Five men intrinsically linked with the rise of Indian cricket in the last decade have been officially shown the exit door on Thursday. By not including Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh in the probable list for the World Cup, the selectors have made it clear that Indian cricket has decided to move on. It’s an indicator of how far Indian cricket has already moved beyond these five, that their non-selection triggers nostalgia for their past contribution but no outrage.
The decision doesn’t surprise as the five don’t have the numbers to warrant inclusion. Farewells are overrated, and it should be the discretion of individuals how they want to go, but they do have an inherent sense of closure. It now remains to be seen how these five will choose their moment to retire. Will it be now or after some inconsequential IPL game?
The architects of the revival of Indian cricket in modern times might be Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, who had made their debuts long before these five, but it was only after the arrival of the likes of Sehwag and Zaheer that India started winning abroad consistently. In that sense, these bridge-generation players have perfectly played their part. At 34, Harbhajan might feel that he has unluckily been counted as collateral damage but sport can often be cruel. It required a leap of faith from the selectors to ignore recent performances and vote on past glory but they have decided that it’s time to invest in the youth. The poignancy of the moment stands out, though. In the last few years, Zaheer was the mentor of the bowling attack, shepherding Ishant Sharma and Co. Now he has been made redundant by the men he mentored. Similarly, Sehwag and Gambhir were the seniors and early mentors of Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina but now find themselves out of favour. The baton has been well and truly passed on.