Sehwag's problem is poor fitness

It's hard to believe his purported rift with Dhoni is why he has been struggling.

Disputes, if any, need to be resolved.

Among the more significant outcomes of the victory in the first Test in Chennai was the solid show of support from Mahendra Singh Dhoni for Virender Sehwag.

The Indian captain said after the match that both openers (M Vijay being the other) deserved more time to find form though both had failed in the first Test, Sehwag, of course, singularly unlucky in the first innings when the ball bounced on to his stumps from a regulation defensive push.

Cricket convention suggests that winning combinations should be untouched so Dhoni's support for his openers was not entirely surprising. But the Indian captain also spelt out his concern for Sehwag in greater depth, which was interesting.

"When he gets going he looks brilliant, but when he gets out the same shots look poor,'' Dhoni said of Sehwag. There is no rocket science involved in this rationalisation, but I read that as tacit support of the beleaguered dasher who has been going through a particularly poor run of scores.

In recent times, there have been several stories and conspiracy theories about how the captain and Sehwag have not been on the same wavelength.

There has also been talk of a rift between some senior players and the captain which have been touted as the reason for the team's poor performances in Tests.

Personally, I don't lay too much store by such speculation.

Human relations don't traverse a straight path forever; ups and downs are part of life, even in team sport where collaborative effort towards a common objective is of the essence.

The history of the game provides several examples.

For instance, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist (Warne and Steve Waugh too) were not exactly chums. But on the field they stood alongside each other behind the wickets and combined superbly to effect countless dismissals, making Australia the best side in the world for a long time.

Going back to the 1960s, Garfield Sobers and Rohan Kanhai were locked for a long while in a game of one-upmanship yet were outstanding contributors to the cause of West Indies cricket.

Why, Donald Bradman reportedly had few friends in the Australian team right from the time of the Bodyline series in 1932-33 till he retired in 1948. But this did not prevent Australia from being the best side in the world for almost two decades. My point is that differences in a dressing room are hardly uncommon in cricket. Fissures appear and also disappear.

When the team is doing well, these are glossed over; when the team is faring badly, they become the focus of attention.

My belief is that as long as such differences don't become destructive and impede the team's work ethic or progress, these are hardly consequential. The key lies in making the effort to resolve disputes, not prolonging them.

This is why I see merit — and I hope this is not misplaced — in Dhoni's support of Sehwag: for its timing and the manner in which it was made.

Fact is Sehwag has been the most destructive batsman in the world for the better part of the last decade and one of the biggest contributors in India's victories and rise to the No. 1 ranking in Tests.

His current form is wobbly, but he must still be the batsman the Aussies dread most.

At 34, Sehwag is by no means old. That he is now wearing glasses is not an indication of infirmity: if anything, it is a wise decision and shows that Sehwag himself is not nonchalant about his future, but seriously concerned.

The crux, I think, is fitness. His batting form and fluency, if past pattern is any indication, is linked directly to what physical shape he is in. Through this season, he has looked short of being supremely fit. This has shown up not so much in his dismissals as the number of catches he has dropped.

The selectors' faith in him demands that he must respond in telling fashion for this equation to reach a fine balance.

Whatever Dhoni may have done — or not done — the onus shifts back to Sehwag to thwart the sceptics: with full understanding that time is not in his favour.

(The writer is a seasoned journalist)

(TAG: CYCSPL)

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