that the team has been doing well. So why again talk of my personal ambitions? Please do not get me into this. India is finally looking like a top team under Dhoni and has all the power to capture the number one slot and retain that position for long. I would say Gautam (Gambhir), my teammate at the club, state and national level, has all the potential to be groomed into a leader. He is already a vice-captain in the Champions Trophy. It’s a clear indication that he could, one day, graduate into captaincy. He is good, intelligent and Delhi have won the Ranji Trophy under him once already [2007-08].

What prompted your signing on with Reliance?
The media in India loves to speculate because they are constantly in need of stories. But they need to think before writing such scurrilous copy. I have not signed on with Reliance. It was only for the JP Atrey tournament. The fact that I and Nita Ambani were photographed together lent itself to some intense, baseless speculation by the media. I cannot do anything about it.

Hypothetically, could you shift from Delhi to Mumbai?
I think I’ve answered that already. I’ve no intention of leaving Delhi and will continue to represent the Delhi Daredevils for the IPL.

You represent the Delhi Daredevils in the IPL but Reliance in a corporate tournament. Isn’t there a conflict of interest?
There are plenty of such contradictions in the game in India. Representing Reliance in a standalone tournament does not mess my show with the Delhi Daredevils. If it did, there would have been opposition to it, right?

I have not signed on with reliance. Representing reliance in a standalone tournament does not mess my show with the Delhi Daredevils’

You’ve been out of action for nearly four months due to a shoulder problem. How have you handled your injury?
I’ve been working with the physios on rehabilitation and am trying to keep myself fit and from getting bored by attending events. In fact, I am currently maintaining a strict exercise regime. I am being careful, very, very careful so that I don’t get into any more major injury hiccups.

You missed the Twenty20 World Cup in England, the ODI series in the West Indies, the triangular series in Sri Lanka and the Champions Trophy in South Africa. That’s a lot of cricket. How are you coping with this loss?
I haven’t been feeling too happy about it. No one wants to lose out on cricket in India, especially after being an integral part of the side for long. But injuries are something that a cricketer needs to heal completely before getting back into the game, otherwise it becomes a recurring issue and that is not good. I know I can’t throw from the boundary line as yet and will choose to field in the circle during the Irani Trophy and Champions League. But I should be fully fit by the time the Australians are here. I know I’ve missed all these tournaments and am hopeful of breaking some new records and achieve new milestones.

shantanu@tehelka.com

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