Until February 19, 2006, Zaheer Khan had been given enough rope to hang the whole team. He claimed thirteen wickets in his last ten games at an average of 33. He leaked 4.9 runs an over. Nine of his thirteen came in three matches against a ragtag Africa XI alliance which was recognized officially but dismissed as pointless. Of the four remaining wickets, two were tailenders. In competitive games (the other seven) on average he conceded 55 runs. And then he ran out of rope.
The lack of news it made showed us one thing: we often complain about perceived gaps when there is nothing to fill them. But out went Khan and in his place came Sreesanth, Munaf, the Singhs. Isn't competition beautiful?
Dropping players in poor form makes even more sense when you see what they transform into. In the last fortnight Khan has been accurate, skillful, and has bowled with thought. His approach to Graeme Smith was superb in its execution. After starting the first game with two wides, he has made batsmen awkward regularly. The third one-dayer, in which he dismissed Smith and Kallis in three balls, was especially significant because he harassed them repeatedly. This wasn't Khan. Not the bad old Khan. Would this transformation have come about if he knew that a place in the team came cheaply and to those with reputations? This is a guy who depressed fitness trainers.
It's possible that Virender Sehwag requires a similar approach. How long can you keep a bad thing going?