Sachin Tendulkar hasn't held the reins of captaincy for too long but the 23-year-old has already sent a message to the selectors: he would like to do things his own way.
"Now that I've become captain, let me do it my way. You guys (referring to the selectors) made me captain. Now if I want to do whatever I feel is good for the country no-one should interfere. Nobody else except the team," Tendulkar told the Indian newsmagazine India Today in a recent interview.
He was obviously referring to the controversy which arose when Vinod Kambli was selected ahead of Saurav Ganguly during the so-called one-day friendship series against Pakistan in Toronto. "People shouldn't waste their time thinking about such things. What pleasure will I get by dropping someone? The first thing I said was, even if it is my brother and he's not playing well, I'll drop him," Tendulkar asserted.
He went on: "Even if he (Y) is performing well, but I feel that for this particular match X is a better player, then X will play. Even if Y has scored runs in test matches or one-dayers... it doesn't mean that a player is good for both types of cricket. You have to set boundaries for every player -- if X is only good for one-dayers he shouldn't play Test cricket. That's the way all teams go in the world. If the captain has confidence in someone, back him. Or don't make him captain."
Such words will not go down too well with the selectors but given the current situation and the fact that Tendulkar is new to the job, they may be overlooked. But Indian cricket has become so politicised over time that a more likely scenario is that it is only a matter of time before such statements come home to roost.
However, there is one additional factor running in Tendulkar's favour. The only Indian cricketer who could openly defy the selectors and get away was Sunil Gavaskar -- and that to the extent of calling the selection panel "a bunch of jokers". It is an open secret that Gavaskar is extremely protective of Tendulkar and makes no bones about praising him to the skies whenever he has the chance. Some observers feel that Gavaskar may be trying to gain a foothold in the board and Tendulkar may be his entry point. And if Tendulkar does fall afoul of the selectors, it does not take a great deal of intelligence to guess at the person who would mediate.
In the interview, Tendulkar claimed that captaincy was not affecting his batting. "All the guys say that if you're captain there is additional pressure, but they only make you captain because one is capable of handling that pressure. After playing for so many years if I can't handle it, what's the point of being one of the senior players of the side?" he asked.
"When I'm batting, the level of concentration is so high that these things don't come to mind, that I'm captain and I have to perform and it's all up to me. When I'm in the middle, the only thing that comes to mind is that I'm a batsman and the team expects something from me and I should be able to live up to my teammates' expectations."
These statements strike one as a bit naive. The Indian skipper hasn't obviously heard of one I.T. Botham and his experience. But then again these are early days and the strain of the captaincy obviously hasn't begun to tell. Every starter has his own brand of idealism when he gets going and only around the midway mark will he come to realise that every rainbow does not end in a pot of gold.
Tendulkar feels one doesn't have to be good to one's opponents because "you can't call it a gentlemen's game. You can probably have a chat in the evenings after the game is over but on the field I don't think you should be good to any of the opponents. They have come to beat you so how can you be good to them? I don't agree with that. You have to be very tough, forget about having a good word with them. You don't have to appreciate anything at all."
Once again, rather naive utterances but by the end of the season his tune may change. He wasn't asked about the proposal by Indian board president Inderjit Singh Bindra to play cricket round the year but obviously doesn't disagree else he would have voiced it at some point. One thing is sure -- if something gets on his nerves at this stage, one is bound to hear about it soon.