Rahul Dravid defends Sehwag, Kaif

Published: Friday, April 14, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Indore:India captain Rahul Dravid jumped to the defence of non-performing teammates Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif, saying their poor form was a passing phase.

"Veeru and Kaif are proven players at the top level and I am sure they will come good," Dravid said ahead of Saturday's seventh and final One-dayer against England here.

"No one can write off such cricketers. I have full faith in their abilities."

Vice-captain Sehwag, regarded as one of the most destructive batsmen in modern cricket, has averaged just 15.60 in the series with a top score of 26.

Kaif, a reliable middle-order batsman and athletic fielder, has fared even worse with an average of 4.80 in five matches.

Former captain Bishan Bedi has led calls for both players to be excluded from Saturday's match and the two One-dayers against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.

"No matter what the team management thinks, there is no option but to rest them both," the outspoken Bedi said.

"Let them spend a rigorous fortnight at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore to rediscover their close relationship with their respective bats.

"While it is commendable that the team management still has faith in Sehwag and Kaif, the latter would do well not to stretch it to a point of no return.

"Once the amicable understanding snaps that'll be it."

Sehwag, who led India in the sixth One-dayer in Jamshedpur on Wednesday which England won by five wickets, said after that game he might sit out the final match in Indore.

"It is difficult to think about your cricket when so much cricket is being played," said Sehwag.

"But Rahul is back as captain and it is up to him and coach Greg Chapell to finalise the team."

Dravid was rested after India took an invincible 4-0 lead in the series and even though the fifth match in Guwahati was washed out, he was sorely missed in Jamshedpur as India were shot out for 223.

With Sehwag and Kaif out of form and Sachin Tendulkar not available following a shoulder surgery, Chappell's reluctance to fall back on former captain Sourav Ganguly has come into sharp focus.

But legendary all-rounder Kapil Dev, who led India to World Cup glory in 1983, said it was foolish to talk about Ganguly any more.

"There is no point talking about that," Kapil said. "Enough discussion has taken place in this regard and there is no margin either for comments or deliberation.

"But Chappell must not experiment beyond limits as that may affect a batsman's rhythm."

England meanwhile may continue to rest stand-in captain Andrew Flintoff in the oppressive hot weather, which is similar to what the teams experienced in Jamshedpur.

Andrew Strauss, who led in Jamshedpur in Flintoff's absence, has recovered from the bout of leg cramps suffered during his match-winning half-century.

"Strauss is fit to play but we will not take a decision on the team till Saturday morning," said coach Duncan Fletcher.

England will be hoping to end the two-month tour on a winning note despite trailing 1-4 in the one-day series after forcing a 1-1 draw in the Tests.

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