Dhoni defends Sehwag's omission, says can't justify every move
MS Dhoni, India's captain, has defended his decision to leave Virender Sehwag out and play three specialist spinners against Australia, saying tournaments like World Twenty20 merited a "horses for courses" policy. Dhoni's omission of Sehwag was widely criticised - both after the toss when the team was announced, and after the match - and his team-mate, Suresh Raina, admitted that it would not be "easy" to get through the remaining Super Eights games without Sehwag in the XI.
Dhoni said after the defeat: "Regarding why Sehwag [was left out], we had only two options [in terms of players]. I don't like to take individual names, I think in such tournaments we should go 'horses for courses'. To exactly justify why a particular player was dropped is difficult."
Raina told the BBC: "For me I think Virender Sehwag can be very dangerous. I hope he'll play the next two games. I think it won't be easy to play the next two games without him."
Friday's match was India's first Super Eight match of this World Twenty20: they scored 140, which Australia chased inside 15 overs. Irfan Pathan, opening in Sehwag's absence, scored 31 off 30, failing to kick on after a good start. Piyush Chawla, effectively the extra spinner accommodated through Sehwag's omission, went for 14 runs in one over. The same combination, though, had worked well in the group game against England, which India won by 90 runs, with Chawla taking 2 for 13 against the hapless English batsmen who had little experience of quality spin.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar lamented the absence of a settled opening partnership and the fear factor that Sehwag brings. "Gautam Gambhir is a very good street smart cricketer," Gavaskar told NDTV. "He has a very good understanding with Sehwag and so breaking their partnership was not a good idea. He (Sehwag) has a fear factor against the opposition."
Gavaskar was more severe about Chawla's incusion. "Piyush Chawla, since the 2011 World Cup, has not figured anywhere in the Indian team," he said. "Has not even been in the back of any selector's mind. Why not go with Amit Mishra? What's wrong with Rahul Sharma? I sit in the commentary box and I look at his [Chawla's] face and I hope to God, 'Let him not be hit for a boundary.'" He also said Chawla's body language "does not inspire confidence".
Kevin Pietersen, now a pundit with the host broadcasters Star Cricket, was also disappointed Sehwag didn't play. "I feel sorry for Viru," Pietersen said. "I know Australia would rather face an Indian side without Sehwag in it."
However, Sourav Ganguly, another former India captain, said he could understand why the move was made. "I'm not surprised with that," Ganguly said. "It's the right decision, looking at the context of the game and the nature of the pitch. India have gone in with five bowlers and three spinners … It's a good decision, but a one-off decision I'm sure. Sehwag will come back, it's horses for courses."
Ganguly and Pietersen were speaking before the start of the game.
04:41 GMT, September 29: This article has been updated with Suresh Raina's quotes.