His directness in approach is apparent in whatever Virender Sehwag does. It might be meeting the first ball of a crucial Test match with an almighty heave or the quelling of an insistent hack through an abrasive response more suited to the gullies of Najafgarh where he grew up worshipping, and eventually emulating, Sachin Tendulkar – Sehwag is not one to beat about the bush.
Which makes the current situation even more fragile for fans of possibly the most unique talent in the game. For, after being dropped from the Indian scheme of things, both in Tests and ODIs at the beginning of the year, Sehwag finds himself nowhere in reckoning to make a comeback. His run of scores across formats – for Delhi, India ‘A’ and North Zone – read 59, 8, 5, 7, 38, 1, 15, 9, 35*, 3 and 6 (186 runs in 11 innings at an average of 18.6 with one half-century).
The argument against Sehwag is that if the batsman is unable to make it count in domestic cricket, against second grade attacks and on pitches more suitable to batting than anywhere else in the world, what chance does he have of coming good again at the highest level – that if he somehow manages to sneak into the Indian team in a climate where there are at least three claimants to his opening spot and all three are in the form of their lives.
Top class player, but...
Speaking to ESPNcricinfo of the low tide in the affairs of the man who was once seven runs away from being the only cricketer with three triple-centuries, former India captain and national selector Dilip Vengasarkar said, “(Sehwag has not scored) Even in first-class cricket, which is very surprising to me because Viru is a top class player. So for him to score should be easy. The kind of wickets and the quality of attacks, you would expect him to score consistently, but there also he has failed."
Then again, Sehwag has often risen to the occasion. In 2007, when he was dropped after a slump that extended its rut even into domestic cricket, Sehwag was picked on whim to tour Australia. The results were a gradual accrual of confidence: 29 and 43 at Perth, followed by 61 and a scintillating 151 at Adelaide. Could the selectors have thrown the struggling batsman a similar rejuvenating rope ahead of a critical trip to South Africa, where he had erupted into the limelight with a blazing debut century in 2001?
“Back then also he was completely out of form but still we picked him for the Australia tour. He had failed to score runs for Delhi but I was confident that the style of his play would work on bouncy pitches (in Australia)," Vengsarkar said.
A slowing down of the body and mind is inevitable as the years roll by. Sehwag is 35. He started playing with spectacles at the start of the year, experimented with his batting position and pushed himself down into the middle order. But nothing has worked. Not even his trusty technique of going for broke from the outset.
Also speaking to ESPNcricinfo, former Test opener and chairman of Delhi’s selection committee Chetan Chauhan summed it up: “You are desperate to score runs, so you build pressure on yourself. The reflexes are not the same because of age. You become unhappy. You become frustrated.
“You want to score very quickly because you are not among the runs. In this over anxiety and over zealousness, you play wrong shots and get out. He has to have patience and work harder"
The question before him now is not whether he can score – he probably can, maybe not with the same belligerence and frequency, and will. The question is whether Sehwag, having etched his influence on the modern game like few have – is alright with putting himself through the motions to prove a point that doesn’t really need any proving. Highly doubtful if he is.