Not the time to write Sehwag off

Virender Sehwag is a man of few words. Even in the best of times, he didn’t say much as he let his bat do the talking. And now that the willow he wields has failed to produce those thudding shots which produced runs at a fast clip, the dashing opener from Delhi is keeping a low profile.

People close to Sehwag had told me that if the master marauder is kept out or dropped, he may well retire. However, the tweet which Sehwag put out after being dropped said it all: “Will continue to work hard for my place in the team. I trust my game and am confident that I’ll be back.” The problem with Indian cricket is the way it is run and how nobody in the BCCI wants to share anything with the media. The Indian cricket board, for all its riches, has functioned in an archaic way and never thinks it fit to hold media interactions on selection so that relevant questions can be answered.

The general impression which has been created after Sehwag was dropped is that his Test career is over. Already out of favour as far as T20 and ODI cricket are concerned, I am convinced Sehwag still has a career left as a Test opener.

Ideally, after winning the first two Tests in Chennai and Hyderabad, the winning combination should not have been changed. What makes it all the more intriguing is that out of the 15- member squad, only Sehwag is left out and other non-performers continue to be in the team.

I guess as the selectors have a job to do and Sandeep Patil himself was a batsman who relied more on instinct and picking the ball early, he knows best how Sehwag has to be treated.

These are difficult times for Indian Test cricket. Winning two Tests on the trot against Australia is nice, but that doesn’t mean skipper MS Dhoni is doing everything right.

The joke doing the rounds these days is that when Dhoni says a player ought to be backed, the cricketer finds himself sooner rather than later being put in cold storage. In the case of Sehwag, Dhoni had said that the dashing opener needed to be persisted with.

What has transpired between the skipper and selectors we do not know, but to think Sehwag’s Test career is over is premature. Agreed, Murali Vijay has started scoring runs and between Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane, someone is going to be given a chance.

The big worry is the Test series which India has to play away from home in the next year and a half. It includes tours to South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia where batsmen who are not sound in technique will be exposed in no time.

Logic demanded Sehwag be given chances in the last two Tests in Mohali and Delhi. Had he been a failure there as well, the selectors could have come to the conclusion that they had to move on and find the next best pair of openers who could serve India well.

Today, critics cite statistics to belittle Sehwag. Hello, when the same Sehwag was scoring a hundred, a double or even a triple ton at the same breathtaking pace, he was a marvel. To say that Sehwag is finished would be unfair. For someone who has enthralled the global audience with his dynamic batting style, he still is an explosive impact player.

While it may sound cliched to use the phrase ‘ form is temporary and class is permanent’ Sehwag has plenty of cricket left in him. Thirteen years ago when Sehwag made his Test debut, he had not thought he would be making such a forceful impact, first in the middle order and then as an opener, lasting 104 Tests.

At a time when we relive the partnerships which he and Gautam Gambhir forged together, it is sad to see neither out there in the middle. Technically, Gambhir may be more proficient but as a player who can negate the most explosive fast bowling attacks, Sehwag is not finished.

There are a number of newspaper articles which have pointed out how Sehwag has lost hand-eye coordination and fitness is a big issue for him.

Just because a cricketer starts wearing glasses does not mean he has completely lost his hand-eye coordination.

Nobody knows whether he started wearing spectacles recently or if before that he had been using contact lenses. Then again, people have speculated on his eye power. The same set of people should perhaps be told that even with loss of vision in one eye, Tiger Pataudi continued to be a fantastic cricketer whose fielding skills were sublime.

Sehwag still has a great fan following and for someone who has aggregated over 8,000 runs in Test cricket, this is not the time to write his obituary.

It takes one innings for a player like Sehwag to make a big impact again. Perhaps, people are making the same mistake as they made with Zaheer Khan in thinking his Test career is over. As one who is working hard at rehab at the NCA, Zaheer is still hopeful of making a comeback and the Indian cricket establishment has certainly not lost faith in him.

If Zaheer is being nursed back to fitness and eventually form, there is every reason to believe Sehwag will be back. The Indian Premier League begins in just over three weeks and hopefully the marauder can put things back in perspective.



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