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    Jaywant Lele backs Virender Sehwag's return to Indian team

    Mumbai: Former BCCI secretary Jaywant Lele wants discarded Indian opener Virender Sehwag to be recalled and made an integral part of the Indian team in all three formats of the game for his match-winning abilities.

    "He is a batsman who has scored two triple hundreds and one near triple hundred in Test cricket. He's a match-winner and according to me Sehwag should be in the Indian team in all three forms of the game as long as he is fit and available," said Lele, at the CCI yesterday, while delivering the keynote address of the "Legends Club" on the 98th birth anniversary of former captain Vijay Hazare.

    The outspoken former official claimed how he had played a role in Sehwag getting a firm foothold in the Indian team through the ODIs early on in the Delhi dasher's career. "Selector Madan Lal used to bring up Sehwag's name consistently in selection committee meetings chaired by Chandu Borde as the player used to score 40-50 regularly batting at 7 or 8 in domestic matches and after a lot of persuasion was included in the squad of 15 in the ODI series against Zimbabwe (December, 2000)," Lele recalled.

    "When captain Sourav Ganguly was banned from the Rajkot game for India due to over-rate penalty, Madan asked me to try and convince Borde to give Sehwag a chance. I persuaded Borde to include him in the XI and the latter agreed only on the condition that I take up the entire responsibility by saying he could not be contacted and I agreed. And Sehwag is still playing," said Lele.

    Lele also recalled legendary Sir Garfield Sobers' lofty praise of Sehwag's abilities during a talk show in Mumbai a few years ago when he said he was the Indian player he liked most for his attacking play. "When I met Sandeep Patil before the Test series, I told him about Sehwag's match-winning qualities and he agreed," Lele added.

    Lele also revealed how Raj Singh, as BCCI president, had not okayed a squad to Zimbabwe with Sourav Ganguly as its vice-captain following talks he had previously had with captain Mohammed Azharuddin and coach Anshuman Gaekwad who had not liked the Bengal stalwart's attitude. "There is a clause in the BCCI's constitution that all touring squads need to be approved by the president. In one instance, when the squad was picked for Zimababwe (1998) with Azhar as captain, Raj Singh did not okay it as it had Ganguly named as vice-captain.

    "He confronted the selectors after having heard Azhar and Anshu speaking against Ganguly prior to the meeting and asked them how was he was named as vice-captain. It got changed and Anil Kumble became the vice-captain and the team was given the nod by the president," Lele said. India played a one-off Test and 3 One-dayers on that tour.

    The former BCCI secretary was against the idea of paid selectors introduced by the Board a few years ago but agreed to the idea of selection committee meetings and AGM of the Board being telecast 'live'. "There is no harm in telecasting the AGM. But there are some secrets in the Board and they will not like them to be made public. But I am against the concept of paid selectors. They should be given some extra money as compensation but not like Rs 50-60 lakhs per year," said Lele answering a question.

    Though the Board is raking in moolah from the lucrative Indian Premier League, Lele was of the view that the T20 format was harming Test cricket. "T20 cricket is harming Test cricket," he said. But he also recalled the days when the BCCI was in the red to the tune of Rs 75 lakh when the late Madhavrao Scindia was at the helm of its affairs and he was the Board's joint secretary in 1990-91.