New Delhi, Oct. 29 -- A couple of Ishant Sharma deliveries thudded into the pads of Virender Sehwag, who had till then played without much apparent difficulty. Those were enough to force him to reassess things. Sehwag, clad in a blue India lower and white T shirt, cleared those deliveries off his mind, tightened his defences and got down to business again. The bat met the ball this time.
The India opener's first stint at the Delhi Ranji nets this season lasted longer than that of his younger team mate Virat Kohli. He spent half an hour dealing with the pacers and 20 minutes facing the spinners.
There were occasions when the bowlers had him in doubt, but he was quick to shrug them off.
With no Test ton over the past year-and-a-half and an average of just 30.6 in the last 11 Tests, against a shade over 50 in his 98 matches, Sehwag knows he has to shrug off the lean patch as fast as he can, just like he usually does to even good deliveries.
There are just a couple of weeks to go for the first Test against England and the opening Ranji game against Uttar Pradesh, who have the likes of RP Singh and Praveen Kumar, will be an ideal test before the team is announced.
"It is important for him, even others, to play this Ranji match. They have to shake off the rustiness as there has mostly been T20 cricket in recent times," said his personal coach AN Sharma.
The Ranji match against Uttar Pradesh begins on November 2 in Ghaziabad and the day it ends, on November 5, the selectors will meet to pick the side for the first Test.
Both Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have been struggling for a tad too long, and although the selectors are likely to keep faith in them, it is vital that they find some kind of form to convey the message that they are ready for the tough series.
Sehwag's performance at the Ferozshah Kotla nets was devoid of blistering strokes. "He is getting ready for the duration games. So he was more circumspect," Delhi assistant coach Sanjeev Sharma said. "He is coming from South Africa, so he needs to get the measure of the pace and bounce."
While Kohli, oozing with confidence and in the form of his life, was chatty and expressive, talking to the media without any reservation, Sehwag mostly kept to himself. "He looked very focused on his preparations. He is an experienced campaigner and knows what to do," explained chief coach Vijay Dahiya.
The opening Ranji game should provide indications how ready he is for the England test.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.