Once upon a time, Virender Sehwag’s name used to instill the fear of god in bowlers all across the globe. Of course, that was the case when he was on song. But an out-of-sorts Sehwag, in recent times, points to the needle of doubt about his Test future.
It’s not always that one can buy time in the national team on past exploits and Sehwag did that for some time.
We knew Sehwag as someone who would take the game away from the opposition whenever the Indians batted first on day one of a Test match after winning the toss or even when India bowled first.
The opposition would be left demoralized and decimated by the post-lunch session as the Najafgarh bomber would brutalize the bowlers so much so that they would be left with no option but to go through the motions.
Sadly, Sehwag is on the wrong side of the thirties, and is struggling to save his Test career. A mere 27 runs in two Tests against Australia at home only hastened his exit from the national side.
Veeru bhai with his sheer audacity and belligerent stroke play has regaled all of us for so many years – it created a situation where no matter whoever is scoring heavily in the domestic circuit at the top of the order stood no chance of replacing Sehwag as he has raised the performance bar by such a long shot, that it was far beyond the striking distance of those chasing that opener’s spot.
It did not help any other domestic performers that there was somebody like Gautam Gambhir was occupying the other opening slot before he met the same fate like Sehwag – a string of inconsistent performances leading to his axing from the national side.
The likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay have been toiling in the domestic circuit for a long while, and they clearly look more hungry when they made their opportunities count against Australia – Vijay was in glistering touch, slamming a strokeful 167 in the Hyderabad Test, where he opened with Sehwag, and then followed it up with another cracking 153 in the next Test at Mohali, where Shikhar Dhawan slammed a sensational 187 on debut.
What is of significance for Sehwag is that the national selectors picked Cheteshwar Pujara as an opener in the final Test at New Delhi which Shikhar Dhawan missed through injury.
This move clearly underpins the fact that the national selectors no longer seriously consider Sehwag as an opening option.
However, Sehwag has been picked in the India ‘A’ squad for the second and third four-day games against West Indies ‘A’ as an opening batsman, which should hold out some hope for Sehwag fans.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Sehwag could be better off playing in the middle order – he scored his maiden Test century against South Africa at Bloemfontein in 2001 batting at number six.
The then Indian skipper, Sourav Ganguly, and coach John Wright handed Sehwag the opening slot in the 2002 Test series in England, where he responded with 84 at Lord’s before racking up his maiden hundred as an opener in the next Test at Nottingham.
His 195 against Australia at Melbourne and his triple hundred (309) against Pakistan at Multan would rank among the best knocks he has played at the top.
Critics may be baying for his blood, but Sehwag is probably one knock away from extending his international career – a scintillating innings as a middle-order batsman could be the answer to his detractors.
But for all that to happen, Sehwag has to fire against West Indies ‘A’ and earn a national call-up for the two Test series against the men in maroon in November.
The Windies series could decide if Sehwag is on the flight to South Africa!