They have been regulars in the Indian line-up for years and suddenly on fitness grounds or lack of form they find themselves out of the reckoning for a place in the side. Obviously they are keen on getting back into the limelight and the one way they can do so is to let the bat or the ball do the talking.
But competition is intense and the selectors’ focus is on youth to try and build a team for the future, so the odds are against a comeback.
This is the challenge facing players like Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. None can question their overall record, the feats they have performed and their role in famous Indian triumphs in all formats of the game.
None can also question the selectors for leaving them out of the squad for there has been a dip in their performance. Also the immediate goal is to retain the World Cup in 2015 and to strive to get back to the No 1 ranking in Tests and the Sandeep Patil led selection committee very clearly feels that youth is a better investment in this regard.
Ever since he has taken over, Patil has given the big breaks to several youngsters in both Tests and the limited over game and by and large this far sighted approach has been vindicated. Overall India has the best record in the rankings – No 1 in ODIs and No 2 in both Tests and T-20 internationals. Also Indian players have risen in the individual rankings down the line.
In this encouraging scenario, where does the discarded quartet fit in? Realistically speaking they can only get back in through highly impressive performances around the domestic circuit or from a negative viewpoint they can still make it if some members of the present squad repeatedly fail. They can also feel inspired by Zaheer Khan’s comeback even if the veteran left arm pace bowler is just about hanging on to his place.
But then there is one more hurdle to overcome – the challenge posed by the new crop of GenNext of cricketers who are swiftly climbing the ladder of success. They are prodigiously talented, highly ambitious and eager to be in the national squad.
At least three of them - Vijay Zol, Sanju Samson and Unmukt Chand - are bidding strongly for an India cap sooner rather than later. Also the selectors will have to keep a close watch on Pervez Rasool for anyone who can score a hundred and take five wickets in an innings for an underdog team in the knock out stage of the Ranji Trophy has to be a very special player.
In fact we have just finished with the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals and unfortunately with Delhi failing to qualify, Sehwag and Gambhir could not really stake their claims even if the latter was among the runs in the league stage - 578 runs at an average of 48 with one big hundred and three half centuries. Performances in the knock out stage count for much more and Gambhir certainly would have welcomed an opportunity to continue his form.
On the other hand, Sehwag’s abject failure despite opting to bat lower down could well signal the end of his international career. Among the quartet. the biggest question concerns Sehwag and this is not just because he has the best international record of the four. His carefree batting style and his seemingly laidback approach to life itself gives the likely impression that he is not serious whether he makes a comeback or not.
First he dropped down the order batting for Delhi in the middle order, perhaps an admittance that his hand eye coordination on which his fabulous game is based is failing. Then even in the middle order he went in everywhere from No 3 to No 6 before returning to the top of the order in the last league game against Karnataka.
A tally of just 234 runs at an average of 19.50 with one half century has done little to boost Sehwag’s confidence or a chance of a return to the international ranks. Just for the sake of argument, however, it would be easier for Sehwag to come back at the top of the order where there just might be a vacancy instead of the middle order which is increasingly wearing the 'house full' look. Moreover it is in this position that he made his name as one of the great entertainers in the game and arguably the batsman bowlers feared most.
It is up to Sehwag to decide how serious he is about making a comeback and where he wants to be slotted in. Gambhir on the other hand is dead serious about coming back into the Indian team and his recent figures means that he is not totally out of the reckoning. At least in his case there is no confusion as to the place where he wants to be slotted in.
With Punjab qualifying, the focus was on Yuvraj and Harbhajan. The duo had their chances to show the selectors that they had it in them to be serious challengers for a return. While Yuvraj did little to augment his claims, Harbhajan is striving hard and the doughty sardar certainly hasn’t given up hopes of a comeback. He has been bowling well of late even if the returns are modest.
However the success of Ravichandran Ashwin and the added presence of Pragyan Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja makes his return that much more difficult. Also against him is the dip in his bowling figures in international cricket over the last few years. But the selectors will undoubtedly keep an eye on the duo when Punjab plays Karnataka in the semifinals later this week.